Early May, I drove east to Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan. I spent four days collecting sketches, photos, recording sounds-scapes and soaking up the environment.
Upon my evening arrival at the Frenchman River Campground was a sonic birdsong wall-of-sound. The squeaks, tweets and whistles continued about 18 hours a day, it was like digital, old timey computer noise. Walking by the river, I heard a bird mimicking a cell phone ringing, I thought I was losing it for a moment, as there was no one else around and definitely out of range.
Snake gators, where do you get snake gators? You can borrow them from the visitor centre in Val Marie. After reading Parcs Canada's spooky brochure about snakes and bison, I was feeling freaked out about my reptile friends, thus I got set up with snake gators before setting out on a hike. I hiked on the opposite end of the valley from the hibernacula and did not see any reptile friends, however did run into a bull bison. Apparently, they are cranky during the spring season and I made a large exhausting loop through the hot valley to avoid the fella. Mosquitoes, the brochures should have warned me that the mosquitoes would be the ones that make me really lose my mind. Arms flapping all the way back to camp.
GNP is one of the largest dark sky preserves in Canada, all night the prairies were lit up from the moon as though it was a street light. The last night, a classic prairie thunderstorm rolled in and flattened the tent. After the tent pegs detached themselves from the earth and I felt a little airborn, I rolled up the tent and all its contents like a giant burrito and shoved it under the car until the wind, lightning and rain abated. I waited in the car until it cleared and a single song from a meadowlark stated all was well with the world.
Overall the trip was filled with beautiful sounds and sights. I managed a few sketches and paintings and a ton of reference photos for inspiration. In Val Marie, I had the chance to visit artist friend Diana Chabros and see her artwork for her upcoming show in Swift Current and my cousin Denise in Medicine Hat.
I love the natural grassland areas, if these images and stories inspire you, please consider signing this petition to protect the pasture areas in Saskatchewan:
Grasslands are the most endangered, the most altered and yet the least protected ecosystem on the planet. They contain more Species at Risk than any other region of the country. The Community Pastures in Saskatchewan contain some of the largest, best managed and biodiverse rich blocks of remaining native grasslands in North America. A conservation network will not only protect our grasslands but support Canada's biodiversity Target 1 to protect 17% of all terrestrial areas and inland water.