September 17, 2015
September 15, 2015
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While reading a travel information booklet promoting Manitoba’s Parklands I found an article entitled, “Cinnamon Bun Trail.” That caught my attention and determined our breakfast destination – the White House Bakery and Restaurant in Wasagaming.
In addition to fruit cups and Greek yogurt we each had to order one of the cinnamon rolls; the choices today were regular, cream cheese and maple. Two maples coming up – worthy of being featured along the Cinnamon Bun Trail.
To exit Riding Mountain National Park we drove the gravel road to the east entrance, dropping down from the top of the escarpment to the flat Manitoba plains. We found the historic original log park entrance worthy of a photo stop even though the morning was cloudy.
We head eastward towards The Narrows, crossing between sections of Lake Manitoba. While the lake looks large we know from the map that we’re seeing a minuscule portion. Watching the cloud cover it keeps looking like we’ll soon be out from under the cloudy skies, so far no luck.
East of Poplarfield we pass another of the Historic Ukrainian churches, one of three we will see along our route today.
Our intention was to make it to Winnipeg this afternoon. For a break from the road we stop in the town of Gimli on the western shore of Lake Winnipeg. Gimli was settled by immigrants from Iceland and is said to be the largest Icelandic settlement outside of the North Atlantic island country. With waves stirred by a brisk wind and lake stretching to the horizon we can almost imagine being oceanside.
While exploring town we decide to have a late lunch at a waterfront restaurant, Seagulls. By the end of a delicious lunch and friendly, accommodating waitress we decided we like the little town of Gimli and booked a room at the adjoining Lakeview Resort. The weather is warm enough to sit on the balcony, protected from the wind. A restful end not only to the day but also to a successful first week of our travels.
September 14, 2015
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One of the delights of traveling the ecoregion known as the Parklands of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Canada (northeast of Regina, SK and northwest of Winnipeg, MB) has been discovering the Ukrainian churches with decorative domes. Built and treasured by the large numbers of immigrants from the Ukraine that settled in the agricultural area some of the churches house Catholic congregations while others Orthodox worshipers.
Even in small towns we often find both religions represented. Indeed in some towns we find three separate buildings, each with its own characteristics.
We haven’t been able to visit any of the interiors but know that many are even more elaborate than the exteriors. I found a picture of the colorful and ornate ceiling and chandelier in the Historic Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Resurrection (photo to the right) in Dauphin, Manitoba.
Driving back roads we’ve found country churches that remind us of ones we knew in our youth, located in the American Midwest. The only difference being an absence of steeples or bell towers; instead we’re seeing numerous versions of onion domes along our drive today.
So far, my favorite is a church in Canora, Saskatchewan that is topped with pear-shaped domes instead of the more typical onion domes.
Along our travels I’ve found more locations of the picturesque churches, just one reason to plan a future trip to the area.
September 12, 2015
Surprises abound during our visit to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Regina. Surprise #1 is easy free parking. Surprise #2 is the FREE admission, is that great or not? There is a suggested per person donation which we willingly give. After seeing the quality and depth of the galleries we drop in an additional amount in support of the museum. A staff member offers a warm welcome and brief orientation.
Near the beginning of the Life Sciences Gallery is a large table-top map of Saskatchewan with eco-zones outlined. Buttons corresponding with outlines on the map activate an audio description of each zone from early formation to native lifeforms.
When planning our visit I found it difficult to find more than rudimentary information on the province. Surprise #4 – This was exactly what I had wanted for better understanding of what we would find in our travels. Surprise #5 – The geography of Saskatchewan is much more diverse than appears on road maps or in travel literature.
As we proceed through the gallery exhibits, dioramas, audio, video and informative signs display significant flora, fauna and landforms of each eco-zone – all extremely well done. We come eye to eye with moose found in the Taiga Shield, Barren-ground caribou wintering in the Boreal Shield, and a porcupine clinging to a tree trunk as found in the Aspen Parklands. As much as I would love to see these in their natural habitat I would never want to be this close and certainly wouldn’t be able to study them so closely.
Interactive learning centers includes topics such as Avoiding Being Eaten, outlining defensive weapons various species possess, and Songs of Love where we can hear the sounds used to attract mates from cougars to Northern Leopard Frogs. I like the informative exhibit about the differences between El Nino, La Nina and a normal year. Is there ever a “normal” year?
Surprise #6 – The more than 350 species of birds and waterfowls found in Saskatchewan. I’m fascinated with the migration patterns of those who come north to breed. The route down the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains into Central and South America is familiar. However, I never realized another route beginning in northernmost Saskatchewan that takes flight to the Maritime Provinces in Eastern Canada then thousands of miles south above the Atlantic Ocean and down the Brazilian coast. What a journey these amazing creatures undertake twice a year.
Surprise #7 – A large diorama depicting a wildlife refuge in Coast Rica. The scene shows the upper canopy of a rainforest in February with a “mixed flock” of tropical birds and songbirds that will fly north to spend a few summer months in the Saskatchewan forests.
Surprise #8 – We’ve spent nearly two hours and could spend more in this Life Sciences Gallery; there are still two others plus a temporary exhibit to survey. After a brief break we go to the lower level to the Earth Sciences and First Nation Galleries.
When it comes to the age of the dinosaurs I admit to having a shorter attention span than a typical four-year-old. The Earth Sciences Gallery tells the formation of Saskatchewan, ancient history and creatures that roamed this area more than a billion years ago. There’s much I could learn of extinct giant reptiles, mosasaurs, and dinosaurs but we make a fairly quick walk-through although this area deserves more attention.
First Nations Gallery traces the history of Aboriginal societies that lived in Saskatchewan. Artwork and artifacts recall cultural traditions. Again, we don’t give this area as much attention as we should. On a future visit we might opt to start here to fully experience the history of Saskatchewan’s First Nations.
The Museum also features a theatre and the popular Megamunch, a ½-scale robotic T-rex named by the province’s schoolchildren.
Surprise #9 (and, only disappointment) – The gift shop has a very small book selection about Saskatchewan and nothing similar to the information in the Life Sciences Gallery.
Surprise #10 is the hard maple, leaf-shaped candy Bob finds. At three for $1.00 Bob adds three to my purchases. The volunteer clerk comments, “That won’t be enough.” Bob goes back for six more. When we get to the car we’re ready for a treat. Later in the afternoon we’re back at the museum making a $10 purchase of maple candy.
September 12, 2015
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I don’t know how one could ask for a more perfect September Saturday. Since I’ve never master the Fahrenheit to Celsius conversion I can’t cite the temperature. However, the morning chill quickly warmed to comfortable shirt-sleeve weather.
The day’s activities center around Regina’s Lake Wascana. The lake is surrounded by parkland and a combination of recreational, cultural, governmental and educational facilities. First stop this Saturday morning is the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. With extensive Life Sciences, Earth Sciences and First Nation galleries we easily spend more than three hours learning about the eco-zone, wildlife, historical and cultural diversities found in Saskatchewan.
Needing time off our feet we decide to drive around Lake Wascana locating the Legislative Building, Science Center, Mackenzie Art Gallery, Wascana Center, gardens, walking trails and numerous lakeside viewpoints. South of the lake is the University of Regina campus; we stop to take pictures of the modern yet symbolic architecture of the First Nation University.
An ice cream cone sounds like an ideal afternoon refreshment when we spot a food truck. What a great location! Down a long walkway and surrounding gardens stands the Legislative Building; the top of the building is wrapped for current restoration work. We join a group observing a man piloting remote-controlled boats. One of his vessels is a replica fire boat complete with water hose expelling an arcing water stream. Children dare him to aim for them, then jump back with giggling glee.
Having skipped lunch we head for an early dinner. On our way into town two days ago Bob spotted a Tony Roma’s restaurant. All the Tony Roma’s in Colorado closed several years ago and we’re eager to once again order their St. Louis style ribs. We leave fully satisfied with dinner and service.
The evening is much too pleasant to return to our hotel room so we go back to Lake Wascana for a short walk and a park bench from which we watch families enjoying the park and the setting sun. Our only regret is that we didn’t have time to explore many of the other facilities – next time we’ll plan more days around Lake Wascana.
The end of a perfect September Saturday in Regina.
September 11, 2015
We head off to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Heritage Center for our first activity of the day. All RCMP cadets are trained at the adjoining Regina Depot. The first thing we want to do is sign up to attend the afternoon Sergeant Major’s Parade – an event that requires an escort onto the Depot grounds.
Viewing a 20-minute film, Courage in Red, we’re introduced to the life of cadets during their initial six-month training to become Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Before attending the parade we visit several of the six galleries in the museum.
Creating a Mounted Police
Maintaining Law and Order in the West
Protecting the North
Serving All of Canada
Answering Duty’s Call
Cracking the Case
We’re fortunate to receive a tram ride to the parade square with a guide filling in many details of training activities, tour of the Depot grounds and history of the RMCP. The rat-a-tat of snare drums alert visitors to the beginning of the parade led by a band and followed, in order of seniority, by the current training troops.
At the end of the parade we’re welcomed into the chapel, dating from the 1800s it’s the oldest building at the Depot. We admire the colorful stained-glass windows, especially the two on either side of the altar. One is a red-coated Mountie in a pose of reverent remembrance of fallen officers. The other is a Mountie with bugle calling the troops to duty.
On our ride back to the Heritage Center we learn of roles from support staff. The training center has a 12-person tailoring department, as one of the ladies in the film says, “We’re not just hemming pants we’re dressing Mounties.” There is also a leather shop where the distinctive, tall, brown boots are custom fitted to each cadet.
Upon arrival back at the Heritage Center we finish visiting the exhibits; and, of course, puruse the gift shop. We’ve spent more than four hours immersed into RCMP life and history. Our first activity of the day has become our only activity; but, an interesting and entertaining day.
September 10, 2015
Last year on our first visit to North Dakota we found the impact of the Bakken oil fields utterly amazing. Although we’ve heard and read that exploration and production are down this year due to oil prices it’s hard to believe from what we see today. Every few miles there is evidence of new drilling and pumps are pumping away – sometimes one or two but sometimes as many as a dozen in a tightly-spaced row.
Traffic in the area is horrendous. Roads engineered and built to link rural towns, often narrow without paved shoulders, now serve thousands of drilling and well sites. The vast majority of vehicles are large commercial trucks hauling water, sand, pipes, heavy machinery and oil – in a hurry and hugging the center line.
Williston is a hub city for much of the activity. Driving through town we realize how many types of services are needed to support this industry. Everyone has tales of how the town has grown and changed. We hear of rents as high as $3,000/month for a two-bedroom apartment. Last year when Bob wanted an oil change in the car we were told that we’d need an appointment – first available slot was three months out. And, the same was true for a haircut.