We were extremely busy in Winnipeg visiting with family, getting things done on our RV and watching some TV series finales (Survivor, Big Bang Theory, and Game of Thrones, these extended over a couple of weeks). For the RV we got new tires and valve stems installed, had Service B done on the Sprinter chassis, got a wheel alignment done, and I installed a new Tire Pressure Monitoring System that sends alerts to my smartphone if there are any issues with the tires. We also checked out Timmy Tom’s Pizzeria in Trans Canada Brewing and we could really tell why the Pizza chef had won the world pizza competition for Canada! For Mother’s Day brunch we had a great spread at the Scandinavian centre and we even converted Edie from a flip phone to a Smartphone😉
Our next destination was Regina for the Internment Service at the RCMP Depot for Sharon’s Dad Gunnar who had passed away last November. On the way we stopped to see the Cypress River Wetland, the estimates are that we have lost 70% of the wetland’s in Canada since settlement began. We carried on to Brandon to visit Brian and Susan’s close friends Barb and Pat and their family and had a lovely evening and a great breakfast before heading to Regina.
In Regina we had real trouble getting an Air BnB that all the family could stay in. The first one we booked cancelled because they had to do reno’s, the second one cancelled due a family event, and luckily, we were able to find a third one that allowed us to book for 3 nights instead of the 6 that they normally require. The house was a good size and we could fit our RV in the driveway, although the electrical outlet couldn’t handle our small electric heater. After dinner the first night, we went for a walk with our nieces and had some fun in a nearby playground. I guess you’re never too old for a playground!
The service in the RCMP Depot Chapel on Saturday was to honour Gunnar and his service with the RCMP and thank the family as the RCMP recognized the support the family gives their members. The Chaplain had some interesting word pronunciations which gave us some smiles and long term family friend and fellow RCMP Pete Whittemore did a beautiful tribute to Gunnar. There is a parade square at Depot that you are only allowed to step into if you are in full RMCP uniform. We had the privilege to walk through the parade square to honour Gunnar as we walked to the cemetery. On Sunday we spent time visiting with family and friends and were back to watch the Game of Thrones finale, luckily the Air BnB had HBO😉. Monday was departure day for everyone so we got a family photo.
We began our journey NW from Regina with the next stop being Fort Battleford, conveniently with a campground right beside the National Historic Site. Here are a few interesting facts about Saskatchewan (SK):
- It has more than 100,000 freshwater lakes
- More than 50% of Canada’s wheat crop is grown here
- The RCMP Heritage Centre (aka Depot) is the only training academy in Canada for the RCMP
- SK established the first Public Health Care system in North America
- The endangered Whooping Crane, North America’s Tallest Bird, uses SK as an important feeding and migration ground. Interestingly we saw them in Aransas Texas and they migrate to Wood Buffalo National Park which we are heading to so we hope to see them again.
We stopped at the RCMP statue in North Battleford before heading to the campground so we could visit the Fort the next morning.
We could walk from the campground to Fort Battleford National Historic Site (established in 1876 as a NWMP post) and not only were we the first visitors of the day but we were the only ones to come all morning so literally we had the 4 staff ladies all to ourselves to give us the tour of the fort. The history of this area included two Cree nations, Chief Poundmaker, and Chief Big Bear, the Metis settlers to the East, and the NWMP Forts including Fort Battleford. The Cree way of life was changing due to the bison population being killed off and they were in the process of signing Treaty 6. However their understanding of land rights was very different from what the Canadian Government was thinking and this led to conflicts. Some of Big Bear’s warriors went to Frog Lake and Fort Pitt to try to get rations for their people and the skirmishes led the settlers to believe they were under attack. In 1885, 500 settlers decided to take refuge in Fort Battleford which in turn led the NWMP to bring in reinforcements in order to get the Cree under control. In September of 1885 eight Cree men were tried unjustly and sentenced to hang for murder and were executed on November 27th which was Canada’s largest mass hanging. The fort has several replica buildings to see including the barracks, the guard house, the sick horse stable, the officer’s quarters, and the Commanding Officer’s Residence. The settlers would have been in tents inside the fort walls during the confrontation.
After the Fort tour we were heading for Leduc Alberta to visit Sharon’s cousin Robyn and her family but we stopped at a couple of locations. In Battleford we saw the World’s Largest Baseball Bat. In Cut Knife we stopped to see the World’s Largest Tomahawk. The Tomahawk was officially unveiled in 1971 but then went through a restoration in 2005 and is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records. Close by they had a historic museum but it was closed the day we were there so we just looked around the outside.
Next we crossed into Alberta so here are some fun facts:
- Official Flower – Wild Rose
- Official Rock – Fossilized Wood
- Official Bird – Great Horned Owl
- Official Animal – Rocky Mountain Big Horned Sheep
- Official Tree – Lodge Pole Pine
- Official Fish – Bull Trout
One of the first things we came across was a massive house being moved and taking up the entire road way. He could pull over slightly for oncoming traffic to squeeze by, but we had to follow him for about 20 minutes until he got to a section that was wide enough that he could let us go by. We checked in at the Lions Campground in Leduc which was not too far from Robynne and Rodney’s house so they picked us up and we had a lovely dinner and visit with them and their son Curtis.
On the way out of Leduc we stopped to see Leduc # 1 Energy Discovery Centre. This site was setup by volunteers and opened in 1997 to showcase Canada’s Oil Industry. The centre not only has an indoor area with displays and videos but it also has an outside area with 13 acres of oilfield equipment. It even seemed like they had an oil camp area for school kids. Leduc #1 is where the modern oil industry started in Alberta. On February 13th 1947 Leduc #1 blew in which resulted in Alberta and Canada becoming successful on the world oil map, and forever changing the economy and destiny of Alberta. Leduc #1 was operational from 1947 until 1974 and produced 317,000 barrels of oil and 323 million cubic feet of natural gas. Canada has the 3rd largest oil reserves in the world and 97% of that is in the Oil Sands. 20% of the Oil Sands is reached through mining and 80% is captured through drilling. Interesting statistic is that the Oil Sands green house gas emissions total annually is only 3.5% of that produced by the coal industry in the US annually. It was very cool to climb around on the equipment outside.
We had a quick stop at Clifford E Lee Nature Sanctuary to have lunch and do some hiking along the boardwalks. We saw Canada Geese, Tree Swallows, Red Winged Blackbirds, Buffleheads, Chickadees, and we think a Swallowtail Butterfly.
In Spruce Grove we went to see the historic Grain Elevator and were lucky enough to have a volunteer give us a tour before they closed for the day. It was quite fascinating to hear how ingenious the farmers were to deliver, sort, store, and ship the grains from the elevator with almost everything made of wooden components. It’s so great that volunteer organizations have tried to preserve some of these historic structures so everyone can learn from them. It was even interesting to hear about the one remaining team of people that go around to paint these historic elevators.
When you are doing this trip one of the most important books you can get is called the Milepost. They republish this each year so the facts are all current and it gives you what to stop and see all along the highways. On our way to Whitecourt we stopped at Sangudo to see the sundial shaped like a grain elevator, we saw the second longest wooden railway trestle bridge in the world (nowhere to pull off for this), and we stopped for the touching tribute in the Fallen Four Memorial Park in Mayerthorpe. In 2005 four young RCMP officers were shot in the line of duty while investigating a farm north of Mayerthorpe.
We decided to stop in Whitecourt and stay at the Lions Campground for the night so we could check out the Mountain Bike (MTB) trails the following day. It was raining lightly the next morning but I got the bikes put together and we headed out to do the Cougar Ridge Single track trail and return on the paved Centennial trail. The first part was fairly easy but then all of a sudden we had a 50 M steep drop and at the bottom there were massive mud tracks where ATV’s must have gotten stuck. We soon realized we had missed the cut off for the Cougar Ridge trail so had to climb back up, our muddy bikes looked the part anyway😉 The ridge trail was rolling in nature with a nice view of the valley as you went along. Eventually we came out to a connector bridge and then a long climb up the centennial trail until we returned to the forest interpretative centre and in turn the campground where we hosed down the bikes. I enjoyed this first MTB ride which was about 5.6 KM in total but Sharon maybe not as much. After lunch and a late check out we took a quick look around the Forest Interpretative Centre and grabbed some brochures on upcoming areas. On our drive that day we stopped in Fox Creek for supplies and also to check out the MTB park they had. It had lots of advanced features but we wanted to make a little more distance that day so didn’t try them out.
This blog has covered the next 1743 KMS of our journey. Our plans are to continue through Alberta and on to Dawson Creek and we heard about another area called Tumblers Ridge before we start the journey up to Yellowknife in the NWT. Lots more to follow.