September 10 – 17
We’re headed East and our next Canadian province is Saskatchewan. It’s the only one with no natural borders, so pretty much a rectangle. The visitor’s center outside Maple Creek had shirts with the “Easy to draw, hard to spell” slogan and we totally agree. No real “must do’s” in this part of Canada, but some unexpectedly great campsites and meals.
Just to show we were there…and lots of wheat growing in the province.
We passed Pinto McBean on the drive and would have planned a stop for photos if we had known he was coming up. Who doesn’t love a giant bean statue?
Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park
Technically we stayed on the Alberta side for this stop, but I’m counting it since it does connect to Sask. Yes, Sask. That’s what you say if you’re hip and also saving letters on signage. Anyway, we stopped for two nights. It was originally going to be a one nighter, but I really didn’t want to pack up and move again on my birthday. So we sat another day to relax on 9/11.
A little hazy, but much better as far as the smoke goes. Pretty Elkwater Lake with those dry hills, but surprising evergreens to brighten the shore.
We even found a nice boardwalk for Jackson. Of course it was a little too far from the campsite, so we drove him over.
The only parking spot I could find reasonably close. One of these things is not like the others….
The night before my birthday, Hurricane Irma was hammering at Florida and I was enjoying delicious ribs at the campground Cookhouse. The server spilled beer on me and comped the beer, half my ribs AND dessert. I barely got splashed, but it made for fun banter with the waiter, and a cheap birthday dinner. Fortunately, we were able to see how Florida faired in the news reports the next day. We can’t tell you how relieved we were not to be worrying about a house while we were so far away.
I read about some fun things to see in Moose Jaw, so we’ve set our course for the next stop. Along the way, we saw 2 deer, a fox, bison and lots of sheep. Our stop at the Maple Creek visitor center sent us to the little bitty town off the highway for lunch. Howard’s Bakery and Cafe did not disappoint with great sandwiches and the hands down best doughnut I’ve ever had. I’d go back that way just for another stop to buy cookies, more doughnuts and whatever baked goods ‘ole Howard is selling. Delicious.
View of downtown Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan from the hill above the River Park Campground. Our home for the next 4 nights. We’ve escaped the smoke, but we’re right by a refinery. Different smell entirely, but still no good. When we first arrived, we thought we had a tire problem!
Laundry is overflowing again, so I look for a spot. I only found one and it was a sketchy place for sure. The two other places that my internet search showed me were ice cream parlors. I chalked that up to being “Googled” until another guy showed up at the laundromat. He said both those other places did indeed have laundry as well as ice cream, but they’re apparently more expensive. Hopefully they’re in better repair, but I got the job done anyway. And the guy gave us excellent dinner recommendations.
We also got a visit from a mobile Speedy Glass guy to repair Lucy’s two newest windshield cracks. One was a spider crack and destined to cause trouble on the rough roads. Good to have that taken care of.
Moose Jaw is home to the world’s largest moose statue. Mac stands at 32 feet tall.
We also went on two Tunnels of Moose Jaw tours. These underground tours are a little bit history lesson, a little bit interactive theater and a lot of fun. The ‘Chicago Connection’ tour turned us into bootleggers running rum for Al Capone’s gang. I got to do the “secret” knock on the door to enter the inner sanctum. For tour number two, we were Chinese immigrants in ‘Passage to Fortune’. Both tours went from building to building below the streets of downtown Moose Jaw. No photos allowed, so you’ll just have to imagine what the tunnels looked like.
While out to dinner the first night, we saw an advertisement for tickets to a concert in town. It turns out that Moose Jaw won the “One Horse Town” contest sponsored by Coors, entitling them to a free concert with headliner Darius Rucker of ‘Hootie and the Blowfish’ fame. We love his voice and he’s one of Pat’s favorites. Unfortunately for us, it was for town residents only and the 1500 free tickets were already gone. Since Moose Jaw is not a huge place, we could hear the concert from our campsite.
I also read about the Claybank Brick Plant which is a National Historic Landmark in Canada. It sounded a lot like Birmingham’s Sloss Furnaces or the Kennecott Mine in Alaska. The visitor’s center told us the tours were closed, but we could check out the grounds, so off we went.
This is what we found when we arrived. Bummer. This gravel road adventure was not as exciting as I’d hoped.
This spot is virtually unchanged since 1912 and in season has tours to showcase the clay quarry in the nearby hills to the brick kilns at the plant. We walked around outside the fence for a little bit, but the brisk wind turned us around pretty quickly.
Pretty spot with some Fall color. My artsy shot for the day.
Crooked Lake Provincial Park
From Moose Jaw, we wound our way off the beaten path to Crooked Lake Provincial Park. When we arrived, I jumped out to run ahead and check out a few sites. I turned around and saw this. Lucy coming through the tree canopy – just magical!
This was also going to be a one night stop and we just couldn’t leave. It was so peaceful compared to Moose Jaw (yes, a train next door to the campground), and didn’t smell at all. No smoke, no petroleum, just clean, crisp Fall air.
The boys approve of the lakeside strolls.
Lots of trees just turning colors on the lakeside.
This is also where we encountered tons of red box elder bugs. Creepy looking things.
Jackson really liked the big sticks at this stop. He’s not worried about the bugs.
The park host let us know the water was being turned off at the campground the next day, so time to go.
On the way out of Saskatchewan, we’re noticing these orange enclosures in the fields. I’m calling them hospitality tents. Turns out I’m not far wrong, They are there to attract leaf cutter bees required to pollinate the canola crops. I envision a little wine tasting and finger sandwiches to keep those special bees happy in the fields.
There are bees partying in these tents.
Our time is Sask is done and they thank us for driving safely. We’re off to Manitoba and Riding Mountain National Park next. See you on the way!