Swift Current to Dinosaur Prov Park to Calgary
Note: Comments are welcome especially if you can recommend any places to visit on our trip &/or let us know your favourite camping meals — we’ve not been very creative meal-wise! Feel free to comment!!
Sept 24 – Swift Current to Dinosaur Provincial Park
We woke up at the Safari Inn in Swift Current to discover that we had magically gained an hour when we crossed the border to Saskatchewan. Apparently, even though Manitoba and Saskatchewan both are in the Central Time Zone, Manitoba observes daylight savings time but Sask does not! That means right now Sask and Alberta are both, effectively, Mountain time. I guess we have an extra hour today.
The skies had finally cleared for us over the prairies but then a dense fog rolled in just before we began our drive. It slowed the driving a bit but made for some interesting scenery with grain elevators and lines of train cars waiting to be filled rising suddenly out of the mist. We decided to eschew the Trans Canada and make our way on more rural roads en-route to Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta where we planned to camp the night.
We stopped frequently, amazed by the sites of Sask plains and later the Alberta oil fields, grazing cattle, and badlands. In Sask we stopped to view Swainsons hawks hunting from roadside fence posts and some owl that we’ve yet to identify. We saw wild prairie antelope, almost got our car stuck on a muddy road, had a passing grain train give us a passing honk, and had the best yummy pizza in Leader from a roadside stand.
Gas stations are few and far between but we carefully planned our route according to a map that showed where the co-op stations were located. Little did we know that on Sunday there were no attendants at the co-op gas which mattered little since we didn’t have a co-op card anyhow. It made for a few tense moments until a local driver helped us out … apparently we were steered wrong by our map (assuming there were no other gas stations) and there was one just 20km further on. Phew!
We arrived at Dinosaur Provincial Park just in time to get the last tent site for the night. Although the weather was forecast to go down to 4 deg, it didn’t deter the hardy campers which included a Scout Troop (who sang “I’s the B’y” before retiring for the night). Chris wore two down jackets, a hat, gloves, long undies, fleece pants, a sleeping bag good to 0 deg, and an extra fleece blanket. I just threw my sleeping bag, unzipped, over myself (okay, I had long undies, socks, a hat & gloves too…) It was a chilly night but, honestly, not that bad at all.
Sept 25 – Dinosaur Provincial Park
A short walk to the hot showers (where you had to push a button for each 30 seconds of hot shower — I needed four pushes. Chris figured out that you could tap the button repeatedly to have it queue up the time. As far as we know, her shower is still running…). Hot chocolate, banana, PB&J, and cereal and we struck camp to head off wandering in the Park.
For the first time on our trip we finally broke out our Phantom 3 for a flight (huge thank-you to my family for the fantastic retirement gift). I’m still learning how to fly it and so I didn’t go very high or far downrange (and still jerky on the controls) but here is a captured view of the park from our hike:
We visited the small visitor center where there were displays of fossils and informative panels on the geology of the Alberta badlands and Dinosaur Park. This area is the Field station for the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller which is about another hour drive — we’d both been there before so we decided to visit Dinosaur Prov. Park instead and see where over 300 dinosaur bone excavations had taken place. In fact, the high erosion rate here (approx. 4mm/year on the badlands) exposes new sites every year so the Paleontologists have lots of work to keep them busy.
We continued on to Calgary to stay with Chris’s sister, Mary and brother-in-law Peter. Jari, Mary & Peter’s son had been visiting on the weekend but, unfortunately, we missed him by a day.
We were greeted by a wonderful selection of cheese, bread, veggies, dip, etc. And then followed by a Gourmet (no exaggeration!) fresh salmon dinner prepared by Mary & Chris.