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  • Writer's pictureSandra

Mission Dirty and Dusty

published 18th of june, 2022

Just cleaned the bus in bright sunshine at the Parkland Ranch and enjoyed the cleanliness, so the chapter was over in no time. Thursday, June 30th, 2022 was the beginning of a series of days with very mixed weather. But with the sunshine in my heart blah blah blah… you know! 😉 To be honest, I don't even remember where we spent that day except on the street. However, what I do know (thanks to google timeline) is that that day we crossed the border from Manitoba into Saskatchewan (Canada) and had covered a total of 300 km. The following day we drove another 160 miles to Prince Albert National Park, which in retrospect reminds me of our visit to Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba, which to be honest was a letdown. Here, too, the whole tourist life took place at the lake (Waskesiu Lake), far too much hustle and bustle for our taste. A short bath for Lennox was still possible.

Otherwise there weren't many alternatives thanks to the very rainy summer in Canada. We tried our luck on a few trails, but ultimately gave up, just too much flooded and only for "Tough Mudder" fans. For the night I had reserved a parking spot at a horse ranch via, this was on the western edge of the "Prince Albert" and from there we wanted to go to the valley the next day where wild bison should be at home. We were already familiar with unpaved roads, but 90 kilometers through the wet gravel prairie was a challenge. At least there were one or two interesting encounters along the way.

It was early evening when we arrived at Sturgeon River Ranch; no comparison to Judith's beautiful Parkland Ranch. The yard was quite blocked and therefore relatively confusing. The huge paddocks were in the valley and the horses could be seen from afar.

The owner wasn't around so we just parked somewhere we didn't think would be in the way and stood reasonably straight. Shortly thereafter, the owner drove up in his truck; he was about my age and a pretty cranky guy named John. He had forgotten that we had written about a parking space because it was quite busy this (Happy Canada Day) weekend, but we could just stand there. He really wanted to take a closer look at the bus, which of course we didn't deny him, although I had secretly prepared myself for a cozy evening rest with my hot-water bottle. Still, you don't want to be rude. We allowed Johnny and his French volunteer to come in and he told us about his farm and that they offer horseback rides and carriage rides, but unfortunately they are fully booked for this weekend. We asked how far it was to the bison and if he thought it would be possible with my Genny. This was followed by an example test...

and the "go" for the trail to the bison. The next morning we were in good spirits and early in the parking lot at the Valleyview Trail. As elegantly as ever (not!) I swung myself onto the Segway when the front support gave way and Genny fell forward with me. Oh oh, not a good sign. After several unsuccessful attempts to snap the support into place and start Genny, it was clear: this isn't going to work! So first pit stop.

The problem analysis revealed: one screw broke off and another is missing completely.

Oops, not the best premise for a bison ride. In the old McGyver manner, however, Sebastian found the solution in an Ikea screw that was still there, which actually didn't fit, but was then made to fit. 2 hours later we were finally on our way to the bovids. Unfortunately, the view over the promising valley was sobering - no buffalo far and wide.

However, we didn't want to give up that quickly and went to the carriage path. Which in turn had a closed barrier to offer. No problem for pedestrians who can just squeeze past it. For me, however, a new challenge, as there was a ditch on one side and a little tree on the other side of the barrier.

I was skeptical that I would fit through there but it was worth a try.

With success! We then hiked for more than an hour on the carriage path, which was supposed to lead to another viewpoint, but we didn't get that far. The rain of the past few days and weeks threw a spanner in the works and we turned back without success.

2 hours pit stop, 2 hours through the forest .. and what for? For the experience! To get back to Canadian civilization we drove back part of the way we came. The gravel roads had now dried quite well, adding a great layer of dust to the nice muddy complexion of the bus.

The mosquito graveyard on the windscreen was hardly noticeable anymore. At least not until a gang of bears runs in front of the bus and you zoom in on the crushed remains of the flies instead of the cute bear cubs 🐻🐻 crossing the street 20 meters in front of you.

At least when we later sighted a fenced-in buffalo herd, we were able to open the bus door and only photograph the desired animals.

After a total of 241 kilometers covered that day, only a rough planning of the national parks in Alberta and British Columbia followed.

The next day we left the state of Saskatchewan behind. We drove to the first targeted park on our list, Elk Island National Park in Alberta, and continued our bison hunt. The prospectus promised a “Bison Loop Road.” Due to our borderline experience in the “Great Smoky Mountain”, we assured ourselves beforehand that this one-way street is also suitable for RVs (Recreational Vehicles), i.e. large vehicles. Since that was the case, we started the maximum 1-2 kilometer ride; the paved path led through a piece of forest and meadow... At the end of the circular path, only a lonely bison could be seen, which was not impressed by the vehicles that stopped next to it and just grazed dullly. Meager yield - but still!

Next we wanted to explore the Hayburger Trail, it was described as flat and you could see bison and moose there. However, we only encountered dried bison patties, swampy trails up to a flooded bridge strewn with driftwood, which made us turn back. Alright, then on to the 6 km Shoreline Trail at Astotin Lake, where the bear raged, albeit in Indian. I didn't realize how many people from India or with an Indian vote live in Canada, but where there's something going on, it's pretty much impossible to miss.

The walk along the lake was nice, if not particularly exciting. At least Lennox had enough exercise.

We parked for the night in a small town called "Lamont" in a quiet lot with good company.

For the following day, Monday (06/04/2022) we were a bit haphazard until I saw the message from Shawn. Shawn and his wife drove their car behind us as we turned onto Elk Island the day before and had scanned my QR code and then messaged me on Instagram. In addition to many niceties, very helpful tips and recommendations for the Edmonton area were included. Among other things, a warning for the High Level Bridge of Edmonton, which, contrary to what the name suggests, would not be suitable for high vehicles like ours. And where did we end up on our journey? How could it be otherwise than in front of this very bridge. When the sign with a height limit of 3.20 m came, it was already too late.

There was no way to turn. Stupid when you realize that your own vehicle is exactly 3.20 m. I stopped on the left side of the road so as not to bring the traffic behind us to a complete standstill. Seb' decided to get out and take a closer look. When he came back, I wanted to voluntarily give up my place in the driver's seat, but he said he'd wave me through. There were 2 tricky spots where height could get tight. Since the option the other way around (I get out and guide him) was not available, I resigned myself to my fate. A little thrill in the morning drives away sorrow and worry!

The short walk to the Fort Edmonton Footbridge finally calmed my mind.

The subsequent excursion to the viewpoint "The End of the World" only made us smile wearily, as we had imagined a more spectacular view.

Nevertheless, we had experienced a lot in the last few days and you could see that (as already mentioned) on the bus. I wanted my purple skoolie back. A truck wash or seb' did it. Mission Dirty and Dusty - over and out! ...for now!

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