Seventeen years ago a group of Physiotherapists (plus an award winning poet!) initiated an annual canoe trip in our provinces pristine Churchill River system. Preparing, paddling, portaging, running rapids, making fires, cooking and yes talking, talking and talking, together has cemented an extraordinary, unrelenting, complex relationship that is as strong and deep as the river system that spawned and nourished it. The origins of the moniker, canudists has never been fully explained, at least not with photographic proof, so one is left to speculate as to it’s veracity. However, the canudists have on occasion invited husbands along for many other events including parties, holidays, skiing, eating and general frivolity.
The subject of this blog is the result of such an invitation where three husbands and 6 canudists pooled resources and headed out on a ‘Bucket List Check-off’ cycling adventure. Our route explores southern Saskatchewan with a strong influence from a book by Robin & Arlene Karpan entitled ‘The Great Saskatchewan Bucket List’. (Click HERE for a link to the book).
We headed out with two vehicles, a trailer, bicycles, tents, coolers full of food with and only one instruction — there was to be no complaining throughout the entire trip.
Our first stop was the Historic Reesor Ranch in Cypress Hills. This is a family run Guest Ranch/Bed and Breakfast with excellent accommodations, food and facilities.
The conglomerate hills above the ranch beckoned us for an exploratory meander through pastures, cow pies and brush. Bird life around the ranch was spectacular.
After a nourishing ranch breakfast and extensive directional instructions we mounted our two wheeled steeds and headed out through Reesor’s pasture, following roads that took us to a ‘Bucket List’ beauty – The Cypress Hills Conglomerate Cliffs.
Wild flowers, pine cones, maturing berries, pollinating insects and air as pure as vaporized sunshine evoked a feeling of incredible gratitude for the privilege of experiencing something so primal.
Next up was The Spring Valley Guest Ranch, a Bed and Breakfast that has special history for Cathy and I. Twenty years ago, along with two friends, Dave and Elaine Sedgman we looked after this establishment while owner Jim Saville took a much needed break. It was such a delight to see him again and renew a longstanding friendship.
Our stay here was enhanced by sharing the evening and next morning with another couple that was unable to partake in the whole trip. Thanks for making the effort to be with us Katherine and Randy.
Group shots are a favorite of this group and people will go to no end to prepare for the perfect shot. For some unsubstantiated reason I was accused of being a real ‘Bum’ for taking this picture.
Our journey to Eastend proved to be a muddy affair. A steady drizzle moistened the gravel road enough to ensure that a constant cascade of clay, mud and rocks were flicked out with every turn of the wheel, encasing our bikes and the trailer with the equivalent of a paleontologist’s protection for removing a T-Rex skull. A local car wash ate ten loonies in an attempt to strip away the mess.
The drive through this part of Saskatchewan is spectacular. Prairie grasses, coulees, and the occasional cropped field lead ones eyes up to hills that hold a surprising number of dinosaur remains.
The T.rex Discovery Centre is a world class research and display building that must surely be one of the highlights of this area.
Eastend is full of surprises. Who would have guessed that an evening of drumming was available in a small town. Trea, our teacher provided drums, and a gentle, patient, encouraging environment to feel the beat of 9 Djembe drums.
After a suitable cleanup of bicycles, a tour of the T.Rex center, our evening of drumming and a delicious camping supper and breakfast along the Frenchman River along with a good nights rest we headed out. Our route today was an enjoyable ride along paved roads with minimal and respectful traffic. The Frenchman River Valley tested our muscles as we headed to the top after an exhilarating decent.
An eight km. detour into the Pine Cree Regional Park proved to be a highlight of the ride. A veritable oasis with tall trees, cold spring water to heal feet and cool heads, birds and ample facilities for lunch kept us entertained for a full hour.
Our next two days and nights took us to one of the great wonders of Canadian parks. The West and East Block of Grasslands National Park provide an assurance that the world could be whole again. Words are so inadequate to describe the feelings of awe and wonder as you walk among this pristine prairie landscape that occupies about 3% of it’s former dominance across the Great Plains of North America. Flourishing flowers, prairie grasses, cactus, insects, birds, Black-tailed Prairie Dogs, sweeping vistas of hills and endless sky encase my brain in a nourishing soup of overwhelming gratitude to be present in this very special place. I will let a selection of photos help you to understand.
A full gallery of the pictures I took can be seen HERE.