Monthly Archives: May 2018

Ninth Day – Saskatoon to Swift Current

I thought Batoche National Historic Site was near North Battleford – to the northwest of Saskatoon. It is actually northeast of Saskatoon so today I did a bit of back-tracking but I took back roads and the weather was great.

Batoche was fascinating – the battle between Gabriel Dumont with his Metis brotherhood against Middleton of the NWFF (North West Field Force) was fought on Mission Ridge beside the village. The location is deceptively serene and pastoral overlooking the deep valley of the South Saskatchewan River. It is hard to believe that a fierce battle was raged here over four days in early May 1885. There is a beautifully quiet cemetery set back from the other buildings which contains the remains of a number of the fallen as well as Gabriel Dumont who had escaped to the United States but came back to die here. The cemetery is still being used today. My guide, Amber, told me that the original church is still used for weddings and both her parents and her brother were married there. Buster preferred the shade of the lovely tree outside the church.

From Batoche I planned to go to Buffalo Pound Provincial Park. That’s where the girls and I stayed when we moved Sekyiwa to Calgary about twenty years ago – where we lay on a hilltop watching the amazing Northern Lights.

So off we went down Highway 2 south towards Moose Jaw. Again, all along the way were large marshy areas and ponds loaded with waterfowl. There were a number of different kinds of ducks, a big group of pelicans, there were snow geese and Canada geese, sandhill cranes and a number of raptors that I didn’t recognize.

Further down the road I came upon an interesting sight – a fence line that sported shoes and boots on each post extending for a full kilometre.

I passed a big potash mine similar to the one I had seen yesterday on Highway 16.

It was a beautiful drive but off to the west the sky was becoming blacker and blacker and just before I reached the turnoff to Buffalo Pound the torrential rain hit with huge bolts of lightening and strong gusts of wind. I had to pull over because I could barely see. I waited for the worst to pass and then decided I would forget about Buffalo Pound and head for Moose Jaw. Bus slept through the whole episode.

By the time we got to the Giant Moose the sun was out again but there were deep puddles on a number of the streets. Bus got his feet a bit muddy when he checked out the moose. The last time we were here the girls walked under the statue and were able to assure me that he was anatomically correct. Now there is a fence around him.

We decided to have an early supper then head to Swift Current for the night. There are rumours that we are to get another torrential rainstorm tonight but I’m beginning to doubt that. We’ve got a good setup in a Motel 6 in Swift Current. Bus has had a walk and is sound asleep.

Another great day!

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Day 8 – Riding Mountain, Manitoba to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

It rained in the wee hours of the morning but not heavily. I decided to pack up without eating just in case the rain started up again. Bus was quite comfortable in the tent and a bit reluctant to get moving. I had to drag him out so that I could take the tent down. I had a great shower at the local comfort station and we were on the road by 7:30 am.

We headed west on Highway 16 towards Saskatoon. I didn’t have any particular sights to check out today so thought I would take it as it came. The scenery was heaven for bird-lovers (Glenn and Marilyn take note). The land was flat and full of ponds and marshes with birds of all kinds everywhere. There were ducks, of course, but also terns, snow geese as well as Canada geese, gulls, pelicans and I don’t know what all. I am still learning. I saw a number of raptors. I think one was a peregrine but I can’t say for certain.

At Churchbridge we found a giant looney. It seems that Rita Swanson from Churchbridge created the design that was used to celebrate Canada’s 125th anniversary.

Further down the road, midst wheat fields broken only by small copses of trees I saw a sign warning of moose for the next 6 km. I snorted when I saw the sign. What would a moose be doing in a wheat field? Not a second later I spied a lumbering dark mass moving across a field on the south side of the road. I screeched to a stop, grabbed my camera, zoomed in as best I could and snapped a picture. When I zoomed in on the picture itself, it clearly showed a moose. Guess I’m not as smart as I thought I was.

I saw a sign for the Quill Lake Interpretive Centre in Wynyard so turned off the highway to check it out. I had to go next door to the Town Hall to get the key to get into the Interpretive Centre but it was worth it because it had a lovely display of the waterfowl to be found in the area. Wynyard is on a serious migration path for a number of waterfowl and the ever-growing Quill Lake is a favourite stopover for the birds. (I will have to do some research to find out why the lake keeps growing.)

It had been raining off and on all day and the sky ahead looked pretty dark so I decided to do the hotel thing tonight. I chose the Super 8 because I had had such good luck in Winnipeg. This one is OK but it doesn’t quite meet the standards of the last one.

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Seventh Day on the Road – Winnipeg to Riding Mountain National Park

I recommend the Super 8 on Niakwa Road in Winnipeg. It is clean and modern, comfortable beds, reasonably priced, and helpful staff. What I really liked was the lack of carpets in the room which makes so much sense when they advertise themselves as pet friendly. There is absolutely no doggie smell.

They provide a full help-yourself breakfast so I did just that – eating way more than usual – a blueberry waffle, boiled egg, juice, coffee and giant muffin. I won’t have to eat until supper.

We were on the road by 10 (a bit later than usual) and headed straight for Birds Hill Provincial Park. The land around Winnipeg is pretty flat so as a park goes I have to say it is a bit boring. There are a lot of trails but we didn’t take any – simply doing a perimeter drive. No sentinel rabbits today but I did see an owl fly up as we drove by. And then there was this pickup displaying the name John Henry. I just had to take a picture.

From here we headed to Selkirk where I found gas for $1.19. Yesterday I had seen it for $1.68 near Kakebeka. Does that make sense?

Next on the day’s plan was Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site. Bus and I did the complete tour. It is manned for the summer by university students in authentic reproduction garb. Their time period is 1851 so they tell about the people who were living at the Fort that year and show the houses and shops as they would have been then. It was fascinating. Did you know they actually shoed the oxen? And the ox carts had eight oxen abreast so the roads had to be built to accommodate the width. There was a display about the Hayes River and York Factory as well. All very cool!

From there I set my phone’s GPS to take us to the White Horse statue at St Francois Xavier but we ended up on some farmer’s track. I eventually got us out of that mess and we did find the statue. I think it was a present from the White Horse distillery in Glasgow.

Back onto the Trans-Canada to find the World’s Largest Coke Can in Portage-La-Prairie. We did find it but Bus doesn’t show up very well in the picture. I don’t think he was very impressed.

We headed for Riding Mountain National Park but as we passed through Neepawa I saw a sign that indicated Margaret Laurence had lived there. I just had to check out her home. I loved her Manawaka trilogy. And she had been living in Ghana in 1957 when they achieved independence so I always felt some connection with her. Also, she ended up living in Lakefield where she eventually died and that is just down the road from Eel’s Lake.

So we made our way to Riding Mountain where we have set up camp. There are very few people here and I think I have one of the best campsites – 626 in case you ever stop over. Next to me are a number of oTentiks – fancy tents with BBQ’s and porches that can be rented. There is one couple there that I can hear. And three people drove up to the water tap by my site saying the water at their site isn’t working. Mine is so they were able to fill up. Not far from me is a comfort station with toilets and showers. Can it get any better?

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Day Six – Aaron Provincial Park to Winnipeg

The park was beautiful, the staff were nice and the showers were great but do NOT stay at Aaron overnight. All night long I was serenaded by highway traffic and the continual horn blasts and rumble of trains.

It was another misty morning but the sun eventually broke through and I was able to dry the tent out fairly well.

I heard and then even saw (a rare occurrence I understand) the red-eyed verio right in a poplar at our campsite.

We got away by 8:30 and headed for the Tim’s in Dryden. That’s when I found out that I must have passed over a dateline yesterday and it was in fact an hour earlier.

I headed back down the Trans-Canada and somewhere between Dryden and Kenora I got a call from Sekyiwa. Turns out she won a Leo last night for her costume design work on the movie Dead Shack. Pretty cool!

In Kenora Buster and I checked out Husky the Muskie in McLeod Park.

On the road again, I found myself starting to drag and had to pull over at a picnic stop for a wee nap. I think that’s when I decided to pamper us both and stay at a motel in Winnipeg rather than Birds Hill Park where Fez and I stayed on our honeymoon. I will check the park out tomorrow.

We hit Best Buy where one of the Geek Squad guys helped me figure out my problem putting my camera pics onto the iPad (of course I had to buy another Apple Reader as my old one had bit the dust).

And while I was typing this up I looked out the window to see a trailer load of brand-new Swift canoes. They are gorgeous! I ran out and checked them over. The driver is delivering a couple here in Winnipeg and the rest to Saskatoon but he is staying here tonight. How I miss my canoe right now!

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Fifth Day – Nipigon to Aaron Provincial Park near Dryden

After a really good sleep at Janet’s and a lovely cup of coffee, Buster and I hit the road around 8:30 am. Of course I left his water and food bowls behind but they are easy enough to replace.

I had read that outside of Nipigon are some amazing amethyst deposits so when I saw the sign for the Panorama Amethyst Mine I had to check it out. After a longish, windy, steep and mostly gravel road lined with some pretty amusing signs (I guess they didn’t want you to get discouraged) we finally arrived at the Panorama Mine. We were welcomed with a story about how the deposits were originally found: it seems that a group of forest rangers were dragging machinery back into the bush to build a fire tower when they scraped off a layer of rock to reveal a seam of amethyst crystals. They noted it but then did nothing about it for another 20-30 years. At that point (around 1980) the family that currently owns the Panorama mine staked a claim and have been mining the seams since. We were then given the basics about how the amethyst crystals form (something about earthquakes and splits in the limestone). Then we were told to wander out and see if we could find some rocks that we liked. We brought back what we found, had it weighed and paid $3 a pound. I got a couple of really cool rocks. Buster was not as impressed as I was.

As we left the mine we spotted a baby black bear strolling off into the bush. By the time I got my camera out he was turning into a black speck. I hope you can make him out in the shot.

Further down the road I spotted a unique lawn mower.

Back onto the Trans-Canada we headed for the Terry Fox memorial. Bus enjoyed that a bit more than the mine. And it was there that we spotted the requisite rabbit. Is there a Wonderland connection here?

We didn’t stop in Thunder Bay but carried right on to Kakebeka Falls. I got some new dishes for Buster in the town then headed for the Kakebeka Falls Provincial Park. The falls were incredible! The power of that water is breath-taking. If you are ever out this way you really have to check out these falls. I had noticed a couple of places along the Trans-Canada between Wawa and Nipigon where there were a few ice patches on the rock cuts on the south side of the road (where they didn’t get the sun). There was a patch of ice in the rock by the falls as well. And who did I run into there but the English couple that I had met at White River. I wouldn’t be surprised if we run into each other again along the way.

And now it is 9:20 pm. The sun is still quite high in the sky and I have set up the tent at Aaron Provincial Park near Dryden. Let’s pray it doesn’t rain tonight. (I just heard a pileated woodpecker).

It was breath-taking when the sun finally set.

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Day Four – Wawa to Nipigon

Woke to a damp and foggy day. After bidding goodbye to the Outdoorsman owners we headed into town to check out our old house and the hospital where I had a vague memory of white boots and Dad holding me under a big light while the doctor removed a sliver from my foot. I couldn’t find the house but had a déjà vu moment when I turned onto Algoma Street – toddling along by Mom’s side, Rex in a stroller, headed towards the lake.

We left Wawa by 9 am and soon after hitting the trans-Canada passed another sentinel rabbit on the roadside – just like yesterday as we left Fairbank. Is this a sign?

The sun came out and by the time we hit White River it was quite warm. We checked out the Winnie-the-Pooh statue (White River is the home of the original Winnie) and learned a bit about the population of black bears in the area. We met an English couple who were also headed to Vancouver but had been travelling from Halifax. Like me they are moseying along, checking out the sights.

Once we left White River we ran into some thick patches of fog. There were a number of burnt-out areas along the highway. I’d heard they were already having fires nearby but these areas were probably from last year. We also passed a large open-pit mine or gravel pit with the name Barrick on a sign. Later googling it I think it may have been a gold mine.

We had lunch at the Drifters in Terrace Bay where I had eaten on the Hayes trip. The price of gas has hit $1.50 per litre.

Crossed the beautiful bridge at Nipigon. I later learned that it seems to have a number of engineering glitches as it is regularly being repaired. Nipigon is small so it was quite easy to find Janet Watson by checking with Canadian Tire employees. She was standing in her doorway as I drove up and even though we haven’t seen each other in a zillion years she knew me right away. She is very persuasive so I ended up staying the night after joining her in a potluck supper at her church, a visit to the Paddle-to-the-Sea Park and a climb up the lookout tower. We talked for ages getting caught up on all the family and friend news.

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Day three – Fairbank to Wawa

Some animal in the night decided to noisily check out my pot of water left on the picnic table. I slammed the side of the tent with my hiking pole and yelled at him to get out of here. It seems to have worked because he left and after I downed a benedryl I never heard another sound until 6 am. I also noticed before I took the benedryl that at night the loons and the barred owls are really quite vocal at Fairbank.

In the morning I heard a pileated and a red-eyed verio but I actually saw a hummingbird checking out my MSN fuel container.

This has been a bird/animal day because after I had a lovely hot shower at the comfort station and we were just nicely on our way we saw a rabbit, and later a sandhill crane, two deer grazing near the road and then an osprey in a nest atop a huge hydro tower. We stopped in Bruce Mines hoping to catch a glimpse of the double-crested cormorants that supposedly have a colony nearby but alas we saw only a lonely merganser land in the bay by the marina. We did discover that Bobber’s bakery and Restaurant in Bruce Mines serves wonderful butter tarts.

The north channel and Lake Huron were left behind as we entered Superior territory and made our way through Sault Ste Marie. I hadn’t made note of any special sites to check out there so after picking up a sub we carried on west towards Wawa.

The scenery along this route is spectacular. Chippewa Falls was breathtaking and, as it turns out, the Group of Seven thought so too. A number of their paintings are said to have been inspired by the Chippewa area.

We got to Wawa around 5 pm – a longer day than I will normally do – but I had wanted to spend a night in the place I was born. I’m ensconced in the Outdoorsman – a nice motel on the Main Street run by a lovely couple. Bus is asleep. I think I will wait until tomorrow to check out the town. It seems to close up shop early.

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Second Day – May 23rd, 2018

Joey made me a toasted jalepeno bagel with tomato and mayo for breakfast and Paul loaded me up with coffee. Eels Lake was sparkling in the morning sun when Bus and I hit the road shortly after 8 am. Bus got caught up on his sleep while I listened to a Sue Grafton mystery and we made our way towards Huntsville. Bus left his mark in the downtown park while I enjoyed an americano and scone and we both relaxed in Muskoka chairs in Muskoka. Next on the list, we dropped off Barb Burton’s Macchu Pichu book at the golf club then hit the highway.

We headed toward North Bay then west to Sudbury where we were determined to get a shot of the biggest nickel in the world. By the way, it is NOT at Science North but can be found near the parking lot of the Dynamic Earth building. Thank goodness for the GPS on my phone. So far it works.

It’s after 5 pm now and we’ve set up camp in Fairbank Provincial Park – about 22 km west of Sudbury. The office was closed and the place seems empty but we have a great site. A sign at the entrance mentions this is bear country… I have my smurfs.

Supper for me was my leftover sandwich from last night at the Granite in Bancroft. Bus ate up well and is ready to do some exploring. I do hear some sounds down the lake a ways so I think we will go investigate. We may not be the only people in the park.

I’m glad I brought my water filter. There is a boil advisory for the water here.

Back from our walk around the campsites it seems there are two families in trailers and me in my wee tent and that is it. Course the black flies have made an appearance …

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First Day on the road – May 22, 2018

I didn’t get to visit Mom and Dad a couple of weeks ago when I had a nasty head cold. It would not have been a good idea to share my germs with them. So today I took a bit of a detour and headed to Bancroft. Hey – I’m retired now so there is no great rush. A little detour isn’t going to hurt. Besides, it gave Mom a chance to take me out to dinner to the Granite. And I even got to spend some time with Dad even if he was asleep for the whole visit.

After supper I headed to Eels Lake to spend the night with Paul and Joey in their beautiful new place and found Joey’s brother Rocky and sister Lynne there. We spent a couple of hours getting caught up on family gossip and travel talk.

So tomorrow Bus and I will hit the road in time to meet up with Barb Burton in Huntsville, hand over her Macchu Picchu book then head for Fairbank Provincial Park just west of Sudbury. That’s the plan as of tonight …

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Getting organized

Buster doesn’t know it yet but we will be heading out on the longest trip of his life next week. Buster is 16 and though his eyesight and hearing aren’t what they once were, he is still pretty spry and often mistaken for a pup. He and I will be making the trek out to B.C. to visit family and friends and along the way we will check out as many sights along the Trans-Canada highway as possible. We hope to get in some geocaching as well. There is no rush as I am retired and Bus can’t tell time.

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