Grasslands: A World Apart by Nathaniel Martin | Tourism Saskatchewan
Bruin and I have a knack for attracting bad weather. From mudslides, to snowstorms, to sandstorms, we’ve seen it all. So it came as no surprise that it was pouring rain as we put Vancouver in the rearview and set out on the Trans-Canada Highway. This time we decided to find adventure in Canada’s Midwest, Grasslands National Park.
Deep Prairie Roots
Saskatchewan is where I was born and spent my childhood. Despite my family’s migration to Canada’s mountains and coastlines, prairie roots run deep and Saskatchewan will always feel like home in some way. It’s no secret that the beauty of the prairies is lost on some, but to me the big skies and open farmland have a simple elegance that I find captivating.
As we followed the dotted line eastward, past blurry fence posts and old gas stations, every kilometre brought with it another memory: summers spent with my cousins on the farm or lacing up my skates on a bone chilling winter night. I was excited to share my stomping grounds with Bruin and to capture our journey.
With the Pacific and the Rockies well behind us, the rain slowly abated. It wasn’t long before we were alone on the highway, southbound to Val Marie. The noise of the city and buzzing of my phone were replaced with our typical road trip soundscape: Johnny Cash, nuanced conversation, and the pitter of gravel against the under carriage.We rolled past the park gates just as the good light was setting in. Many an hour on the drive had me thinking of what I wanted to photograph and how I wanted to document the area. It didn’t take long for me to see one of the scenes I had envisioned. Five minutes down the park road, two male bison were grazing amongst the wildflowers. Miles behind them, we could see their herd meandering on a grassy hill. We watched them until the sun dipped below the skyline and then made our way to our campsite.
An Overwhelming Connection to the Past
Our first night was spent in tipis at the Frenchman Valley Campground. After taking a few photos, we each picked our own tipi to sleep in and retired. It was an incredible feeling laying there. As I surveyed the stars through the hole in the canvas, I felt an overwhelming connection to the past. The earth under my sleeping bag, the rumble of far-off thunder, and yips of coyotes — all pieces of a land that people have marveled at as long as we’ve known it.
Each morning we awoke to pre-dawn light, and scanned the horizon for signs of life. Our stares were often met with the curious faces of white tail deer, sometimes miles away. I was surprised by the diversity of wildlife in the park. In addition to the deer and bison we saw pronghorn antelope, coyotes, ground hogs, beaver, prairie dogs, swift foxes, coyotes, porcupine and even a badger. All seemed undisturbed by our presence and inquisitive. The effects of humanization haven’t yet been felt in the park.
Maybe the biggest highlight of the trip was our horseback tour through the West Block. Our guide Dennis is as old school as they come. He runs a ranch just north of Grasslands and knows the place better than the back of his grizzled hand. He offers horseback tours through his company Ride with Lamotte and we met him at his trailer around midday to saddle up.
I was a bit apprehensive after Denis informed me my horse’s name was Buck. I found out why moments later after pulling up too sharply on his reigns. As the horse reared, Denis barked at me to “give the him his head” and no sooner had I let up on the reigns then Buck calmed and started chewing on some yellow flowers he was fond of. Denis chuckled and started off down the trail, leading Bruin and I south-east to the far tip of Grasslands’ west block, and the northern border of Montana.
Read more….. Source: Nathaniel Martin | Tourism Saskatchewan