Cowboy Country and smoke carried on a North West wind

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June 1st 2019
Published: June 2nd 2019
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"Lonely Planet" failed to mention this!!!
Thursday 30th May 2019

The Cypress Hills lie about fifty kilometres to the south of the Trans Canada Highway. It is a lush high-altitude area, pine backwoods, lakes and rugged hills surrounded by ranch land, grasslands where large steers graze and are herded by cowboys (and girls) on horseback. The USA border to Montana lies just another fifty kilometres to the south. We knew that moose and elk roamed these woodlands as well as wolverine; arriving to see notices warning about encounters with cougars, however, took us a bit by surprise, especially as we are camping here two nights. With our campgrounds maps we were given a pamphlet “Cougar Safety in the Cypress Hills”. The advice is basically the same as for bear encounters, don’t run, back away slowly and calmly, act big and speak in a loud assertive voice and if that don’t work, hit the buggers with “anything at hand”!!! Handbag to the ready! Actually, cougars are very elusive and wary of people so I reckon we shall survive the night! Hope so! We are the only people up here under canvas as far as we know.

We left Swift Current and our smart hotel
"Who do you think you are?""Who do you think you are?""Who do you think you are?"

"Why are you camping in my woods?"
this morning, found a launderette in the town, did the washing, then headed for the hills. We stopped to shop on the way as well. The Fire Ban isn’t in effect up here in the hills, so we have a nice fire blazing as the sun is setting in the most beautiful landscape and probably the best campsite we have ever stayed on anywhere else before. We have a little copse of pine trees, a fire pit and a picnic table all to ourselves and soft green grass under our mattress. No internet of course, so this blog will get posted later on. The wind is picking up a bit so it might be a bit of a chilly night up here (after a very hot day) but the location makes up for it!

The day was very hot across the prairies and then the ranch land, so much so that when we got here, we were unable to top up the petrol tank (not a problem we have enough). The woman in the little gas station, where the round tank stands next to the pump, had put ice packs on the hoses to help the petrol flow through (it cuts out if the hoses are too hot). “When it suddenly gets hot like this, ice packs usually do the trick!” she said! Well, it slowly pumped $5.34 worth to our car then stopped. She started again, second time it pumped $1.46 and on the third attempt it just managed $0.70 before stopping all together! “How much is that”? she said. I told her we owed her $7.50 and after she spent about five minutes adding it up on her calculator, she said “That comes to $7.50 Honey!” Bless! She said she needed to make some phone calls to get it sorted before the weekend!

Apart from the little gas station, there is also a general store here and a firewood yard, where you just go and help yourself to free firewood. We paid $7 a box in Ontario. The people here are so friendly, we love the Canadians (and we forgive them when they ask if we are Australian)!

We are staying here a couple of days and then will drive into Alberta (we are quite close to the border now). Tomorrow we are going to have a hiking and chilling out in this beautiful countryside day. Not a bad life is it?

Friday 31st May 2019

Last night the North West wind howled around our little tent and we awoke this morning to find that it had brought down a white fog from the forest fires in Northern Alberta. The sun tried to shine through but with little success; poor air quality warnings are in force. Not good! The poor air quality covers a large arc of land across central and southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, leaving Calgary and the Rockies reasonably clear, so we should be OK in a few days’ time when we get there. We are keen to stay around this region for a few days, however, because we want to drive through the “Badlands”. We just need to keep an eye on reports and move on to Calgary sooner if it gets too bad. It is a minor inconvenience compared to the distress caused to people caught up in the wildfires in Northern Alberta.

We didn’t hike much as planned, but we drove up to the highest ridge, 1,275 metres, which is the highest point in Canada between the Rockies in the west and Labrador in the east. The
Gas stationGas stationGas station

If at first you don't succeed......
views from up here are usually pretty awesome, but today it was all shrouded in white fog. It was still a beautiful ascent, the mountainside covered in edelweiss, mountain crocus and wild orchids.

This really is “home on the range where the deer and the antelope play”; deer everywhere, with deer or antelope scat outside our tent this morning, just two metres from where we lay oblivious to their presence at dawn. It is also prairie dog country and sadly a lot die on the roads and tracks. They are cute little things but they are not adept at judging their road crossing. We haven’t seen any elk or moose, apparently it is a bit early in the year for them in this area. We haven’t been attacked by cougar or met any Sasquatch either!

Our day ended with a meal cooked on a blazing log fire whilst deer grazed nearby. Beautiful. This really is a pretty special place.

Saturday 1st June

Back online and back on our journey west. We are now half way through our trip, with four weeks of rich experience and unforgettable memories behind us and four weeks of new adventures ahead! We have driven 4,064 kilometres now and loved every minute of the journey.

We are in Alberta, which is on the same time as Saskatchewan so no need to change our watches. We crossed the border this morning and went to a very informative Information Centre, where we were loaded up with maps, booklets, advice and good wishes by the friendly staff there. We are in Medicine Hat (love the names of these western towns). Medicine Hat is an old frontier town where the men all drive pick-up trucks and wear Stetsons and chaps: the latter not always for show or style, the chaps are often dirty and dusty from riding horseback rounding up the steers. This is real cowboy country, unpretentious and as it comes! Nice! Medicine Hat is also cheap by Canadian standards, we have payed a lot less for a motel room for tonight here than in many other locations and it has an indoor pool and hot tub. Very nice!

Tomorrow we are driving into the “Badlands” and Dinosaur Provincial Park where we shall probably camp. If the air is still bad, however, we might find lodging nearby. Que sera, sera!

Additional photos below
Photos: 17, Displayed: 17


Our view from our fire pitOur view from our fire pit
Our view from our fire pit

Blue skies until the NW wind came along
Our little copseOur little copse
Our little copse

We are in there somewhere, so is the car and the tent!
Loch Leven in Cypress HillsLoch Leven in Cypress Hills
Loch Leven in Cypress Hills

Namesake of Loch Leven in Fife, down the road from our house when we lived in Scotland
"Where's my gin and tonic?""Where's my gin and tonic?"
"Where's my gin and tonic?"

No drinks allowed in the hot tub! This ain't a cruise ship!

2nd June 2019

Really enjoying reading your trip reports. Can't believe your husband got out the car and walked towards the bear nor that the bear didn't break the tree, the tree must have been stronger than it looked or the bear was lighter than I expected. Looking forward to reading the next travels
2nd June 2019

Hi Both, your blogs and photos have been an education. I didn’t realise there was such a strong inheritance from red indian ancestry. I agree, the names of towns, lakes etc are wonderful. I knew a fair bit about Toronto and Vancouver but not much about the area inbetween. Red coated Mounties, huskies, snow and stories of Lake Louisa and Whistler from skiing friends. You are filling in that gap and now I have cowboys! I loved the pic and story about the petrol station. Such a simple and endearing image in this high tech, fast paced world we are used to. It’s great you have another month to explore. Xx
3rd June 2019

Hi Ann. Yes, we are learning SO much. It is great. Lol xxxx

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