Day 7: 

“I was up by 5:30 AM to disassemble the tarp and start on our breakfast (cheese omelet). We took down the entire camp and were on the hiking (deer) trail by 7:30 to explore the big coulee just 300m downstream.  We hiked way up the valley bottom, found a logical ascent to the high grassland plateau, and returned to camp via a grassland ramp.

High on the top during our descent, we were in some fantastic badlands of bentonite and hoodoos with orange ironstone cap rocks. There we scared up two cottontail rabbits, one of which posed long enough to photograph before it bolted like lightning.  I stopped for my morning constitution, with a view, moved a rock on the ground, and lo, there was a scorpion!  I suspect a female, as it looked fat and pregnant! (I chose another rock to make my deposit!).  Other finds included some fossils, dramatic sandstone weathering, and a pronghorn skull!

Once on the river we enjoyed a tail wind for at least an hour, making some good downriver time.  That luck soon ended, but the headwinds were not that bad, and somewhat variable, so we did get some relief.

Three more eagle sightings were made during the day, as were several deer of both species.  The most dramatic hoodoos and coulees were now behind us, but still the views along the river were stunning.  Dee spotted a wandering garter snake as we paddled not far from shore.  A storm caught us by surprise as we paddled, but we were able to get our rain gear on and continued with big raindrops falling and somewhat distant lightning making quite the racket.  It soon stopped, but the new moisture brought out the Nighthawks and Bank and Rough-winged swallows in force.  A beaver slapped his tail as we passed, and another slipped into the water with a loud splash.

Finding a camp out of sight of the big pipeline crossing but before the take out tomorrow at Sandy Point District Park at Hwy 41 was a bit tricky.  But just as the sky was turning black and threatening, we managed to find one after a few false starts.  Dee rapidly put up the tent as the thunder and clouds approached, and I quickly took apart the canoe and transported our gear up the steep bank.

Just as we finished erecting the tent, all hell broke loose, just like at the start of the trip, although the hailstones were tiny. We had just enough time to slip under the tarp to wait out the worst of the storm.  A blue-sky reprieve soon appeared, and we took full advantage with drinks and treats, overlooking the river and fantastic badlands cliffs on the opposite bank. Soon another black storm cloud appeared, and we beat a hasty retreat to the comfort of our tent and Therma-rest lounge chairs, hot cup-of-soup in hand.

Storm cloud after storm cloud with lots of lightning and thunder then continued.  It all lifted, however, and we were able to do a short walk up the coulee behind us.

Kilometres today: 33, and we have named this camp ‘Thunder & Lightning Camp.'”

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