Throwback Thursday

I don’t know when Throwback Thursdays started but since I’ve been feeling more and more nostalgic lately I thought I’d participate. College days have been going through my head more and more lately. Maybe it’s because in a few short weeks it’ll be 25 years since I graduated from SAIT or maybe it’s a sign of old age. No matter what the reason, I feel the memories come flooding back . That in itself surprises me as I had to work my ass off to get through college but I usually enjoyed the experience immensely.

School was never my thing when I had to go. Art and drama were my best subjects in high school and the only thing I was better at was not attending class. That’s probably why it took me 4 years to graduate.

When I decided to go back to school I had been out of high school for 5 years so I was considered a mature student. Mature, baahahaha. Even then I found it funny.

While I was there I thought I’d made a few friends but I only keep in touch with one. And I don’t get to see her very often. She was the subject of more than one assignment and I believe this photo is from the first time I had her pose for me.

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Ms. Joan Boyes Circa 1989

I got to go to so many different events while I was in school but one of the few things I paid to go see was the Masters at Spruce Meadows. I had heard a rumour that Ian Millar’s horse Big Ben was due to retire and I really wanted to see him before that happened. Turned out it would be a few more years before it happened but it was nice to get to see him jump.

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As part of one of my assignments I did a practicum at the Calgary Aerospace Museum. I re-did a few of their brochures and made a portable display for them. As part of it all I took photos of all the aircraft in their collection at the museum. I learned they had a de Havilland Mosquito as part of the collecting located at CFB Cold Lake. I was told it was being restored and would be ready to fly soon. I arranged to go to Cold Lake to document it for them. As this was during the first Gulf War, security was pretty tight on the base. It was a bit disappointing to see the actual condition of the aircraft. Wood rot had been discovered in the main wing spar and it would never fly on it’s own without a total rebuild. It was a bit surreal taking photos of a WWII bomber pushed into a corner of a hanger full of CF-18s.

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I did actually shoot a photo or two at school. I miss having a studio to use.

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I had been invited to take photos for the SAIT Rodeo Club and happily took about a dozen rolls of film at the event. The very next day we got a sports assignment and I thought I was golden, having a head start and all. My instructor told me I could submit 2 photos from the rodeo. I was hard pressed to find 2 to submit (indoor rodeo in an old arena is a hard thing to shoot) and this is the only one I liked.

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My roommate, Lanny Fleming, and I scored media passes for the Husky Men’s Downhill in Lake Louise and happily went out and shot some mediocre photos of men on skies going by very quickly. Neither of us had a long enough lens to do justice to the racers even though we were perched at the last corner before the finish line. One of the skiers (and I honestly don’t remember his name) was a bit wide on the turn and crashed through the safety fence not far from our location. While he didn’t seem too worse for wear, he did injure a 13 year old girl standing at the fence. Safety staff were there right away and I never did get a good shot of the victim, I took a photo of the skier that I was happy with.

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I also got a media pass for the 1991 Red Deer International Air Show. I was to take photos for the Airdrie Echo and drop off my film to them. Was a good plan till I found out there was no place to actually drop off film after hours. I took quite a few photos I liked that day but this is one of my favorites. Sailplane Magic over Bower Ponds at Red Deer.

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It wasn’t all sunshine and roses while at school though. I had to borrow money and get a job just to stay in school and that was only 1/2 way through my first year. Twenty-seven of 90 of us failed our advertising class and Joan and I were part of the 9 or so that were allowed to write a make up test (we both failed that miserably). Once I realized I would have to take an extra year to finish I organized my classes so I only had photo classes in the final year and that helped me a lot. Over the Easter break both my roommates and I were out of town when we were robbed. Over a year later the police caught the culprit red handed and it turned out it was my roommate Shelley’s ex-boyfriend who was supposed to be watching our place while we were away. He seemed so successful with so much nice stuff. Apparently it was because it wasn’t his stuff. But as far as I know we didn’t steal a plane and go on a joy ride the night he took us up for some touch and go landing at Springbank.

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Night shot of Calgary circa 1992

As my final year of school was coming to a close my class got to do a practicum for a month. Since I didn’t drive I knew it would be hard to get a chance to have many pictures published to show my work so I chose to work in the photo lab at the Calgary Sun. For an entire month, pretty much every photo that was published from Monday to Friday n The Sun, I printed in the darkroom. I got to shoot a few things around the building, like documenting part of the new press getting installed. I got out to shoot a Calgary Flames game (NHL hockey is crazy fast at ice level). I got to use my brand new light meter on a food shoot with Stu Dryden. They didn’t need my photos from the shoot but I got to use them for my portfolio.

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A lamb dish

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This was for an apres ski feature

Joan once told me I was a really nice guy but I spent too much time living in the past. While that is still true at times (I think I’m a nice guy) I don’t worry about living in the past anymore. I look forward to the future almost everyday, but sometimes I like the feeling of nostalgia. While the future often holds promise, for me, the past often holds comfort.

Making my way home

It’s Monday, October 3rd and it’s still raining. Not very hard mind you, but raining none the less. It seemed to be raining so much less than yesterday but there are puddles everywhere, unlike yesterday. I guess I’m doing breakfast inside today.

While I am getting my stuff ready to take into the Coulee Centre Building for breakfast I see the campers at the far end of the campground are packing up their tent and getting ready to leave.

Inside the Centre was the only other camper in the whole campground. She was tenting but doesn’t look as damp as I thought she would. I don’t think she speaks much English for when I told her she picked a good night to camp and all I got back was “Yes”. Maybe she just doesn’t understand sarcasm.

As I was packing up my stuff to hit the road I threw out my running shoes I’d bought in Beijing last year. I’d wore my shoes out while I was there and had to replace them and now they were in turn worn out. I had planned to take them along on one of my hikes and take some photos of them to do some kind of symbolic passing of the shoe but I never did see anywhere that I thought it would work like I’d pictured it in my head. So I unceremoniously just chucked them in the trash.

When I picked Grasslands as my destination I had envisioned being the only one in the campground. Alas, that never happened and even as I drove out, I was still only the second last one there. Oh well, at least it wasn’t Beijing busy.

Today was the first time I never saw any wildlife at all in the park on my way to the exit. Apparently cold rain is a downer for the animals.

Just outside the gate I saw what I’m guessing is the Antelope I saw on the road yesterday. The had the same pose and attitude but was at least facing the road this time.

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It was still fairly dark with all the overcast so the few shots I took of him as he paralleled the road were not the greatest things I’ve ever shot.

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I even tried to do a slow shutter speed creative shot but I’ve seen a lot better.

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And with that I headed back towards Val Marie to take highway 4 north to Cadillac.

As I neared Cadillac I saw these three bachelors standing around in a barley field.

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I was quite surprised how much barley was still standing as the forecast called for snow within a couple of days.

West of Cadillac I spotted 4 White Tail Does along the highway and as I slowed down they started to cross the highway. 3 of the 4 were quite graceful and trotted across the road and up the slope on the far side before launching themselves over the fence at the top of the hill. The fourth on stumbled across the road but still manage to clear the fence with ease.

I got fuel and food in Medicine Hat and didn’t stop again till I got to the Alto Rest Cemetery just outside of Red Deer to visit my dad on what would of been his 76th birthday. We had a toast for him. Well, I toasted; he was pretty quiet. dsc04656dsc04658

I thought lemonade was pretty appropriate as I won’t drink and drive and he didn’t have alcohol for the last 10 years of his life.

Twenty minutes later I was home from my short getaway.

While I didn’t see as many cool things as I had last year in Beijing, I saw a lot of the park and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Grasslands National Park is a pretty cool place with a variety of things to see. What I really liked about the park is that there are hikes you can do with trails to follow but you can also just set off across the bald ass prairie if that is what you want to do. With only about 10,000 visitors per year the park is also one of the quietest parks you’ll come across.

This was one of the shortest getaways I’ve had in years but it was well worth the time away. My wife thinks I go on these trips to run away from her but the truth is that I go so I can come back to her.

2 out of 3 ain’t bad, but 3 out of 4 is

My cousin Luke Godin’s memorial was today. He’d been 49 for less than a week when he died last Sunday.

He’s the third of my aunt Joy’s 4 boys to pass away.

His younger brother, Brent, was only 32 when he had a heart attack, fell and hit his head on the curb and died 12 years ago.

His older brother, Earl, was around 42 when he had a heart attack and died in bed 10 years age.

Their youngest brother, Keith, is going to have his heart checked again tomorrow, like he did after Brent died.

Brent’s funeral was the first time I’d seen Luke and Keith in many years and Luke spoke eloquently at the service. I learned some things about Brent that day that I never knew.

Today I learned how little I really knew about my cousins. I didn’t know he was a dad to 20 year old twin boys, Alex and Tony. Or that he used to rock a porn stach, but then again, didn’t we all?

When we were kids we’d see our cousins when they’d stop by our house heading home from visiting my grandparents. My aunt talked quite loudly and I always used to thing of her as crazy, which she wasn’t. Turns out that my uncle Ray was crazy. And the boys; the boys were loud too but it’s only because there were 4 of them. Sadly, no firm memories stand out from those days. I vaguely remember that Keith as the youngest one annoyed me. I remember Brent, who was a little slow, was picked on a lot by his brothers. I know we joined in on that from time to time but don’t remember the actual conversations. But nothing specific about Luke.

Why is it that things that make you feel ashamed stand out in our memories but things that are fun can fade so quickly?

The last time I saw Luke was at my dad’s celebration of life 3 years ago and I barely recognized him. He was having trouble walking around and was in a considerable amount of pain. He’d been injured his at work a while back and walking was hard to do and even sitting wasn’t all that good for long.

From what I heard today, it sounded like the pain he had been in was even worst then 3 years ago but the drugs he took to manage the pain were not so good for his personality. The only good thing for him is at least his pain is gone.

I’m not the least bit religious, nor do I believe in God or an afterlife, but I do hope you are resting in peace Luke.

The calm after the storm

Sunday morning seemed colder than the previous mornings but not nearly as cold as my camping trip to Yellowstone a couple of years ago. I had survived the wicked storm and it appeared that so did everyone else. It was eerily calm and cool. With all that moisture last night there was also a hint of fog and I loved the colour of the light and shot some video of the sunrise. I can’t share video on here but I am still going to see if I can edit it into something worth watching.

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As the sun was trying to clear the horizon the fog got a bit thicker.

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And thicker still.

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As the sun climbed higher it appeared to be winning.

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But that didn’t last long.

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The fog came back with a vengeance.

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Campers in the fog

The fog put up a good fight for about an hour but eventually the sun started to beat it down. Something really cool happened in this time that I’d never seen before – a fogbow. I’m not sure what you are supposed to find at the end of a fogbow.

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From my campsite it appeared to come down on another campsite. As I moved around it moved as well. I even managed to get in a few “self portraits” while I was at it.

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My “abandoned” campsite looked a little spooky.dsc04504

Enough playing around – time for breakfast.

By the time I was all done the fog could only be seen in the distance.

Today I was going explore Val Marie and get fuel so I’d be ready to hit the road home tomorrow morning. I decided to take the scenic route back to see if there were different things to see in the morning as opposed to yesterday afternoon.

I saw the same Pheasants as my other trips through here. And I got pretty much the same photo of him as the last time.

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Surprisingly enough, he took off and left the hens to fend for themselves. They were in the grass in no time but at least they were a bit closer. Not that it made for a better photo though.

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Nothing else caught my eye on my way to town and soon I was in Val Marie.

Val Marie is not exactly a booming metropolis as the last population count was 137 people – 10 years ago. The only paved streets in town are the 2 highways that run through and calling them paved is being very generous. All the streets are gravel but seemed more mud like, but they do have sidewalks. Narrow, 1920’s sidewalks, but sidewalks none the less.

They also have not 1 but 2 grain elevators still standing. They are closed, but still there.

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There are also a lot of rundown buildings.

I liked the 1 pane of glass still in the door on this house. It wasn’t till after I took the photo that I noticed the lock isn’t actually attached to anything.

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For such a sparsely populated area, the sure had a lot of people go to war in WWII.

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So far the old grain elevators are the most exciting thing I’ve seen.

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I wandered a couple of blocks and checked out the middle of town. Godforsaken was the word that sprang to mind as I walked around.

The hotel is not only for sale but it’s currently closed.

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Actually, everything in town was closed.

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The only business that didn’t appear to be abandoned was a restaurant that was closed for a couple weeks for holidays.

There are a couple small parks in town. One had a restored firetruck in it. Looked pretty rough to me for being restored.

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I took 1 last shot of the grain elevators before I got the hell out of Dodge

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I headed back towards the park in search of something exciting.

I was almost there when I spotted a Pronghorn Antelope standing on the road staring intently at a group of friends off in the distance. I was almost in the perfect shooting position when he walked off the road and presented 1 angle for me.

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These Antelope were too far away to get any good photos so I tried the ones I saw on the other side of the road.

I walked slowly to the fence line to get as close as possible and this little guy was sitting on one of the posts.

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Once I got to the fence I realized just how far away the Antelope really were.

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Just inside the park fence is a fairly large Prairie Dog town and I stopped to have a quick walk around.

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There is a short loop trail there and I walked it to see if there was more exciting things to see.

I liked the look of the valley.

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As I was getting back to the truck the pack of students were pulling up for their final stop before heading home.

As I drove away I was thinking to myself that I probably could of gone home yesterday as I’d seen pretty much all the park had to offer. I’d only gotten about 100 yards when I say this little guy.

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That’s not a Prairie Dog – that’s a Burrowing Owl. Okay, good choice to stay till tomorrow I thought. I had thought they had all left the park already. I had never seen one before and was pretty excited to see him.

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Burrowing Owls are about the size of a pop can and even with a 600 mm lens he wasn’t very big in the viewfinder. The Prairie Dogs are bigger than he is.

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I saw a flurry of activity out of the corner of my eye and watched a bunch of Prairie Dogs all running in the same direction and soon saw why. The Coyote just seemed to be passing through and didn’t show any interest in them.

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Back to the Owl.

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He was running around catching bugs but most of the time he was running away from me. Finally he started heading more in my direction. He still wasn’t all that close and somehow my white balance changed to a lot cooler.

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He continued to come closer than before but even so, I still cropped this in about 50 percent so he’s show up better.

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He headed off away from me again so I decided I should get some lunch and figure out the rest of the day’s activities.

I found some shade to have lunch in and decided that I still wasn’t up to waking in the sunshine so my quest to find all the red chairs in the park would go unfulfilled. It was an 11.2 km loop along the Broken Hills Trail to find the last pair and that was just too far for me today.

I went back to the campground to read and charge up all my devices batteries.

It was starting to cool off and cloud over as I finished my supper and soon it was raining. There was a bit of a wind blowing but no where near as strong as last night. The rain was steady but didn’t seem to be coming down that hard as I fell asleep.

 

 

 

Saskatchewan sunburn in October?

Saturday, October the 1st dawned as a beautiful day. It was sunny and calm. I figured it would be a good day to explore more of the park and do a few hikes.

On my way I noticed how calm it actually was.

Just across the road from the pond was what appeared to be a Sharp-Tailed Grouse. I wasn’t as close to this one as the one I saw on the first day though.

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I drove over to do the 2.1 km Eagle Butte Train and possible the 4.1 km 70 Mile Butte Trail as they were side by side. I’m not sure how 70 Mile Butte got it’s name; can you see it from 70 miles away? Can you see 70 miles from the top of it? According to the internet, it is the highest point in the park.

The drive there took about 20 minutes and when I got out of the truck if felt like a hurricane was blowing through.

I left Jeremy to look after the truck and hit the trail.

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Protected by shark

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Jeremy being protective

I started up the Eagle Butte Trail and was quickly feeling all alone in an alien landscape.

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The trail was easy to walk on even as I climbed higher and higher.

I soon felt like I was up in the clouds, even if it was a fairly cloudless day.

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I was starting to appreciate the fact the wind was blowing as I was already getting pretty hot and I don’t think I’d covered a kilometre yet. But I kept climbing.

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My truck is waaaaay down there

Well, I could see for miles up here.

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As I followed the trail it started  back down the hill and I came to the intersection for the 70 Mile Butte Trail. As I stood there and looked up the big hill to the 70 Mile Butte Trail “why not” came to mind.

I hadn’t gotten very far when I had to take a break – about my 5th one since my hike started.

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I still have to climb the hill. Oh look, a plant.

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Ok, I’m moving.

About 3/4’s of the way up I rested yet again and spotted some other hikers. They were at the trail heads and looked like they were debating which way to go.

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3 came my way and the other 2 took the trail I had just come down.

I know I’m out of shape and looking at my Fitbit confirmed it. My resting heart rate usually hovers around 60 beats per minute and it was showing that I was at 131 bpm. Must be time for a photo break. At the end of the day it would show me that I did about 21 and a half thousand steps and 101 flights of stairs today.

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I made it to the top. Sure feels like a long way to anywhere from up here.

Amazingly enough, the view is quite different from one side to the other.

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Even thought it’s mostly downhill from up here I lingered for quite a while at the top.

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The wind has been blowing pretty strongly the whole time I’ve been here so I haven’t been paying too much attention to the sun beating down on me. That is till I suddenly felt like I had a sunburn. I’m guessing it’s more windburn than sunburn but the sun is starting to feel a bit uncomfortable.

1 more shot before I head back down.

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Seems a bit dry here.

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I was glad I actually took water with me on my walk.

I headed south to see if there was a place I could have lunch before I did another hike. I went to check out the Riverwalk Trail area and found that there was indeed a spot but it was full of people. It felt like there was more people here than I’d seen in the entire province of Saskatchewan since I’d gotten here. Turned out it was a grade 5/6 class from Swift Current down for the weekend in the park. They were just finishing up their lunch and were heading to do the 70 Mile Butte Trail. I told them if they walked the whole thing it would feel like they had walked 70 miles. They would be staying in the OTentNiks at the campground so I’d see them later.

Had a nice quiet lunch alone and was just starting my walk when a car with 2 girls showed up. So much for the peace and quiet. Lol. The Riverwalk trail is just over 3 kilometres long but pretty flat so I decided I’d be able to do it quite easily.

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Oh look, a tree.

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Trees are few and far between but it is called Grasslands.

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The tipis used to be in the campground I’m staying in but it is a very wide open area and they blew down during spring storms so they were moved to a more sheltered area.

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I found the proverbial forest.

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It was quite peaceful on my walk. The loudest thing I heard was the Pheasant that jumped out from under my feet and flew across the river. I didn’t get a photo of him but I did get one of where he went.

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About 3/4’s of the way around the loop is a shortcut back to the parking lot. The 2 girls took off that way and I continued around.

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While there aren’t many trees around, there was still a lot of nice colour to look at.

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I was done my walk but I was starting to get a headache from my sun/wind burn so I decided to head back to the campground via the scenic route.

On my way back to the highway I passed the trail head for the Two Trees Trail. Now how sad is it when they have to make a trail to go find a couple of trees?

I stopped to take a few photos of the most exciting thing I saw on the way back to the park.

When I saw this all I could think of was that it could be Curtiss Lund’s next fixer upper.

I was almost back to the park gate when I saw my first Coyote of my trip.

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While he didn’t appear to be too concerned about me, he certainly didn’t stay very close for very long.

It was still hot and sunny when I got back to my campsite so I decided to get out of the sun and went to read in the Coulee Centre building again today. I stayed in there for almost 2 hours before it was time to get supper ready.

The kids and their chaperones I had met earlier arrived and must of put the population of the campground up around 60 or so people. Seemed pretty crowded compared to last night.

I got done my dishes just before it got dark and I wandered around the campground to visit some of the campers I had talked to earlier.

As we stood and chatted the clouds were starting to roll in and heat lightning was lighting up the far away sky. We stood around for about 1/2 and hour and the clouds kept building up but the lightning never seemed to get any closer. I watched the sky for another 1/2 hour or so and decided I should probably get ready for bed because it was starting to cool off and I was sure we’d get some rain.

Less than 20 minutes after I crawled into bed to read the wind picked up and the rains came. Suddenly the lightning was close and the thunder rumbled and rumbled. Might as well try to get some sleep I figured. The wind kept blowing harder and harder and the rain pounded down. The lightning was pretty intense and the thunder was really loud so sleep wasn’t coming any time soon. My truck was shaking so much I thought I was in a cradle and being rocked. I wondered how RV’s were staying upright.

The thunder and lightning ended after a couple of hours but the wind and rain kept up for longer. I finally fell asleep to the sound of the rain.

 

Red chairs and night sky

Woke up around midnight feeling like I was laying right on plywood. Yup, as I suspected, my mattress is flat. I guess having it put a way for 6 years might not have been a good idea. A whole lot of tossing and turning over the next few hours ensue as I try to get comfortable enough to get some more sleep. I finally decide at 6:30 am that it’s not too early to get up. I’m going to have to put all the extra blankets I brought under my sleeping bag for softness. Luckily it’s warm enough that won’t be a problem.

I could hear Bison lowing but there were none in site. Sound travels well in the still air as they are over the hill on the west side of the campground. By the time I was done breakfast and the associated dishes I decided to explore around the campground a bit. There is a trail out of the campground up over the hill to the Belza Day Use area that I thought I’d check out. I can still hear Bison in that direction so I cautiously crest the hill looking for them. I can see they are hanging around the area I’m heading to so I walk a bit closer and stand still waiting patiently for them to move along. They move off a bit so I move forward and wait again. One of the bulls keeps looking over at me but I’m far enough away the he decides not to bother with me. They finally moved off far enough for me to go look at the viewpoint. I shot a couple photos of the Bison but I wasn’t happy with what I got so I deleted them and will just have to reach into the brain cells for those memories.

As I’m looking over the valley I spot this young lady.

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I wandered off to check out more of the lookout area and when I came back I thought my doe was gone, but with careful searching I found her.

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Can you spot the deer?

At least I think it’s her. While I stood on top of the hill 3 deer emerged. I know I took some photos of them all but I don’t have the files and there is no gaps in my file numbers so I have no idea of what happened to them.

Even though Lynda wasn’t with me I decided to try and find all the Red Chairs in the park. These ones weren’t even hard as they are in view from the viewpoint. Their location isn’t on the map and apparently they are elusive as for some reason I only took one photo of them and it is not even close to sharp. Maybe I should go back to coffee in the mornings.

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I did sit on them and do a view from the chair panorama though.

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There are a couple of Bison down on the flat near the middle of the photo but good luck seeing them.

I did a bit closer shot of the river because it reminded me of a reverse giant question mark.dsc04357

I was enjoying sitting in the sunshine with all the peace and quiet but decided it was time to head back to the campground. Along the way some of the bushes caught my eye.

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Was going to hang out at the campsite for a while and explore the immediate area when one of my neighbours had their propane alarm go off. Even with the wind blowing the sound away from me it was quite annoying so I hit the road in search of adventure.

I didn’t get very far from the campground (just down the road and around the corner) when I made my first stop. The former Larson homestead still has a few rough looking building on site. There is a 1.4 km trail that takes you around the area.

These Bison were on the flat across the river.

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They are farther away then they look.

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As I started along the trail I met Brent and Cheryl Reid, the couple who’s propane alarm was going off. Nice couple from Comox, BC. We chatted for a while and they went off to disable the alarm so not to bother anyone else and I continued along my walk.

I could certainly find colour but it’s pretty low to the ground in this area.

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The path winds along the river.

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The Frenchman River with the Larson homestead in the background

It’s a pretty easy walk through the grass. I didn’t see any wildlife but found something interesting to catch my eye. At first I thought it was an egg that was smashed but realized it was a dried out mushroom someone had stepped on.

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The yellow wasn’t all that bad, still not the red and oranges of eastern hardwood forests, but not bad.

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Leaving the Larson Homestead I got all of a couple hundred meters and stopped at the Black-tailed Prairie dog town. Grasslands National Park is the only place they live in all of Canada. They look like really big gophers to me. Was hard to just shoot them with a camera.

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I headed south again and came across a couple male Ring Necked Pheasants. I got shots of them from the seemingly prerequisite distance.

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The west block of Grasslands is currently in 3 parts with “land in transition” in between. I headed out of the part I was in to go look for more red chairs in the far SE corner of the park.

Not far from the park gate I just left is another massive Prairie Dog town and I saw a Badger and had time to get exactly 1 photo of him.

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He disappeared down a hole and in the 10 minutes or so I waited for him to come back out I got nothing. The Prairie Dogs went about their business once he was out of sight.

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The map I was following wasn’t exactly accurate and I only drove into 1 driveway by mistake. I found the red chairs after I drove by the area and out of the park. Once I did that I had a reference point to go back to find them. It was easy once I knew where to look. At least this time I got them in focus.

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I did a view from the chair shot like usual.

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It’s a long way to anywhere from up here.

I had my lunch and decided I’d do a few photos of myself in the chairs. With Lynda at home I had to substitute a body to take her place. Last year while we were in Vancouver we went to the Aquarium and decided souvenirs were cheaper than going in. Lynda bought me a stuffed shark and I named him Jeremy Sharkson, Esquire. Jeremy came with me as he’d been cooped up at home for about a year. He was happy to get out and pose – for the most part – till he got hungry.

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Since it was just a flesh wound, I decided to head back towards the campground.

No map needed to get back and as I got to the first Prairie Dog town I’d stopped at there was a lone Bison walking towards the road.

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I just stayed out of his way and let him cross.

It was a bit too windy to sit at my campsite and read so I went into the Centre they have there to read. The bonus was there were lots of power outlets so I could recharge my phone and make sure my camera battery was topped up.

I couldn’t help but notice how many insects were inside and just outside the windows so I figured I’d try to get a photo or two.

1st up was one of the massive spiders I found. It was hanging outside in front of one of the windows.

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There were a crap ton of wasps inside so I thought I’d see if I could find an angle that looked cool.

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I sat around and read for a couple hours before I had to get supper underway. Once that was all done and cleaned up I had more time to kill before it got dark. It was a clear night and it looked like I might be able to try some night sky photography.

I hauled my big ass tripod back up the hill to where the red chairs were. It was a bit harder to find them in the dark but I managed.

Being able to focus was a challenge. I cranked up my ISO so I could have fairly short exposure times but it was still hard to see enough to focus on stars. I used my flashlight to light up the chairs and focused on them.

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I still didn’t get the chairs as sharp as I’d like but the sky looked pretty damn cool. I have never been able to get photos of the Milky Way before. It was pretty damn cool.

I tried to light the chairs up but with my ISO where it was, no matter how little light I tried to put on them it was too much. I tried using my flash at low power and it looked like they had been nuked. I tried my penlight and while not as bright as my flash, it was not going to be usable. So I got between the light and the camera and it wasn’t what I was looking for, but it was better.

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My final solution was to shoot an exposure for the chairs and I and layer it with one of the sky. My Photoshop skills are not the greatest, but it’s good enough for me.

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I played around for about an hour before I started getting tired. I could see the trail without my flashlight so I followed it back down the hill. It wasn’t the “official” trial so it ended at the campground fence. Getting over the fence wasn’t the problem but once I was over it, there was no more trail to follow and it was darker than the inside of a cow there. I didn’t want to turn on my flashlight and disturb my fellow campers so I slowly made my way towards my campsite. Unfortunately, where I crossed the fence was at the only campsite in the entire campground that had any bushes around it. I thrashed my way through the bushes, avoided stepping on their tent and found the road through the campground. No one yelled at me so I was hoping they were sound asleep.

Crawled into my softer than plywood but harder than an air mattress bed a couple hours later than the previous day. No cake this year but all in all, a good day to turn a year older.

The Un-Beijing Road Trip

Last year’s birthday trip was to be my last for a while I vowed. I would be 50 when I got back so I really should start acting my age I reasoned. It was a big trip and I really should save up my money and holiday time for a trip with my wife I thought. But even as I repeated this over and over, I knew I was lying to myself. As fall approaches every year I find I get rather restless and just have to get out somewhere.

My trip to Beijing for my 50th birthday was an amazing adventure. I loved spending the time with my sister and brother in law and without them I would of never have been able to get there. I saw so much that I never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever see. I ate a few things that I normally wouldn’t try (and lived to tell the tale). And I even had chocolate cake on my birthday (not very good chocolate cake, but still cake). I survived the hustle and bustle even though I don’t like crowds. Maybe it was telling myself that was just the way it is here and going with the flow was the ticket. I do know that no matter how crowded someplace is now, my new motto is, “It isn’t Beijing busy.”

I started looking at Google Maps back in June to see where I would get away to this year. I wanted to get away but not spend a couple days driving as I was only going to have 4 or 5 days off. I looked long and hard at going to Vancouver Island so I could check out the areas I’ve never been to but decided the ferry would cost me almost as much as my gas would. I looked at going north towards Yellowknife to see if I could find some northern lights but decided it was too much driving to be able to enjoy it and it’s cold up north.

The west block of Grasslands National Park was where I decided to go. Six years ago I took a quick tour through the east block of the park and passed right by the west block on my way home and decided it would be worth spending some time there. I thought of it as my anti-Beijing trip. Not anti in a bad was because I really did enjoy the city, but anti because I was betting there will be next to no one around when I’m there.

So, early in the morning of  Thursday, September 29th, 2016 I hit the road heading south east.

The only exciting things I saw between home and Medicine Hat were a couple Pronghorn Antelope just west of the hat, but they were a bit far from the highway to get any photos of.

My quick stop for fuel and lunch turned into well over an hours visit to Medicine Hat as I also needed some food for my camping trip and the Sobeys there was so nice I wandered around in it longer than I should of.

Topped of my fuel again at Gull Lake, Saskatchewan as the only fuel anywhere near the park are card locks and I didn’t want to use credit if I didn’t have to.

Still nothing catching my eye till I was headed east towards Cadillac, SK and these trees in the field were it.

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It didn’t take too long to figure out that hand holding the Sigma 150-600 mm Sport lens I borrowed from work for my trip was a bad idea. Those trees are not nearly as sharp as I’d like them to be.

A little further down the road I came across a hawk sitting on a fence post. I got a shot of him but couldn’t get any closer to get better photos.

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Nothing else exciting to see along my route and I pulled into Val Marie around 4 pm. I paid $62.80 for 4 nights of camping and was soon on my way to the Frenchman Valley Campground.

I was about two thirds of the way to the campground when I saw this pretty little Sharp Tailed Grouse on the road. As I slowed down she bolted off into the grass. (A theme I’d see again and again over the next few days.)

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I pulled into the campground and drove through it to find myself a spot. As there are no trees there I could see the whole thing from the entrance but I still drove around. There were a few spots already take and I settled on site number 1 as it was close to everything but seemed farthest away from other sites.

As I was cleaning up from supper a few Bison came over the hill and wandered past the campground in the early evening light.

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They were quite a ways away but I still took a few photos.

With the light fading rapidly I got my bedroom in my truck ready for the night. By the time I was done it was good and dark and the stars looked wonderful. Seeing the Milky Way is pretty incredible when you are used to seeing just a few stars. I was feeling pretty tired from the drive and the clouds were moving in so I went to bed early and hoped to find some good stuff in the morning. My air mattress felt low already and I had just pumped it up. This is probably not a good thing.