Our second destination today was the Dinosaur Provincial Park. According to the Alberta guide we’d picked up in Banff Highway #10 continued East to the North-South running Highway #36. Daniel drove everywhere so far this holiday and I’ve been navigating. Normally I’d prefer to have a street directory or a map, possibly a compass. Everywhere we’ve been in Canada I’ve either annoyed or amused Daniel (depending on his mood) by determining where North is, relative to the position of the sun in the sky, the time of day, and the fact that we were now in the Northern Hemisphere. Today it was so overcast I couldn’t tell where the sun was; I had to rely on my iPhone GPS and map app. This worked fine until we went out of service and internet. The wind outside blew wisps of snow sediment across the road like remnants of fog.
A dilemma developed after I decided that we were on the correct road, and probably headed due East, as the sun was on our right and probably mostly in the South. Dan suggested I use the compass on my iPhone. I moved the handset about to calibrate it and initially the phone agreed: we were headed due East. A minute later, the sun was in the same position in the sky, but the phone decided we were actually headed North. We were about to turn around and head back, as Dan had seen a sign that had the Number 36 on it, and therefore might have indicated Highway #36, several kilometres back. I didn’t realise that the GPS still worked and my map app was still functional. We were on the right course and hadn’t overshot. We passed many signs that read, “Important Intersection Ahead” and laughed. In Southern France all signs seem to say “Toutes Directions” and in Alberta there are many “Important Intersections”.
Soon we were back with internet reception. I found directions on the Alberta Parks website. They were helpful. When we got to the three flags at the park’s entry I was glad for our achievement. We got out of the car in freezing wind to see the spectacular view of immense landscape: the earth was cut with deep grooves from the erosion of all the sediment. Dan was impressed. He even got his tripod out of the car.
We drove around the park, and did two of the self-guided walks. The bored solitary staff in the empty Visitors Centre gave us a pamphlet and pointed the direction to go. She told Dan it was OK to walk around off the paths inside the loop, so we did. We quickly lost the car but thankfully the sun was out of the clouds and Dan had paid attention to the direction we’d started out in – toward the sun. We climbed the highest mound we could see to confirm. I was reminded of racing through Barrens with my Night Elf on his saber mount: the easiest way up to the mesa was the same in real life too; follow the crest on one of the limbs. The silt that drained out from the rills was deceptively slippery, as it was still wet underneath the dried surface.
We didn’t see any fossils but joked that we might’ve found a Roman Wall – having watched so many episodes of Time Team back in Australia. We wondered if anybody had used geophys to find fossils? At 5 pm the sun was getting low and I got in the driver’s seat. Dan had had enough. It was 226 km back to the hotel from the park. After the first 50 km I got into the groove. Several straights of the Trans-Canada Highway were dead straight, the horizon being between 5 and 15 km away, depending on how flat the land was. It was a productive day.