All posts by jj1951

My husband and I retired in 2007 and decided to spend the kid's inheritance by travelling as much as we could until either the money or our health runs out. So far so good.

Day 88 – September 2 – Medicine Hat, AB to Three Hills, AB

My final blog for this trip is nothing but dirt with a bit of water thrown in for variation.

We left Medicine Hat and headed west far enough to connect to the road north to Dinosaur Discovery Provincial Park, a United Nations World Heritage site near Patricia.

This area in the Alberta Badlands is an incredibly rich fossil site.

Before we descended into the valley to the Vistors Center we walked along the ridge at the viewpoint at the top of the hill.

The distant meandering water source is Sandhill Creek.

The road to the valley floor was very steep and winding and the roadside was posted with many signs saying No Stopping on the Hill. Too much risk of being hit by a car coming around a corner if you decide to stop and take a photo.

We stopped at the Visitors Center briefly. They had a large dinosaur display but we gave it a pass. They sell 2 hour bus tours with a few different themes and also provided guided hikes. There are warnings at the trail heads to beware of rattlesnakes, black widow spiders, northern scorpions and cactus.

The scenic drive was only three kilometers long but there were still lots of different dirt piles to photograph.

There were two special fossil sites along the road. In each a collection of fossilized bones was protected by a plexi-glass walled shed.

Aided by the drawings above and below you could look at the bones and see which ones belonged where.

The second fossil site was a repiicated section of a large bone bed that was discovered here.

There were two theories about how so many bones ended up in such a muddled pile (the paleantologists think about 300 animals). One was a flash flood and the other was a disaster caused by so many large animals crossing a deep river at once and having many of them jostled off their feet and swept away. The majority of the bones belong to Centrosaurus, but there are also teeth from a flesh-eating dinosaur that broke off when they were feeding on the drowned ones. Many of the bones of the Centrosaurus show tooth marks and breaks.

Once we had driven the loop road we had lunch at the cafe and then drove to the Bassano Irrigation Dam.

2013 was a bad flood year and they had a couple of poster boards showing the dam during that time.

Every gate wide open and the water is covering the lower level and up past the fence on the side.

The trees in the center and right of this photo are the same ones with the water up to the lower branches in the photo above this.

We stopped for a few minutes so I could pick some grass for these horses. The Appaloosa and the foal would not come near me, the bay took one handful, and the sorrel happily ate all the rest.

Driving north towards Three Hills took us through Drumheller country where the famous Tyrell Dinosaur Museum is located. We have been there a couple of times so did not stop, but the scenery is very similar to that in Dinosaur Park about two hours drive southwest.

So, that’s a wrap folks. My final blog of this wonderful trip. We begin visiting Alberta relatives tomorrow and then will drive south to enter BC through the Crowsnest Pass and drive near the US border over to the bottom of the Okanagan Valley so I can visit my stepmother in Osoyoos on the way home. It has been a great journey. Thanks for coming along. Hopefully it won’t be two years before we can do another one.

Day 87 – September 1 – Medicine Hat, AB (Cypress Hills – West)

We had driven through the eastern side of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park yesterday on the way to Fort Walsh, Saskatchewan. Today we drove the western Alberta side, although we crossed into Saskatchewan again as we drove through the park to go to the Conglomerate Cliffs.

Elkwater Lake

The marina at the town of Elkwater.

The beach at the town of Elkwater.

As we were having dinner last night I looked out the restaurant window and noticed a very familiar mauve/grey haze in the sky. I said to John that it looked very much like forest fire smoke. When we woke up this morning we discovered I had been correct and Medicine Hat was very smoky. We drove through smoke about half the way to the cliffs. The smoke covered a lot of the distance at this viewpoint, which normally allows you to see into Saskatchewan.

Reesor Lake was created when a dam was constructed at the valley end where two small lakes were located. It is a managed rainbow trout fishery.

The Conglomerate Cliffs are at the end of about 40 km of primarily gravel road. We could have seen them yesterday by driving 10 km out of Fort Walsh and then taking another road about 10 km to the cliffs. We didn’t think of it so today we drove up through the trees on the Alberta side, across the very flat plateau and over to the cliff and the view over the Battle Creak Valley.

Battle Creek Valley and Adams Creek.

I was happy that this area was not smokey. The view was pretty amazing. Someone told us the smoke was coming from fires in Oregon.

We ate our lunch at the cliff top and then headed back toward Elkwater via the loop road across the plateau again and exited the park.

Our second planned stop for the day was the small community of Etzikom, population about 32-40. I had read in my CAA guide book that they have a windmill museum and wanted to check it out. The museum is located in an old school that was going to be torn down because it was no longer being used even though it was structually sound. A ‘heritage group’ formed and turned it into a museum with different displays in each of the classrooms.

The stage area in the gym was dedicated to a lady’s doll collection that was given to the museum after she passed away. All three walls were full of beautiful dolls.

I didn’t get a good photo of all the Holiday Barbie dolls. I think she bought every one that came out and they were all still in their original boxes.

The old gymnasium was a heritage display with blacksmith area, mercantile, school room, and a two-room ‘house.’

There was a basket of potatoes in the mercantile.

They had been made out of old nylon stockings. Very realistic looking spuds they were too.

One of the classrooms had partitions to create rooms of a house.

Another classroom was the wildlife exhibit with many birds and animals of the Alberta plains.

Cypress Hills is cougar country. Just like at Grasslands where they warned you what to do if confronted by a bison or rattlesnake there were instructions about what to do if you encounter a cougar. Running was not one of the suggested responses. Make yourself big and intimidating, use your bear spray and if attacked fight back. My tactic would be to not go hiking in cougar country.

There was a display of First Nations artifacts, and a geology display with rocks and minerals, and a paleantology display with fossils found in the area. There was also a room full of organs and pianos, accordians, a concertina and old record players with 78 RPM records.

Once we had viewed all the classroom displays we went outside to see the windmills. A historian named Walter J. Webb said, “It wasn’t the gun that settled the west – it was the windmill.” Before the introduction of windmills for pumping water, much of the west was barely habitable. Early settlement on the windswept plains was confined to areas which possessed springs, streams or shallow groundwater. The upland areas were unoccupied until windmills and mechanically drilled wells tapped the resources of the unidentified groundwater.

Windmills have all but disappeared now, but in the late 1800s and early 1900s they could be found on almost farm and in every town.

This mill – called the “Wild Rose Mill” was designed and built for a museum on a vineyard in Massachusetts. In 1993 the owners gifted it to the Canadian National Historic Windpower Museum in Etzikom, Alberta.

The Leduc-Blacksmith windmill was produced in limited numbers in a blacksmith shop in Leduc and they were only used in that area.

The pyramid shaped one on the left is the “New Ideal” power mill. It was manufactured in Brandford, Ontario from the 1890s to the 1920s. It is also a post mill – the windmill itself is mounted on a center post and the building was built around it primarily to keep dry the grain that was stored in the hopper inside. This mill also ran a stone sharpener, a saw, a washing machine, etc.

There were about six or seven windmills that all looked the same to us but were in fact different models manufactured by different companies. The only real difference we could see was the counter-weights.

The one above was The Monitor (Vaneless), one of the most common vaneless mills. It is recognized by the distinctive ‘football’ shaped cement counter-weight. The name “Monitor” is after the shape of the counter-weight. It resembles the first submarine used during the American Civil War – the USS Monitor. They were made from 1918 to 1940.

The Dempster No. 14 was the last vaneless windmill produced by Dempster Mill Manufacting Company of Beatrice, Nebraska. It was produced from 1923 to 1941. These mills may often be found ‘defaced’ with the ‘horse-shaped’ counter-weights pirated by windmill weight collectors. (Who knew that hobby even existed?)

Same sort of windmill, different counter-weight, different manufacturer. The Challenge Spearpoint came on the marked in 1912 and was sold until 1920. It was made by the Challenge Company and was a self-oiling vaneless.

The Boss was one of the more common mills made in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It’s Bull counter-weight stands proudly with his nose always pointed toward the wind.

St. Savior’s Anglican Church. Build in Foremost in 1914 and moved to Etzikom in 1990.

We left the museum at closing time and drove back to Medicine Hat to find dinner and settle in for the night.

Day 86 – August 31 – Shaunavon, SK to Medicine Hat, AB (Fort Walsh)

We left Shaunavon at 9:30 and headed southwest as far as Climax before going north to the east entrance of Cypress Hills Cenral Block and Fort Walsh.


The Cypress Hills are a 250 kilometer long strip of forested plateau that rises 600 meters (2000′) above the surrounding plains. During the last ice age the glaciers parted and split to both sides of the area so it is nonglaciated land and quite an astonishing contrast to all the flat prairie that surrounds it. Ranching became important in the area after the Canadian Pacific Railway arrived at Maple Creek in 1883. Beginning in 1906, part of the Cypress Hills was protected as a federal forest reserve.

We have been following the Red Coat Trail for many days and keep building on the early days of the Northwest Mounted Police and Fort Walsh is a very important part of the story.

Fort Walsh Visitor’s Center.

We heard quite a bit about Superintendent Walsh when we were at Wood Mountain Post the other day. Wood Mountain was one of several outposts where men from Fort Walsh were sent for tours of duty and area patrols.

A Parks Canada National Historic Park is a red chair event. This will be my last ‘sitting’ on this trip. No more stops at National Parks are planned.

The fort as it is constructed now was built by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police when they bought the former Fort Walsh property for a breeding stable for the horses of the Musical Ride. A rancher in the area had marked where all the old buildings had been at Fort Walsh so the RCMP built their buildings to mimic the old fort ones at the same places.

When it became an historic site, Parks Canada finished the interiors to reflect what the buildings would have been like during the years of active duty of the fort. There would have been twice the number of buildings back then.

We were just in time for a guided tour. We learned near the end of the tour, that the young man had only started working here a month ago. He was former Canadian Military and had worked for Parks Canada at Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island before moving from the expensive westcoast and buying a house in Saskatchewan. He came to the fort on Canada Day as a tourist and heard they were looking for staff so applied and immediately got hired. He gave one of the most comprehensive and interesting tours we have ever had. He really knew his history. Not just about Fort Walsh but about other events that were going on in the world at the same time that he tied all together. Really, really well done.

The new Canadian Government in Ottawa had been receiving reports of the tensions between traders and First Nations peoples, especially the deterimental affects of the American whisky traders who came across the border to do business after the US outlawed selling alcohol to the Indians. Also the loss of the buffalo due to overhunting was creating severe food shortages for the First Nations people who for centuries had relied on the buffalo for much of their food, tools, warmth, etc. Wolfers from the US came up and killed bison with poison to use as bait to kill wolves for the pelts which also caused issues with the indigenous people. But Ottawa was slow to act. They did not want to start a war with America and Britain (that Canada was part of) was engaged in a war in South Africa so arms and supplies were in short supply. However all that changed quickly when news reached the east about the Cypress Hills Massacre.

Prime Minister John A. MacDonald had formed the Northwest Mounted Police the year before and, to prevent further blood shed and to establish law and order and destroy the whisky trade, sent troops set up forts and depot posts and work with the First Nations people to make treaties before settlers moved in. Fort Walsh was establised in 1875.

There were about 250 men at Fort Walsh and at any one time there could be as many as 5,000 people in the surrounding area; either in the trading post town that grew up near by or First Nations people that came to trade and collect food after the treaties were signed.

Von, our guide, had recently found one of the forgotten RCMP Musical Ride lances in a corner of the stable. They are made of bamboo to be light for the many manouvers required during each performance.

When the Northwest Mounted Police were sent from Fort Dufferin in Manitoba to establish law and order in the west they brought cannons, however they were never needed as there were never any armed conflicts. It still fires though.

The men’s mattresses were a buffalo hide laid on a wooden pallet.

The bunk on the right is laid out with the man’s kit for inspection. The required brushes and items to care for his horse are at the foot of the bed, his personal items and clothing are arranged above it. There was a specific place for every item and it was inspected every day. They also did marching and firearms drills everyday. Walsh believed that displaying readiness and discipline to those they had come to govern would help garner respect for the police force and make it easier to do their jobs. Members of the NWMP were all educated. They had to be able to read and write and be listeners and negotiators. They were empowered to perform marriages, to collect customs, to assign tariffs, and officiate in land registries, handle disputes, mete out justice and many other duties.

With the coming of the railroad the headquarters of the Northwest Mounted Police was moved to Regina and the fort was closed. A forest fire destroyed most of it and the land became private ranchland until purchased by the RCMP for their Remount Ranch. When the breeding stable was moved to Ontario in 1966 they transfered the Fort Walsh property to Parks Canada. In 1989 the governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan joined forces and created Canada’s first interprovincial park – Cypress Hills. The Interprovincial Park Agreement was amended in 2000 to formally include Fort Walsh National Historic Site. The two provincial governments and the Government of Canada cooperate in the management of this unique geographical feature and ecosystem.

John washed the truck two days ago in Assiniboia. It was covered in gumbo mud from the drive to the Claybank Brick Plant. We have accumulated a LOT of dead grasshoppers in two days!

We are staying in Medicine Hat two nights. Tomorrow we will drive to the Alberta portion of Cypress Hills and do a loop through a few small towns on the way back to Medicine Hat. After that we have one more day of ‘touristing’ before getting to Red Deer to visit my niece. That will be my last blog post. After we leave Red Deer we are on old familiar roads and will just be going to a few places to visit family as we make our way home.

Day 85 – August 30 – Assiniboia, SK (Grasslands West) to Shaunavon, SK

We were up early this morning so were on the road by 9:30. We took the same road as yesterday from Assiniboia to Wood Mountain, but from there we veered west on Highway 18 to access the east entrance to the West Block of Grasslands National Park.

We passed this clay hill on the way to Wood Mountain yesterday but were past it before we thought to take a photo. We were looking out for it today, so were able to make the stop.

There is a very large scrap car lot in Wood Mountain with some cars that appear worthy of restoration. The one I liked though was this old Pinto. My first car was a sapphire blue 1970 Pinto. The very first one in town. I ordered it in November of 1969 when the model was brand new. I loved that car. We went everywhere in it. I was tempted to go find the fellow and see how much he wanted for it and take it home to fix up.

The West Block of Grasslands also has a scenic drive. There were not as many walks out to overlooks and more information boards about the grasses, or bison, or rattlesnakes, etc. This part of the park was more what I was expecting – lots of wide open spaces and grass and scrub. The Badlands in East Block were definitely more photo-worthy. Most of today’s expanses looked very similar. Still it was a lovely day and a nice drive – and there is always something new to learn.

Dog Town is one of several very large prairie dog colonies in the park. You have to slow to 30 kph as they are constantly crossing the road.

There we quite a few very long hikes available as well. Although with all the rattlesnake warnings I am not sure I would want to wander around out here. Not to mention lack of water, high heat and sudden fierce wind changes. This view was at the trailhead for the 9.6 km (one way – non-loop) Timbergulch Trail.

The gal we chatted with yesterday at Wood Mountain Post said that last year was quite a bad drought year and that this year is a bit better, but not much. Parts of it certainly look very dry!

The Frenchman River winds through the West Block. The campground on this side of the park is named the Frenchman River.

This was our view from Melva picnic site where we stopped for lunch. Way, way off in the distance there is a lone big bison. You could only see him with the telescope viewer or binoculars. He was the only one we saw. We have seen several herds of pronghorn and a couple of deer and lots of prairie dogs, of course.

There were a couple of Parks Canada red chairs, but they were way off on a hillside and John said he did not want to walk all the way over there in the heat. So no photo op for those ones.

Our lunch stop was very reminiscent yesterday and today, of our times in Death Valley when the wind is so warm it dries the bread for your sandwich by the time you have put the PB & J on it.

We finished the scenic drive and continued on the gravel road out the south end of the West Block and then connected again to Highway 18 going west. When we reahed Climax, Saskatchewan we headed north on Highway 37 right into Shaunavon where we spend the night.

An early arrival time of 4 PM allowed me to see how bad the internet might be as the hotel said it wasn’t very good, but it managed to load my photos and allow me to write my blog just fine so all my work was done before dinner.

Tomorrow we visit Fort Walsh and Cypress Hills National Park on our way to Medicine Hat where we will spend two nights.

Day 84 – August 29 – Assiniboia (Grasslands East), SK

On our way to the East Block of Grasslands National Park we stopped at Wood Mountain Post Provincial Park. There were many information boards about the beginnings of the fort and the closing and re-opening again. Very interesting information, but too many posters to put in a blog. The Boundary Trail Commission stopped there during their Canada/US border marking in 1874.

The post came into prominence and was most heavily manned when Chief Sitting Bull and several thousand of his warriors fled across the Medicine Line into Canada after the Battle of Little Big Horn.

Only two of the old buildings have been reconstructed. This was the soldiers barracks.

These are the few information boards I felt told the most pertinent parts of the Sitting Bull story.

By January of 1881, only 40 lodges – about 250 people – remained at Wood Mountain. A few more Lakota surrendered in April. Sitting Bull and a few followers trekked to Fort Qu’Appelle to see Superintendent Walsh who had been re-assigned there. By the time they arrived Walsh had already been sent back to Ontario so they returned to Wood Mountain where Sitting Bull finally agreed to go back to the US. The Canadian government would not authorize supplies for the journey but the fellow that ran the trading post at Willow Bunch provided generous amounts of food and equipment for the journey south.

Sitting Bull wanted to be given a reservation of his own for his people and have the right to go back and forth to Canada whenever he wished. These requests were not granted and he was sent to the Standing Rock Reservation, and from there to Fort Randall where he and his followers were held for nearly two years as prisoners of war, before returning to Standing Rock.

In 1885 he joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, earning $50 a week for riding once around the area. He could also keep whatever money he charged for his autograph and picture. He only lasted 4 months because he could no longer tolerate white man society and returned to Standing Rock living in a cabin near where he was born.

In the fall of 1890, afraid of Sitting Bull’s influence if he joined an upcoming Ghost Dance ceremony (that promised to rid the land of white people and restore the traditional way if life), Indian agents sent 43 Lakota policemen to arrest him. In the ensuing gunfight between Sitting Bull’s followers and the police, Sitting Bull was shot in the head.

A model of Wood Mountain Post during its heyday.

We were at Wood Mountain for quite awhile having a great chat with the Parks lady. Today was the last day the buildings would be open so we timed our visit well.

It was another 30 kilometers from Wood Mountain to the entrance of the East Block of Grasslands National Park. Grasslands has two sections, divided by about 35 km, that have been set up to preserve the natural prairie. Over 50 varieties of grass and plants are protected here and bison roam. We did not see any though.

There is an 11 km scenic road with six viewpoints that overlook the Saskatchewan Badlands. The road is only one lane wide with small pullouts to allow vehicles to pass. Parks Canada built it to be as unintrusive as possible. There are defined trails to each of the viewpoints and it is illegal to drive other than on the roads. There are hiking trails and horse trails throughout the park, but only one small campground in the East Block.

The first viewpoint was “The Gateway to the Grasslands” and overlooked Rock Creek Campground and the beginning of the badlands. There was a nice large sign with information about various hazards you may encounter in the park and what to do about each: Getting lost, being charged by a bison, bitten by a rattlesnake, see a prairie fire approaching or stepping in quicksand. Good to know…

I took quite a few photos at each of the viewpoints but have done my best to pare them down.

Gateway to the Grasslands viewpoint:

Rock Creek Campground.

A National Park means a Red Chair picture.

Crackerjack viewpoint:

Zahursky Point viewpoint:

Before they dug the well they had to carry buckets to collect water from Rock Creek over a kilometer away and lug them back up the hill.

More red chairs, but I didn’t sit in these two for a photo.

Kapêsiwin viewpoint:

Kapêsiwin was a stopping place for the First Nations for over 3,000 years due to the proximity of water and game.

Rock Creek snakes its way through most of the park.

Typical grassland prairie.

Ta Sunka Watógla viewpoint:

I did sit in the third set of red chairs though.

By the time we drove the 11 km back to the main entrance road it was after 5 and we had an hour and a half drive back to Assiniboia.

Our room faces west and the sunset was gorgeous. There are too many wires in the way looking out the window for a good photo. I hate wires in photos. John went out and walked across the road and got this lovely shot while the sky was the reddest.

We leave Assiniboia tomorrow and will go to the West Block of Grasslands on our way to Shaunavon for the night. The hotel has given notice that their internet is poor so there may not be a blog tomorrow.

Day 83 – August 28 – Assiniboia (Claybank), SK

There was heavy rain as we prepared for bed last night and it was still raining this morning, with a strong cold wind. We dawdled in our hotel room for an hour or so and ventured out just as the rain stopped.

Claybank is just over an hours drive from Assiniboia via some paved and some gravel roads. Up to now the gravel roads in Manitoba and Saskatchewan have been really good; no washboard or potholes. This morning however the tire tread lines were extremely slippery and even though John tried to keep the truck on the gravel in the middle the slick muck kept trying to pull us into the mire. There was quite a bit of sliding going on. Good thing there was virtually no traffic.

The clay was discovered in 1886 by Tom McWilliams, a local homesteader, when he was using a spyglass to search for his missing cattle. He sent a sample of the clay to an assay office and learned he had found a rare and rich deposit of ‘refractory’ or heat resistant clay. He moved his homestead claim to the property and over the next few decades dug the clay by hand and shipped it to a brick plant in Moose Jaw. In 1912 he sold the property to a new company formed by five prominent Moose Jaw men and the brick plant was built .

Refractory clay is well suited for manufacturing fire bricks which are used in fireplaces, and to insulate boilers, furnaces, steam engines, etc. Anywhere high heat is generated. The plant was in production from 1912 to 1989.

The information center is located on the first floor of the old bunkhouse. Up to 40 men boarded here. The staff had rooms on the first floor where the kitchen and dining room were located but the labourers were housed in one of the eight rooms on the second floor. Three-tiered bunks could accommodate up to 12 men in a room. Meals cost $1 per day and the average wage in 1945 was $138 per month.

When the property became a Saskatchewan Heritage Site, and later a Parks Canada Historic Site, it was still possible to tour the buildings. Time however is taking its toll and you cannot go in them anymore. 90% of all the machinery from the 80 years of production of the Brick Plant is still inside – and some of it still works too.

For many years the dry kilns were heated with coal and the impurities in the coal gave Claybank Bricks a very distinctive colouration. After the plant was converted to steam the bricks were much lighter in colour and no matter how hard the chemists tried they could not get the old colour replicated.

One of ten kilns. There was one smokestack for every two kilns.

All of these sign boards used to be located within the various buildings to describe what went on in each place to make the bricks. Now that the property is gated they were hung in the one place.

This is the only wheelbarrow that provided clay to the handmold shop during all the years of production. The hand molded bricks had to be perfect, no blemishes, chips or cracks. If even a fingerprint was visible it was discarded.

The making of the bricks was extremely labour intensive with almost every part done by hand. These men really earned their pay! Four bricks would come out of the dry press every 8 seconds and two men would pick up two each, flip them in the air and then stack them on the carts in rows on edge with space between for them to air dry before being put in the kilns by the tossers and setters.

Clay piles were made outside but there was also a lot of clay stored inside big sheds to be used during wet days or the cold months. The dry press method of brickmaking used at the plant required the clay have very little moisture in it.

We walked past the plant to the back of the property and climbed the small hill to get a bit of a view of the old clay digs. There was another large deposit of similar high-grade refraction clay located 12 miles from Claybank so the plant had an ample supply.

Claybank face brick and fire brick was delivered all over the globe. Bricks produced here went to places like Algeria, Cuba, Europe and across North America. These lined the fireboxes of railway steam locomotives and were used to ensure the efficient operation of steam-powered boilers which powered the warships manufactured in Canada during World War II. They were also used at British Commonwealth Air Training Program bases across western Canada where pilots from across the Commonwealth were trained for military action in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The best quality firebrick was used in the blasting test bays and the launch pads at Cape Canaveral, Florida for the moon shots in the 1970’s.

Face brick from Claybank was used on many notable buildings such as the central tower of the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, The Gravelbourg Cathedral complex, the Bessborough Hotel in Saskatoon, the Hotel Saskatchewan, and Balfour Apartments in Regina, and many other buildings across Canada.

You can hike out to Massold Clay Canyon but it was too cold and too wet and muddy today. The map had a clear warning on the quicksand area. It looks like dry clay but underground springs keep it wet and you will sink if you are unwise enough to walk there.

As we returned to the Bunkhouse we scuffed our shoes in as much wet grass as we could to remove the mud from the treads. There is a cafe in the info center so we had a coffee and a cinnamon bun before watching the virtual tour that showed the inside of the buildings.

We took a different route back to Assiniboia with a different combination of paved and gravel roads. Thankfully the rain had stopped most of the time we were at the brick plant so we did not have as much slip-sliding to endure.

We arrived back about 4 and warmed up in our hotel room until going out for dinner. By then the clouds had moved on, the wind had died down, and blue sky was overhead once again.

Tomorrow we go southwest to Wood Mountain Post and the eastern block of Grasslands National Park. The weatherman promises sunny skies and 27°.

Day 82 – Ausgust 27 – Weyburn, SK to Assiniboia, SK

It is not too far between Weyburn and Assiniboia if you go directly west (about 163 km or101 miles), but we headed south to highway 18 not far from the American border before going west. We only had one thing we planned to see – the St. Victor petroglyphs about 20 kilometers south of Assiniboia and were taking a bit of a longer route since they were best viewed in late afternoon or early evening.

We puttered along on patchy paved roads through rolling hills, wheat fields and other crops. It was a gorgeous day and we took a ton of scenery photos.

A herd of pronghorn were feeding in the field on my side and they got spooked when John stopped the truck.

We drove into the small town of Conorach and turned onto the main street to go to the visitors center to ask the best route to St. Victor only to discover the whole street closed for a Street Fair.

We were not in any rush so we parked and went wandering.

At the end of the street past all the vendor’s tents there was a car show.

My favourite.

As we left Coronach we saw a long row of new grain cars sitting waiting for the harvest to be brought in. They stretched alongside the highway for almost 16 km. The line was broken whereever there was a road crossing the track.

We arrived in St. Victor about 4, knowing it was not late enough to have the best view of the petroglyphs, but we have seen several examples of them in other places so felt we would be okay with what we able to see.

On the outskirts of St Victor (population 20-30) was a little log cabin with a Red River ox cart beside it, and a sign above the door saying “Friends of St. Victor Petroglyphs.” We decided to stop and see what information they may have. The fellow came outside as we were getting out of the truck and started talking to another couple of men who arrived the same time as us. John thought to himself that the man’s voice sounded familiar. After he finished his conversation with the other fellows he sat on a chair on the deck and asked me where we were from. When I told him he laughed and laughed and told us his name. John had just been thinking to himself that this fellow sounded like Glen, a schoolmate of ours who used to work at the same sawmill as John. And that is who it was. Glen moved to Willow Bush (population 300), which is a few kilometers east of St. Victor, 13 years ago. We had a wonderful chat for about an hour. He helps man the Petroglyph information center in the summertime.

It was only 2.5 km from the info center to the petroglyphs. The information I had said there were 165 steps to climb to the glyphs but the government has since fenced the area and you can now drive to the top. At the gate to the path there was a large stone with copies of some of the petroglyphs on it that shows clearly what they look like and that you could use for rubbings if you like.

Human graffiti, walking, and touching have damaged many of the petroglyphs. Lichens have started growing on the sandstone and acid rain and ash from the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in Washington in 1980 have caused further damage. It was very hard to make out many of them. The best time Glen said was to go at night with a flashlight.

The view atop the hill was amazing.

I think this is Twenty Mile Lake.

I had climbed through a fence to go to the edge of the hill to get a better photo of the lake and when I was walking back I spotted a geocache sitting right beside one of the fence posts. That was a pleasant surprise and the only cache we found today.

When we left St. Victor we drove a gravel road for awhile before connecting to Highway 2 north to Assiniboia.

Since it was now after 6 o’clock we found a restaurant for dinner before checking into the hotel. We are staying here three nights and doing some exploring with Assiniboia as our homebase. Tomorrow is a trip northeast to Claybank to visit an old Brick Plant.

Day 81 – August 26 – Brandon, MB to Weyburn, SK

There was only one tourist thing to visit on the road between Brandon and Wyburn and, sadly, it was a bit of a disappoinment.

Highway2 (in Manitoba) and 13 (in Saskatchewan) is known as the Red Coat Trail to commemorate the Northwest Mounted Police journey to provide policing services to the rapidly opening west. At a campground beside the highway at Redvers there is a very large statue of a ‘Red Coat.’

After we crossed the border into Saskatchewan we looked for the sign for Cannington Manor which was settlement built by English immigrants to be similar to an upper middle-class community similar to where the people had come from and hopefully to develop into the type of society they were used to.

There were many placards in the visitor’s center that told the full story of the settlement, its member, businesses, sports and entertainment, etc., and it’s eventual demise. I have only added a few here to give you an idea of the vision.

This huge map on the wall showed all the land parcels settled by the Cannington Manor pioneers. What really surprised me were the amount owned by the Canadain Pacific Railway and the Hudson’s Bay Company. Almost every second section belongs to the CPR!

The story of the community was very intersting. What was disappointing was the ‘village’ itself. There were only a few buildings and most were reproductions There information plaques where all the houses or businesses along the single street had been located and the remnants of footings. None of the buildings were much more than sheds. All of the larger properties like the flour mill or general store were long gone.

The Anglican Church belongs to the Diocese of Qu’Appelle and services are still held once a month. The cemetery contains the graves of many of the early family members of Cannington Manor and is still used.

There were three geocaches hidden in the park. One was AWOL, one we couldn’t find – but saw a garter snake warming in the broken foundation of the old flour mill – and one we found.

There was a large house built by three wealthy brothers that was part of the park as well. They raised racehorses and raced them at the race course at the end of the village. At one one time their 100 stable farm was the largest employer in the district.

After we read all the sign boards along the village street and checked out the buildings we drove down the road in the direction of the sign. We never saw another sign and ended up getting completely turned around and driving over 30 kilometers on various roads before finding the highway again. And, we discovered we had gone in the wrong direction as well, because after we had been driving westward again we came across the same sign pointing up the road to Cannington Manor. Opps.

We stopped at an historical cairn about the first Roman Catholic priest who came to the area and had our lunch before driving the rest of the way to Weyburn.

There were a lot of oil jacks on both sides of the road and further into the grain fields. When we drove into Weyburn their town sign displayed a stalk of wheat and a pump jack. Quite appropriate I think.

I snapped this photo of a sculpture in a little garden on the side of the street while we were stopped at a red light on the way to our hotel so I don’t know exactly what it was for but I will guess something to do with the hardiness of the early settlers.

Day 80 – August 25 – Brandon, MB

It has been quite some time since I filled a blog with images and placards from a museum, so today is the day.

We headed north and then east to go to Spruce Woods Provincial Park which is a large protected area of sand dunes. Also on our list of things to do while in Brandon, time permitting, was a visit to the Royal Canadian Artillery Museum at CFB Shilo and the Plains Museum in Carberry; both of which were more or less on our way to Spruce Woods.

We had to turn south on a road between Brandon and the one to Carberry and Spruce Woods and drive about 13 km to CFB Shilo and decided to do it as we were going by rather than on the way back to Brandon.

We spent quite awhile outside before entering the building. Both sides of a long driveway and a back parking lot had various artillery on display.

This huge gun was at the property entrance. They had really good rightups with statistics about every piece of artillery.

I took 109 photos at the museum and have tried really hard to pare them down, but there are still a lot of photos of guns.

Note the wooden wheels.

Loved the camo paint job on this one.

The Howitzer is such an oft mentioned gun in novels and WWI information. It is such a fearsome-looking weapon. I was surprised at how big the barrel was. Some of the guns we saw had a target range of 10 miles – this one’s range was 6.4 miles.

Look at the stockpile of shells awaiting firing.

The wheels on this gun folded in so it could sit flat on the ground when being fired.

The rocket launcher pointing to the sky could send nuclear warheads.

150 rounds per minute from each of the four barrels.

Women gunners in this North Korea photo.

After we looked at all the guns outside we went into the huge building and spent another hour or so, and only walked past many of the items and displays. Way too much to read and look at thoroughly.

Colonial musket loaders to modern day handheld rocket launchers.

A display case with more information on Lt. Col. E.W.B. Morrison told more about his connection to Lt. Col. John McCrae and the famous poem “In Flanders Fields. John McCrae wrote the poem after the funeral service of his good friend that had joined up with him and then, we were told in Belgium where he wrote it, threw it away. Morrison picked it up and told McCrae he should publish it.

This is a copy of Morrison’s drawing where, according to most accounts McCrae wrote the poem.

One of Morrison’s illustrations of the poem.

Notice though that no credit was given for the author.

There was a book binding factory in Winnipeg in 1915. This ‘woman’ is stitching pages together.

We drove back to the highway and headed east again before turning south to the community of Carberry. As we were driving around the town we saw the Plains Museum so decided to go take a look.

The museum building was originally a sash and door factory owned by a prominent Carberry citizen. He owned most of the city block and had a General Store and a few other business throughout town. His house was next door and is owned by the city and is part of the museum. We toured it later.

Items of interest to me in the Carberry Plains Museum.

My mom just wrapped a few pennies and a couple of nickels and dimes and one quarter in wax paper to put in our birthday cakes. I did not know there were actual sets of tokens for that.

We had a double-scoop ice cream lunch between touring the museum and the Gingerbread House and then headed down the road to find Spruce Woods Park and go see the sand dunes. The park is very large and we could see the sandy soil under the vegetation on both sides of the road. We pulled into the place that had the trail to the dunes and the Park Policeman was there checking vehicles to be sure they displayed a permit. We asked where we could get one and he directed us to a campground a few kilometers down the road. After wandering around for awhile in search of the place to buy a permit John was told that it is a hour and a half hike round trip to see the dunes. And over 40 minutes of walking before you even see them in the distance. A day permit was $9.50. By this time it was 3 o’clock and the hottest part of the day so we decided we did not need to see sand dunes that bad so headed back to Brandon.

The Assiniboine River winds back and forth like a snake.

I spotted these colourful watercraft while we were trying to find where to buy a park permit.

There were patches of sand hills along the road so we did see dunes – sort of .

Tomorrow we leave Manibtoba and enter Saskatchewan. We will be spending the night in Weyburn about 3 hours drive from Brandon.

Day 79 – August 24 – Boissevain, MB to Brandon, MB

There was a thunderstorm with heavy rain last night in Boissevain. And a warning for potentially loonie-sized hail. We did not hear if that came true, but a lot of grain fields that are due to be harvested are now wet. We had overcast skies and cool temperatures all day today so nothing was drying very fast.

We drove through an area with quite a few jackpumps.

A few kilometers west of Boissevain John spotted an historical marker pointing to the left that said Newcomb’s Hollow. Neither of us had any idea what that was so we went to find out. We drove 2 miles south (well, we actually drove about 4 miles south and had to turn back because there had not been a sign at the two mile mark for when we had to turn east) and 1 mile east on another of Manitoba’s good gravel roads.

Newcomb’s Hollow turned out to be a very historically significant place in Manitoba (and Canadian) history.

The need arose to mark the boundary between Canada and the United States. In 1873 a Boundary Commission was jointly formed by both countries, and guided by a Metis scouting party, the group travelled along the 49th parallel on the Canadian side using the old Native Trail. It took two years to mark the border. The Canadian crew consisted of 11 officers, 128 men, 114 horses, 55 ponies, 120 oxen and 179 wagons.

On the 10th day of this grand march from Fort Dufferin, the newly formed Northwest Mounted Police reached Newcomb’s Hollow. Accounts from several diaries were posted on the information boards.

With pioneers coming westward on the Boundary Commission Trail there was need to register land and distribute it in an orderly and fair fashion. In April 1880 John A. MacDonald established the Land Titles Office at the junction of the Boundary Commission Trail and the trail from the Souris and Assiniboine Rivers leading to North Dakota. George Newcomb was appointed administrator over 2700 square miles covering a large part of present-day Southwest Manitoba and Southeast Saskatchewan. Newcomb’s two story house and land office was the social centre, often used for church services and also hosted the ‘First Agricultural Exposition’ in December 1881. By 1893 over 4,000 homesteads and 2100 pre-emptions were filed to cover an area of 1,200,000 acres of virgin prairie. This spot was once the busiest site in southwestern Manitoba.

There was a geocache hidden up on the hill near the old Land Title Office so, of course, we had to go find it.

On the way to Newcomb’s Hollow we passed the Deloraine Pioneer Cemetery and there was a geocache hidden there as well.

The cemetery is still used. They planted a lot of fir and spruce trees and the cache was hidden under one of the lovely prickly ones. I found a nice bird’s nest while on the cache hunt.

There was a guest book in a box with the lid weighted down with a couple of stones. After I signed the book I put the stones back and realized they were granite and had belonged to grave marker – and the big piece belonged to someone named John.

I had recently discovered that my mother’s foster parents, whom we knew as Grandma and Grandpa Isaac, were buried in Souris where Grandpa had been born. When I was growing up they lived in Victoria so I assumed they were buried there and had checked every cemetery to find them. When I was looking at his military records they said he was buried in Souris so I wanted to find the graves on this trip.

Souris is well known for its swinging bridge. The story of the Souris Swinging Bridge is one of resilience.  Since 1904, the swinging bridge was reinforced in 1907, 1961 and yet again in 1974. The bridge was completely rebuilt after the floods of 1976 and 2011. The new design measures 184 metres (604 feet) tip to tip and regains the title of the longest swinging pedestrian bridge in Canada!

After the bridge was destroyed in 2011 the new bridge was built to survive floodwaters so it barely moves and certainly does not swing without a lot of effort.

The old bridge would certainly have moved a lot!

The cable is so thick my hand would only wrap halfway around it.

The Souris River.

The Souris-Glenwood cemetery has 3,000 graves in it. I had no plot number so we asked a fellow mowing the grass if there was a directory. There was one in a box at the front gate that we had not noticed, but he had another in his equipment shed and looked it up for me. Turned out we drove right past them! Grandma and Grandpa were buried right behind the shed. So funny. We were so busy looking at all the graves wondering how we would ever search them all that we didn’t even notice what was right beside the truck as we drove in.

Beside my Grandma and Grandpa’s marker were markers for his parents and there was another Isaac behind and three more markers on the other side of the road – obviously a family section.

My grandpa’s parents.

Grandpa and Grandma Isaac. They raised my mom from age 9 to 17 after she and her sisters were orphaned when mom was 6.

We drove around Brandon looking at some of the big old houses and went past Display Building Number II built for the Dominion Fair. Brandon had established an agricultural exhibition in 1882 and it had become one of the foremost exhibitions in Western Canada. Since the 1913 construction, the building has been used continuously for exhibition purposes for the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba.

The Daly House Museum had a nice little garden.

We are spending two nights in Brandon. Tomorrow we will drive eastward a short distance to Spruce Woods Provincial Park to see the sand dunes.