The snow decided to stay with us till we reached Calgary. We were quite surprised for it to snow on September 12th.
It gave us quite eery landscapes, as well as some fun sights such as flowers caught in the snow. We enjoyed some coffee and pastries in Jasper for the last time before we headed to Calgary. We were able to take a break in the city for two days, the time to settle the last administrative things and run some errands. It was a nice break, getting used to bath again after days of rain.
We left for Saskatchewan on the 14th, with more than 7 hours planned on the road. The prairies started and so did the long and flat fields it brings.
We saw a lot of abandoned houses on the way, as well as churches. We tried to get closer but didn’t dare opening the door as we didn’t know what might wait behind. The goal for the day was Grasslands National Park, a tiny park touching the US border in the south of the province. As soon as we got off the main highway, the roads got smaller and smaller, till we got to a gravel road, again.
When we entered the park, we were greeted with nothing but silence and numerous signs about the dangers waiting for us. Here, bisons, snakes and isolation. Great.
Despite the obvious desolation of the place, the lights from the sky gave us some pretty nice colours to work with. From afar, we could see these dark stains and it’s only when they started moving that we realized those were animals. Some pronghorns, American antelopes, as well as bisons. We followed the advice of Parks Canada, saying we shouldn’t get too close to bisons. How can you tell? Stick your thumb up and if it doesn’t cover it, you’re too close. So we tried to test the limits, and made some hesitant steps towards the two bisons grazing nearby. It’s when they started to look at us with a side eye that we decided we were lucky enough, and turned back to our car.
We then arrived at the camping, miraculously well equipped despite the lack of staff and its lack of tent. We were the only ones camping and we had a few retired people staying in trailers, coming to check on us. The wind was pretty bad but we were able to cook our meals in a building so that made it easier.
At night, there was nothing else than a billion stars shining upon us. The skies of Saskatchewan are reputed to be clear of light pollution and they delivered. We got a break in the clouds and we were able to snap some pictures, amid the cries of the nearby coyotes. Quite an insight into Canada’s wildlife.
The day after, we decided to explore the park the best we could with the limited time we had. We discovered the lives of the early settlers, the ones that were not discouraged by the emptiness and harshness of the prairies. We learned about a boy from Montreal, coming to the prairies to start a new life, ending up stealing and locked up in a jail in the US before starting a career of cartoonist. The West seemed like quite the place in the 19th century. From afar, we could see a herd of bisons and even though they were hard to see, I could peek a bit with my camera lens and saw that some of them were fighting. It’s hard to imagine these animals just straight butt each other’s heads in full speed.
The park allowed us to see some of the characteristics of Saskatchewan, that you can’t really see if you stick to the main highway. These fractures in the earth, the badlands, make up some curious scenes where you really wonder how they came to form.
Our time done in the park, we headed north to the capital city, Regina. On the way, we crossed some small cities, that were surely once bigger towns than they were now, and seemed completely on the verge of being empty. It’s surprising to still see some rare businesses existing, such as this one grocery store that we saw, empty, with this lonely man waiting inside. We also crossed some French speaking communities, where suddenly signs become bilinguals and school bus boast the “Ecoliers” word on their walls.
We quickly made our way into Manitoba. The landscape evolved gradually to inclure more trees, allowing more animals to roam around. Unfortunately, it’s dead ones we saw, road kills on the side of the road. We saw deers and even a moose, waiting on the side to rot or be moved. I wasn’t able to take many pictures in Manitoba. The weather was terrible, and Riding Mountain National Park had closed the part we wanted to camp in. Oh. And we also burned the tent.
The days of rain made it so that we wanted to dry up our tent since it couldn’t dry in the car. We found this outside wood stove and we had the great idea of drying up the tent. It was working great till the wind decided to turn around, and gently push the tent towards the stove. We were eating and had no idea. And we checked on the tent, it had melted and was now boasting a beautiful hole in the main wall and had melted the zipper. We tried to fix it, to at least spend the night dry, but we had to be reasonable and we decided to buy a new one, throwing this one out on the following day. So is life on the road.