A Hidden Gem
We are simple people. We love to eat, converse about the world and relationships, and love to view beautiful things. We enjoy family, friends, nature, and each other.
When my partner and I started talking about what we should do during his brief time off from work, we thought of nature and beautiful geography - a place where you can kick back, relax, yet enjoy every eyeful of what's "out there" around us. He mentioned a road trip. I thought of the mountains in the Banff region of Alberta, but the rising prices of gas and accommodations, plus his limited time that would have to account for driving, limited us to a closer area. He suggested the 'Badlands' of Saskatchewan.
Did you know that there were Badlands in Saskatchewan? I didn't until I began looking for them online, to see what "Badlands" could even mean when you think of flat, plain, boring Saskatchewan.
Well, I found them.....and a whole lot more!
This is what you think of when you think of the Canadian Provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba - flat, farmer's fields, and you can see forever into the distance. As a person growing up in the Canadian Prairies, you get used to the scenery. Driving West means that you have to have a serious supply of sunflower seeds to munch on to keep you awake through the Prairies, at least until you reach the Saskatchewan-Alberta border.....or so I had been led to believe for most of my adult life. My partner, on the other hand, grew up in the Muskoka Valley of Northern Ontario, where cottagers went to spend summers in the beautiful hilly beaches and ski in the winters. So to him, coming to live in the Prairies was one of the most beautiful things to see, especially the Prairie sunsets, which I would also argue are some of the most beautiful sunsets in the world, aside from in Hawaii!
Seeing his boyish excitement when driving out from Manitoba to Saskatchewan was entertaining.
It's a matter of perspective. One sees the familiar and calls it boring, yet another will find the beauty in the mundane.
After perusing online, I had a renewed inspiration about Saskatchewan (SK), and seeing that we would likely see more than just 'flat land' throughout our road trip, I began feeling excited for the trip.
The trip itinerary - carefully prepared by 'yours truly' - began with the first stop in Swift Current, SK. My partner, being a former long-haul truck driver, used to do a round-trip run to Swift Current and had found a Husky Restaurant that had an East Indian menu with his favourite butter chicken naan. But, due to the many changes that happened from Covid, when we got to the restaurant, they no longer had a menu...of any kind! Everything happens for a reason, I always say: We'd seen a pop-up sign exiting our hotel parking lot that said "Curry House", advertising an Authentic East Indian restaurant near the hotel (literally across the parking lot from it, actually)! So that was our first stop, and it was delicious! The manager paid extra attention to the butter chicken, as he knew that it was being "compared" to some high standards, as told to him by my partner.
After a comfy, restful night in a clean hotel (the Widus Inn, where it is owned by a lovely Oriental man who was a wonderful host), we were off to the start of what was to be one of the most scenic road trips I've ever taken!
After a surprisingly beautiful drive South from Swift Current towards the West Gate of the Grasslands National Park - and stopping to ask for directions twice due to poor sign markings - we reached the Visitor office and paid for our park pass, then began the Eco Tour: A self-guided drive tour of the grasslands.
After a short maiden voyage to getting back into shape, and some breathtaking views of the valley, we were off to DogTown: One of the largest natural preserve areas in the country for Black-Tailed Prairie Dogs who live in 'colonies' and are apparently really sociable amongst each other!
After a stunning drive through the West Grasslands - and somehow unintentionally making our way OUT of the Grasslands National Park, finding ourselves driving through the back roads of farmers' fields - we managed to get on the road toward the East Gate of the Park, where we were able to check into our oTENTik; A free-standing structure that is a cross between a tent and an A-Frame rustic cabin. It was again an adventure getting there as the signs for the Park are not as clear as you would expect a Government of Canada Park to be....but then again....ok, I won't go there!
The oTentiks are an AMAZING alternative to tenting with the comforts of a more sturdy structure. Each of the 8 oTENTik campsites are equipped with electricity, propane BBQ, picnic table, fire pit with 4 chairs, deck with 2 chairs, a heater and fan, inside table for four, and can sleep 6 people. You pay a small fee for a fire permit to have unlimited use of really good, dry firewood that burns cleanly and well. There are vault toilets - which are small, clean buildings with outhouse toilets in them - and a community sink for collecting water for drinking and washing. Best of all...hardly ANY bugs as it is always fairly windy in the Park due to the wide open areas and terrain. It can get 10 degrees hotter during the day, and quite cold at night (went down to 9 degrees Celsius each night we were there)!
My Dad was a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC), early in his teaching career and had taken me to one of their meetings at one time when I was 'little'. To a youngster, I found the meeting to be boring, sitting around a bunch of stodgy old guys talking about measurements, telescopic focal lengths, and a bunch of numbers and letters supposedly naming galaxies and star clusters. My thoughts these two nights my partner and I spent viewing the dark night sky speckled with trillions of stars was of that day and of my father, who LOVED showing me the stars during our camping trips each summer at Falcon Lake Campground in Manitoba. My mom also adored camping, prepping and organizing at least a month in advance, her excitement getting increasingly contagious as the day approached where we would leave for a week or a few at a time. Those were amazing times for me as a child. And now that both of my parents are deceased, and this camping trip with my partner being the first in over 15 years, I couldn't help but think fondly of those times with them.
My partner and I reminisced, sharing stories about camping with our families in our younger years, and enjoyed roasting some smokies while staring at the stars. It was wonderful to share this experience with him, to refresh our relationship, and to feel the emotions of joy and excitement that is so rare in these days, these times in this current world.
We saw countless satellites - some really bright, and some faint lights - streaking through the night sky, and even witnessed what we would call an Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon (UAP) that we could not explain! As it got chillier, we cozied up in the bed with a sleeping bag and blankets. Needless to say, I was too excited to sleep!
In the morning, we both arose early as you do when you are out in nature, reconnecting with Mother Gaia's circadian rhythm . The Barn swallows - which I'd thought were Purple Martins but were swallows - were up early twittering like 'squeaky toys' and flying to and fro from our tent ballasts where they had their nest perched.
We spent our second day in the Grasslands driving through the Badlands Parkway tour, a one lane, double-traffic road that runs along the top of the valley with outstanding views!
We were so beat from the hot sun after the Badlands Parkway tour that we took a short nap before another excellent supper at the campground (prepped by "yours truly"). Sad that we were spending the last night in the Badlands, we enjoyed a wonderful Oracle card reading, campfire, and beautiful dark sky astronomy before heading to bed.
I had brought a bag of old papers that my mother had as well as some of my old 'stuff' to burn at the campfire for the New Moon, which we were in the energy of at the time of the trip. I have to say that burning the old really felt GOOD! Since my mother had passed away 10 months ago, I have been going through her things and down-sizing. I feel that I can begin to fully embrace NO ATTACHMENTS at this time so 'letting go' of many items that could just sit and collect dust has allowed the start of a sense of closure to her crossing over. I held my family's memories from the beginning of this trip and knew I was healing throughout each day of the road trip!
The next morning, we were off to Regina. Our thoughts kept holding space for the memories that we'd just made in the Badlands.
The road we decided upon to Regina was to take us to an area called Big Muddy, where it was said to be the hiding place of bandits such as the likes of the Sundance Kid since the coulees, buttes, and hidden caves were perfect for hiding after doing some 'naughty deeds'. However, when we got to the Visitor Centre in the small town (named Big Beaver) that you would book a tour to see these sites, we were told that the tours are 3-4 or up to 8 hours long, and a Guide would drive with you to direct you and personally narrate your self-tour. Plus, a tour guide was unavailable at that time (as were many people in the town - looked like a Ghost Town!) Since it was mid-afternoon, and we still had some driving to do, we opted to forego the tour for the next SK Badlands visit....and make sure to pre-book the tour!
The road leading to Regina was very interesting, winding through valleys and farmer's fields - giving us a scenic and eye-opening road trip in itself. We also found that through some of the flat areas where there was Private land for farming, the amount of grasshoppers on the road sounded like we were traveling on a gravel surface with the noise of these hoppers hitting the car! Eeeeewwwwww!
Our simple but lovely accommodations in Regina were to be the base camp for our short day trips to the Qu'Appelle Valley, Little Manitou Lake, and Moose Jaw, before heading home to Winnipeg.
After meeting a friend for dinner in the evening, a restful night and lazy, rainy morning we set off to drive the scenic Qu'Appelle Valley starting at Fort Qu'Appelle, driving West around Echo Lake, Mission Lake, and Katepwa Lake before making our way back to our home base. We stopped at various beaches along the way and admired the beautiful valley.
After a beautiful yet brief 3 hour drive through the Qu'Appelle Valley, we made our way back to our home base in Regina. We had heard about this neat building called the Bell Barn that was close to Indian Head on our way back to Regina so we decided to stop and have a look. They offered tours, but we got there after hours, so we just walked around it and read the inscription.
That evening, before heading for a late Vietnamese dinner, I perused the internet for what wonders lay on the drive to Little Manitou Lake, our next day trip. The lake lies close to a town about 2 hours Northwest of Regina, called Watrous and is purported to be the "Dead Sea" of Canada, having higher concentrations of salts and minerals than the Dead Sea! With its claims come that of the water being healing to many ailments and allows one to be completely buoyant. To me, it was a MUST SEE!
I found that along the route, there was a winery - the only one in Saskatchewan - that offers picnic lunches in the orchard grounds, so we HAD to stop there!
I woke up after a somewhat restless sleep feeling groggy, with an irritated throat, so my partner was the driver this time. I attributed my symptoms to the New Moon which had just occurred the evening prior. I, like many empaths feel the energies of the moon's and other planetary alignments very strongly. We made our way to our first stop on our way to Little Manitou Lake: Over the Hill Orchards. On our way, we were looking for signs for the winery and did not find one. We knew that the fact that we made it to a little town called Lumsden meant that we went too far. So, we decided to stop in the cute little tourist town. I found a place called The Painted Parasol Gift & Toy on the Main Street that looked interesting and where I could ask for directions. Wouldn't you know that it was a shop with Metaphysical items! I went in and the first display was of precious stone jewelry. I felt quite guided! The 'kicker' was when I went to the checkout counter to ask the owner directions to the winery and saw an item I never thought I'd find in Canada: When I had visited Hawaii with my mother in 2011, we island hopped to Maui where a childhood friend of mine was working at an upscale boutique in the West Central part of the island. My friend gave me a perfume that the owner - her Manager - had made, called "Bootzie" perfume. There, on the counter in a little town in Saskatchewan stood bottles of "Bootzie" perfume! I mentioned to the owner about the perfume being nostalgic and she said that they get the perfume directly from Maui....likely from Bootzie herself! What are the chances of finding THAT??
I always say that there is always a reason for everything. If we would have found the winery immediately, we would have bypassed the town completely and missed this revelation! We managed to find directions to the winery - which we'd missed by only 10 minutes drive - and headed there.