Bad Lands, Good Dog

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.

Soaking up the desert-like landscape.

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.

An indoor game of crib on the chilly first evening.

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.

A geocache along the Cottonwood Trail.

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).

Hiking the Badlands Trail.

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!).

Back at camp.

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.)

My favourite way to explore … with my nose.

Day Camping

You’ve probably heard of day tripping, and everybody knows about camping, but did you know, that if you put these two things together into “day camping” you have what amounts to a really great time?

Winter isn’t the best season for camping in Canada. It’s not impossible, we’ve done it, but it’s definitely not the carefree, outdoor-living experience of spring/summer/fall camping. Our trailer keeps us nice and warm, but Nollind worries about condensation damaging the trailer, and T isn’t crazy about the winterized and unusable water system.

Me? Well, as much as I like an adventure and I have a decent bed in the trailer, it can be a bit cool on the floor next to the wall, and my trailer bed just doesn’t compare to a futon couch by the fireplace on a cold, winter night. I know. I’m spoiled.

My bed in Simon under the table. Not bad, right?

Last Fur-iday I reported from the Trans Canada highway eastbound with friends G, S, and R riding drag. Well, turns out we were off on our first day camping adventure of the winter. Day camping has many of the elements of regular camping—hiking, cooking over an open flame, eating great food, and camp chairs around the fire as the sun goes down—you just don’t stay overnight.

Dinosaur Provincial Park was Fur-iday’s destination, a place you might remember from past blog posts of a camping trip and a day trip. We arrived at the park around noon and the weather was perfect when we stopped at the viewpoint—calm, warm, sunny. It just doesn’t get better in December around these parts.

Badlands viewpoint.

The only problem with the warm day, and the warm days that preceded it, was the melting and freezing along the Badlands Trail. Yowza, just about needed skates! There was some slipping, some sliding, one backside landing, a little luging, and a fair amount of scrambling, but we all completed the loop without injury and had a fun time along the way.

Rocking a non-icy part of the trail.

After the hike that took a little longer than expected due to the conditions, we were off to set up “camp”. Fire roaring, chairs circled, it was time for one of my very favourite parts of camping, whether the day or overnight variety, FOOD. Tea and snacks around the fire, followed by sausage and marshmallow roasting, and some dog food thrown in for good measure.

Sharesies?

From the time we arrived in camp until about four o’clock it was so warm we hardly needed a fire … but then the sun went behind the hills, and then down altogether. Brrr… I don’t really like wood fires, too much popping, but I ooched as close as I dared, which wasn’t close enough to stay warm. Fortunately, when T noticed I was shivering she put on my jacket and burrito’d me between my two quilted pads. Aaaahhh…camping is the life, isn’t it?

Just call me Chico Burrito.

After supper, T, S, and we two dogs went for a short walk around the campground, followed by a little more campfire, and then it was time to pack up and go home. The downside of day camping is the long drive home instead of tucking into bed in the trailer. Ha! I say long drive like I experienced it. After a full day in the great outdoors, I don’t remember much after Nollind put the truck in gear.

As the sun goes down…

We were hoping to go day camping again with our friends in the near future, had even started talking about destinations, but it looks like that’s on hold until the new year. The latest pandemic restrictions for the humans don’t allow them to visit with each other, even outdoors, for the next four weeks.

I’ll be taking a week off next Fur-iday while Storm reports in. He’s got some good news from the field. :o)

Day Tripper

It’s been a weekly event lately, ever since our camping trip east to the Cypress Hills. T and Nollind load me into the truck or car with my travel bowl and my harness, pack a few snacks and we’re off … east. It seems the Trans Canada eastbound has caught their fancy and keeps pulling them back.

Early spring in Medicine Hat.

The first day trip was to Medicine Hat to look at a boat for the sailing club. The boat didn’t work out, but there was a morning stop at Tim Hortons (I know I probably shouldn’t eat them but I love Timbits!), a walk along the South Saskatchewan River at a great place called Police Point Park, and a bunch of hangin’ with the peeps on the way there and back. I do enjoy a road trip.

Taking a dip in the South Saskatchewan.

Only a week later, much to my surprise, we were on the highway heading east again. On that trip, there was a breakfast stop in Bassano (bacon and hash browns!) and then a visit to Dinosaur Provincial Park. The park looked a lot different than when we visited a couple of Junes ago. Everything is still in early spring shades of beige and brown with only a hint of green here and there in south-facing, sheltered spots.

The Badlands Trail.

We walked the Cottonwood Flats Trail where T wanted to take some photos of the big trees for her new novel called Cottonwood Wind. Then there was lunch by the river (oysters, chicken, and carrots!), followed by a second hike, this time on the Badlands Trail. It would have been fun to have Sid there and stay overnight, and quite a few trailers were rolling into the campground, but we were on our way home instead with a pit stop at the Tim Hortons in Brooks (Timbits!)

Picnic lunch beside the Red Deer River.

Yesterday morning, I could hardly believe it when we were driving east on Highway 1 yet again after a stop at Tim’s in Strathmore (Timbit and breakfast wrap sharesies!). This trip we turned off just past Bassano and drove a rural highway we’d never been on before, headed toward a town called Duchess. I wasn’t aware of any parks or trails up that way but my people never fail me so I slept and waited for whatever I’d find at our destination.

Savouring my Timbit.

Turns out it was another sailing club errand, this time to pick up a whole trailer full of boats. I’ve not been in a boat, haven’t had the opportunity, but I did enjoy exploring John’s farm and shop and then lying on his couch while he and Nollind talked boats and sailing for about four hours. Just between you and me, I think T would have liked to join me on the couch. 😉

More snacks in Patricia.

When we travelled to Dinosaur the week before, T and Nollind took a drive through the hamlet of Patricia, and made plans to visit the Patricia Hotel next time we were in the area, to sample their Steak Pit restaurant. Well, there we were, back in the area … and hungry. I didn’t see the inside of the old hotel, but it looks pretty cool from the photos. And the food? Delicious. My share amounted to leftover bits of steak, baked potato, and garlic bread. Apparently, it’s a cook-your-own meat kind of place and Nollind did a pretty fine job on T’s steak. There are still some pork ribs in the fridge and I’m hoping I get to sample those later today.

The Steak Pit at the Patricia Hotel.

After the Patricia stop, the day was getting on, and I figured we’d be on our way home but, instead, it was a visit to Lake Stafford Park in Brooks for a walk around the lake. Since I’d been out and about during the farm/boat stop and had a belly full of steak and potato, I was pretty cool to just settle in for a two-hour nap, but they are always thinking of me and didn’t want to miss an opportunity to take me for a walk somewhere new. And they were very patient with my walk-sniff-walk-sniff pace even when other people were lapping us on the trail. What’s the hurry, right?

Around the lake trail in Brooks.

So, three weeks, three day trips to the east, three new trails explored, three days of road snacks, three hundred thousand smells. I’m a happy dog. I wonder where we’ll go next week? T? Nollind? Ideas?

Road trip pooch.