I’ve been spending some time in the shortgrass prairie of southern Alberta around Lethbridge. It took a while to figure it out. At first I thought the prairie was flat and relatively featureless. It’s not featureless, it’s upside down!
Walk along through the grass and it won’t be long before the ground falls away before you. The tiniest creek here, given the immensity of time and the soft, deep clay beneath, will carve out a vast, twisting ravine, known here as a coulee. Standing on a pointed bluff, I peer down into a complex series of cuts and cliffs, slumps and slides. A thin ribbon of water snakes its way along the bottom.
When I gaze across to the equally flat prairie way over on the other side, I can see the mountain’s worth of earth that was removed and relocated by that tiny trickle. Somewhere way downstream all that dirt and clay is on its way, or has already been deposited in some vast delta on the shore of a lake, or maybe it went all the way to the Arctic Ocean. Meanwhile what is left behind are ranges of upside down hills, winding their way across this endless sea of grass.
Even the squirrels here live an upside down life. The branches they scurry along are not in the few trees, but are the tunnels they have carved in the ground. Some call them gophers, some call them prairie dogs. Both such creatures exist but what we see here everywhere that’s grassy are Richardson’s ground squirrels. They can be pretty shy but as you walk among their burrows you will hear their shrill whistle, letting all their neighbours know there’s danger above ground.
Mule deer are common and amazingly tame. This one has five points on his velvet antlers. He was browsing with two of his chums in a strip of park between a row of houses and a big shopping centre.
More to come soon from my daily walks. Cheers, Jack