East of Drumheller, the Hoodoos, or at least what they look like when the white balance is messed up:
The Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site, the last wooden one still standing in Canada (with a bit of help from the looks of it):
And then the road rises out of the valley and it’s flat grasslands forever, as though the badlands never existed.
It feels somewhat wrong to be moving east right now, but Dinosaur Provincial Park is not too far to backtrack, and I've got two days left until I meet Mrs. Shaweetz at the Calgary airport. It’s all ruler straight, low, rolling fields with which to focus my thoughts.
A small rise, nothing for miles. Some bushes. A cemetery. What? Here? The photo drill: to stop or not to stop? Evaluate. Yes. A mirror check. A U-turn. A shimmy through an opening in the barbed wire. The Lone Butte cemetery. A dozen grave sites, perhaps a few more.
As far as the eye can see, there is nothing, maybe a house or two if you squint, a couple of bobbing oil wells. Rustling grasses. The sound of my own breathing. And here, penned in this island square of barbed wire, are a handful of unmarked graves covered in gravel, some aged markers, and a few modern ones.
Here they were born, here they worked, and here they rest.
A few benches have been provided for quiet contemplation, of the memories of family members interred here, of the vast surroundings, the waving grasses.
I could rest in such a place.
Approaching Dinosaur PP, I have an idea of what to expect. The approach looks completely ordinary, but watch out for snakes:
And then the badlands open up underneath me again:
(click to enlarge)
This is getting a bit tiresome… my visor rag is black with the paste:
A camp. Here I was absolutely attacked by hordes of ravenous mosquitoes. In September! Didn't I FREEZE last night??:
A public road loops through a small area of this incredible park. Most of the place is off-limits to the public, being chock full of dinosaur fossils, and new stuff being found all the time. I try to take a video, first by taping the camera to my helmet (a poor plan from the outset, doomed to end in tears but thankfully the tape didn't stick at all) then by bungeeing the camera around my chest. I succeed in getting an Oscar-grade shaky video of my speedometer.
At the apex of the loop, there is a small glassed-in building. Inside, on the ground, a partially excavated skeleton of a hadrosaur, maybe 15 feet long. It is not a recreation, as some of these things are. This is where it was found in 1957, partially revealed, and this is where it was left.
Walking down a trail, the day is late and the light is cooperating for capturing some scenes as the sun is sinking in the west.
As I return to the hadrosaur enclosure, the sun is beginning to disappear. I’m alone with a sweeping vista of some of the most stunning landscape I have seen, with only wind and crickets for company. And it suddenly occurs to me to lie down, on the ground; lie down, still, in the dirt, ten feet from this thing that has laid down in this spot, unmoving, for 75 million years. And I think about that.