Grasslands West Block Part 1

Lots of Hiking leads me to create a two part post.

Grasslands is one of our favourite National parks. It’s split into two blocks about 160km (100miles) apart. Eventually they might join but at the moment there is separation. One thing to remember in the prairies is: fuel is hard to get sometimes. Near the visitor centre for Grasslands National Park West Block at Val Marie is a fuel tank from B and A Oil that takes a few credit cards. The campground is a little over 30 km from the visitor centre and there is almost no cellular service at the park. Fuel up if you go, that way if you decide to do the Scenic Eco Tour there will be enough fuel to get back.

Grasslands National Park West Block - Campsite
Arrived and set up. Notice the shelter tent in the wind.

We set up and remembered the constant wind. This time it was a little stronger that we expected.

Grasslands National Park West Block - Barn Swallow
I was greeted by this sparrow – I think they are used to people as he let me get pretty close.

The sparrows at the Frenchman River Campground are plentiful and fun to watch. They chase each other around and when a bird of prey comes they gang up and often drive it away.

Grasslands National Park West Block - dramatic sky
Changing weather in the park.

Lots of warnings in the park information guides about how quickly the weather can change. This trip, that quick change showed itself with high winds and dramatic clouds.

Grasslands National Park West Block - more drama
From the top of a ridge I could see the whole campground and the thunderstorm too.

It was cool to watch the thunderstorm come towards us. The wind almost blew the shelter tent down and I added more rope to tie it to the ground on the windward side. But the sky was awesome to watch. When the rain arrived, it was furious and heavy for about 10 minutes then petered off.

Grasslands National Park West Block - campsite with dramatic sky
All survived the wind and rain. I lowered the trailer’s front window shield to prevent it from blowing away.
Grasslands National Park West Block - sunset almost
Post storm sunset.

Wandering after the rain has some interesting advantages in the grasslands. The scent of sage, grass, and the clean dust free air is refreshing.

Grasslands National Park West Block - Linda and Colin on a trail
Linda and Colin on a short hike.

Linda and Colin went on a talk about bison then a hike to learn about the uses of bison in the area through the millennia. I joined them for the last part of the tour and we continued the hike.

Grasslands National Park West Block - little bison poo mushroom
Little mushrooms in big poop.

Fascinating how things grow.

Grasslands National Park West Block - Big bison poo mushroom
Big mushrooms in little poop.

I seem to have a fascination with mushrooms and hope to learn more about them. I doubt that I would eat the above ones.

Grasslands National Park West Block - bison poop and flower
Wandering up the hill I found this sight interesting with the fertilizer the flowers, grass and cactus.

There is so much about how everything comes together and I find it fascinating that flowers, cactus, grasses and so many other things make the landscape.

Grasslands National Park West Block - trail walk
More exploring.

There are so many hikes that are easily accessible that it’s hard to choose.

Grasslands National Park West Block - just another landscape
The rolling landscape goes on and on and on and on….
Grasslands National Park West Block - Linda and Hector in the grass by the bison  rub rock
On the Scenic Eco-Tour this stop shows the three primary grasses that used to be in the grasslands and are now being reintroduced into the park. The erratic rock is a buffalo rub that the large animals use to scratch themselves as shown by the smoothing of the edges.

The Eco-Tour is a great way to explore and learn about grasslands at Grassland.

Grasslands National Park West Block - Black Tailed Prairie Dog
In Dogtown a black tailed prairie dog checks us out.

At another stop the black tailed prairie dogs are abundant and curious creatures. They have a sharp high pitched bark and are incredibly social. When we walk through they warn each other and as we approach jump into their dens.

Grasslands National Park West Block - Pair of Black Tailed Prairie Dogs
We often saw pairs of them at an entrance.
Grasslands National Park West Block - Pano with drama
Yet another of Pierre’s Panos.

It’s a big landscape with big skies.

Grasslands National Park West Block - Walt Larson Homestead 2
Walt Larson homestead.

Along the Eco-Tour, there is the Walt Larson homestead that was used for raising cattle.

Grasslands National Park West Block - Walt Larson Homestead 3
The rest of the remaining buildings of the homestead.

The buildings are in pretty rough shape, but still standing. No real vandalism was visible. I have mixed feelings about restoration and accessibility to his type of site. Very much like the orthodox church in an earlier post, I would love to be able to get inside and check out how they lived. I am not sure if a full restoration is a good thing as it would take away the feeling of exploration and discovery. Maybe a partial restoration so the buildings are a safe for people to check out…but then without staff presence I don’t know what would happen.

More of the park on the next post.

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