It’s safe to say that Dinosaur Provincial Park in southern Alberta made an impression on me. I’m not sure if it’s the remoteness of the Park, the unusual activities there or the fact I’m just proud that I actually managed to camp, albeit comfortably. Most likely it’s a mixture of all of these qualities, along with something else; the raw and wholly unexpected beauty of Alberta’s Badlands. I knew I’d like them, but I had no idea just how deeply I would fall in love with the geography of the Park and surrounding area. My best exposure to the natural side of both the Park and southern Alberta was on a sunset photo walk through the Badlands – one of the best nature walks I’ve ever been on.
Like many of the guides at Dinosaur Provincial Park, Max was a student, there for the summer to work what is without a doubt one of the best jobs on the planet. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Dinosaur Provincial Park is famous around the world for its massive cache of dinosaur fossils. But what may not be as wildly known is the beautiful terrain in which these relics from the past are housed. Badlands geography can be found around the world, and is characterized by the canyons, ravines, gullies and hoodoos you can find there. Alberta’s Badlands are especially gnarly though and this rough terrain is what helped preserve the fossils for so long. Max’s job that evening was to lead around a group of visitors through some of the Park’s most beautiful spots, all during the Golden Hour and all while making sure no one wandered off into the great unknown.
The next two hours were probably the most fun I had during my entire trip to Alberta. Scampering across boulders, climbing up small hills to see what the views looked like on the other side, it was the opportunity for us adults to get out there and act like kids in a massive playground. There were some super-serious photographers (along with their wildly unnecessary and expensive lenses) but on the whole it was just normal amateurs, out there to enjoy the scenery, hopefully get some nice photos and see a different side to the Park and the Badlands.
And different it was. It’s amazing how light shapes our perceptions of a place, but the Park I witnessed as night fell was an entirely different place from the one I saw at noon. Shadows raced across rocks and the limestone seemed to light up, a certain warmth radiating from the rocks as the sun graced them with its special light. It was beautiful, especially as we all stood on top of yet another large hill and watched as the sun finally set below the horizon, turning the valleys into shades of yellow, then orange and finally blue.
There are a lot of reasons to visit the Park, but this walk and the opportunity to see the Badlands in a completely different light (see what I did there?) should be chief among them. Alberta is blessed with hundreds, probably thousands, of special moments out in nature, but I know for me this is one that I will always treasure the most.
Where is your favorite place to see the sunset?