Alberta Road Trip Diary (Day 4-7)

2 Jul

 Tuesday, June 25, 2013: Day Four

Chris planned to wake early to meet his uncle in the city for breakfast, so while he was away, Sarah cooked up a huge breakfast for Baxter and I. It was nice after all the driving and running around to just sit and chat with friends.

It was raining heavily outside, so Sarah and I retreated to the bedroom to watch a movie in bed and wait for Chris to get home. Around noon Chris arrived and we all decided to go for lunch at a Vietnamese place near by. After lunch, we went to one of our favorite stores: Cabela’s. We really enjoy wandering around the store and looking at all the neat things they carry!

We parted ways with Sarah and Bax around 5:00 and got in the car and headed towards Red Deer. We were staying with Chris’s cousin that night and there was a family BBQ planned with his uncle and aunt also joining us. Needless to say we had a blast with them. Chris and I have never laughed so hard- they were quite hilarious. So hilarious in fact, that we ended up staying up until 4a.m with his cousins! …When the sun started shining through the kitchen window we all decided it would probably be best to head to bed-especially because the kids had to get up in two hours!

Wednesday, June 26, 2015: Day 5

We woke up around 10:30am the next morning a bit groggy, but still excited for the day ahead. After a quick drink on the porch, we headed out for breakfast. The spot we went to was a Tea House that served all day breakfast as well. The patio was gorgeous and the food was excellent. I had Sakatoon Berry Syrup (an Albertan tradition) on my pancakes and the tastiest tea I’ve ever had! It also happened to be named ‘Jet Leg Kicker’ and consisted of green tea, strawberries, and other ingredients. Tea usually does not perk me up, but this magical brew did    if fact have a little kick!

With our bellies full and our heads a bit clearer we headed to archery. The spot was called Wolverine Hunting and Tackle. In the back they had an archery range complete with zombie targets. We had a great time and John even got a bullseye!

We headed back to the house for 3:40 to meet the kids as they got home from school and we all ended up sitting outside on the patio enjoying the beautiful sunshine. We enjoyed watching the kids set up their slip and slide and seeing everyone again. Chris’s family are so amazing and loving. It was such a pleasure to meet them.

Around 5pm we packed up and headed for Patricia, AB. We were headed to a small hotel in the middle of nowhere where we’d stay the next two nights. We had arranged a guided dinosaur excavation at Dinosaur Provincial Park the next day.

The drive was about 4 hours and took us south to Calgary, and then East almost to Medicine Hat. The highways are not huge city highways like we are used to, rather they are two lanes and not busy at all. Cattle and small crops line the roads and the horizon. It’s hard to describe how far you can see or even show it in a picture, but the horizon is so far away that at some spots you can see the curvature of the earth. Chris and I were trying to decide what was so different, but all we could come up with was that it was much flatter then in Ontario, and that there were no trees or huge buildings obstructing your view. Because of the new found ‘open-ness’ Chris and I perceive the sky as huge! It’s so hard to describe or explain, but the sky is just so much bigger here…. you’ll just have to come check it out for yourself!

Making our way towards Patricia, we started to notice it getting a bit drier and trees becoming more sparse… we must be getting closer to the badlands! The houses became few and far between and there were no hydro lines or power lines along the road. Paved turned into gravel, turned into dirt and we scratched our heads as our GPS claimed that the road we were on did not exist (and there’s only so long I can hear “Recalculating” before I toss it out the window). Never the less we found the hotel. Well, it’s actually a bar. Known locally (where are the locals?) as ‘The Pit”. We pulled up and Chris gave me a smirk meaning ‘Really? How the hell did you find this place?’.

Two guys our age were standing outside smoking a cigarette as we pulled up. They both looked a bit rough, but nice enough so we said hello. …Bad idea. Ha! They called us over and started chatting, wanting to know who we were and what we were doing in Patricia. We chatted for a bit leisurely until they grabbed us inside and demanded we have drinks with them. Ok, maybe a bit pushy, but we like meeting new people s0 what they hay, how bad could it be? Entering the hazy bar, I could just make out the dusty buffalo head on the wall wearing a sombrero when our ‘host’ quickly put an arm between us and a woman moving quite fast towards us. “Now, you play nice and don’t start any fights, these people are from Onatrio and they’re cool”.  We shook hands suspiciously and all sat down.  Keep in mind it’s about 11:00pm and we were up until 4 am the previous night. Chris and I were exhausted and wanted nothing more but to go to bed. Chris said it right later on: “We were either having a drink or getting into a fight”.

The woman eyeballing me looked had ‘I hate city people’ written all over her face but we were chatting and high fiving in no time. We chatted and drank with them (can I claim duress!?) for about an hour. During this time, the woman told me all about how she hated her daughter, how it would be funny and a good test of Chris’s and my relationship if we all went back to their house and they locked me in their cellar to see what Chris would do (I’m not even kidding), and the two guys started fighting in the bar. …Yeah, our cue to leave? We said we really had to go check in, and when they protested that we should come to their house for a bonfire, we said we would be right back… we never went back.

The ‘hotel’ portion of the bar was… interesting. Smelling like a mixture of cat pee and beer, the narrow hallway lead to our room. We had upgraded to the room with a toilet in it so we didn’t need to use the one at the bar. Apart from the room feeling slightly like a horror movie scene, it did us just fine. I did however, smack my face off the sink a couple times as it was on the wall right beside the bed. I couldn’t decide whether it was sketchy or awesome that I could was my face and brush my teeth without getting out from under the covers.

Thursday, June 27, 2013: Day Six

We awoke to the sound of a donkey baying and roosters crowing. (I have yet to see where the heck these animals are as we are surrounded by fields and a couple trailers in the hotel). We walked downstairs and had breakfast with the owner of the hotel and two local farmers. They were all very nice and had funny stories to share with us.

Today was the day. THE day. The anticipated best day of my life thus far. today was the day that we’d go out with a Tyrell Paleontologist in a Jeep into the inaccessible portions of Dinosaur Provincial Park (also United Nations World Heritage Site) to prospect and excavate dinosaur bones. Awesome? Yes, I know.

We arrived at 8:45 and met Dave, who works for both the Tyrell Museum and for Dinosaur Provincial Park running the Prospecting and Excavation program. After a brief explanation of the bone bed and the ongoing work we would be contributing to, we loaded up the Jeep and headed out. The portion of the park we were in is accessible by scientific permit only due to the large concentration of dinosaur bones. Literally you are tripping over them as soon as you enter the preserve. It blew my MIND how many there were exposed. Dave said that because they are uncovered, they are of hardly any scientific value to them because they could have been washed there from anywhere, are now sun damaged and falling apart. The bones we were after tell a story about the event that created the bone bed and the placement of the bones beneath the soil is key to understanding the circumstances and individuals that died.

All fossils in Alberta, even if you find them on your private property are strictly the property of the Alberta Government. I felt so incredibly privileged to walk around and pick up real dinosaur bones. It was amazing.

Dave tok us down to the dig site they and been working on. He said that the area had become a mass grave for a huge herd of Centrosaurus during flash flooding 75 million years ago. Thousands of dinosaurs drowned in this area and that the very special circumstance of fossilization had occurred.

We began work on a tibia. It had been 8 feet below the surface before they had begun digging. Dave gave us the excavation tools, showed us once or twice how to  slowly peel away the layers of sand and stone to reveal the bone and then said ‘Alright get to it’. I was so worried to damage the bone, but of course Chris had already been clipping away at stone during the explanation and demonstration. It was incredibly tedious and difficult work that required all your concentration, but as we revealed the gigantic bone, the awesomeness of the creature came to life. It was so hard to believe it was real. Authentic. No other human had ever seen this bone. That it hadn’t seen the light of day of 70 million years. And here it was, with me grasping it and touching it!

We learned to measure, map, chart, and calculate the position, depth, angle, etc of the bone and recorded it for the museum. We were also lucky enoough to each find a new fossil as we excavated the tibia. I found a large digit bone from the foot, and chris found one partially encased in rock that Dave could not identify and therefore obsessively hovered over and picked at for the rest of the day. What a lucky guy eh? Every day an adventure! He said he would email us if Chris’s discovery turned out to be anything notable.

We ended our awesome day by enjoying a steak at the hotel with our new paleontologist friend, Dave. It was a tasty end to one of the best days of my life! Seriously!

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