This is a conservation area south of Saskatoon, with an interpretative centre and guided tours. We set off last Sunday with the hope of making the 2.30pm tour, and met Jay, June and Eddie, and James and Kelly in the car park. We couldn’t see the centre anywhere, so we started off walking the Orange trail, assuming that we’d either get to the Centre or hook up with the guided tour. We were deluded….
A couple of hundred yards in, while we were still on the flat and surrounded by high grass, there were shrieks of excitement from behind me. I turned around, and saw most of the posse standing still and looking intently at the ground. “It’s a SNAKE, Mom! Come and see, quick!”. A snake is possibly the last thing I ever want to see in the flesh, apart from maybe a grizzly bear. Off it shot, much to the disappointment of the kids, and we kept going. They were bemoaning the fact that a man passing us had a snake wrapped around his arm, and felt that one of the men should have caught the damn thing and sauntered around with it as a bracelet too. The men weren’t really falling over themselves to hunt and trap it though. Here it is:
The terrain suddenly changed from flat to extremely hilly and we were marching along by the banks of the river, avoiding all the prairie-dog holes and trying to keep the kids together so that this didn’t appear out of the trees and snaffle one of them:
I’d say we were making enough noise to scare off every animal within a 10km radius away. The ground got rougher and steeper, and we didn’t meet another soul. We knew we were still on the Orange trail, but maybe all the other visitors were avoiding it for a reason? Cougars? Bears? Huge snakes? It was like we had the whole place to ourselves and the scenery was amazing. It’s possible to hire a canoe here and travel to Saskatoon, so that ‘s an idea for another day. It was 19 degrees (after snow last Tuesday), so we were really enjoying the heat and sunshine, but lusting after the water that we’d left in the cars.
All the kids and James and Jay went on ahead, while the rest of us struggled on, wondering whether we were ever going to find either the Centre or an end to the trail. We passed piles of unidentifiable poo (we assumed one particularly huge pile was from a horse. At least, we hoped so….). The guide, if we had managed to find him/her, pokes all the poo with a stick and tells you what produced it. I’m not sure whether that would have been a good thing or not….
Finally, we crested a hill and there it was. The car park, in all its glinting glory. We slogged on towards the oasis of water that was sitting, now warm, in our cars and collapsed against the scorching metal with sighs of relief and a feeling of homecoming. Out came the mini-bars of chocolate and the water, and while regrouping, we realised that the small building on the left was the only option for the Interpretative Centre. Niamh and Paul had arrived after us, but Niamh is having a baby in less than two weeks, so they only got a short way along the trail before realising that the hills would be the end of her.
James realised that he had a puncture, so we left the men to deal with that, and the women and children headed over to the Centre, where we were given a bag of seeds and directions to the birds that would want them. We passed chipmunks feeding on the way. They were gorgeous, tiny and agile, and skipping from tree to tree before arriving at the flat stone full of seeds.
They were great to watch, but the birds beat everything so far into a cocked hat. They’re black-capped chickabees, and they were amazing. They were small and fluffy and inquisitive, and flew onto our hands to peck at the seeds. Their feet were scratchy and light, and they flew on and off in circles, grabbing a seed and taking it away, while the next one landed and did the same. I loved it. I’d have stayed there for hours watching and feeding them.
June and Eddie were watching deer from the Centre balcony, and we didn’t get to see beavers or badgers, so another trip will be planned soon. It was all free, with donations welcomed, and the staff were so welcoming and helpful. A fabulous way to spend a sunny Sunday.