Today was a Plan C day. We were going to leave Prince Albert and drive to Flin Flon, Manitoba but when John looked at the available hotels he discovered there were only two. The one with the better rating had comments like, old, tired, not very clean and cost $85 per night. The one with the poorer rating cost $220 a night and all the comments complained about how overpriced it was. Flin Flon is not a big place and there is not really anything to see there, we were only going because it is about the most northerly place of any size in Manitoba you can drive to and why not go when you can? However we decided we did not need to spend $220 per night plus, I am sure, inflated food and gas prices so we decided not to go. This changed two days of our itinerary as we were going to go to Swan Lake tomorrow after staying in Flin Flon. John could not find any hotels in Swan Lake which would have necessitated a VERY long driving day from Flin Flon to Dauphin. So now we had two days with no plan, therefore we created Plan B.
Plan B was to putter around Saskatchewan east of Prince Albert and basically spend a day driving around the area going to Nipawin, Tisdale, Melfort, and then spend the night in Humboldt (which is only about an hour and a half east of Saskatoon). The next day we would do a bit more touring around and spend the night in Yorkton.
Our friend Nolan that we had visited in Saskatoon, and the lady at our hotel said we should go to Lake Wasekesiu which is in Prince Albert National Park about 90 km north of town. She said, “It’s like Banff, only without the mountains and the people.” Since we were just having a driving around day anyway we decided we may as well drive up there. Then I was looking at one of my map books again realized that on our way up to Prince Albert we had passed the Batouche Historic Site that I wanted to see. We were too late yesterday to stop anyway but today we would have time so we decided to backtrack after visiting Wasekesiu. Thus we instituted Plan C.
Prince Albert is the last major town in northern Saskatchewan and it is really located about half-way up the province. Once you drive past Waskesiu the road soon turns to gravel and there are only a few small, isolated communites before you are in tundra. Northern Alberta and Manitoba are the same; techniqually not really north but as far as you can navigate. “Northern” Ontario and Quebec are even further south because the majority of those two provinces are covered with the rocky Canadaian Shield.
I wasn’t sure what the lady at the hotel meant when she said the Lake Waskesiu was “like Banff without the mountains and people.” We figured that referred to a lake surrounded by trees, which it was but with a gorgeous sandy beach added. However as we drove around we realized she was probably referring to the popularity of the park as a vacation spot. There were cabins, and condos, and a golf course (which was hosting a Canada PGA tournament this weekend), tennis courts, a huge play ground and all the amenities of a holiday place.
I checked my geocache map and saw that Parks Canada had hidden six new caches, four of which came up for finding yesterday. We went looking for them and found three of the four so got First to Find, which is always cool.
The second cache we looked for was up on this little hill. By the time we located it and hiked back down it was lunch time so we settled on the truck tailgate to eat. Within a ten or fifteen minute period nine RCMP trucks, 8 of them towing boats, drove past. I have no idea what would necessitate such a large presence of patrol boats. The lake is large and connected to two others but that seemed very excessive to us.
Prince Albert National Park is the only fully protected nesting grounds of the white pelican. Due to a steady current at The Narrows the ice remains thin all winter and there is often open water early in the year which is utilized by many migratory birds. Over 200 species have been documented.
We headed back to Prince Albert via the old road. We had been told there was a good chance of seeing wildlife on this road and we had a coyote and a deer cross in front of us. Too quickly for me to get a photo though unfortunately.
We arrived at the Batoche Historic Site at four. The Interpretive Center closed at 5, but you were still allowed to walk the grounds. The place was much larger than we had thought so we did not walk the long trails to see the rifle pits, or the Caron House (which would have been locked by the time we got there anyway), or some of the other battlefield areas.
Batoche was a Metis trading and farming community and was also the sight of the final battle of the 1885 Rebellion. The Metis and First Nations people, under the leadership of Louis Riel, had been petitioning Ottawa for more equality from the Government in matters of land and other discriminatory laws. Sadly the issues came to armed conflict and remained unresolved for many, many years. Louis Riel was tried for treason and, although the jury recommended mercy, was executed by hanging.
We went through one of the art galleries and the historical room before the center closed and still had time to see the inside of the church and rectory before they were locked for the night.
The art gallery showcased some lovely ‘rug’ art. My mother used to make little round floor mats like this but these were pieces of art. Someone must do a demonstration of the technique because there was a partially completed one on a table.
The Metis settlers were mostly devout Roman Catholics with added elements of First Nation spiritualism. The Rectory was built first and was home to the priest and his assistant. There was also a room set aside soley for the use of the Bishop when he visited once or twice a year.
The Rectory was also the community post office and the priest was the postmaster. The post office was on the second floor. The first floor entry was a large area with chairs and a divan. It was used as a waiting room, both for people wanting to see the priest about some matter, but also for people who needed their mail read by the priest as very few people were literate.
This is the priest’s original library. These books would have taken a long time and cost a lot to acquire and transport into the wilds of the west. They are not all religious texts as he had interests in astronomy and other things as well.
Also on the second floor, along with the priest’s bedroom and office library, and the post office, was a small chapel that the priest could use for his private devotions. Before the church was completed this tny room was also used for mass.
In 1996 Parks Canada located and purchased the original Harmonium that was in the choir loft and had it returned to the church. It had been purchased years ago at a cost of $50. A harmonium is a reed organ with sound produced by foot bellows. There are no pipes; pitch is determined by the size of the reed. The young Parks Canada fellow were were chatting with took John up and struck a few notes on it. He cannot play the piano but he was tickled to play the harmonium. John took a turn as well. The instrument is played regularly to keep the reeds from drying out and shrinking.
At the cemetery there was a little shed with information on a few of the families whose names you see often on graves. The cemetery is still used by local people or people with historic family ties to Batoche.
The children were born in 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1957, and 1958. So unbelievable tragic.
We left Batoche at 5:30 and had almost an hour and a half drive to Humboldt.
Therre are so many ponds and small lakes up here that we drove numerous sections of road right through the middle of them.
You know you are in farming country when….
We arrived in Humboldt a little after 7 and had a delicious dinner at the Bistro in the Pioneer Hotel on 9th Street. It was recommended to us by the lady at our hotel and did not disappoint.