Friday September 1, 2017 (Canada)
First off: sorry for the delay since the last update! We're actually in Vancouver as I write this (which is tough, because now I'm trying to remember all the stuff we did eleven days ago!), but we had a stint of five straight days of camping in Alberta, so locating a power outlet and consistent Internet was basically a no-go. Now we've got Internet galore, so I'm going to try to get caught up quickly!
Breakfast in Regina consisted of a five minute walk from our accommodations to a small restaurant called Hunter Gatherer. The decor was incredible! Apparently the place got its name because the owner is a huge antique/thrift store collector, so everybody calls him the hunter-gatherer with respect to his great finds! The walls were covered with colourful old suitcases and trunks, and there were huge, kitschy landscape paintings in elaborate gilded frames. I had the breakfast poutine special, which included lots of jalapenos and used a homefry-style potato instead of the usual french fries. I was in heaven. Possibly the best breakfast of the trip so far!
We headed off from Regina and stopped in Moose Jaw, SK. Moose Jaw is famous for its debaucherous past. During the American prohibition, it became a hotbed for the production and illegal transport of alcohol into the US. It was at the end of the train line connected to Minneapolis, so bootleggers and gangsters began to overrun the place in no time at all! Apparently, Al Capone himself frequented the town in its heyday! Along with booze, Moose Jaw also became a haven for prostitution and had a thriving red light district. My kind of destination!
There are a series of underground tunnels in the city that were used for hiding these sensitive operations from the police. They still exist today, so we took the tour and checked them out! I was expecting an information-packed rundown on the history of the tunnels, but the experience was more like a theatre production than a history lesson. Sandra was alright with that, but I would definitely have preferred a more instructional approach. We weren't supposed to take pictures in the tunnels… so we have no evidence that we did any of the stuff I've just told you about. Just trust me on this one.
Before skipping town we dropped into a local meadery. Mead being an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey, if you haven't heard of it. Sandra and I have had the pleasure of drinking mead out on the east coast, but meaderies are not a common sight, so we stopped in to Prairie Bee and had a taste. It was tasty stuff! We picked up a bottle and continued on toward Grasslands.
Along the way I tried to capture some typical prairie scenes. Saskatchewan is often called the "Big Sky" province, and it certainly holds true! We passed trains with endless identical grain-carrying cars and huge open fields with gorgeous cloud vistas above.
Arriving at Grasslands itself was a treat. Not long after driving into the park we spotted several Mule Deer at the side of the gravel road. We stopped at a scenic lookout, and on the short walk out to the point we noticed hundreds of tiny craters surrounding us. Before long, a small head popped out of one, and we realized we were smack in the middle of a huge prairie dog colony! We later learned that Grasslands is the only place in Canada to see prairie dogs in the wild? I'm not sure I have that fact exactly correct, but that's what the Parks Canada guy said! They're super cute little gaffers and we were thrilled to watch them dart out of (and often right back into) their little holes!
The viewpoint was complete with some wild, grazing bison. And not another car in sight! We continued on toward the campsite and set up the tent. In a big field, with… nothing else, really! Definitely the most exposed camping we've done to date, but the weather forecast looked great! I woke up at night and exited the tent to gaze at a beautiful, starry night sky. I woke up Sandra just to check it out with me! That's another fun part of camping out in the middle of nowhere – almost no light pollution! I apologize for not setting up the tripod and trying to take a picture of the stars at two in the morning, but I'm way too lazy for that kind of business.
From Grasslands we'll be crossing the entirety of Alberta east to west to visit Waterton Lakes National Park. Our first back-to-back nights of camping! Hopefully we can find ourselves a shower…