Friday, May 7 we woke up to no snow, no rain, no wind….time to go!!!
We pulled into the viewpoint at the top of the hill, to take a final look at Dinosaur Provincial Park ~ there is Sandhill Creek down there, and barely visible the trail we walked along the coulee…
Ernie, standing there taking pictures, gives some perspective….
and one final look, this one showing remnants of the snow for the last few days. Now it was time to head to Highway 36 north…..we had gone only a very short distance when we found a lovely big campground right on the Red River….drove in and checked it out…way to early to think of camping for tonight, but something to keep in mind for another time as this campground didn’t appear on any of our maps.
The road ahead…as you can see…pretty flat country with the weather falling into a ‘little bit of everything’ category…
and on we go….now the terrain starts to become more ‘rolling’….
by lunch time we had reached the junction of highway #36 running north and south, and #9 running east and west. There was a large truck stop/gas station/restaurant at that corner (seen here in the distance) where we topped up the fuel because large signs warned that there were no services on #36. Across the street from the truck stop was a large rest area which is where we stopped to make some lunch. I don’t know if there is normally a pond here, or whether it was just flooded fields but a number of birds were making use of the water….
and Lesser Yellowlegs Sandpiper. There were also Snipe, and lots of songbirds. I should mentioned that while we ate lunch there were snow pellets falling on us.
Back on #36, heading north….another hour or two had passed, with steadily improving weather….just before the town of Alliance, we came upon another little campground…this one on the Battle River, so we pulled in to give us and the dogs a break.
That would be the Battle River down there….
This was looking directly west from the campground…that far hill was a local ‘ski hill’…
Ernie found the ski hill fascinating and zoomed in for this closer shot….
This is where I also spotted this little guy….I didn’t know at the time, but found out later (‘cause you will be seeing more of them) that this is a ‘Thirteen Line Ground Squirrel’.
It was a nice enough little campground, although noisy as it was right beside the highway and #36 is obviously a favorite route for large trucks…..and being it was still fairly early and we were trying to make up for some lost time, we took a last look – and enjoyed the warm (8 degree) sunshine, and once more, turned north….
The countryside was changing with more areas of trees and many roadside bodies of water such as this one….we’d passed through the town of Viking (situated at the junction with #14 that headed to Edmonton) and were continuing on when we were treated with a sight that was one of the things we had hoped to see by traveling this early in the season….
A large mixed flock of migrating birds….
Primarily made up of Greater White Fronted Geese and Snow Geese
there were also Canada Geese, and I’m pretty sure a few Ross’s Geese as well…
there were also a few of what used to be called ‘Blue Geese’ (just to right of middle on the near shore of the lake)….Blue Geese are now recognized as a variation of Snow Geese…
Besides all the Geese varieties there were a number of species of shorebirds, ducks and grebes. If one took the time to study the whole flock with a spotting scope I’m sure all sorts of interesting birds would have been found. I imagine the weather had held them up, just as it had us. Unfortunately, being it was getting late and also the fact that semi-trucks continued to roar past, not happy with campers pulled over to the side of the road watching birds….we moved on.
We had thought, after finding two campgrounds that day, we’d come across another one…but by the time we’d reached the junction with #16, having not found anywhere to camp and it now being supper time, we elected to turn west on #16 and head to Elk Island National Park. Another place we know, like, but hadn’t planned to go to on this trip.
Reached the park entrance, bought another annual pass ($136.90) ~ we feel strongly about supporting our National Parks and figure we usually get our money’s worth out of the pass ~ we then found that the actual campground would not open until the Monday (it was Friday) “when the university students arrive” BUT that there was ‘winter camping’ at the boat launch parking lot on Astotin Lake and the best part….it was free….so we may have had to buy our pass….but already we would have got a good part of our ‘money’s worth’ back…
So now we joined several other units, and got set up in the parking area. This view was just a few feet from our spot at the actual boat launch….
a walk went off from the boat launch, up a slight hill….towards the main part of the park which we will visit tomorrow, but I just really liked the colours…the white of the Birch trees, the red of the unfurling leaves etc.
In the evening, a couple of Great Blue Heron were feeding at the edge of the lake in the sheltered bit by the boat launch…
and for a perfect ending to the day….some Pelicans feeding while lit by the setting sun!