It started off like any other Saturday.
I woke up in the comfort of my warm, cozy bed, my mind instantly on the frequency of gratitude. I was grateful for seeing another day. I was grateful for the coffee that would be coming my way. I was also grateful to be able to see the Cheltenham Badlands later on with a friend.
It was only days before that I had even heard of this place. A coworker of mine had been sitting next to me during lunch as we chatted about the current news playing in the background, the latest movie we saw, and things to do around town before the storm of 2018 hits the city.
“Have you ever heard of the Cheltenham Badlands?” She instantly shoved her phone in my face, showing me her Instagram. I took the phone from her hand and stared at the image on my screen.
It was beautiful. People were standing on, what looked like, Mars. Like chocolate marshmallow, it was a natural phenomenon. In reality, it was a geological formation that developed over a course of the past 450 million years.
All the people in the photos looked like they were having a blast and I also wanted to experience that. Without a second thought, I immediately texted my friend, Sidney, one of the photos.
ME: Can we go here?
SID: I’ve always wanted to go there. Sure!
And like that, it was a done deal. I knew the following weekend, I would be visiting the Cheltenham Badlands. I was happy that I would have the opportunity to experience some of the beauty my province had to offer.
Plus I was really stoked on the idea that it was called the badlands because I legitimately felt like I was going Into the Badlands.
Only I wasn’t. As I laid in my cozy bed, and Google mapped the address that Saturday, I got the following words float across my phone screen:
I went to the website link and my heart sank the more I read about not being able to gain access to the badlands due to “massive overuse” and “failure to follow the rules”.
I understood the need to preserve nature and not have outsiders, humans, ruin it all, but it sucked. Like that, my day was over before it even started. There would be no me standing atop the badlands feeling badass, like The Widow defeating all the other barons. Nope, not in the cards.
And if you are bent out of sorts about not understanding my context, please, go watch the first episode of Into the Badlands on Netflix. It’s there.
At least, on the Canadian Netflix.
(Disclaimer: Please don’t watch if blood and violence make you squeamish.)
So the idea of going to the Cheltenham Badlands evaporated from my mind. This left Sid and I in a pickle. What were we going to do this fall morning instead?
ME: So where else can we go that isn’t a million miles away?
SID: There’s a Hop and Harvest festival going on at Kelso Conservation.
I was okay with that but it seemed more of a food spending expenditure, something I wasn’t particularly in the mood for. I started doing my own search for things to do in the area and I saw there was something similar called Terra Cotta’s Fall Festival. Seemed more up my alley.
Sid agreed and the day was reset. No Cheltenham Badlands but Terra Cotta here we come!
So I drove us the half hour it took to get there and I even conquered my fear of heights on the way. The roads were so up and down. I felt as if I were literally on a roller coaster!
Not my scene.
Anyway, we finally reached, successfully parked, and made out way to the festival. Forgot to capture pics of the festival but check out this awesome fall view below.
There was a little store that sold items like maple syrup and pastries but that’s not what caught Sid’s attention. She turned to me.
“You want to go on the wagon ride?”
I shrugged. “Sure.”
So we quickly paid for our tickets and found ourselves on a wagon, exploring the area and learning the type of wildlife that lived in the conservation area. It was fun, a simple ride where I got to experience the beautiful fall day. One of the tour guides toward the end of the wagon ride mentioned a free bus that would take us from Terra Cotta to the badlands, and back to Terra Cotta.
Sid and I looked at each other, instantly on the same wavelength. That would be our next item for the day.
I was excited. I may not be able to see the Cheltenham Badlands like we had planned, but I got to see another badlands to make up for being cheated with the former.
So we got off the wagon and made our way to the info booth.
“Which way to the bus that will take us to the badlands?”
The poor guy had no clue so we walked back into the little store. One of the girls stationed there showed us a map. All I heard was Parking 3 and 45 degree angle but I knew we’d figure it out.
And we did, as we made our way to this yellow school bus in the parking lot, like it was waiting for us and only us.
I forgot to mention I had brought my camera. However, said camera was not auto-focusing and I was disappointed that all my photos for the day would be a midst of out of focus, blurry shots.
The bus driver was pleasant to speak to but as he turned on the ignition, the bus decided it was not in the mood to cooperate. So as our new friend, the bus driver, tried to get the bus up and running, I felt it was the perfect time to attempt at getting my camera working.
Good news: After some time, I did manage to get my camera working.
Bad news: The bus wouldn’t start, no badlands 2.0.
So we went home after that.
I’m lying. Our great bus driver radioed another bus driver and like that, we were on another functioning bus. I took in the beautiful scenery as we past by, this magical bus taking us to God knows where.
But as we inched closer and closer to the badlands, I had a revelation once we reached our destination.
I was at THE Cheltenham Badlands.
It was one and the same. And I felt like a complete fool for not realizing until it was staring me right in the face that I was at the one place I wanted to be this entire day.
Isn’t that amazing?
And no I didn’t get to jump on the mountain of brown marshmallow.
But I got a lot of perks out of this day.
Perk 1: I didn’t have to pay the $10 parking fee to get to the badlands, take a few pictures, only to turn around and go back home.
Perk 2: I got to experience the beauty of Terra Cotta and go on my first wagon ride.
Perk 3: A free magic school bus drove me straight to the badlands where I got to relish in my surroundings.
What’s the whole point of this rambling story, you ask?
Sometimes all you have to say is yes in order to experience all that life has to offer.
And sometimes, life has a way of giving you exactly what you want, even when you least expect it.