Dinosaur Provincial Park

Day 5
Wedsnesday July 20th

Those trains obviously pass through every night as we were woken again at 5.00am. A reasonable drive planned today down to the Dinosaur Park in the badlands. Once we climbed out of Red River valley the road turned out to be straighter and flatter than the journey from Calgary. Outside of Drumheller we didn't see any car all day smaller than a 4x4. There was very little traffic around, with us passing a vehicle only every ten minutes or so in the opposite direction. This is farming country, the fields were on the same scale as everything else, you could drive for several minutes before seeing a fence. There were very few cattle though, apparently the land is not very fertile and there is little water, what water we did see was in man made lakes.

Brooks B&B

Realising we would arrive early for the bus tour our B&B host had pre-booked for us we decided to drop in and dump our things. This turned out to be a mile or so up a gravel track in a working farm. They weren't expecting us that early, the host was still in her curlers !

We were made welcome though, again we had the whole of the basement, two bedrooms, bathroom and a large playroom with a full size snooker table and a 20 foot shuffle board. This is guaranteed to keep the kids amused.

Being a farm and due to the stifling heat they were strict about the use of the porch, never have both doors open at the same time, it keeps both the heat and mozzies out, the large overhang and very thick insulation keeps the place cool during summer and warm when there are several feet of snow in winter.

There was an indoor pool but it was in a shed and didn't look terribly inviting.

Dinosaur Provincial Park

After a cup of tea and a natter we headed off for the park 20 minutes up the road. By now we were quite used to the flat plain simply dropping away to reveal a hidden valley but this time there was an entrance station at the top and a viewing point to let us see what we were heading into.

Down the bottom there was a ranger station in what looked like a mobile hut, a cafe and little shop. We picked up our tickets from the rangers and waited for the 4.30pm bus.

The bus was an old yellow school bus, that seemed to have seen better days. The guide did point out that it had air conditioning as long as you could get the windows open. That didn't help much as it simply let the heat in. Even on this tour we were asked to make sure we had water and a hat due to the heat, on tomorrows walking tour they apparently don't let you on it without good boots, water, hat ,mozzie and suncream.

The bus was full and we trundled off through the campsite into the part of the park out of bounds to unescorted visitors.

The tour guide was informative teaching us about trees that require floods every few years which were now having problems due to a dam up stream, tips on how to tell a bone from a stone (look for the blood vessels and if touched with a wet finger the finger would stick due to the porosity).

Picking up of fossils was forbidden but we were allowed to wander around and touch anything with one finger and all the children on the tour were pretty good about following those directions. The guide also explained about the various types of rocks with test tubes and examples.

We made several stops as we drove further into the hills, each time piling out into the baking heat and crowding into the shade of the bus whilst swatting away sand flies and mosquitoes. In one place a new bone had been uncovered and was simply marked with a stone circle to prevent people treading on it.

Another better specimen had been covered in a glass case to prevent deterioration.

At the final stop we could see where a large section of cliff had been dug out and they'd recovered a complete skeleton. As they had lots of these for study they placed this one in a hut for the visitors to look at. Skeletons are generally scrunched up when discovered as the ligaments contract as they dry pulling the bones out of shape.

Driving back down again the guide put her foot down turning it into a mini rollercoaster ride as the bus clattered and bumped at speed over the narrow track and round the not so gentle bends. Back at base we were glad of an ice cream to cool us down.

Stopping back at the B&B to change we discovered that the nearest place to eat was 30k away so having little choice off we went. Another steak house (well it is Alberta) but this time I tried a buffallo burger, a coarser and tastier meat than cow. Driving back at night we plunged into the hreart of a ferocious storm. I considered pulling over but struggled on as the lightning was striking ground all around and ahead of us. Then the hail hit and I was convinced that if it didn't break the windscreen the roof would be pockmarked or even the sides of the car as it was being driven horizontally at points. Exhilerating driving.

Views from the lookout point

Note the airconditioning

Everybody hiding in the shade apart from the tour guide


©2005 Rob Hayward