Well folks. It is safe to say that Summer 2016 is now officially in the books. The leaves are starting to turn vibrant colours and the mornings are a bit more brisk than they were a few weeks ago. As with the changing of any season, I and many others often find themselves reflecting about the adventures that were had, the friends that were made and the memories that will permeate future campfires for years to come.
While my summer was one marked with reality shows, overnight hikes, bear encounters and a few lazy days on the beach I thought I would extend the invitation to some other Saskatchewan adventurers and bloggers to tell their favourite Saskatchewan summer memory.
Share your favourite summer moment in the comments. I would love to hear about them! Also, make sure to check out each of the bloggers who participated in this story!
The Journey to Nut Point by SaskHiker
By far my favourite hike that I completed this year was our journey to Nut Point in Lac La Ronge Provincial Park. This 30km round trip is the perfect way to spend a weekend soaking in the beauty of the Canadian Shield in Saskatchewan.
If you want to do this hike for yourself I have written a bunch of tips and information that will be useful to you. Click here for more info.
What made this hike a highlight of the summer for me was how perfect everything was. The weather was gorgeous, the wild blueberries were ripe and the dogs were happy to be out on the trail. Everything just seemed to come together as we made our way through the winding trail.
Everything about the hike tells you a story if you are willing to listen to it. The moss that carpets large sections of the trail speaks of an old forest that has stood the test of time. The white granite that crumbles under your feet is a record of billions of years of Earth's history. When overlooking the waters one can't help but think of the thousands of years of human activity that has occurred in the area. It's not hard to image First Nations tribes moving about on canoes fishing the abundant waters.
Nut Point Trail is a time capsule that is worth exploring.
Killdeer Badlands, Grasslands National Park – East Block by The Saskatchewan Border
I've always been partial to rivers and forests, but southern Saskatchewan has an air of mystery that is too enticing not to check out. The Killdeer Badlands are a true hidden gem straddling the U.S. border in the sparsely populated Wood Mountain Plateau. It wins the spot for my favourite visit this summer purely by the fact it delivers and excels on its promise—seemingly endless terrain, incredible geological history and the most intense skies the province has to offer. If your annoying cousin from Ontario rambles on about Saskatchewan being flat, Grasslands National Park should lay that debate to rest.
In 1874, Canada's first documented Cretaceous fossils were found in the Killdeer Badlands by George Mercer Dawson. Fossils are still found in the area today. While the rest of the province was covered under a kilometre-thick sheet of ice during the most recent ice age, the plateau stood above, resulting in a remarkable preservation of rocks dating back to the last great extinction event. Much of the current landscape is owed to thousands of years’ worth of meltwater, rain and wind carving a grand expanse of valleys, coulees and sandstone buttes.
Killdeer Badlands is a popular departure point for backcountry camping in Grasslands National Park. There are also several hiking and cycling trails that allow visitors access to some of the most stunning viewpoints in the valley such as the Zahursky Ridge Trail Route. Getting to the badlands is easier than it looks thanks to adequate road signage; however, prepare for gravel roads that may become impassible when wet. Be sure to bring a topographic map, compass, GPS and plenty of water when hiking off-trail.
I love day trips, so my hubby and I went to the Qu’Appelle valley to the east of Regina. That part of the valley consists of 4 lakes: Pasqua, Echo, Mission and Katepwa also known as the Calling Lakes. The valley actually starts in Lake Diefenbaker to the west and ends near the Manitoba border, so we were only seeing a very small part of it.
Fort Qu'Appelle began as a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post in 1864 and once was in the running to become the capital of the province before it lost to Regina. There are many signs of Fort Qu’Appelle’s rich Aboriginal history. If you go near the RCMP station, there is a statue that commemorates the signing of Treaty 4 by Chiefs of the Cree, Saulteaux, and Assiniboine First Nations in 1874. There’s also a community centre that is in the shape of a teepee, and the residents enjoy the week long Treaty 4 gathering that takes place every September.
We headed down highway 56 towards Katepwa. We stopped in Lebret to photograph the beautiful old church that is near the top of the hill. Apparently my hubby was feeling energetic because he wanted to climb to the top of the hill to see the church up close. I have driven past the church many times but haven’t ever climbed up there, so I guess it was time.
We finally reached the church via a rustic, meandering path that leads to it. Out of breath, we had to stop for a rest. Luckily the view was amazing. You can see the current Sacred Heart church at the base of the hill, with Mission Lake behind the village. It’s certainly more majestic that the little church on the hill, but I still like the old wooden church. Can you imagine how devout the parishioners were to climb that hill every Sunday?
Climbing the hill made us hungry, so we headed to Katepwa for lunch. We found a spot on the patio of the Katepwa Beach Bar and Grill. It’s across the street from the beach, so we could people watch. Our lunch was surprisingly good. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it was really fresh and tasty. Besides for the bar, there aren’t a lot of amenities in Katepwa- just a store and a golf course. I guess we were lucky that the bar and grill has good food!
Fun Things to Do in the Qu’Appelle Valley
The Trans Canada Trail goes through this part of the Qu’Appelle Valley, so you can hike past all 4 of the lakes if you are so inclined. It’s not a hard hike, but it’s obviously fairly lengthy. Most of it seems to be either boardwalk or asphalt, so it’s not like you have to trudge through a mess of thistles.
Hiking is popular on other trails as well. There’s a hill in Katepwa called the Pimple Hill (charming name, I know) that you can climb – it’s on the side of the golf course. In fact, there are many paths that cross all over the hills and on the top. If you go, wear long pants because the native grasses that grow there are kind of sharp.
Exploring the Nipekamew Sand Cliffs by Lost Girls Guide to Finding the World
This summer I finally managed to hike into the 120 million-year-old Nipekamew Sand Cliffs southeast of La Ronge - a place I’ve wanted to visit for a long time.
Accessible from highway 165, just west of the Nipekamew River, the parking lot and trail head are 1.2 kilometres from the highway. The hiking trail is well defined and easy for people of all ages to access with a short 1.5 kilometres hike in to see the ancient sand cliffs.
Surrounded by the jack pine and spruce of the boreal forest, the trail teems with millions of blueberries in late summer. Once at the end of the trial and along the riverbank, the wind-eroded sand cliffs seem to glow when hit by the sun and it’s easy to imagine the area being home to dinosaurs during the Cretaceous period – a very unique place to explore in Saskatchewan.
This past summer I took a weekend getaway to Ogema, a town an hour and a half south of Regina. I had heard plenty of great things about Ogema, so I decided a trip was in order.
On our way there, my girlfriend and I spent the night at Burns House Bed and Breakfast, a beautifully restored 1920s T. Eaton’s catalogue house. The house is surrounded by nothing but gorgeous prairie, and was a fantastic escape away from the city. We fell asleep to the sound of howling coyotes and woke up to the chirping of birds, both of which are seemingly more and more rare in the city. A breakfast of fruit, yogurt, bacon, eggs, toast and storytelling with the host started off a perfect morning and a great rest of the day!
Once we arrived in Ogema, we headed straight to the Deep South Pioneer Museum. The museum showcases 32 buildings from the early to mid-20th Century, complete with antique radios, telephones,dishes, farm equipment and school supplies. One of the most interesting buildings in this museum was the school, which showed world maps prior to World War II, pictures of Queen Elizabeth as a child and books and lessons from a bygone era. It is museums like this that reminds us where Saskatchewan came from, and the daily struggles the first pioneers had to live with.
While the museum was fascinating, Ogema’s real prize is the Southern Prairie Railway. This train runs through the city twice a day, taking its passengers on a variety of adventures. Our train ride went from Ogema to the ghost town of Horizon, which dried up after Highway 13 was moved several decades ago.
The hour long train ride to Horizon showcases the endless prairie landscape around you, and, if you’re lucky, some very photogenic llamas.
After the train arrived in Horizon, we visited a grain elevator, and we were taught how grain was weighed, stored, organized and transported. Having seen grain elevators my entire life, it was a great opportunity to finally get inside of one!
After visiting inside the elevator, we viewed a miniature model of Horizon and how it used to look. This really helped put into perspective how the town just vanished once the highway was moved.
While we only took one of the tours, there are several other tours we could have gone on as well, such as the Pangman Market Train, the Rum Runner tour, the Father's Day Burgers and Bears and the Robbery tour, where the train is hijacked by thugs who donate all the money they “steal” to charity.
A week after our trip to Ogema, the Southern Prairie Railway announced they had completed their second rail car and added it to the train, allowing for a wider variety of food and leg room. The new addition is allowing the train to go to new places and do things it never could before, so I’m excited to go back and try the train again soon!
Did you have an adventure in Sask this summer you want to share? Tell us in the comments!