Put away all that you think you know about Saskatchewan. Put aside the clichés of this Province. Because when I did, when I welcomed in all that I witnessed without bias, I discovered a place of wonder that all Roughrider Fans have known for years.
The plan? Just me, the Harley-Davidson, and the Open Roads of Saskatchewan. A bit of background, my family has been farming in this Prairie Province for close to 100 years. I personally can’t take credit for any of those years, but I do have a familiarity with the landscape…at least I thought.
Yes, you would be correct if you said that Saskatchewan was flat with the skyline stretching as far as the eye could see. You’d also be correct if you said there are wheat fields, alfalfa fields, and canola fields as far as the eye could see. But this is only 1/3rd of the story. With only 4 days to uncover its beauty, I was on my way to visit the Sand Dunes of Saskatchewan at Douglas Provincial Park. Yes, I said Sand Dunes.
East of Swift Current I came across the town of Chaplin. Unique in its name (Either an homage to Charlie, or props to religion, or none of the above) the destination is North along Hwy. 19. Sparse in signage, my Spidey senses were in full alert mode as the road jutted east then north, then east, then north again, sigh. You ever get the sense that you’re going the wrong way? I’ll admit, there were moments I was ready to turn around. But thankfully I pressed-on. After 50 minutes of traveling what seemed to be an endless road, to my relief, the Douglas Provincial Park sign revealed itself. East of the turn off to the Park, a ¼ of a km away was the trailhead of the Sand Dunes.
After a brief Superman costume change, I exchanged my riding gear for hiking gear. PS If you must change, know that there are no places to change, it’s just you and Mother Nature 😊 Embarrassment aside, the well-marked signs gave guidance to the namesake of the area.
The path is well established with soft and hard-packed sand guiding the way thru a parade of poplar trees and wild grass. This was not the terrain that I remembered as a youth. Adding to the experience were intermittent benches to rest and the occasional slope to keep your sense of adventure fresh. After 45 minutes of moderate walking, the dunes revealed themselves. Unlike the Sand Dunes of the Sahara, these mounds sloped gently over the countryside with smatterings of grass poking its way thru the sand. I could show you pictures of this beach-like oasis, but that would be cheating. Imagine the sand-traps on a golf course x 10, and you’re there. But this wasn’t my only stop on the Open Road. Next stop, Rouleau.
Named in honour of a 19th-century Canadian Politician (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Rouleau), the town of Rouleau was/is the site of the Famous Canadian Sitcom, Corner Gas (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corner_Gas). From 2004 – 2009, Brent Butt and his crew called Rouleau, Saskatchewan home, but under the pseudonym of Dog River. So naturally, I needed to visit the site of Canadian History. Am I overstating the significance? Ha! OK, I just wanted to geek-out. I soon discovered that the Gas Station of Corner Gas was demolished years back because the building wasn’t structurally sound…I mean it was just a prop. There are signs showing the location and then there’s the town itself which was used for shots throughout the series…OK, that was kind of cool. But let’s be real, Rouleau seemed aged when I visited.
My next stop was a visit to a working farm. Because everyone knows that farming is the #1 industry in the Province. But, an aside, did you know, Saskatchewan is one of the world's largest producers & exporters of Potash (https://www.google.com/search?q=saskatchewan+%231+industry&oq=saskatchewan+%231+industry&aqs=chrome..69i57.8291j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8) Cool! This farm is my cousin’s farm which is significantly larger than most. As a grain farmer, he and his partner have all the modern technology available to them, including a granary! Sweet! Once I turned off the thunder pipes of my Harley-Davidson, I was enveloped by the sound of silence. As a City Boy visiting the country I had a moment in the experience. Absent was the sound of motorized vehicles, or the beeping sounds of a recently pressed button on a crosswalk, or the screaming siren of an emergency vehicle. In its place, surrounding the farm was the idle breeze passing thru the tall pines and the gentle whisper of birds nestled in a nearby Quonset. Yes, this is the landscape of Saskatchewan.
My journey north thru Saskatchewan revealed yet another side to this Province. Adorned with lakes, tall pines, and rolling hills, my sites ricocheted back and forth trying to get a glimpse of all that Mother Nature offered up in this Province.
The shield of arms displays a red lion (a traditional royal symbol) on a horizontal gold band across the upper third of the shield; three gold wheat sheaves on a green background (symbolizing Saskatchewan's agriculture & resources) occupy the lower two-thirds. But beyond the obvious is the wonder that is this magnificent province. Saskatchewan from North to South, from East to West, is by far a world of discovery that must be seen. For me, after 4 days, I only began to scrape the surface and look forward to my many future returns.
Listen to my radio interview on The Informed Traveler: