Monday, September 27, 2010


Part 3: Saskatchewan, my favourite.

Saskatchewan, from what I've heard of other driver's experiences, is nothing more than a flat land of wheat fields, or a province where - as my dad says - you can see your dog running away for days. But in spending little more than a day and a half exploring it, I have to give it the favourite province award.

First, Ben and I drove across the border on a Thursday, Aug. 26 and made our way to Carrot River. My mom grew up around here, and understanding her upbringing and the circumstances to which she lived made going through here truly special. We arrived at my Auntie Lois and Uncle Dick's house at around 8:30 and were greeted with exactly what I had expected: big hugs from my Auntie. Ben went to shake her hand and she brushed it off, also hugging him.

That night all the nearby family came for a visit, to see me and to meet Ben. My cousins Joanne, Paul, and Jaimie (with her husband Peter and their two girls), and my cousin Trish and her husband Dean (and their boys). To no surprise there was endless amounts of food, and though Ben and I were completely exhausted, we stayed up to eat, drink and visit, something I've truly missed... family.

There's something to be said about being able to drop in for the night, to eat, shower, and sleep in a comfortable bed, and then depart in the morning without feeling as though you've taken advantage of someone. So a big thank you to my Auntie and Uncle for allowing us to do so.

Before leaving Carrot River, we stopped in to visit Uncle Kerby , who proceeded to say my mother worried about us like "an old hen," and then we went to Trish and Dean's farm. It was like walking into a petting zoo, where Keiran and Trey brought all sorts of rabbits, cats, horses and goats to show us. I had a permanent grin on my face the entire time. This is what it's like to live in Saskatchewan.

Ben and Dean on Dean's combine.
Following the reunion, we went south towards Swift Current, where we ended up in what felt like the 'true west', where it was certain there would be tumbleweeds and cowboys and indians battling in the distance. I took a nap and awoke to Ben pulling me out of the truck and standing in a field of I'm not sure what (if you know, please tell me). We took these amazing pictures, and the wind swept through the field as if you were standing on the ocean, like waves.

In a field of something, somewhere in the flatlands of Saskatchewan.
Then, we drove down a dusty, sand road in search of a campsite, and ended up in the desert. Literally.

We pitched our tent under a big tree just as the sun was setting, and we began our decent, I got three cacti stuck in my foot. First, who knew there were cacti in Saskatchewan? Second, a cactus in the foot is (and I do not exaggerate) the worst pain ever. So much so I stood on the hillside, waiting for the coyotes to come eat me, while Ben ran to the truck to grab a pair of work gloves and a pair of shoes for me. Luckily he pulled them out before the coyotes actually came.

We fell asleep in the desert, and I heard several howls throughout the night. But it was beautiful. The morning was beautiful, the entire area was quiet, and deer jumped through the bushes as we camped. It was my favourite camping spot of all throughout the trip.

The entire purpose of taking this trip slow was for this: the Great Sand Hills of Sask. We spent two hours walking on these sand dunes, probably 15 to 20 feet high, and they were incredible. The sand ripples from the wind, as Ben described it: "A bug highway," where tracks from all sorts of beetles, worms, critters, left footprints in the sand. We leapt off the dunes, Ben crash-landed in the sand.

Go to Saskatchewan. And don't just drive through. EXPLORE!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Trans-Canada 2

Part 2: Guess Who? Manitoba!

Animals of all sorts in Manitoba, an elk in Onanole and
a swan in Swan River.

I don't think many truly realize how unbelievable Canada is. I can't say this enough. Manitoba, said to be a prairie province and a flat and flowery grassland is so much more than that. With giant statue-like animals, clear, crisp lakes, white poplar forests and abandoned churches, the province was more than we bargained for.

On day three of our trip we ended up in Winnipeg, and my lovely friend Andrea had us stay in her bed while she voluntarily slept on her couch. We went for dinner with her and our friend Lisa Joy and saw the insides of the provincial capital.

To be honest, Winnipeg was intimidating. The downtown core (where we stayed) felt dark at night, and more than once in a 2-block radius we were asked for spare change. Perhaps it was because for 2 nights previous we'd camped in the quiet and suddenly we'd been thrown back into civilization. But seeing old friends made it worth the while.

Friends don't let friends sleep on the street! Andrea and I.

Day four, we're up fast and driving into northern Manitoba on our way to Carrot River, Sask. There are fields upon fields of sunflowers, and my eagerness to capture each province through photos nags at Ben to pull over at numerous locations. We drive up the Yellowhead Highway and then onto HWY. 10 towards Barrows (my dad got his first teaching job in Barrows).

We stop for a swim in Clear Lake at Riding Mountain National Park, where the water is literally so clear you can see the bottom no matter how far out you swim. I saved a ladybug from drowning here, and then I hit a bird with the truck.

If there was anything I've noticed most prominently about the drive thus far, it is the abandoned churches, homes, towns. Likely at one time flourishing with life, today they are overgrown, the whitewash paint pealing from the siding and the door handles rusted from years of ill use. This church we ventured to was beautiful, the inside still colourful, and you feel a certain calming when exploring it. But at night I can only imagine it chilling and eerie.

Behind the church was this amazing forest! With white poplar trees, Ben crawled deep back into the woods like a woodsman and took some amazing photos.

Lastly, before crossing the border into Saskabush (Saskatchewan), we stopped at Barrows, where my dad taught 35 years ago, and went up to Red Deer Lake. My dad used to hunt moose along this lake, so visiting this spot was especially meaningful to me. I drove past his old teacherage house and we even stopped to see his old boss - who was unfortunately in hospital. But I did meet this man's son, who is my dad's Godson.

I liked Manitoba. And I can't wait to go back and explore it.
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