Thursday, June 21, 2018

Rivers. Badlands, old Mines.

I was home a total of 4 days before the urge to travel hit us again.  It was just enough time to do laundry, cut the grass, and stock up on supplies.  This time, we had a general goal in mind – the Cypress Hills on the Saskatchewan/Alberta boundary, not far north of the US border.  But there were some sights to be seen along the way.  First, we headed almost due east to the badlands area near Drumheller.  Conveniently, one of the roads running alongside the Red Deer river was closed to through traffic because of a mud slide.  The lack of traffic meant that our first camp right beside the river and the road was a lot quieter than it normally would have been.


As with most places I go, I like to test the data speeds of the local cell service.  I was pleased and surprised to get a download speed of 149 Mbps, roughly double my previous record speed.  And that was down in the valley bottom by the river too!DJI_0009

In the morning, a large group of Cadets showed up to start on a guided paddle down the river in canoes and kayaks.  Before long, they were off down the river and calm returned to the river bank.


After picking up a few things in the town of Drumheller, we set out upstream on the other side of the river, checking out some of the old coal mining interpretive trails in the provincial park.

At Horsethief Canyon viewpoint, conditions were good to get some scenic aerial video and photos.


After that, we took the extremely short ferry ride across the Red Deer river, and headed back downstream.


IMG_0299IMG_0300IMG_0304At the Orkney viewpoint, I could see where some trash had been thrown over the edge, laying hundreds of feet below.  The UAV was sent down for a look, and found a computer monitor and a scooter that I could offer you a good deal on!


IMG_0325After a quick visit in town for a dump, fill, and re-provision, we headed off further downstream to the Hoodoos.


Further on, near East Coulee, was the old Atlas Coal Mining complex, and a historic wood trestle railroad bridge.  The bridge is long closed and condemned, but it is still an impressive structure and feat of engineering from around the turn of the century.

While there I saw an interesting bit of natural life and death.  Some sort of very small Kestrel or Sparrow Hawk was hunting swallows around the bridge.  It would fly up about 30-40 feet, then dive down at the swallow, who would change course at the last instant.  This went on 10 or 15 times after the same swallow, who did not seem to be concerned.  I guess he thought the little hawk was just a lousy driver! Eventually, a second hawk joined the hunt by flying close by.  After a few more tries, perhaps distracted by the second hunter, the little hawk was successful and there was one less swallow.


Some of the mine buildings are fairly well preserved and there are daily tours available in the summer.


While driving down the country roads of Alberta, windows down, tires crunching on the gravel road, it always amazes me that the sound of a Meadowlark cuts through all that and you would swear it was in the vehicle with you.


We eventually found ourselves down in the Cypress Hills area.


Trying to determine if this store is open, or closed?


I guess we’ll put this on the sign twice, in case someone misses it the first time?  IMG_0341Sneaking into Saskatchewan the back way!


A very scenic camp spot, till the fog rolled in!IMG_0346

Quite a few antelope in that area of the country …


It’s been a long time getting this blog post finally online.  Could have had it done a couple weeks ago, but all the photos I had taken from video had disappeared!  So I had to do that all over again, and well, there’s fun to be had that doesn’t necessarily involve sitting at a computer!  That’s it for this time.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Back on the road again!

I think it’s been a while since I last updated the blog.  But then, who’s counting?

So …  Through lots of diligence, patience, and adequate amounts of sunshine, we finally managed to melt all the snow in the yard, and get the trees and grass greened up!

That usually means one thing. Time to hit the road somewhere again! 

But before that happened, the new UAV (drone) that arrived soon after I got home had to earn it’s keep.  One of the local Counties called me up and wanted to survey some ice jams and the river flooding situation.  Luckily, the ice jams had all disappeared, but there were was some overland flooding in some areas.

SMQP9790RD County DJI_0097 (24)

RD County DJI_0097 (18)

Both campers were sitting there, and Hailey couldn’t decide which one she preferred!


Eventually, after a fight, she agreed that the truck camper would be the best bet!

IMG_0099IMG_0095Hailey and I jumped in and headed east.  We hit a few of our favourite spots along the way, but the weather was not cooperating, so we didn’t really take any photos till we reached Saskatchewan.

There we were able to find a nice spot overlooking the North Saskatchewan to enjoy the scenery and the spring warmth.


In the morning, large flocks of geese would rise up off the river and circle, climbing, before eventually continuing their journey on north to their preferred nesting grounds.  Mourning Doves and Common Nighthawks were also announcing their presence in the area, as well as some Mule Deer and the occasional coyote.


At another camp spot on the edge of a lake, beavers were out for an evening swim, and were actively talking back and forth as they swam along!


In Saskatchewan, this is one of the more common signs you will see.

I think they lost their ‘road repair’ manual or something?

Stick to the main roads, and it is a bit better, but I usually like to take the less-traveled ways.IMG_0141

After that, we continued on to the east, watching a large column of smoke get larger and larger as we approached.  It was the ‘Rally’ fire that had ignited just the day before a bit west of Prince Albert.  Within a day or two, it had jumped across the North Saskatchewan River at that point.


We sat and watched from a distance as the bombers circled, lining up to drop retardant along the edge of the fire under the direction of the ‘bird dog’ aircraft.


After short visits with friends and relatives in Prince Albert, we headed north into the bush to the National Park of the same name.  It turned out that there was also an ‘out of control’ fire burning in the south western portion of the park, but by continuing further north we were able to avoid camping in the smoke and ash falling from the sky.


As usual, the bears were out on the roadside, taking advantage of the first things to green up.


It was still prior to the long weekend, so the campgrounds had not started to charge, and better yet, we were the only ones in the campground!


After a couple of years of closure due to construction and repairs, the road on the north side of Waskesiu Lake to Kingsmere Lake was open again, so we headed up there next.

There is a small narrow guage rail running along the river to assist small boats making the portage up to Kingsmere lake, and some shiny new bridges and staircases as well.


Clearly, there was a ‘government’ beaver working on this tree.  I assume he/she had been sent away for ‘sensitivity training’, language training, or perhaps just on an extended coffee break.  I hope to see this tree down on my next visit!


On a hiking trail closer to the townsite, we came face to face with a friendly Otter, but I was a bit too slow on the draw to get a usable photo.  Another bear was not so shy however, and tried to approach me on a raised walkway with railings, till I convinced him that would not be a good idea Winking smile.


I found an old fire lookout tower in the park, but it had obviously been ‘re-purposed’ for some sort of communications role.


Heading back south again, the smoke had cleared or at least the wind had changed directions, so another great little lake front campsite was again smoke-free.IMG_0229IMG_0230After returning home for a very few days, and to mow the grass, we were back on the road again.  Who would have guessed?  Back to Saskatchewan again!IMG_0264IMG_0266

But that will have to wait for another blog post – hopefully before August  Winking smile.