Crossing the Prairies
August 21, 2009
The drive today yielded few surprises with continued flat land or rolling hills, a few cattle, cows and sheep, grain elevators marking the small towns and lots and lots of grain fields. Regina is the largest city in Saskatchewan and happily the highway swept us around the edge of town and back onto the plains quickly passing by a field of sunflowers that seemed endless.
Chaplin SK bills itself as the “Salt of the Earth”. As we approached the town there were mounds of salt along the highway and rimming the lake. Chaplin Lake along with two others lakes in the area have higher salt contents than the ocean. Geologic processes have produced salt in abundance and virtual mountains of processed salt surround the site with shipments going worldwide. The lake is also part of a major flyway for migrating shorebirds.
All across Saskatchewan we have been curious about bales of hay in the highway medians and were told the government allows the farmers to use the medians and harvest the grasses for animal feed. How about that?
As we neared the town of Indian Head, looking for a rest area – they are few and far between – we noticed unusually dense stands of trees surrounding the farmhouses, the most trees we have seen since Glacier. After stopping at a visitor center, actually a visitor trailer, we learned about shelterbelts. The Prairie Shelterbelt Program established in 1902 to provide trees and shrubs for protection against the relentless winds and harsh weather of the largely treeless plains. The program is designed to facilitate agriforestry practices for crops, animals and climate control. We cannot take our forests for granted especially when we see vast open plains.
Finally, not far from Moosomin we spotted a coyote standing on the shoulder of the highway observing traffic without any sense of danger from cars and trucks speeding by at 60 to 70 miles per hour.Tomorrow we continue through the plains but the plains of Manitoba; hopefully there will be small discoveries to entertain us.
Moosomin SK Canada, Canada
August 20, 2009
We crossed into Alberta, Canada this morning and knew that a brutal day of driving lay ahead, wanting to make up some time, determined to cross Alberta and get into Saskatchewan – we did.
Crossing the rolling hills of southern Alberta was surprisingly pleasant for the first couple of hours but this is grain country with huge tracts of farmland, lonely highways, very small towns and long distances between rest stops.
A bright spot was the farmer’s market in Cardston AL where we sampled some cherries and quickly exclaimed them were the world’s BEST, at least the best either of us have ever tasted, they were perfectly ripe, meaty and simply a delight – Lapin Cherries. Another find was a loaf of delicious homemade whole-wheat flax bread made with honey. We devoured a good portion of that before nightfall. A little farther down the road a sign for Tabar corn. We pulled over and found the farmer selling corn out of his truck. He handed us an ear to sample – oh my, this was sweet, sweet corn, right from the field. Dinner tonight will be easy, raw corn, bread and for dessert sweet cherries. Yummmm.
We discovered that not all rest stops are created equal, some are just picnic areas with no restrooms.
We passed through rolling hills and areas of flat land and straight roads that go on as far as the eye can see, a floating ribbon of highway through the fields. No mountains, only silos, and the only thing to get excited about a few curves in the road that momentarily break up the monotony. This was a very long, mind-numbing day! We are definitely not flat-landers.