Grasslands National Park

I am extremely excited to bring you the first GUEST BLOG POST about our National Parks. For me it’s like a triple win; a Saskatchewan park, the wide open prairies (my spiritual space) and written by an inspiring young woman who is a mover and a shaker. Someone I am lucky enough to call my friend and who, with only a tiny bit of encouragement dove into writing about her Parks Canada experience.

Here in Reagan’s bio is a small glimpse into what her life is centered around. “Passionate about all things agriculture. Endurance junkie and lover of life on two wheels! Leader of @pedalwenches & inspired human.”

So hang on as this won’t be your typical we drove there and then walked around to see the sights. No this post is all about exploring all the sites, sounds, smells and feelings that a place like this can invoke.

Canada 150 Glamping Adventure
Grasslands Sign

Five years ago, a group of friends started a tradition of “glamping” one weekend a summer, somewhere  with a chance of adventure and lots of physical activity challenges.  Glamping is glamourous-camping — for most folks, this means accommodations, but for a group of endurance athletes who spend most of the summer racing (and of course training) this means the food, wine, friends and activities are glamourous.  The accommodation is typically camping in a remote campsite with back to basics amenities.  This year’s expedition to Grasslands National Park was no different.  Well, perhaps even the most basic set up we’ve attempted thus far. Map Reading

Inspired by the Canada 150 free parks pass, I decided in April to book into the teepees at Grasslands National Park.  All previous glampings have been in a forested area, near a body of water, Grasslands promised to be a departure from our usual setting.  We also typically glamp in September, so an end-of-July timing hopefully meant more sunshine and warm weather.  Growing up in East Central SK, I lack a complete appreciation for how the southern Saskies live – rolling grassy topography, sparse with trees, the swimming holes are few and far between and the wind is unrelenting!  I had heard from friends who are originally from Ontario, but now reside in Saskatchewan that Grasslands was a stark beauty, a must-visit experience, so why not this year?

Rolling Landscape RW

Well the vistas did not disappoint, nor did the warmth of the folks in the town of Val Marie.  They were warm and welcoming, and quite curious when a group of 8 strangers rolled into town on mountain bikes and fat bikes on a 38C afternoon looking to fill water bottles and asking if we could buy more ice.  The town was in full on festival mode, as they were celebrating the Canada 150 by hosting home town hockey hero Bryan Trottier and his fans with a weekend of events including a parade, ball hockey, bands and beer garden.  With our campsite remotely located in the Two Trees camp area, we did not partake in the festivities in town this weekend. Val Marie Pit Stop

Two Trees is aptly named, or at least it was…last year one of the trees blew over and died, but there are 2 lone trees, spaced about ¼ mile apart on the winding road into the camp area.  You come over the coulee and there they are, 4 majestic teepees facing the valley.  It’s breath-taking.  There are a few planted trees in that camp area, but that is all there is for luxury.  There is a very clean and well maintained outhouse and 2 rain barrels with non-potable water, a few Muskoka chairs and picnic tables, 1 gas BBQ and that’s it for amenities outside of the teepees.  With the fire ban on, the fire pit was locked down.  We were so thankful for the trees, when the mercury was rising, we were moving down into the shade. The shade and the wind was welcomed, even if the wind felt like the oven door was left open blasting you in the face.  I managed to stay sane by wetting my hair down with the rain water and staying in the trees.

TeePees

On the first day there we rode our bikes on the 70 Mile Butte trails.  There were a lot of climbs and rapid desents and a number of hikers out on the trail.  When we arrived in town at the tail end of our ride on day 1 we learned that in fact, bikes are no longer allowed on that trail system.  Oops – with no signs posted at the trail head, we were unaware.

70 Mile Butte

After our visit in town and ride back to the trail head, we headed back to the campsite to sit in the shade, drink a few cool ones, nap, play a few games of horse balls and get in a round of the #BeLikeBruce WOD {{editor — note at bottom to explain this although I think it deserves it’s own post called Eat Cake and Take the Trip}}.

BLB WOD

By 6:00 PM the temperatures started to fall, providing welcomed respite from the heat. The wind picked up and soon enough we were in our hoodies, around the picnic table dining on another feast of pork souvlaki, Greek salad, and fresh corn polenta.

The starry night sky is another wonder of the world.  Being miles from any light pollution allows the stars to light up the sky, and you can’t help but tilt your eyes to the sky and watch with wonder.  It truly is spectacular.  I found myself staring up at the night sky at 3:00 AM when I was heading back from my mid-sleep pee.  If you’re into the constellations, this is a must visit destination. Starry Sky

On day two we woke up and by 7:30 AM the thermometer was rising rapidly.  We decided that with 32C at 8:00 AM we would eat breakfast, pack up and trailer the bikes over to the Frenchman Valley area in the East Block to hit the Broken Hill trail.  It was 11.5 km and rated as intermediate to difficult – that’s for hiking.  It was plenty difficult on the bikes.  There was some scrambling and pushing our bikes up and down the biggest hills, but the vistas were worth it.  At the ½ way point of that trail were the famous Canada 150 Red Muskoka Chairs.  It was so windy and hot up there we didn’t stop for long. Arriving back at the cars it was 38C so we decided to point the nose of the vehicle north and head to Sask Landing for a cooling swim and late lunch picnic on our way back to Saskatoon.  The water has never felt so good!

Red Chairs 2 RW and group

Red Chairs Grasslands

On the way down, we made a pit stop at Black Bridge Brewery in Swift Current for a flight of various ales.  It was a great little stop, lots of yummy tastings! I would recommend a stop over there if you’re ever in Swift Current.  I am now in love with the Oat Session Ale – a nose of pineapple and a crisp finish, it’s a great summer beer! Brewery

A few pointers for those considering the trip to Grasslands:

  • There is a cardlock fuel in Val Marie that accepts Visa and Master Card.
  • There is a basic grocery store and a hoppin’ little bar and Chinese food restaurant.
  • The Convent Inn is a basic B&B, but a nice spot to stay (our friends stayed there on a previous trip)
  • The Prairie Dogs are definitely worth driving to see; they are adorable, even if they have a pseudo-bubonic plague.
  • Kayaking is listed as an activity, but the river bed was dry in places, so definitely call ahead if you’re planning to paddle.
  • There is a great horse friendly camp site at Frenchman Valley, but there are NO trees, not even shrubs. I would not recommend staying there in July or August unless you love the heat and can pack in a lot of water!

As always adventures are what you make them.  With a great group of friends who are up for almost anything, it’s easy to find fun anywhere you decide to go.

Reagan

Editor’s Note

#BeLikeBruce WOD = work out of the day which is Cross Fit lingo. When a local cross fit member has cancer that group, the biking community and many more stepped up to support him in a flash mob work out style.  The WOD features huge numbers (all these numbers have significance to Bruce and his family) of things that make most of us cringe like lunges, burpees, squats and push ups. This group is inspired to continue on this team activity. The hashtags say it all #BelikeBruce, #CouragelikeChris.

Second Editor’s Note

There is research out that that shows that bikers and hikers have the same impact on trail sediment. It seems that a horse, even more so than a motorized bike, has the most impact on trail condition and yet horses are allowed in most parts of the Grasslands. I have no idea if this is a local Parks Canada decision or a national policy. This group of   bikers did not set out to harm the environment or break laws.

2 thoughts on “Grasslands National Park

  1. Brenda Bacon August 9, 2017 / 7:02 am

    I think I loved the prairie dogs the most (next to the vistas). Their chirping as we stopped to take photos drove my dog CRAZY! I thought she was going to dive out the window to get at them. I think that the bubonic plague issue is only an issue if one bites you – and they would never let you get that close. The ground squirrels at the Winnipeg zoo carry the same disease – and they will bite if you “tease” but then don’t give them food. Hence the rule: “Don’t feed the animals”.

    Like

    • bernielynne August 9, 2017 / 8:00 am

      That vista feeds my soul and reminds me of home. I was surprised that she didn’t include a prairie dog photo.

      Like

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