Saturday, July 17, 2010

Spring Trip 2010 – Day 26 – Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park

Tuesday, May 18, with the temperature sitting at 17 degrees at 7 am….the decision was made – no Grasslands National Park this trip – on to Cypress Hills.

Spring Trip 2010 1363

While Ernie made use of the Dump station and topped up the water tank, I took this picture of ‘out back’ and then it was south on #4 to Swift Current where we searched in vain for a Wal-Mart or Zellers (maybe on the eastern side of town???), were mislead by our G.P.S. as we searched for a grocery store, went back to the Co-op we’d seen as we reached the town, stocked up on groceries and then hit the Trans Canada Highway

Spring Trip 2010 1364

headed west.  We don’t like traveling on main thoroughfares such as this, but wanted to make time as Cypress Hills, being down in the south west corner of the province, was a good ways off.  Time rolled by, we passed two closed rest areas but finally came upon a third that wasn’t closed….

DSLR Spring Trip 345

So pulled in so we could make some long over due lunch…

DSLR Spring Trip 342

Took this to show the general terrain….I think those blue hills way off in the distance are Cypress Hills

Spring Trip 2010 1367

Ernie and Shantz enjoying a break – you can tell it is usually windy here when the picnic tables have wind shelters….

Spring Trip 2010 1368

I did a double take when the first one of these went by….you’d never see this in B.C., a semi pulling 3 trailers!  Lunch eaten, it was time to head west again, to the town of Maple Creek where we thought there was an information center…if there was, it wasn’t obvious.

At Maple Creek you can either travel south to ‘Centre Block’ of Cypress Hills which has ‘services’, or south west to the ‘West Block’ that offers ‘primitive’ camping (this information gleaned from a guidebook we had got at the last open, manned visitor center back in Cold Lake).  Naturally, we chose the West block…

Spring Trip 2010 1372

It was about 45 km from Maple Creek to the park, the country side was gorgeous…rolling cattle country…unfortunately, the road was narrow with no shoulders so no opportunity for any decent pictures…

Spring Trip 2010 1373

as we headed south we started to see patches of ‘snow’!

Spring Trip 2010 1374

and then larger patches – it turns out the system that had kept us stuck at Dinosaur for close to a week had dumped 2 to 3 feet of the white stuff in this area….as we approached the park, the first thing we came across was a ‘trailer drop off site’!  huh?  Just what were we getting ourselves in for?  We didn’t have a trailer so proceeded up the road which quickly turned into a series of very sharp, steep hairpin curves.  being from B.C. we are used to such things, although I wasn’t impressed with the crumbling edge on my side as that was the ‘down’ side….

Spring Trip 2010 1398

It didn’t take long though and we were up on a broad plateau..

DSLR Spring Trip 347

the pavement ended at the intersection where the truck is parked at the information sign…

DSLR Spring Trip 346

We hadn’t realized when we first pulled up to this sign, that there were….

Spring Trip 2010 1394

Sharp tailed Grouse underneath it!  By the time I grabbed a camera they were heading into the bushes and only managed, by pure luck, to get this one picture of this shy bird and one I’d never seen before.  Those bushes by the way were all Potentilla so this plateau must look wonderful when they are all in flower.

Spring Trip 2010 1401

My eyes were scanning the sky for clouds when I saw this sign….same story as at Grasslands should it ‘be wet’!

Spring Trip 2010 1400

there were lots of birds in the area….Savannah Sparrows being one of them….this guy in some ‘snow melt’ at the side of the road…

Spring Trip 2010 1566

Speaking of snow, Ernie and Shantz wandered over to this big patch of it, sort of directly west behind ‘the sign’

DSLR Spring Trip 350

Meanwhile I wandered in the other direction….this is looking eastwards.  Cypress Hills is the highest point of land between the Rocky Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean….this sort of shows why.

DSLR Spring Trip 349

Continuing on….the sign had shown 3 campgrounds….the first, just past a ranger station (which was the only water source) was for horses – so you must be able to haul horse trailers up there, the next campsite was just past there right beside the road and consisted of pretty much only tent sites….and was still pretty much snow covered….all the campsites were down in that valley which meant there was a pretty steep descent…although nothing like the one we’d already come up.

Spring Trip 2010 1403

and here, off to the left of the road, was the campground….that is us tucked in the trees….the only people there, the campground was actually larger than it looked as there were many tenting sites back in those trees.

DSLR Spring Trip 351

Our site backed onto this scene….for some reason I didn’t write the name down, but I think it was called Battle Creek.  I know the creek made a large horseshoe loop shape here and the campsite was nestled within the loop.  When humans, other than ourselves did show up….they were all astonished at the water level and said they had never seen it that high before.

Spring Trip 2010 1404

This is the main park road as it continued on past the campsite….this road is supposed to go right through to the Alberta section of the park…

Spring Trip 2010 1571

Ernie took this picture of the road that we had come in….he and Shantz went for a walk and climbed up the hillside

Spring Trip 2010 1406

Cypress Hills is known as a sort of ‘Mecca’ for birders….so I was awaiting the arrival of all these birds….there were White Crowned Sparrows in the campground…

Spring Trip 2010 1413

and Chipping Sparrows in the trees…

Spring Trip 2010 1415

the sun is highlighting the rust coloured ‘cap’ on this guy…

Spring Trip 2010 1407

I ventured out from the fenced and cattle guarded campsite and started following a beaten path that ran parallel with the road…a trio of White Tail Deer were laying in this spot which was just at the end of the campground…this deer actually started stamping it’s feet at me which didn’t exactly thrill me – I suspect possibly there was a fawn somewhere….fortunately it only threatened and then turned tail and bounded further back in the bush….although I saw it there again several times before we left…

Spring Trip 2010 1411

Here is that same creek, looped back now to actually cross under the road…the campground is visible off on the left there.

Spring Trip 2010 1419

Much to Shantz’ and my delight….the campground had a good population of these Thirteen Line Ground Squirrels…I’m going to bore you with a few pictures as this is the last place we’d see them and I’m not likely to get anywhere to see them again any time soon….

Spring Trip 2010 1421

Cute huh?

DSLR Spring Trip 360

I was down on this guys level…

DSLR Spring Trip 362

showing the lines….

Spring Trip 2010 1376

We had been sitting outside enjoying a pre dinner drink when these two vans pulled in and parked thus, and out tumbled a whole bunch of teenagers….on the one hand we viewed this with some trepidation but on the other hand, it was nice to know that there actually were other human beings in the area because we had seen NO ONE or any vehicle, the entire time we had been there and that included stopping at the Ranger Station hoping for information….  As it turned out, this was an outdoor school from Regina and they were a great bunch of kids, no problem at all, they set their tents up back in the bush and you’d never have known they were there,  and we really enjoyed talking to their ‘teacher’.  Hi if you are reading this -

Spring Trip 2010 1377

an evening walk down the road revealed more snow for Shantz  (see it was still warm enough for shorts) – it was also warm enough for mosquitoes…..we’d forgot about them so hadn’t used insect repellent – that was a mistake!

DSLR Spring Trip 364

More spooky, White tail Deer..

DSLR Spring Trip 366

some very noisy Canada Geese….and a coyote….but the picture of the coyote was even more pitiful than these two so deleted it.

DSLR Spring Trip 371

In the flower department there were these interesting Buttercups…

DSLR Spring Trip 372

Prairie Crocus!

DSLR Spring Trip 374

and Shooting Stars.  And I will add a bird list today, something I haven’t done the last while because there weren’t enough to make it worthwhile.  I have come to the conclusion though, that the reason that Cypress Hills is so renowned for birding is because it is the only place in at least Southern and Central Saskatchewan and Alberta that has the type of habitat that attracts a lot of birds they wouldn’t ordinarily see – HOWEVER, that habitat is the sort of stuff that we, out in B.C. see all the time….so the birds that were really exciting for them were just ‘ho hum’ for us – not all of them of course….those Sharp Tail Grouse for instance….we’d never see them out here….and there will be more…

Bird List: Sharp tail Grouse – 5; Ruffed Grouse – 3; Robins – 14; Yellow Rump Warbler – 7; Northern Flicker – 1; Black Cap Chickadee – 3; White Crowned sparrow – 5; Mallard – 3; Tree Swallow – 6; Northern Rough Wing Swallow – 2; Slate Junco – 1; Brown Headed Catbird – 4; Mourning Dove – 2; Savannah Sparrow – 3; Canada Goose – 10; Red-naped Sapsucker – 5; Chipping Sparrow – 6; Clay Coloured Sparrow – 3; Northern Harrier – 1; Kingfisher – 1.

No comments:

Post a Comment