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Bengough & Grasslands National Park.

The Big Muddy Badlands, Grasslands National Park, Hiking, Absolutely beautiful screnery

sunny 18 °C
View TaJ 2019 & TaJ 2019 - June 13-30 on Rooseboom-Scott's travel map.

It is Thursday, June 20, and we have come out of the wilds of southern Saskatchewan and back into the world of Wi-Fi. We have traveled 7,650 kilometers since leaving Millville Nova Scotia on May 8.

June 13

We planned to leave Moose Mountain Provincial Park early enough in the day to stop at Malty National Brewery in Regina, before heading on to our destination for the day: Bengough.

However, George had noted a problem with the trailer brakes on McStreamy (our attempt to find a name for their Airstream) and thought it serious enough that it should be looked at. We scrapped our plans to head to Regina and went back to Carlyle, where George got his brake problem fixed over the course of an hour or two. We used the time to get a bit of internet at Michael’s Café. It turned out to the be the last internet we got until we came out of southern Saskatchewan.

The southeast corner of Saskatchewan has had an oil boom of late, and we saw wells all along the road through Weyburn, where we stocked up provisions for the coming week.

We arrived at Bengough and District Regional Park, where they provide about 30 full service sites: Jenny and I were here in 2017 and were quite taken by the community, even though it is very small, about 400 residents. Lots of community spirit here. Shortly after we were set up, the manager of the park arrived to see if we were settled in. Her name was Cathy and she ended up staying for a half hour or so…very chatty.
We also had our first decent thunderstorm of the trip. Dark clouds built for an hour or so, lightning getting closer until the storm was upon us. It poured for about 30 minutes, a bit of small hail and then it was gone…skies cleared and the temperature dropped from 30 to around 18 degrees C.
Jenny and I walked the town after supper and had a good look around. Strangely enough, we both, around the same time on our walk, said we could live here, with the proviso that we go south for the depths of winter. Eight months here, four months in Arizona, or New Mexico…hmm, perhaps we shall give this some thought.


June 14

This was our day to show George and Karmen the Big Muddy Badlands. We drove south to Castle Butte, which is a local landmark, used for 2 centuries to guide people across the area. Butch Cassidy, Sitting Bull and numerous outlaws and cattlemen used the Butte as a guide. There is a trail through the area called the Willow Bunch trail, portions of which can still be ridden today.


A prairie traffic jam:


We pressed on to Big Beaver, home of 12 people and Aust’s General Store, which boasts the slogan “if we don’t have it, you don’t need it”. Aust’s has been in business since around 1900 and continues to this very day to provide the area with stuff they need. Once a year, they even bring in lobster, from Nova Scotia. Everyone in this part of Saskatchewan enjoys their services. We sent a postcard to the grandkids from the tiny post office in this community.


Our next destination was Willow Bunch, where we had lunch at the Jolly Giant Pub. Good food, good beer selection and Wi-fi, which worked out for George and Karmen, who had their tablet with them, but not so much for us. After lunch Jenny and I took a walk about town and met George and Karmen at the local thrift shop, which is only open three days a week and was open that day. They were looking for whiskey glasses and found two great ones…for $1.00! Willow Bunch is one of the oldest communities in the province, established in 1870, and has many links to Sitting Bull in its history. The town is also the birthplace of Edouard Beaupre, who was born in 1881 and grew to 8’ 3”. He died in 1904, in St. Louis, where he was working in a circus. A life size statue is in front of the museum


We returned to Bengough via a gravel road, where there was a significant number of pronghorns. We got some pictures.


June 15

Our destination for today: Grasslands National Park, Rock Creek Campground. We planned a 4 day stay at the East Block of Grasslands and headed out early enough to take stops along the way. As we approached Coronach, a group of 17 Corvettes blew by us on the highway. When we stopped for gas at the Co-op we were informed there was a ‘show and shine’ on in Rock Glen, which was on our route to our destination.
We spent a lovely hour walking the streets of another cute little community. These small towns are great little places and the people seem to have a genuine love for the open prairie skies. The car show was well worth the time we spent.


This picture is for our neighbour Milt:


We arrived at Rock Creek campground in the mid afternoon, after a 20 kilometer drive along gravel roads.


This park is remote: when the employees go home at 7:00pm, the campers are on their own for the night. There are just 24 sites here, serviced with electricity and there is water to fill your on-board tank. No showers, and vault toilets. The campground is in a bowl, and is surrounded by low hills. There are no trees, and the dominant feature is the sky…vast and incredibly beautiful. Rock Creek is a dark sky preserve, so there is no lighting after dark except for some very low ground lights near the toilets.

We came upon another R-pod. A 171 model, piloted here by Randy and Denise, from Saskatoon. We had a few pleasant chats with them before they departed the following morning.

June 16

Sunday at Rock Creek begins with Cowboy Coffee where park staff make coffee the old fashioned way, over a campfire. It is a time for campers to ask questions and hear stories about the park and the lands around us. It was a good introduction to the campground and the local hikes. Here are George and Karmen on the iconic red chairs, common to all national parks in Canada:


Our day was spent doing the close in hikes, the Creek to Peak hike, and another free hike across the open range. As long as you stay where you can see the campground, you cannot get lost…but, if you get too far out, you can spend hours trying to find your way back. They stress carrying lots of water and a compass.

By the end of the day, both Jenny and I had recorded more than 16,000 steps on our GPS watches, which equates to about 14 kilometers of walking! Here is a picture of TaJ and Sully at our campsite:


June 17

Monday dawned bright, with mixed cloud and sun being the order for the day. We planned on hiking the Valley of 1000 Devils trail, a 12 kilometer round trip. We took lunch, snacks and 2 liters of water. The hike was beautiful, up and down over open range, along ridge tops, past hoodoos and buttes. We looked back after 3 kilometers and could just make out the campground in the far distance.


It took us about 2 hours to make the end of the hike, where we rested on a ridge top, overlooking seemingly endless badlands.


We paused for lunch, took a short nap and spent an hour and a half exploring the open areas along the route. Jenny took photos of some of the prairie wildflowers, that are in bloom this time of year.



We returned to the campground by mid afternoon, tired but exhilarated by the experience. Jenny’s GPS watch recorded over 22,000 steps for the day. Because there are no showers here, we used our indoor and outdoor showers on TaJ to wash off the dust of the prairies!

June 18

Jenny and Karmen took off in the early morning for another long hike, to the Red Butte, about a 15 kilometer round trip, if they make it to the end. George and I took the day off hiking. I got some maintenance done on TaJ and then did a power walk of my own, just to loosen up the old muscles after the long hikes of yesterday.

There is a strong wind blowing as I work on this blog entry. Jenny and Karmen returned in the late afternoon and we spent a good two hours watching a thunderstorm build way across the hills. We wondered if it would ever break. Finally, about 6pm the skies opened and it poured for the rest of the evening and most of the night. We woke to a soaking wet campground in the morning. If you step off the graveled paths of the campground your shoes are caked in mud. There will be no hiking here today. But, anyway, we are leaving, heading on to Cypress Hills and a three day stay at the Elkwater campground.

June 19:

A long travel day, from Grasslands to Cypress Hills, made longer by our aversion to long drives on gravel roads. Our original planned route turned out to have about 75 kilometers of gravel and threatening thunderstorms, resulting in a 100+ kilometer detour before we got to Cypress Hills. We arrived at 7:30pm and had a remarkably late dinner at 9:00pm at our new campsite.

We have the need for serious laundromat time and that is on our agenda for the 20th.

The next blog will be sometime mid next week, as we are headed back into no wi-fi zone at Writing on Stone Provincial Park for 4 days.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 13:08 Archived in Canada Tagged bengough the_big_muddy grasslands_national_park rock_creek_campground hiking_the_valley_of_1000_devil

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I like the photo of Tony on the rock bluff! And the campsite from the hilltop. You can see forever!

by Mary Klimek

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