A Day of Adventure – Toronto to Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan
Bob and I had never explored the Canadian Prairies before we planned our summer vacation to the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. Committed to discovering more of our own country’s unique landscape and culture, we booked a car in Regina, Saskatchewan, for use after flying west from Toronto. Grasslands National Park East Block was our first destination.
Leaving Regina, the landscape was not what we expected. We quickly left behind the endless stretches of flat plains sectioned off into farmers’ fields.
Soon we saw rolling hillocks and mounds that reminded us of the terrain in New Zealand and Mexico.
Bob and I were particularly surprised to see numerous areas of flooded land alongside the highway.
We jumped at the opportunity to photograph shorebirds at several of the ponds. At one water hole, a number of American Avocets prodded the mud with their long beaks.
Other birds that had us stopping along the way included this beautiful Swainson’s Hawk…
and a Marbled Godwit that gave us stunning views. Bob and I were well on our way to an extensive list of bird sightings in the province.
In Rockglen, an iconic grain elevator that is synonymous with the Prairies made for another reason to pull over onto the shoulder and snap a couple of photos.
Modern metal silos were well represented in the countryside, but this traditional grain elevator with rail cars sitting idly by waiting for the fall harvest struck a chord with Bob and me.
It took us 5 hours to drive to the East Block of Grasslands National Park where we decided to complete a hike on the Valley of 1000 Devils Route. We were in bad need of some exercise.
The trail was 12 kilometres return and allowed us to explore some of the formations in the Killdeer Badlands. The full hike is detailed in a separate post.
At 7:30 p.m., we set off from the East Block towards Val Marie 2 hours distant. The small village is perched at the edge of Grasslands National Park West Block.
We were grateful for the extended daylight hours that enabled us to enjoy many sights along the way. This Coyote bounding up a slope paused for a glance our way.
Richardson’s Ground Squirrels populated the edges of the roads necessitating due diligence.
The sun set at 9:30 p.m. when we were a few miles outside of Val Marie.
A Mule Deer spooked by the sound of our approaching car vaulted up a bank and was thrown into silhouette against the evening sky.
Being in the Land of Big Skies, there was nothing to interfere with the light on the western horizon.
As our vehicle rolled up to a bridge over a modest stream, I detected the outline of something perched on the guardrail. It turned out to be two Great Horned Owlets preparing to hunt under the cover of darkness. One flew immediately that we drew our car to a halt, and dwindling light made photography of the other one almost impossible. Bob and I were pleased with our first day’s adventure, and we had lots more to look forward to.
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