We continued on Day 3 of our Canadian Road Trip – west from Ontario to Calgary Alberta and then back again along the TransCanada Highway. If you have been following along the way, thank you – and you might be wondering – “did the car break down?”, “did they get lost?”. No, almost everything went smoothly, and we made the round trip successfully. We loved it! I did find it difficult to write as we drove – so I didn’t! – and I mixed up all of my pictures, and finally I (there is some suspicion as to who is the culprit) broke the computer. So I am very sorry for the delay! At about this time we were thinking of changing up the route home a little – but more about that tomorrow.
On Day 3 we started out in Regina Saskatchewan. I would have liked to spend some time in Regina. We were so far along in our journey and only about 7 and a half hours from our destination – Calgary Alberta. Even though Saskatchewan doesn’t have the inter-provincial travelers’ quarantine order, we are still trying to keep as distant as possible. Also, as we got closer to Calgary, our son was getting antsy about getting back to his life there.
This part of the journey is now sentimental for me. In the 1970s, my mother drove my brother and I from Ontario, through the United States, up into Regina Saskatchewan, and then along the same route to Calgary, later on to B.C., then up to Jasper Alberta and back home again. We visited family friends and relatives along the way. I have lots of memories of this trip that I wanted to share with my husband and son. (I have wanted to do this trip for a while, but couldn’t get anyone in the car with me!).
Regina looks to me like a modern and well planned city. It has a man-made lake and park in it’s core, with museums, the legislative building as well as office buildings built around it. It also has the ring road by-pass for traffic management. We got a quick glimpse of this very pretty city before we headed off – but no photo opportunity this morning. I told myself that many of the buildings were still closed due to the pandemic anyway.
Saskatchewan is once again a beautiful and easy drive. You may think it’s just flat, but it’s much more than that. There are beautiful fields of green and it may be flat, but the scenery is varied, and it’s not that long a drive compared to the rest of our trip. After Regina, we travelled past Moose Jaw, through grassland prairie, then past Landing Provincial Park, through Swift Current and Maple Creek.
There were some rolling fields, and we could see for miles. The weather started to turn – with a little rain and grey skies.
We did not stop in Moose Jaw, as it started pouring rain at this point and continued through the grassland.
As we enjoyed the green fields and big skies, we were suddenly surprised by what seemed to be a snowy lake.
It turns out that we are looking at salt, in the middle of the prairie. This is Chaplin Lake – it is fed by neighbouring streams, but doesn’t drain anywhere, which means the water evaporates with the sun, leaving behind salts and salt water. So right in the middle of Saskatchewan – we have salt lakes with brine shrimp! The shrimp are harvested for pet foods, and the salts (sodium sulphate) and minerals from the lake are processed and used in forestry and detergents.
There is a nature centre at Chaplin, as the area is an important location for bird watchers! Chaplin Lake is part of a group of 3 saline lakes in Saskatchewan. We had passed Old Wives Lake (I’m not offended by the name, being an old wife myself but should I be?) – southwest of Moose Jaw earlier, and Reed Lake is a little further on.
The lake area covers over 100,000 acres and is the second largest inland salt water body in Canada (after Lake Manitoba). More than 30 species of shorebirds travel through the area every year (about 100,000 birds visit in the spring). Some of the birds that visit include: American avocet, killdeer, marbled godwit, sanderling, semi-palmated sandpiper, stilted sandpiper, spotted sandpiper, willet. red-necked phalarope, wilson’s phalarope, and piping plovers.
It was pouring rain at this point as I struggled to get close enough to some birds to take a picture – through the long grass in my flip flops, but at least I got the sign picture!
We read that Old Wives Lake is large and shallow with seasonal water level variations which often result in large mudflats. This is where the Migratory Bird Sanctuary is. Reed Lake is also a shallow and intermittent saline lake with reed beds and vegetation. The lakes are located in a mixed-grass area suitable for pasture and cattle grazing. Reed Lake though is surrounded by grain crops as well as pasture.
As we travel the TransCanada Highway, we are typically running parallel with the train line and frequently see trains that appear to go on for miles carrying potash, salt, grain, canola and other important goods across Canada.
The grain elevators and trains make me want to be a better photographer!
Saskatchewan is also an important supplier of Potash to the world – it is Saskatchewan’s second largest export and is used in fertilizer. It is mined from ocean beds below the earth’s surface and we passed signs for a mine at Belle Plaine.
We had seen several deer along our road trip. White tailed deer, like we see at home and Mule deer. Just west of Swift Current, we had a yell from the back seat. Antelope!
Pronghorn Antelope are native to the Grasslands of North America – particularly in Southwestern Saskatchewan and Alberta. I had no idea that they are North America’s fastest land mammal – the second fastest in the world – behind the Cheetah – and can travel up to 86kph.
Our antelope relaxed for quite a bit and watched us, then he high-tailed it over the fields. We saw a few more along our way – they seemed not to mind sharing the fields with the local cattle.
As we got closer to Alberta, we started to see yellow fields of Canola.
I find the images of Grain Elevators contrasting against the open green landscape to be fascinating. I loved the way this one looked at “the end of the road” ahead of us on the rainy highway.
The sun finally came back out and the landscape began to get a little more hilly as we got closer to Alberta.
We noticed our first oil/gas well at about Webb Saskatchewan. We don’t usually think of these being in Saskatchewan, but there are many – particularly in clusters in Northwest and Southwest Saskatchewan.
It wasn’t very long at all before we reached the Alberta Border with Saskatchewan. I loved the variety of landscapes and big skies. My son has only flown into the city of Saskatoon in the winter before, and so was amazed by the views. It was the first time in Saskatchewan for my husband and he said it was not at all as he expected it. We were both looking forward to the drive back east.
As we entered Alberta we continued travelling through grasslands. We knew from the map, that the badlands of Alberta began just north of us – and we were hoping to get a glimpse of them – but we must have just skirted along the bottom of the parkland – no views. If you are ever planning a trip to Alberta you MUST plan a day trip or more to the badlands and the dinosaur exhibits at the Dinosaur Provincial Park. It is located close to Brooks Alberta, which is along our way. Even if you have no interest in dinosaurs, the landscape is just completely fascinating and unique, with canyons and unique rock formations. We didn’t get there this trip – but took the whole family a few years ago! It was spectacular – and we saw lots of wildlife too.
We were clueless when we took this photo of our four teenagers (at the time), that they were displaying some bad attitude by giving us some unflattering gestures, led by our rebellious teenage daughter. Perhaps they had too much time in the car with mom and dad on our Banff and Badlands tour.
Our family spent hours looking from above down into the valleys at wildlife below.
As we got closer to our destination, I confess that we paid less attention to the scenery as our son started to fret about getting to his new home on time and we planned how we would acquire his furniture from his 2 friends’ houses. We pulled into Calgary at about 3pm, and began to drive him around on his errands. Calgary was bustling.
We stayed for the night at the Calgary Best Western Village Park Inn. We regularly stay there during our visits, and we were surprised that the rate per night was reduced – it was less than $100 per night. When we pulled in we noticed that all the roads around the parking lot were under construction, and that most of the local facilities were closed. That explained the reduced rate, but it would have been nice to have been warned ahead of time! We were able to book a first floor room with an exit to the parking lot – as we were still trying to avoid lobbies and elevators to keep distant. There were apparently only 6 guests staying in the hotel!
We planned to spend the next morning setting our son up in his new residence and then leave quickly (likely to keep mom from making a good-bye scene) to head on our way for another adventure before heading home.
If I haven’t said this already, I hope it’s coming through that I love this country!