We’ve been exploring different parts of our province this summer, checking out places I’ve been meaning to visit that don’t require a huge driving commitment. Turns out there’s a whole lot more to see around here than I thought. I had heard mention a few times over the past year of a provincial park I’d never visited before – Writing-on-Stone, which is south of Lethbridge, almost at the US border, and apparently quite stunning. We took a drive. It was long, but beautiful-I love driving through the prairies, especially when we get the chance to pass grain elevators. There aren’t many left.
The drive took us through Nanton (Bomber Command Museum! epic candy store with antiques in the back!) When we were getting close, I had to keep checking my map; the landscape still looked like barely rolling, grassy farmland. There was no sign of hoodoos or badlands – until suddenly, at the turnoff indicated on my map, there was. The ground dropped away to reveal some of the most stunning rock formations I’ve ever seen.
Sunken into the prairie grasslands of southern Alberta, Writing-on-Stone/Áísínai’pi in Milk River valley contains the largest collection of First Nation petroglyphs and pictographs in North America.
(There was a fantastic story in today’s National Post on Writing-on-Stone, as well as nearby Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.)
There are also medicine wheels – large stone circles ranging in age from 250 to about 5000 years old – in the area, including the Sundial Medicine Wheel. If you’re into local history, this is a great way to spend the weekend.
The campground, shaded by cottonwood trees and located right beside Milk River, is open year-round, and in the summer there are showers! (It’s the little things. W has become enamoured with the idea of camping lately, and I’m enamoured with the idea of camping where the grizzlies are at a minimum.) Note: last week, there was a contaminated water advisory issued for Milk River at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park.
We stayed overnight in Lethbridge, and en route back took a detour to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, an archaeological site and one of the world’s best-preserved buffalo jumps.
If you do have camping plans this summer – at Writing-on-Stone or elsewhere, bannock is easy to back and mix up at your campsite – you can even do it right in the bag. It’s a simple blend of flour, baking powder and salt, with a little oil rubbed in – the combination is very similar to Bisquick or other baking mixes, and in fact turns out a pretty good scone. At the campground, all you need to do is add water, stir until you have a soft dough, then pat into small rounds (or one big one, to cut into wedges) and cook in a hot skillet over the fire, or shape the dough into ropes to twist around sticks and roast over hot coals. I’m always looking for new things to roast over hot coals.
Serve your bannock warm, with butter and jam. (I lean toward saskatoon. Very prairie.)
There are so many versions of this recipe – this is a version of a traditional Métis recipe, and came from the Parks Canada website.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup canola or other vegetable oil
Mix the flour, baking powder and salt; rub in the oil until well blended and pack in a zip-lock bag. When you’re camping, add 1 cup water and mix to a soft dough. Pat or roll balls of dough to cook over the campfire, or twist ropes around sticks to roast. Serve warm, with jam.
Adapted from Bernardin.
5 cups lightly crushed saskatoon berries
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 pkg. pectin
5-6 cups sugar
In a large, deep pot, bring the saskatoon berries, lemon juice and pectin to a boil. Measure out the sugar and set aside.
Once the berry mixture is at a full rolling boil, add all of the sugar. Return to a full, hard boil (one that can’t be stirred down) and boil hard for 1 full minute, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and skim off any foam that rises to the surface.
Ladle the jam into hot, freshly washed jars. Seal with lids and cool completely; store in the fridge or see the Bernardin website for instructions on how to further process for longer-term shelf storage. (It also keeps well in the freezer – use plastic or zip-lock freezer bags.)
Makes about 6 cups.
I love showing off the province I live in – thanks to Travel Alberta for helping me do it! As always, words and opinions are my own.