A year before we embarked on the Epic Journey to Alaska, Pat was busily requesting tourist info from Canada. Alberta, as it turns out, has masterful marketing brochures for its spectacular sights. We were completely enthralled by pictures of Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park and put it on the list of ‘must do’s’ during our return trip. When you see the pictures you’ll know why.
Little Bow Provincial Park
We’re now done with bigger-than-life Banff and need to move on. It’s September 5th and the smoke and heat are still oppressive. Pat has picked out Little Bow Provincial Park as our next stop, mainly because it’s close to Vulcan, AB and has trees. You read that right – Vulcan! According to the visitor center info, they have a Trek Center and Pat is a total Trekkie. Ah but I’m getting ahead of myself.
I’m amazed at the countryside, mainly because I didn’t think it would look this way. Farm land as far as the eye could see. Not sure what I expected, but this wasn’t it. Could be Kansas, Texas or many Midwest places in the lower 48. Once you leave the mountains behind, this is it.
Cattle, classic barns and silos abound here.
So we’re driving and driving. I keep asking “Are you SURE there are trees?”. I say this because they’re having record-breaking temperatures, it’s dry as a bone, and shade is preferred in 80+ heat. There is also no evidence of trees in the area. Pat tells me the description included trees, but I’m not convinced. I’m grumbling all the way about no trees, when we turn off the main road and dip down into a small canyon. Lo and behold, there are trees and blessed shade for our camping spot.
You can see why I was skeptical. This area like much of Southern Canada is extremely crispy from record temps, no rain since June and fires to the south and west adding a smokey haze to the mix. The dam upstream from this picture created a little oasis that was such a contrast. I’m on top of the closest hill looking down on the campground for this shot.
Even with the dryness, textures abound. Loved the delicate sheaves of wheat and yes, even cactus. Top right is my little trail to the top of the hill, and steeper than it looks.
Little Bow River meandering off into the hazy distance, Pat & Jackson on the bank of the swimming hole, and the noisy geese overhead.
My lonely tree
There weren’t too many people in the park with us, but we did have friendly next-door neighbors. Myrna & Don from Alberta were kind enough to give us 8 ears of corn from their garden. We hadn’t had fresh corn in quite a while so it was a treat.
Eerie red sunset compliments of the Montana fires and smoke
Welcome to Vulcan
We SO love the quirky tourist traps and couldn’t resist this one. A perfect in-between stop with great appeal for Pat who has seen every original Star Trek episode there is.
The Vulcan, AB welcome center has an Enterprise replica, complete with Vulcan writing on the plaque. At least that’s what Pat suspects it is. He says the number on the ship is all wrong, but probably a licensing thing. Anyhoo, great fun nonetheless.
And I nearly wet my pants laughing when he popped his head out with that crazy grin. It’s a wonder I got a clear picture.
This place has a whole rack of costumes that you can put on for photo ops. Pat was a most excellent Captain Kirk in the captain’s chair, as well as posing with Bones and Spock. Phasers on stun of course.
The best signage was over the merchandise and said “Shoplifters will be vaporized to the fullest extent of the law”. This tiny little town has certainly capitalized on its name and location in Vulcan County. A stop well worth our time and it was completely free. There was a pretty good Chinese restaurant in town, too.
Out and About
Just driving around the area was interesting. It seemed like every farm had a derelict barn on the property and I found a grand one.
Rolling pastureland, the old North wind working on my favorite ramshackle barn and the perfectly straight crew-cut rows.
And the happiest “crop circle” I’ve ever seen.
The smoke ran us out of Little Bow and we’ve got Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park in our sights. It’s smokey here, too, but the outstanding views and other-worldly geography made it worthwhile.
We rounded the corner into the park and were greeted with this view. Wow.
You could really believe you were on another planet with some of the rock formations. Hoodoos at their finest. According to park literature, glaciers exposed sandstone bedrock after the last ice age and thousands of years of erosion did the rest. This is also a sacred spot for First Nations people. This part of Blackfoot territory was a place they would come to await visions foretelling their fate during upcoming battles. Battle stories were chronicled on the stones, and thus the name Writing-On-Stone.
This is an example of the petroglyphs we saw on the trail. It likely dates back to the Historic Period around 1730 A.D. Some of the art has been defaced over the years by tourists, so they have the remaining First Nation art behind fencing.
There were many signs on the highway and in the park warning of prairie rattlesnakes. Apparently they are very important to the grassland ecosystems, so you aren’t supposed to run over them if you see them basking on the road. That runs counter to every fiber of my being!
We’re walking Jackson the first day and fortunately he didn’t notice this guy right beside the trail. We thought maybe it was dead, but my zoomed in picture tells otherwise along with the fact that he was nowhere to be found when we retraced our steps on the way back. Likely a young snake with no rattles, so no warning sound.
Since we were worried about Jackson innocently sticking his nose where it didn’t belong, we took our next jaunt at sunset without him.
This time a much friendlier looking creature on the trail.
Grand views of the Milk River and the hoodoos.
Going, Going, Gone. Day is done, gone the sun.
Then we encounter rattlesnake #2 and decide to call it a day while we can still see the trail and every “one” on it.
Just couldn’t get enough of the landscape here.
Industrious little beavers stay busy here although we didn’t see any. Fortunately they have the treed campsites fenced off from the Milk River to keep the them from claiming all the wood.
It was extremely dry and dusty while we were here and the smoke kept us off the trails for the most part. We definitely want to return one day when the valley is more lush and green and the views are clear. Still, an extraordinary place regardless of the conditions.
From the moon rise over Banff to the sunset over Little Bow, Alberta was all the brochures promised. And as they say in Vulcan, live long and prosper. See you on the way!