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Grasslands, Cypress Hills, Writing-on-Stone

Petroglyphs, Trailer Repairs, Gravel Roads, argh

rain 14 °C
View TaJ 2019 & TaJ 2019 June 27 to Aug 15 & TaJ 2019 - June 13-30 on Rooseboom-Scott's travel map.

As this blog entry is written, we are in Lethbridge, Alberta, and have traveled 9,500 kilometers since leaving Millville Nova Scotia on May 8, 2019. We are officially at 50 days of travel, or 1/3 of the way through our journey.

June 19

This was a travel day, which turned out to be much longer than we anticipated. It had poured rain overnight and the campground was soggy in the morning. Any place that was not gravelled was pure mud. We worked our way to readiness to depart by 9:30am. It was with reluctance that we said goodbye to Grasslands National Park. Really great stay here, and we would like to return some day.

The way out was 25 kilometers of soggy, muddy gravel road. By the time we hit pavement, TaJ had added 100 pounds of mud. The roads in this part of Saskatchewan are extensively patched, and while not perfect, are at least driveable.

Jenny and I stopped at Wood Mountain, where Sitting Bull and 4000 Sioux warriors and their families fled after the Battle of the Little Big Horn. This provincial park is on the site of the NWMP fort that was established in 1879. Here 25 NWMP kept control of the natives for 4 years, until Sitting Bull returned to the United States.

Our destination for the day was Cypress Hills Park campground at Elkwater, on the Alberta side of this inter-provincial park. As we worked our way west we stopped for supplies then headed for the southern approach to Cypress Hills, only to discover that we were faced with 50 kilometers of gravel road…yikes! We decided, with George and Karmen, to backtrack and head up to the Trans Canada Highway and come into Cypress Hills from the north. It added almost 125 kilometers to our day’s drive and made our arrival a very late 7:30pm. Supper was at 9:00pm and luckily, I had made plans for something simple, Caesar Salad and sautéed shrimp.

Exhausted from the day’s travels, we crashed for the night.

June 20

We had noted that our trailers had suffered a bit of damage from our trip out of Grasslands. TaJ had a hanging sewer pipe (the strapping holding it in place had snapped) and on George and Karmen’s Airstream, gravel had broken the drain for their fresh water tank. Repairs were going to be necessary.

We headed in to Medicine Hat to get parts to repair the damage and to do laundry and get internet time after 6 days in the wilderness. Dropping in on a few breweries would be our reward for being in a city!

We found the best laundromat we have ever used in our travels. The Posh Wash was tremendous, plus it had wi-fi. George and I wandered auto parts stores and I got the stuff I needed to work on repairing TaJ’s broken pipe.

We went to the Medicine Hat Brewing Company for lunch and a beer tasting…this place is very nice.

We headed to the Public Library so I could access wi-fi time to post the last blog. We tried one more brewery in the downtown area…Travois Brewing. Now, since I was the designated driver, I got to have a 4 ounce taster at this last stop. I take my driving seriously.

We got back to Elkwater campground late afternoon and decided to put off the repairs until the following day. The weather was uncooperative to say the least. Cold, and rainy. Here we were, on the cusp of the Summer Solstice, and the high was 10 degrees. It dropped to 3 degrees overnight. On the plus side, not a single bug has marred our travels this year.

June 21

Cold, and damp. I spent 90 minutes under TaJ, securing our sewer pipe on a temporary basis, until we get some decent weather. Poor George, spent almost 4 hours working on his Airstream. He was cold to the bone after his efforts, and it was only a good three finger belt of Bourbon that brought him back to the land of the living.

Jenny and I did a power walk in the late afternoon to work out my kinks from crawling around on the ground for so long, and I did feel better after the walk. It rained the rest of the evening and I put out the awning to cook supper…beef stroganoff over egg noodles. The rest of the night was rain and wind. We were tucked down in the forest, but it was a cold and chilly summer solstice.

June 22

Quite possibly the coldest hook up to travel of this trip. Everything was sopping wet and I was chilled to the bone by the time TaJ and Sully were ready to go. We stopped in Medicine Hat to shop for our stay at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park. It looked like just a 250-kilometer drive, but a washed-out paved road, and our aversion to taking TaJ on gravel, sent us on a 100-kilometer detour before we arrived at this magnificent park.
The campground is set amongst the hoodoos, down on the banks of the Milk River. For the first time on this trip we were in a full campground. It was Saturday and all 54 sites were filled with weekend campers. The park is just 12 kilometers from the US border.


June 23

We climbed up the trail through the Sandstone cliffs, through the Hoodoos to the visitor centre. Surprise, they have wi-fi out here. Writing-on-Stone has the greatest concentration of rock art in North America, some of it dating back 3,500 years.

Much of the modern era art dates from 1730 onward and the petroglyphs were carved into the sandstone walls of the canyon with deer antlers or bones. We booked the afternoon tour to the back part of the property, which can only be accessed with a guide. The cost is $19 per person. This 2-hour long tour takes you to the most protected parts of the area. Writing-on-Stone is under consideration for designation as a World Heritage Site. Prior to 1977 much of the art was defaced by people carving their names into the sandstone, which is now illegal.


The most recent rock art carved by a Native was done in 1924 and depicts a Ford Model T car, which was used to transport the artist to Writing-on-Stone:


Our guide was very informative and knew her subject well.


Along the roadway were several prime examples of prickly pear cactus in bloom.


June 24

Jenny and I had plans to go into Lethbridge for the day. We had a windshield crack that needed to be dealt with and we also had to get the tires on Sully looked at. Our Michelin tires are 75% worn, after just 35,000 kilometers of travel. Not very good considering they advertise a life span of 130,000 kilometers.

We will be spending 4 days later in the week in Lethbridge and wanted to ensure we could get a windshield delivered in time for it to be installed by the end of the week. We also had to start claim on the tires.

We stopped first at Crystal Glass, where we discovered that they could repair our damaged windshield for $50. Yay, a half hour later we were fixed and back on the way. The tires are proving to be more of a problem. Replacement tires will he around $1,100 and it is difficult to get an assessment of our existing tires from Michelin. The local rep is in Calgary and is not scheduled to be in Lethbridge for 2 weeks to look at our tires. Rock and a hard place.

The other reason for our trip was to meet up with a work mate of Jenny’s from the 1980’s. Heather and Jenny knew each other back around 1983. We had a lovely two-hour visit catching up on each other’s lives over the past 36 years. We agreed to meet for dinner on Wednesday with Heather and her husband Neil.

June 25

Our last day with George and Karmen dawned with full sunshine and warm temperatures. We hiked the Hoodoo Interpretive Trail, about a 5.5 k round trip. The self guided trail has 12 stops, each of which fills in details of the Milk River valley and its history. There are a number of coulees visible across the river. A coulee is a steep walled ravine leading to, or from, a river valley. I got to read the brochure at each stop while my rapt audience listened


We came upon the shed skin of a Rattlesnake, our only proof that they actually are here:


Police Coulee is so named because the NWMP established a base there in the 1870’s, to stop liquor smuggling from the US. Police Coulee extends all the way to the Montana border and was a main migration route for First Nations people.

Here are some images from along the trail:


Our last meal together was chicken fajitas, combined with margaritas that Karmen made. It was a great conclusion to our three weeks together. This was the 16th time we have traveled with George and Karmen since we met on Newfoundland in 2013. Great travel companions. We already have a plan to meet up again in Nova Scotia in 2020.


The Battle Scene petrogylph is the most complex scene depicted on the sandstone walls of Writing-on-Stone. Here is an enhanced image of the drawing, depicting a battle from 1866:


June 26

George and Karmen hit the road early, headed for Bow Valley. Jenny and I had a more leisurely start to our day as we only had 135 kilometers to travel.

One thing we did need to do was run Sully and the TaJ-ma-Haul through a car wash. Mud and road grime everywhere. There was a huge truck wash in Milk River and we made that our first stop. A half hour, and $28.50 later, both vehicles were gleaming.


Today is our 50th day on the road. We arrived at Bridgeview RV Resort, in Lethbridge before noon and settled in to our lovely spot along the Old Man River.

We discovered a second stone chip on our windshield…argh! While Jenny hung out at the campground, I headed off to deal with this, as well as work on the tire problem. Back to Crystal Glass, where for $40 this time, stone chip number two was dealt with.

While Crystal was working on my glass problem, I was trying to get through to Michelin to work on a tire solution. Michelin’s phone tree system has no option to speak to a human, and in frustration, I headed back to the tire store to see if they could cut through the crap. Well, a solution did come up, but not one that solved all my problems. Michelin offered $50 a tire, sight unseen. Well, that worked, although not as much of a credit as I was hoping for, at least it was something. We bought a set of Toyo tires and they installed them…like right now and 45 minutes later I was out the door and back on the road. The good news is that by buying them in Alberta I was saving $100 in sales tax!

We met Heather and Neil for supper at Browns Social House and had a great visit. Neil is an archaeologist who has worked at Writing-on-Stone in the past. His retirement goal is to harvest dinosaur poop from the Big Muddy Badlands in Saskatchewan…our kind of guy.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 11:01 Archived in Canada Tagged grasslands writing-on-stone cypress_hills

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I also went to writing on stone prov. Park. Early 1990's, as I worked in Lethbridge, waiting for Jenny to arrive there and take over!

by Mary Klimek

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