After visiting the Sand Hills last November in the cold weather, we vowed to return in the summer. Our visit this time was certainly warmer, but the sand was packed firm and very wet from weeks of rain. It was still missing that very dry, sifting sand quality of a true desert. Don't get me wrong though, it was gorgeous and we had a lot of fun doing "jump" pictures. A "jump shot" is a trendy thing to do in wedding and family portraits, and it was so fun that I recommend to anyone getting pictures done to try it. It was awesome. The photographer Philippe Halsman started it all in the 1950s with portraits of celebrities like Salvador Dali and Marilyn Monroe jumping. He claims that "When you ask a person to jump, his attention is mostly directed toward the act of jumping and the mask falls so that the real person appears."
My sister was really good at it, and should have been a dancer! In the out-takes though, it's pretty clear I am utterly without grace. The real person that appears when I jump is awkward and flailing!! My Dad was especially proud of his ability to even get off the ground. After his back surgery many years ago he lost a lot of mobility, but here he is jumping with the rest of us! Chris's rock star stage antics are in evidence, though his face gives away the fact that he never takes himself very seriously. Of course the kids are naturals at it and look absolutely joyous doing it. The sand hills are a perfect backdrop for pictures, the sky and the sand make such a simple canvas.
It was a beautiful day and we drove in late in the afternoon after a trip to the old farm. (Stay tuned for photos from there!) The kids rode in the back of my Dad's truck and were so excited to return to the sand hills. They ran and dug holes and got their pants dirty sliding down the steep side of the hill. Each trip here is different, the weather affects the dunes so much and each time you see something different and new.
Now that you have seen the photos, here's a short video! As you can see, it's fun to run in sand too.
By the way, speaking of sand, have you seen these incredible close up photographs of grains of sand?
For more information about this wondrous place, check out the following:
The Great Sand Hills & River Routes PDF Guide (from the Great Sand Hill and River Routes Website.) Some of the same information is also listed on the web page's map organized by categories helpful to the tourist.
From Medicine Hat, take the 41 north to 545 and turn right (east) towards Burstall/Leader. 545 changes to the 321, continue east past Leibenthal until you see the sign post and Cattle T-Ranch gate in the photos above. Turn left and drive over a cattle gate to enter the area. Continue driving until you see a parking area on the left. An alternate route is to take the #1 Highway into Saskatchewan to the 21, turn left (north) and drive to Leibenthal, then turn right onto the 321.
From Calgary, drive to Medicine Hat and then follow the directions above. I don't think there is a quicker way. Alternate route is to drive north towards Drumheller, get onto the 9 heading to Saskatchewan and then follow the directions below for Red Deer.
From Red Deer, drive towards Drumheller, take the 9 heading east into Saskatchewan, turn right onto the 44 (signs for Alsask/Eatonia), continue following the 44 until just before Eatonia and then head south on the 21 towards Leader. Then left on the 32 towards Swift Current. Continue on the 32 for 40 km, turn right onto Allowance Rd (signs for Prelate). At the t-intersection, turn right until you see the sign post and Cattle T-Ranch gate in the photos above. Turn left and drive over a cattle gate to enter the area. Continue driving until you see a parking area on the left. (You can also continue on the 32 to Scepter, visit the museum there and then drive straight south I think. They have directions at the museum)
Motels/Inns/B&Bs (look for Burstall, Leader, Scepter)
Prelate: AC Campground (full service) 1-306-673-2656
Burstall: Lions Park 1-306-679-2000
Sandy Point Park: (no power) 1-403-379-2143 (Cypress County 1-403-526-2888)