Or sunshine porcupine! Doesn’t make much immediate sense, but I like the rhyme.
Buoyed by our prairie explorations last week, this week we took another little trip, out to the Porcupine Hills. A great name – supposedly the trees atop the hills are said to resemble a line along the spine of a porcupine. OK, no more rhymes. (You’d never be able to guess what some of our recent language work in school has been about…)
The weather was warm, approaching midsummer temperatures, and that was a pleasant, if unexpected, April surprise. Driving range roads with windows rolled down, inhaling lungfuls of clean air, and encountering barely a handful of fellow travellers was delightful.
So we didn’t have much human company, but the foothills were teeming with wildlife and domesticated animals. Not a porcupine in sight, but numerous red tailed hawks, ducks, geese, horses, cattle, butterflies, bugs, and a beaver or two.
The photographs taken are a testament to my camera skills, particularly when capturing fast-moving creatures. Yup, no photos of hawks, the geese were out of range, horses almost so, and I’d swear the beavers were laughing – I could see their bubble trails of mirth. Undeterred, I was resolute when photographing cows, and managed to get one or two in the frame, mostly by assuring them I’m vegetarian. Almost worked…
As we toured the backcountry roads of the Porcupine, we let our imaginations wander. Imagine living out here! Ranching is hard work, and brutally so in winter, but the landscape rewards might help. The long views across to the Rockies are astonishing, and too big for me to capture adequately, but the fun was in seeing and trying to frame them. At least they kept still.
The Porcupine Hills stretch for mile after mile, a foothills delight, where each turn in the road, each cresting of a rise, reveals beautiful country. Creeks wind through the landscape, lined with hardy trees and shrubs, and cattle grazing close by. It is not wild land, in fact the evidence of human corralling is all about, from the orderly ranch houses and outbuildings, to the snaking roads lined with barbed wire fencing. As with the prairie agriculture, this foothill ranching speaks to determination and toughness, and a way of life I can only admire.
If you ever have the chance to drive along Highway 22 in southern Alberta, don’t blast south to the border, and don’t shoot north just to get to Calgary ASAP. Instead, get off the Cowboy Trail (a lovely road in itself, but too fast), take a turn into the Porcupine Hills, follow the eastbound cloud shadows racing up the dusty tracks, and stop anywhere along the top. Turn off the engine, get out of the car, slowly spin, spin, spin, and stretch, stretch, stretch. Breathe in, breathe out. Then set your ass down in the grass. Lay back, look up, smile, and stay awhile. You’ll be glad you did!
Thanks for reading, apologies for the rhymes, and please feel free to share a story or leave a comment. (It doesn’t have to rhyme…) Have a great weekend!