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.


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


And thicker still.


As the sun climbed higher it appeared to be winning.


But that didn’t last long.


The fog came back with a vengeance.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


Actually, everything in town was closed.


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Back to the Owl.


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.


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


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.





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.


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.


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.)


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.


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.