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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Day 29 and 30: Hello Saskatchewan of the Living Skies

"Surely not," Rona kept saying as we traveled west towards a town called MacNutt.

Surely not - that one was for the road: more rut than route, more bump on this dusty stretch of gravel than you get riding a fairground bumper car.

Surely not - that one was for the sign up ahead: yes, we were actually entering Saskatchewan, this really was an official way in.

Surely not - that one was for MacNutt: a much sign-posted destination which, when we finally arrived was, well...let's just say that it wasn't over-endowed with amenities.

We were inching our way towards the scenic Qu'Appelle Valley, and as we hung a left off route 381 and hit yet more gravel on the 30 km run into Langenburg, the "surely not"s kept coming and - even with that extra hour to fall back on - it felt like we were getting nowhere fast today.

And then, at last, the gravel turned to gold (lines on asphalt) and, armed with information from the Langenburg tourist office, we were barreling our way down highway 8 towards our destination. Well, it was the long way round to where we intended to finish the day - Echo Valley Provincial Park just west of Fort Qu'Appelle - but the woman in the tourist office insisted that this was THE way to see the valley in all its winding splendour, so long way round it was.

It is a pretty amazing sight for prairie-weary eyes to behold...That sudden cut of river valley into the landscape, and those soft downy curves of escarpment unfolding on either side. Seeing it, we understood immediately why Rae had said we must visit this valley when in her hometown province. That said, Rae hadn't recommended this particular route in. The yet another "surely not" road - this one was paved, but made Montreal seem like a pothole-free city by comparison - followed closely the line of lakes and river bed that wound their way towards Melville Beach.

Then we were back out there on the prairie again until dipping once more into the valley at Fort Qu'Appelle. To the south, you'll find enigmatic LeBret where we climbed to the top of the hill for fabulous views of the area the next day, pretty Katepwa Point Provincial Park where we picnicked and cycled, and further on, intriguing Indian Head. To the north, you'll find Echo Lake and Pasqua Lake and, nestled above the sand bank where they meet, the various campgrounds that make up Echo Valley PP.

It took us a while in this hilly location to find a campsite that worked for us - make that for Carmella - but eventually we did...Ending up as next door RV neighbours to Gloria, who is known as the Valleyview Campground greeting committee, and Bernice, who - small world! - knows Rae's family. Bernice and Gloria tapped us for information about wine women and philosophy and we tapped them for tips on what to see in Regina - our next port of call.