We had visited Grasslands National Park both east and west blocks before. I like each area for different reasons and decided to return to the east block for a second look. We were going to try backcountry camping for the first time – yes, pack all your gear out onto the bald prairie and spend the night.
Some might say we’re crazy! The temperature was 34C (93F) so we leisurely packed our gear into the car and took the scenic route to waste some time. We checked in at the east block visitor centre later in the afternoon and began hiking on the trail to Valley of a Thousand Devils. It was a 12km (7.5mi) roundtrip. Shortly into the hike, we decided to stash gear that really wasn’t necessary.
The trail was well worn and we had no trouble finding it. We often wondered, however, why the trail went to the tops of the hills instead of around them. I was surprised at the lack of rocks, glacial erratics, which I expected to rest on every now and then. With aching knees and clouds starting to build in the west, we found a suitable area to pitch the tent.
There was a perfect sized flat spot between two buttes and it gave us some much needed shade. The wind and clouds rolled in late that evening preventing any night photography. Big disappointment!
Morning brought calm, quiet and clear skies. Hubby was still sleeping. I grabbed the camera and climbed the butte beside our campsite.
There in the bentonite was a freshly opened gumbo evening primrose. Yesterday’s bloom lay wilted in pink.
A little further up the butte in the red gravel was a grove of sunflowers. They begged me to lie down on my stomach to get the sky behind them. I complied after checking for cactus.
Then I completed my mission to climb to the peak.
The view of this corner of SK prairies is nothing less than spectacular and photos really don’t do it justice.
Travelling lightly with just a camera and water, I continued toward the Valley of a Thousand Devils. The trail took me up on top of a couple of consecutive benches.
I travelled more quickly without the weight of the camping gear.
Some energetic, brave souls had continued to descend into the valley, but for me, the trail ended on the high ground.
I enjoyed the view from three sides of the final hill before heading back to camp.
One hill had caught my eye on my way past and I decided to check it out. It seemed to have large stones near the top.
When I got closer, the stove-sized boulders seemed to encircle the hilltop. The closest they have to a hoodoo was this sweet, weathered limestone boulder!
And what a view!
I continued back to our campsite, packed up and eventually we made our way back to the pair of gate posts that mark the halfway point. We stopped to pick up our cache of gear and made it back to the visitor centre well before our deadline.
Before leaving the park, we took the freshly paved scenic road that winds along the edge of the valley. At the southern tip, I enjoyed the view of the Valley of a Thousand Devils from the iconic red chairs where I could see the long bench that I had hiked earlier in the morning.
On the way home, we stopped to enjoy the wheat waving in the wind on the side of a hill.