Posted by: Karen | August 10, 2006

Hoodoos & Hoodies

Some of the Writing-on-Stone hoodoos above the campsite, with the Milk River valley in the background.Hoodoos are incredibly fascinating, fun, sandstone rock formations formed over millenia by glaciers and erosion. Alberta has many hoodoo sites, some protected by parks. Most Albertans are more familiar with the hoodoos near Drumheller and Dinosaur Provincial Park, but the ones at Writing-on-Stone are amazing, too. Archaeologists love to scour hoodoos for ancient artifacts like dinosaur bones and arrowheads, as the erosion often naturally exposes things buried very long ago.

Regular people mostly like to climb around in them and enjoy the spectacular vieA little perspective on how big some of the hoodoos are. This is not even relatively big, or even a cliff - my kids called it a Hoodoos are like a big, 3-D maze of a playground. The Sandstone of which hoodoos are formed is very easy to climb, as it is gritty and still solid. I felt like Spiderman even on very steep inclines. No wonder my kids seemed so carefree even atop such precarious, high places. I barely maintained motherly sanity in trying to control their enthusiastic scrambles, leaps and king-of-the-castle dances.

I don't know what's on the other side of that apex - I was too afraid to look. Heeere kiddie kiddie kiddie. Come down now...I don’t really have a fear of climbing; it’s more of a fear of falling. I could probably even handle the falling part if I could get over the potentially-lethal landing part of it. That’s me, always thinking ahead. Coming too close to an un-railed, high ledge gives me the willies. I’m kind of like Tiggr, who is great at going up, but can’t get down. Yes, I see the irony in this, me being a total downhill NUT when it comes to bounding down steep hills on trail race courses.

I don’t mind heights, so much as I mind the thought of slipping. It’s probably a controlNote the height from which my son took this photo. Just think about that for a minute... thing. Even if I can learn to control my own fear of ledge-slipping, I really don’t trust my kids on ledges. This is demonstrated by my absolute perilization and inability to breathe between pathetic pleas for my kids to back away from my perception of danger. My kids are not invincible – we’ve been through two pediatric casts and the accompanying x-ray rooms in the last two years to prove it. This for the careful kid.

It gets hot up there - bring your hat and water - and your camera!A warning to folks who take kids climbing in hoodoos: the more kids there are together, the more daring they become. The smaller the child to adult ratio, the better. When we went camping in rattlesnake country last week, I thought my biggest challenge would be to protect them from venomous snakes. Nope, I respect the seductive hoodoos even more.

)Given all of the above concern, however, I must say that climbing in the hoodoos was a definite highlight of our camping holiday. The rock formations, their views, and their hardy vegetation make for some great photos.

On the last night we were there, Soccer Boy and I enjoyed some one-on-one time climbing all over the hoodoos just before sunset. It was getting chilly down in camp, so we wore our hoodies in the hoodoos, but after just a little climbing we warmed up anA view of the Milk River and beach from the hoodoos above the Writing-on-Stone camp site. You can even see the Sweetgrass hills of Montana wayyy in the background.d tied them around our waists. At that time of day there were several other teenagers and young adults scrambling about, playing tag and hide-and-seek. A couple of young men were even playing a bizarre game of golf with big plastic golf clubs.

I’ll elaborate on what we learned about Petroglyphs, Graffiti & Human History of the area, and how much we enjoyed the Milk River itself in subsequent posts.



  1. Wearing hoodies in the hoodoos.

    A whole new meaning to “boyz in da hoods”.

    Yup. Fear of falling. Fear of seeing your kids falling. I can relate.

    I once climbed a steep embankment at our summer stock company picnic, turned around and realized I could NOT go back down. The company director had to come up for me, bring me back. Embarassing. Russ. He was a good friend, gone now. 😦

    I like those hoodoos.

  2. Oh my. Those hoodoos look awesome. But, like you, I’d be afraid of falling or slipping and I’d really be afraid for my kids.

  3. Hoodoos are cool! You should set up a race through the hoodoos. Talk about a serioulsy challenging race. Up and down the hoodoos. You could do it as a relay. And give out medals like little hoodoos.

    I wish we had hoodoos. 😦

  4. Wow, that looks like beautiful country!!!

  5. Beautiful pictures, Karen. I love that place too! It is not only fun and beautiful, but it is a deeply spiritual place, a mysterious place, at once appealing and frightening. It is a marvel of meditation if you can get away from the hectic tourism aspect and sit a while quietly. That is, if you can stand the intense baking heat. Geez, of all my friends you are the only one to have visited Writing on Stone!

  6. That would be a lot of fun! I actually thought of doing a training run on one of the hoodoo trails (you know I love trail running), but the warnings about surprising a rattlesnake were quite persistent. If one is hiking, there is a better chance of stopping and avoiding the snake than when running. I ended up going up out of camp to the prairie and running along the highway instead. At least there I could see what would be near my path long before I got to it.

    In the hoodoos where we were climbing there were tons of people and the more people there are the fewer snakes, eh. If such a trail (especially a relay) could be marked it would be a BLAST. Wendy mentioned to me that there was a marathon in the area at one time – between Writing On Stone Park and the town of Milk River. It would be cool to have a race that showed the scenery of the valley in contrast to the bald prairie around it.

    Hoodoo medals – how unique that would be!

  7. Great photos! The hoodoos near Writing-on-Stone are Canada’s best, followed closely by the badlands near the Morrin Bridge.


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