Friday, July 17, 2009

Southern Saskatchewan Adventure!

I have to be honest and say I never thought I would live in Saskatchewan. I grew up in Ontario, lived in the arctic for 8 years, I have visited all the provinces but Saskatchewan was never considered a spot to visit but rather a thoroughfare on route to more favourable venues! I truly love the coasts and forests of Canada. Canada possesses great natural wonders and Saskatchewan never entered my mind as being anything but prairies, endless flat fields. I was still under this impression after moving to Regina for my husband's career and three years later I can't help but still feel a little disappointed in the landscape that surrounds me. A co-worker of my husbands commented about the beauty of the canola and flax fields when they bloom yellow and purple and while I am sure there is beauty in such cultivated landscapes I must admit I have a hard time seeing it!

I was utterly depressed when we first learned we would be posted here but I am an adventurer as is the rest of my family and I have been determined to discover the beauty of the province in which we reside! Each summer we have ventured out in search of the wondrous natural environments that inspire us. Cypress Hills, and Prince Albert National Park have proven to us there are inspiring places within Saskatchewan's borders. This summer we will be camping around lakes to the northeast but last weekend we decided on a little road trip to the south in search of adventure in what is called the Big Muddy and Petroglyph Provincial Park! Our adventure started with cramming a family of five into a minivan with enough games and books and colouring utensils to last a week and enough snacks and drinks for an army {which would last maybe an hour or two}! If you've travelled Saskatchewan you will know there are only a few real cities and in many directions you will find well...fields, more fields, the odd valley, and oh these tiny, little places that "time forgot"! I often think of horror movies when we come across some little, dilapidated circle of houses off the highway forming a community but looking more like a ghost town...always complete with dingy looking local watering hole. It seemed we had been driving for an eternity {in reality perhaps only a couple hours maybe three}.

We decided to stop at a place described in the guide book as an African exhibit from a local adventurer. Now, I am thoroughly enamored by Africa and have dreamed of one day visiting so, though it seems strange to see an African exhibit in Saskatchewan, I was excited. It was not exactly what I had envisioned. The exhibit was in actual fact one of a taxidermy of many African animals hunted on safari by some local farmer. I believe it must have been years ago as I am sure it would probably be illegal today to import such trophies into the country now if not illegal to hunt some of them in several of the African countries. Seeing the information on the animals was interesting and out of politeness to the older lady managing the place we did peruse the one room exhibit but my youngest daughter was a bit distraught when she realized the whole exhibit was of dead animals! My youngest daughter is a very serious animal lover to be sure! Regardless, when the woman working there suggested the children get their picture taken with the lion they relented. Back in the van we hoped to be off to more favourable sights. The Petroglyphs should be fascinating and educational. They must be of great interest to be sure if an entire provincial park was set up around them. We arrived in the area but were a little unsure about location. The way should be well marked...we thought! After entering another of the tiny forgotten towns dotting southern Saskatchewan and driving up a steep hill we had found our way. Parked high on a bluff we followed the short path to the fenced off cliff edge and peered through to admire the creative handiwork carved centuries ago by ancient aboriginals into the horizontal sandstone surface of the cliff. Well, maybe they were a bit hard to see. We did make out a few bear paws with claws, maybe a face and a couple of crude figures representing people. I am an archaeologist so I can appreciate their significance but my children were not so thoroughly impressed and to be fair I couldn't blame them. On the bright side my husband and I actually had our picture taken together for the first time in ages by an elderly couple who had also ventured to this tourist Mecca! No harm done we were going to tour the Big Muddy full of outlaw caves and Buttes rising like alters from the dry desolate landscape. I glanced at the travel guide again reading out the flowery prose promoting this wonderful...wait a minute did I just read in small print "to pre-book tours call..." Oh dear! I pulled out my cell phone in the hopes that pre-book could essentially include calling a half hour before arriving. A 7 hour long tour leaving at 9 am or a short tour which meant a tour guide would join you in your vehicle for an exorbitant fee were the options. It was already mid afternoon and hundreds of dollars to see the sights of the Big Muddy did not particularly appeal to us. I enquired as to whether one could have a self-guided tour but many of the sights are off limits to anyone outside of the organized tours. To my relief there was one sight that was accessible "Castle Butte"!

After driving past it searching for a sign or well marked road we finally did double back at the nagging requests of our children and found it beyond the cattle strewn ranch road we had to travel. It was worth the struggle! The children loved climbing Castle Butte and my husband and I were taken by the romance of the sight. My son is an incredible climber and quickly made it to the very top, my eldest daughter and husband close behind. "I'm at the top of the world!" my son yelled emphatically. I was able to climb half way up but my youngest was not able to climb far so I soon came back down to explore with her. We ventured into a few small caves along the butte and the fact that Montana was just across the border became very real to me. I was inspired to dream up some intriguing story of murder and mystery set amongst the secluded Buttes... maybe someday I'll write a novel set in none other than Saskatchewan {maybe someday}!


  1. Take a little more time to fall in love with SK - DH just got his PARE date of Sept. 15!!


  2. Thanks for the road trip suggestion, just moved to Regina myself for my wife's work. I am ironically a Historian. we will take the car down south this weekend and I hope to find some more interesting things. The Royal Saskatchewan Museum here was already a bit of a letdown.