Saturday June 16
We had a great day on Saturday. We made our way into Saskatchewan, and got on Highway 1 for awhile and then turned off onto a country road called Highway 13. Its interesting to note that Highway 13 was also long ago known as the Red Coat Trail which is “a 1,300-kilometre (810 mi) route that approximates the path taken in 1874 by the North-West Mounted Police in their quest to bring law and order to the Canadian West” (Wikipedia). We were headed to Grasslands National Park but decided to make a stop at the small ghost town of Scotsguard just off Highway 13 to see some old cars. It was an incredible find. There must have been at least 60 old cars from the 1930’s rusting in the field, including Model A’s, Oldsmobile’s and Chevs, and even a Morris Minor.
Inside, we were shown beautiful resurrected and refurbished cars from that same field. Guy was over the moon. We all enjoyed a chat with Keith, the fellow who owns the cars and who did all the work to make them into these beauties.
We were literally out in the middle of no where. The wind was howling and just standing there in the middle of a big field, you got the sense of what it means to be someone from Saskatchewan. The vastness, the flatness, the openness, felt different and invigorating and maybe a little bit overwhelming to us west coasters used to our mountains. This same field was also main street of the old town of Scotsguard.
We had a good chat with Keith’s wife and she gave of some of the history of Scotsgard. Years ago, the property that they own was part of this thriving town of about 350 people, created after the CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway) was established. Our hosts back yard used to be the main street lined with all the shops and business of the old town. There are a couple of old buildings that withstood the fire in 1941 which nailed Scotsguard’s fate after a gradual decline over the years. There was also a museum that contained photos and artifacts collected by the owners. We managed to get a sense about how things used to be in this small town out on the prairie.
We arrived at Grasslands National Park about 4pm and set up camp. Guy started a new painting right away. I got my big boots on to ward off the creepy crawlies and promptly created a blister on one of my heals from the rubbing of rubber in the heat on skin.
Grasslands National Park is an area set aside by Parks Canada in 1981 to protect 1000 square kilometres of prairie in its natural unfarmed and un-ranched state. This swath of land covers a large part of Southern Saskatchewan. Parks Canada has been buying up ranches as they become available and are at 90% of their land base goal. They are working to preserve the natural flora and fauna of the area, some of which are endangered including black tailed prairie dogs and prairie rattlesnakes. They have also reintroduced a heard of 350 Bison to the land, since they were once part of the ecological balance before they were overhunted . We actually saw some on our way out of the park when we were leaving.
Sunday June 17
Guy finished “Fallen Farmers” in the morning, a painting of two old cars in a field just outside the small town of Wayne near Drumheller. Fallen farmers is Guy’s tribute to the farmers who drove those cars. You see these “Fallen Farmers” everywhere on the prairies. He sees them as the tombstones of the farmers long gone from the land.
While Guy was painting, the rest of us joined in on a 9am coffee and cowboy story session at the firepit. We met lots of people from all over the country and beyond and learned some history of the area from the camp ranger.
The rest of the day, we spent venturing onto the land in all its prairie beauty. What incredible scenery we saw.
The wide expanse of the plain made you think of the indigenous people and the tough life they must have lived out here. And then later, the ranchers bringing up families here in what is a very hot summers and very cold winters far away from any major town.
The sunset was sublime that night and everyone at the campsite was up on the hill looking into the next valley to the west to witness the pink and red fiery sky. We ran up to catch the tail end of sunset and take some pictures.