Soaring…

…like a red-tailed hawk over river valley badlands.

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Red Deer River

We were sitting on the edge of a buffalo jump, overlooking the Red Deer River, when a hawk flew up from below, higher and higher, rising and wheeling in the sun. It seemed to hang for a perfect moment, just above our heads, the sun shining through the wing and tail feathers. The hawk’s silhouette glowed at the edges, brick red and orange fire against the blue. What a sight! It continued to climb, glide and ride the thermals, seemingly effortless as it soared away and across the badlands.

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From a buffalo jump

Can you imagine being the hawk? Surely some of the flight is sheer joy? I know, it was out and about the hawkish business of feeding and survival, but still…(I wish I had a photograph to share, but we were so taken by the sight, a photograph was very much an afterthought – and then there is my speedy reaction time with a camera. Pretty sure I’d have taken several pictures of sky!)

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Badlands view – not so bad…

We were happy to enjoy a sunny Sunday after the rather damp previous weekend. Sat in shirtsleeves at the top of Dry Island Buffalo Jump eating a picnic was very pleasant. Gophers scampered, butterflies tumbled and fluttered in the wind, and trees rustled and shimmered under a bright blue sky.  Throw in long golden grasses swaying in the breeze, the  gentle buzz and drone of insect life, the call of birds along the valley, and it all made for beautiful views with a lovely natural soundtrack.

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Beautifully bad

You approach this small provincial park by driving across rolling prairies. There is very little to indicate the presence of the Red Deer River ahead of you as you search for the buffalo jump. The paved road is straight for kilometres, until, without warning, it becomes a dirt road, and makes a sharpish left turn at a small stand of low trees. Suddenly, the badlands valley appears on your right, wide, vast, and too deep to see into the bottom from the car. Time to pull over and be amazed. The contrast with the grasslands before is simply astonishing, adding further impact to an already wonderful scene.

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Into the valley

After eating, we wandered down into the valley, following the steep dirt road to a small parking and picnic area in front of the river. (We didn’t drive down because we wanted to hike past the fragrant sagebrush, and because, if the road is wet, it is possible you will be stranded at the bottom. After rain, the dirt becomes mud so slick, most vehicles, 4WD or not, will be stuck. Tow trucks won’t come down and rescue you! We decided that recent rains may have made it too slippery, and by the time we’d eaten, large clouds were beginning to bubble up and over…and being stuck in the mud is perhaps not the best excuse for missing work on Monday?)

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Serene

The Red Deer flows slowly and serenely through the valley. We picked our way along the riverbank, enjoying the dart of a fish, the flapping and splashing of ducks on the far side, and following the blue damselflies seemingly scouting the way for us. A pair of birds skimmed across the surface of the water, no doubt enjoying the abundant bug life. All seems right with the world in such a peaceful setting. My only alarm was in almost stepping on a garter snake hidden in a patch of fallen dried brush. That set the heart hammering for a short while. I was far more attentive thereafter, and I hope the snake is now feeling fine too.

DSCF2524We had planned on exploring some of the trails at the foot of the jump, but it was really, really warm on the valley floor. We settled for sitting awhile by the river, enjoying what felt like a timeless place, thinking about the lives of those who’d been here before. Imagine, with buffalo, fish, birds, and berries, it must have been a Cree treasure trove…

DSCF2528It was difficult to stir ourselves, but the clouds were amassing. We didn’t rush, and besides, the track was steep, so it was a leisurely plod back to the top ahead of the approaching rain.

IMG_20160529_120243What a day for natural wonders and unexpected encounters – a day to send your spirits soaring!

Thanks for reading, please feel free to share a story or make a comment, and have a wonderful weekend!DSCF2518

Published by

plaidcamper

I am a would be outdoorsman - that is if I had more time, skills and knowledge. When I can, I love being outdoors, just camping, hiking, snowboarding, xc skiing, snowshoeing, paddling a canoe or trying something new. What I lack in ability, I make up for in enthusiasm and having a go. I'd never really survive for long out there in the wild, but I enjoy pretending I could if I had to...

17 thoughts on “Soaring…”

  1. Great photos and badlands narrative. Reminds me of western S. Dakota and Montana country. Got me soaring like a redtail: Soaring circles/ around the Sun/ drawing the Moon/ thru his embered tail/ Hawk/ plays and hunts/ creation in his eye/ the Earth at his claw…

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  2. Beautiful scenery, photos and with your wonderful descriptions I could imagine the gophers scampering, butterflies tumbling, grasses swaying and, if it was me, a very loud scream when encountering the snake. Thanks for sharing your latest adventure and have a good weekend.

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    1. For reasons best known to WordPress, your comment was marked as spam, and I’ve just found it – apologies! Thanks for your kind words, and yes, the snake was a surprise (or the surprise was that I managed to fake being unperturbed…)
      I hope your week is going well!

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  3. What a fantastic post. I love your writing and the vivid pictures you painted. I felt like I was there with you, sharing the day, from the hawk soaring to the snake slithering by (eeek) and passing the sage brush. Loved it all.

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  4. Seems like it’s the same from north of Colorado: majestic mountains to the west, grasslands with badlands interrupting to the east.

    My favourite reason ever skipping work Monday was back in Finland, still living with my parents and I had to call in because a Western Capercaillie kept attacking me the moment I tried to leave the house. It sounds like an excuse but even a brief encounter left me bruised for days!

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    1. Great story! That’s a perfectly good reason for missing work – they are fierce looking birds, wouldn’t want to be attacked by one! Still, must have been hard to convince colleagues…

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  5. Thanks so much, pc, for taking us along on this incredible day. Seeing through the rusty tail of a red-tail, soaring with him, finding surprises like a hidden snake, feeling the breeze, watching the clouds amass — this is the purest form of happiness imaginable. Congratulations.

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