Oh man, was it ever good to sleep outside again. Warm enough to sleep on top of my sleeping bag. Wendy, who is a lizard, slept with a hood pulled tight to her face and buried deep in her sleeping bag (thank gawd I have a circulatory system).
While Wendy showers, I start packing everything inside the tent, where we will leave it for the day.
Ready to go, we leave the campground and drive into town. It's only 6km or so and it's gorgeous, The Badlands are gripping. For an Easterner, it's like being in a Hollywood Western. A coyote sprints across the road in front of our car. Then, we think we hear a stampede of buffalo…but it's just a tractor trailer rumbling up behind us
We're heading back to town to buy some 'Holy Crap' (Wendy's cereal), some ground flax and some paleo bars at a local health store. The woman there recommends three restaurants in town…In fact, eryone we speak to has recommended these same three restaurants…Old Grouch's Cozy Cafe (my choice because it offers homemade Perogies and Cabbage Rolls…mmmm), Humpty's and WHIFS Flapjack House. Turns out the first two are closed today, so WHIFS it is. It's right on the way to the Royal Tyrell Museum and that is a plus.
There's a huge lineup at the door (12 people) but luckily, they're all eating together. We're next. The place is packed and we wait awhile before getting served. The food is good and by the time we're done it's nigh on 12.30pm.
A quick drive down the road and we are at the museum. Wow, the parking lot is huge and it is jam packed. Nary a spot in sight. A quick drive around and Ba-Bam, a spot opens about 50m from the entrance.
The entrance to the museum is jammed with at least a busload of Boy Scouts (from Kitchener) and most are wearing fully loaded backpacks with water bottles, flashlights and other camping gear hanging off…they look like Russell (the kid in 'Up') and they seem ready for anything ('Be Prepared'. Right Sir Richard?).
The museum entrance fee is a great deal, $16.00 each. We enter and the first exhibit is directly in front of us. The exhibits are laid out on a path that takes us through the entire museum, via the geological and biological time periods of the Red River area. Fantastic! There are many things to touch (petrified wood, fossilized dinosaur skin, dino footprints fossilized into an old riverbed).
One room, dramatically lit (and with chamber music playing softly in the background) holds the museum's most revered treasures, it's called 'Lords of the Land'.
Some of the floors are clear and you find yourself walking over ancient seabeds swarming with a diversity of prehistoric life that staggers the imagination. During the Devonian Period (416-359 million years ago), the Alberta Badlands were covered by a tropical sea. We are told that the remains of the ancient plankton, modified by time, heat and pressure, are today, the source of Alberta's fossil fuel industry (We have some of them in the Civic now)
A large plate glass window allows you to peek into 'The Preparation Lab', where technicians clean fossils for display.
There is an indoor 'Cretaceous Garden', Canada's largest collection of plants and ferns that are living fossils (relatives of prehistoric plants)…Jim, we want to know what these things are.
We pass a young staffer who has a booth set up with fossils and two little, plastic dinosaur models. Her name is Amy and she looks very much like she's on vacation from Hogwarts. She is absolutely adorable and truly passionate about dinosaurs. She hands us a plant eater's toenail (it needs a pedicure in the worst way), a T-Rex's tooth and then a T-Rex's claw from its hind foot. Way cool.
There are even fossils for people who love birds (no, it's not chunks of Alberta highway with birds flattened into it)
In the Ice Age exhibit, we find huge horned fossils of ancient bison and flint tipped spears of the people who hunted them (Ishi Master…this one's for you buddy)
Finally we have traipsed across the millennium of life on earth (surrounded by Scout Pack 98) and emerge straight into the gift shop…where we buy, buy, buy…because we're happy as heck to be back in an age of microwaves and cell phones and flush toilets. Nah, not really…we buy a couple of postcards and a shoehorn for a young brother who has been searching for one. We sure had a great time.
Next we're on the trail of some local horse thieves. We've been told by a trusted source (thanks Brad…oops, I've just revealed our source) that their hideout is located just 16km North of Drumheller, on Hwy 838 (North Dinosaur Trail). So we hop into our trusty steed and race over there lickety split. We mosey on up to the lookout (always good to own the high ground) and as we arrive, we notice that a posse (two school buses worth) has beaten us to the draw.
'Horsethief Canyon' (sorry partner, I'm fresh out of Old West idioms) was indeed used by a bedevilling band of badlands bandits (but alliterations I have a ton of). Seems the outlaws would steal horses from the settlers and hide them away in the many folds and valleys within the canyon…at least until they could re-brand them.
The view from the lookout is breathtaking and Wendy and I brave the frightful winds (so powerful that Wendy says that she will need a scuba diver's weight belt to remain grounded) long enough to catch some great shots. We place a cozy car blanket down and sit…me with the binoculars (there just has to be a dinosaur down there somewhere) and Wendy with the camera. We're there for quite a while and meditate upon the stillness and grandeur of it all.
On the way out we catch sight of a funny little squirrel(?). He isn't at all fazed by us, in fact he poses for a picture and says “Say hello to Asseltine” (hope that means something to somebody)
Suffering Succotash, we've spanned the epochs, wrangled some rustlers and it's still only 5.30 in the afternoon. Wendy is pulling at my sleeve, saying “Let's go to the Hoodoos, Let's go to the Hoodoos”. So we pile back into the Civic and off we go, rolling very slowly away from the majesty of the canyon.
The Hoodoos (16km East of Drumheller on Hoodoo Trail, Highway 10) are indeed worth the trip. Here is a brief description of what we are seeing
The eerie formations known as Hoo Doos (or Hoodoos) are found in North American badlands, formed by wind and water erosion of sedimentary rocks. Looking like petrified mushrooms, they have a protective rock cap which shelters their shaft, detering them from disintergrating at the same speed as the surrounding sandstone
Here is a little better description
They are awesome…and crawling with people, the vast majority of whom are treading very carefully around these most sensitive treasures. There are areas where you are allowed to climb and the hardened, sandy clay provides good traction to walk on (we're fairly sure that changes dramatically when they're wet).
What a magnificent organism this home we call Earth ('Earth…might as well call it Dirt'). It's so wondrously elegant and diverse. The Badlands, The Royal Tyrell Museum, Horsethief Canyon and The Hoodoos have today reminded Wendy and I that we abide in Unity with Mother Earth and with all Life…now and what has preceded us (The Ancestors). And THAT (Martha), is a Very Good Thing!
A quick trip to the IGA again for some food (the T-Rex almost got Wendy but she slipped though his giant teeth. It pays to be small). Sandwiches and salad for me and chickpea noodles, sauce and spinach for Wendy.
The mosquitoes at camp (particularly at dusk and early morning) are miserable. Geez, isn't there some kind of animal that eats these darn things? Oh, that's right…BIRDS! By the way, Caleb (and friends), the Ojibway may indeed have some plant that kills skeeters once they land on you, but to keep them OFF…you need DEET and plenty of it.
We have decided to head into Calgary for the next few days. The wheels on our Red River Cart are wobbly. We think its the shocks or suspension (damn you frying pan). The muffler is also growling sexily (of course some might call it noise). Luckily we had the tires checked at the Oakville Acura dealer before we left…at least we can count on them. Our good buddy Harp (Harpreet Padda) is opening his home to us and we will use the time to visit Harpie, Calgary and a Midas Muffler. We should also be able to locate a Source for that elusive power cord.
Another great fire (we are down to our last fire bundle…Kimmy send more bundles) and suddenly darkness falls and the mosquito onslaught abates to just the occasional diehard Kamikaze. See you guys in the morning.
And we will see you guys also. Have a sound sleep and find peace in your dreams.
Moose and Wendle (from The Badlands)
P. S. Here's a bedtime story.
While Wendy took this pic, I happened to notice a really good looking horse, who must live on the property across the road. She was walking up the farm's laneway, as if she were going to get the mail. Real slow like. She saw me looking at her and stopped straightaway.
I got Wendy to look over and so then, we were both looking at her.
Then I noticed that this really pretty horse was just standing there, staring at me, like she wanted me to ride her. Wendy thinks that she was staring at 'us'…but I know better. I learned something about horses loving men who love horses, from Bill and Bob, those two friends of ours from back at Mountsberg.
Suddenly, and to our amazement, this horse says…”Take a picture, it lasts longer”
So we did