If semi dry areas and the potential for rattlesnakes aren’t the type of thing you shy away from, then you may well enjoy the spot where my spouse, Nelle, and I spent a few days on vacation during a heat wave at the end of July 2017.
This little known area is Grasslands National Park in southwest Saskatchewan, close to the U.S. border.
The western province was experiencing extreme heat with the temperature gage registering at 38 C the day we arrived at our B & B. Thankfully, most of our day was spent within the confines of an air conditioned vehicle on the way to our destination – a B & B called “The Crossing” located at the southwest edge of Grasslands National Park.
The surrounding quiet and peaceful scenery, as well as the many sweetly singing birds outside our bedroom window, quickly had us forget any discomfort from the extreme heat.
My birdwatching spouse cringed whenever I drove down the long driveway to and from our B & B as fledgling birds, hidden in the tall grass alongside the road, flew in front of the car at the last moment.
The many barn swallows flitting about the property where we stayed reminded me of my childhood in the southeast corner of Saskatchewan, originally named Kisiskatchewani Sipi meaning “the swiftly flowing river” (referring to the Saskatchewan River) by the indigenous Cree people.
Another little known fact about the wheat province is that rolling hills can be found here. If you are so inclined, a hike to the highest point is one activity I suggest.
This particular hiking trail called the 70-Mile Butte is atop the highest butte (french for hill – yes, I’m french) and therefore, will take you to the highest point. Don’t let the name dissuade you, it’s actually a very doable 4.1 km loop.
We embarked on our trekking adventure in the evening after the heat of the day had subsided. Lucky for us, this was perfect timing since we reached the summit just as the sun was slowly setting behind the hills. What a view!
On this trip, I finally understood why Saskatchewan licence plates boast, “Land of the living skies”. The sunsets and sunrises often turn the sun a bright red or orange as well as yellow during the summertime. For a more scientific explanation, go to The science behind spectacular skies in the Prairies.
As for those rattlers, known to slither in the barren, dry park, they didn’t materialize on this particular trip. With every subsequent hike, my confidence grew especially after our B & B owner informed us the prairie rattlesnake population decreased significantly following the destruction of a large snake den in a 2011 flood.
This information, though true, was probably meant to reassure us and not scare us away from a potential recurring visit to the park. Nevertheless, I was grateful to set foot again on the rattlesnake free prairie province of Manitoba where I live.
A return visit may in fact be part of future plans because of its proximity to what has become Saskatchewan’s coolest mini folk fest, Farm Fest, organized by the province’s premier singing fransaskois family, les Campagne. In fact, if I can muster enough courage, the next visit to Grasslands would include accommodations in an actual tipi.