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.

dsc04493

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

dsc04495

And thicker still.

dsc04497

As the sun climbed higher it appeared to be winning.

dsc04498

But that didn’t last long.

dsc04499

The fog came back with a vengeance.

dsc04500

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.

dsc04501

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.

dsc04503

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.

dsc04507

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.

dsc04509

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.

dsc04514

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.

dsc04515

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

dsc04516

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

dsc04517

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.

dsc04518

Actually, everything in town was closed.

dsc04523

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.

dsc04519

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

dsc04524

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.

dsc04527

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.

dsc04531

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

dsc04539

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

dsc04549dsc04551

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.

prairie-dog-panorama1

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.

dsc04554

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.

dsc04559dsc04561

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.

dsc04568

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.

dsc04584

Back to the Owl.

dsc04588dsc04591

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.

dsc04599

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

dsc04601

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.

dsc04436

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.

dsc04438

Protected by shark

dsc04439

Jeremy being protective

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

dsc04440dsc04441dsc04443

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.

dsc04444

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.

dsc04445

dsc04446

My truck is waaaaay down there

Well, I could see for miles up here.

eagle-butte-panorama

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.

dsc04454

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

dsc04456

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.

dsc04457

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.

dsc04458

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.

dsc04459dsc04460

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

dsc04461dsc04462dsc04464

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.

70-mile-butte-panorama

Seems a bit dry here.

dsc04473

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.

dsc04474

Oh look, a tree.

dsc04477

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

dsc04479

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.

dsc04480

I found the proverbial forest.

dsc04481

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.

dsc04482

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.

dsc04483

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

dsc04484

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.

dsc04489dsc04491

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.