Have you ever visit a place that has a presence. An unmistakable feeling that emerges upon each visit which dwells in you memory to be awoken under rare circumstance? It may be fully apparent at first or it may seep in over time. As the shades of light change, as the day turns to night, as a sage filled wind passes, the stars fade or strengthen, and the spirit of a place emerges. This is one of those places…
The Hoodoo Trail in Writing On Stone Provincial Park along the Milk River of southern Alberta winds through some of the finest prairie on the planet. Pronghorns, otters, leopard frogs and the small multicoloured rocks on the ground. The coulees give their secrets as soft sandstone forms emerge from the grassy hillsides. Ancient faces, carvings from another world, the sounds of birds. The noble, volcanic forms of Montana’s Sweet Grass Hills watch over your wanderings. The coulees join, meander and collapse into the main valley along the edges of the floodplain. Rattlers, scorpions and sun spiders hide in the cracks and caves while mystic Water Birch greens the land beside the sandstone cliffs. Colours of hundred hues in the sunset.
The wind. Time stretches out and dissolves on this trail. A two hour round trip will have you detouring until your thoroughly off track, but hardly lost. A fence keeps you from going too far, into the heart of the carvings, the archeological reserve. Arrange a tour of this site at the visitor centre, it’s worth it. I turned around before the fence at the battle scene carving before returning to Group Site A at the campground. Pick up the interpretive brochure at the trailhead for some edification and amusement.
For countless millennium this valley was used for dreamings, visions, Quests, burials by the Blackfoot Nations among others. I feel profoundly honoured to be here and so fortunate to have a place like this to visit in the vastness of the prairie.
Better yet, plan for a full moon and explore by night. Sometimes the spirit of a place emerges after everyones gone to bed and the owls and pronghorn shadows are your companions. Who knows what you may encounter in this fabled land. No headlamp needed, until the moon passes behind some clouds…