It’s been radio silence here for a few weeks, during which I’ve been either busy, unmotivated, on holidays and offline, or some combination of the three. However, I do have some photos taken during a four day trip through the SW corner of Alberta from last weekend.

A week ago today Mrs. Padre and I took our trusty Westfalia camper, which we finally decided to name Appa the Volksbison (if you’re puzzled by the reference, click here) to Writing On Stone Provincial Park, near the US/Canada border. This region is a spectacular example of the strange rock formations called hoodoos which are typical of the Alberta Badlands. Because of the shelter of the fertile Milk River valley and these rock formations, it became a spiritual home to the Blackfoot people.

This shot, taken with my iphone camera, looks south across the Milk River. The blue hills in the distance are the Sweet Grass Hills in the state of Montana. This part of the prairie is so flat that they can be seen on the skyline from the Trans Canada Highway, about 100km north of where this photo was taken. These hills were a pilgrimage destination for young Blackfoot men on their vision quests.

Here’s a view of some of the hoodoo formations, which are basically the rock that’s left when all the soft soil around it has been eroded away by wind, rain and time. This trail winds its way through the hoodoo formations, dips down to follow the Milk River through lush vegetation, and then climbs again with some amazing lookout points. The mid June wildflowers were abundant, particularly gaillardia, asters, and cactus, and Mrs. Padre, the botanist, got some excellent photos. The area is full of birds, and it was hypnotic to stand above the river amidst the cliffs and watch swallows skimming by. I’ve never heard birdsong so loud.

Writing On Stone gets its name from the many images, some quite ancient, carved or painted on the rcck walls in the area by First Nations peoples. In the public access part of the Park, many of these images are sadly obliterated by graffiti, but the most famous, the Battle Scene, showing combat between two tribes and almost two centuries old, is mostly preserved. The original is hard to discern, but this sketch (not mine, I hasten to add) gives you a sense of its complexity.

Before out time in Alberta ends, we hope to return and do the archaeological tour of the restricted part of the park to see the better preserved petroglyphs. Some time canoeing this part of the Milk River would be welcome as well. If you are ever in Southern Alberta, this is a place well worth visiting. The campsite is pleasant and has all the amenities, but there is also back country hiking and camping.

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