Day 6: Hoodoos, dinosaur bones and coyotes!

“During breakfast we spotted a raccoon on the other side of the river, and watched for some time as he prodded the waterline up to his elbows looking for clams.  He never noticed our presence.  We had been seeing raccoon tracks pretty well everywhere where there was soft mud, so it was nice to finally see one.

We had packed up camp and were on the river by 8 AM, and then hiking again by 8:30 at the big White Rock Coulee, the other deep valley that makes up this special area.  We hiked for a little over an hour, looking for dinosaur bones and fossil wood.  We found and photographed some nice examples. One hoodoo cap was sitting as if ready to fall at the very top of a huge cliff, atop a pinnacle of bentonite. We joked that if we set up camp, we could witness its tumble!

The canyon walls were steep, hoodoos plentiful, and evidence of deer and coyote everywhere.

There was a set of easy rapids immediately downstream from the entrance to White Rock Coulee, and from there on we were battling headwinds.  Lunch was enjoyed at a small but beautiful coulee entrance with the only (small) tree around for protection from the wind.  We went for a short walk, and Dee found a dinosaur skeleton, in the usual multi-thousand fragmented pieces.  But there were some sizeable bones that we photographed.  We searched unsuccessfully for any teeth.

Back on the river, the headwinds were momentarily forgotten as we watched a Golden eagle attempt to lift off with a kill!  A half dozen blackbirds were harassing the big bird,

and eventually he dropped it!  We were able to see that his kill was a young goose, but one old enough to have the white cheek marks!  The opportunistic eagle no doubt returned to his prize after we were out of sight further downstream.

Paddling progress was slow, but eventually we made it to an excellent, protected campsite with easy non-muddy access.  A terrace provided the dining room view of the river and badlands, and just behind, nestled in a dense, young cottonwood forest, was a clearing where we set up the tent. Hiking promised to be good with a fairly extensive coulee behind us.

From the camp, we enjoyed the calls of a Yellow warbler, an abundance of Cedar waxwings, and a resident Baltimore oriole. And then the rain began.  It was light, but consistent. We set up a rain tarp with our big green groundsheet, and enjoyed a late afternoon hot mocha drink.  Carpets of deer hair indicated a kill, and sure enough, we found a nearly fully articulated skeleton of a buck.  Winter kill, no doubt.

The rain stopped around 6 PM, and so we headed up the coulee.  Steep, rocky and dramatic would best describe it.  After finding more dinosaur bones, we began a gymnastic climb to the height of land, just to prove to ourselves that this was in fact the coulee we intended to camp at. All good.

Upon descent down a different route, we encountered huge slabs of stone fractured and broken creating a labyrinth of caves and overhangs.  Bones littered the area, and coyote tracks were everywhere.  We may have stumbled upon a den.  A lone coyote watched us from the top of the bluff behind our camp upon our return.  One long look, and then he vanished.  Typical coyote.

Kilometres today: 16, and we called this camp ‘Coyote Camp.'”

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