Heading out for a week of vacation time, we had a list of destinations, but no detailed plans. We were somewhat prepared, but had decided to take things as they came, and just make it an adventure.
And an adventure we had.
Among beautiful scenery and truly enjoyable hours spent together, were a few unfortunate events, but all together, those mishaps just made the whole experience more thrilling.
Of course, camping during the ongoing pandemic was a little bit different as well, but on the whole, it wasn’t much of an inconvenience.
Our first stop was at Big Knife Provincial Park, northeast of Stettler.
We set up in the tenting area, and we had the place mostly to ourselves. There were two other groups to either side, but with sites in between, and they had both left by the first morning, making our stay feel truly exclusive.
This campsite was a first come, first served self-registration so we didn’t have to deal with online reservations, which proved to be cumbersome at other stops.
Big Knife is beautiful and a truly serene get-away, with the added bonus of being fairly close by. Besides the relentless mosquitoes that mostly just plagued me, we had a great time.
We walked the loop to the river in the day-use area, reaching the water right as the sun was setting, painting our path in peach and coral tones, the light dancing on the gently waving grass.
We admired all the wildflowers on the way and took in the scent of sagebrush crushed under our feet. The walk also featured a picturesque gazebo and suspended bridge that made me wish I had my camera and a model to work with.
The area is ideal for hikers and paddlers and we’ll be sure to come back when we have enough kayaks for the family.
We fished at the nearby pond, but the only water life visible were frogs and the swarming dragon flies and damsel flies. Their droning buzz was a comforting sound, however, as it meant we were safe from pesky mosquitoes — for the time being.
We had registered for two nights, however, we only got to stay for one.
It was nearing dinner time when we’d reached the peak of the uphill hike near the entrance to the park. We didn’t have much time to enjoy the view however, as we ran down the hill to escape the mosquitoes, forming a chain with each person watching the back of the person in front of them.
It turned out to be a good thing we hurried back though, as just as we arrived back to our campsite, the grey sky, which hadn’t seemed very threatening, suddenly turned violent, with a wind whipping through the tenting area toppling trees on all sides.
With the kids in the truck, we scurried around, packing up as fast as we could, thoroughly soaked, watching as best we could through wet eye glasses and keeping an ear out for the sound of tree trunks cracking all around us.
It was fortunate that the most nervous child was asleep in the cab the whole time, blissfully unaware.
We sought refuge in the closest hotel, enjoying the chance to clean up and swim in a pool, before heading out to the next place on the list the next morning.
We headed out to Dry Island Buffalo Jump, but due to the rain the night before, the road down into the park was impassable and closed off. The view front the parking lot is magnificent, but nerve wracking, with no guard rails and little kids who have no fear, so we didn’t stay long.
We spent the day at the nearby Mackenzie Crossing Campground, giving us a chance to dry out our gear in the sun while we enjoyed a spot on the river without too many rocks, where we could wade in the water and float a bit in the gentle current.
After a quick stop in the quaint little village of Rosebud, for some drinks and chocolate bars, we were off to Drumheller.
It took some searching, but we found a campground for the night, and were ready to enjoy the town in the morning.
Although we weren’t able to get timed tickets for the Tyrrell Museum before they were all booked up for the week, we still enjoyed the dinosaur statues around town, the ice cream shop, and were pleased to find a smaller museum available in a local fossil gift shop.
From there, we drove to Strathmore for some supplies, all the while searching for a suitable spot to fish, and wound up spending the evening at Wyndham-Carseland Provincial Park.
We then took a few days to visit attractions around Calgary before we were ready for home, and headed straight back, rather than making camping stops along the way, arriving a day or two earlier than planned.
Perhaps we’ll still do the northbound leg of the journey another time.