Early this week, we spent three days camping at Dinosaur Provincial Park, in an area known as the Alberta Badlands. It reminds me a lot of some of the desert places we’ve travelled in winter, which I think is why T and Nollind like it so much. Unusual rocks, dry-land shrubs, cactus and other spiny plants, all feel a little like home to us part-time desert dwellers. And after three winters of not travelling to places south, we soaked it all up.
It didn’t feel very desert-esque when we first arrived. There were a lot of puddles in the campground, and the air was damp and cool. Perfect, really. At this stage of my life, the latter part, I do appreciate cool, but not cold, weather. I’ve become a bit of a Goldilocks when it comes to temperature, needing it to be just right.
The puddles persisted in the clay soil, but the trails soon dried and we were off hiking on Monday morning to the Cottonwood Flats Trail along the Red Deer River. We tried to walk this same trail a few years back when we camped at Dinosaur, but the mosquitoes were terrible and had us keeping to the drier areas of the park. This year, a month earlier than that trip, no mosquitoes, no flies, and no sign of the snakes that inhabit this part of Alberta. Too cool for them yet I imagine. It’s the same in Arizona. The snakes are hibernating when we visit. In five winters we’ve only seen two snakes, and both were too cold and slow to be of concern.
Each day at the park, we walked in the morning and again in the evening, because it’s coolest then and because the trails are all quite short. Just right for a 12-year-old dog who doesn’t have quite the same stamina for climbing as in my youth, and as I mentioned earlier, lacks temperature tolerance (aka Goldilocks syndrome).
A sizeable portion of Dinosaur Provincial Park is closed to the public unless you join a park-organized tour (currently not offered because of the pandemic). Being a Unesco World Heritage Site, the goal is to preserve. No offense, readers, but you humans are hard on natural spaces. The publicly accessible part of the park is easily explored on foot or paw over a few days, and we did just that, walking all the designated trails and even venturing off-track one evening, seeking a good place for sunset viewing. (If you like evening shots, check out T’s photos on her Instagram account @teresavanbryce).
Wednesday morning was our final walk, and T ambitiously planned the Badlands Loop, a hike across the hills to the Cottonwood Trailhead, and then back to camp via that trail. I, on the other hand, after two days of many walks and a bunch of hill climbing, was planning a nice nap in the shade on a warm morning. We compromised, completing the Badlands Loop (good boy, Chico!) and returning to camp for that spot in the shade (good girl, T!).
We got home mid-afternoon Wednesday, and I helped unpack by following the peeps to and from the trailer, supervising the process. It was a quick job this time. After only two days at home, we’re headed out again tomorrow, so we left some things in Simon for the next adventure. I hear we’re southbound this time, and I’ll tell you all about it in a week or two.
In the meantime, as my G-Ma used to say, “Don’t hurry, don’t worry, and don’t forget to smell … well, everything!” (Sorry, G-Ma. I changed the ending a little.)