The Top 10 Reasons to be Thankful in 2019
The Cypress Hills Destination Area has a lot to be thankful for as 2019 gets ready to hibernate and draw to a close. Top of the list has to be the amount of rain we had that not only ensured that the forest was lush and green, but also ensured that there were no firebans in the Centre Block. The first time in many years.
While there was a brief closure of the West Block due to fire risk outside of the Park, that fire was soon gotten under control, with no loss of life or property. Definitely something to be grateful for, when you realize how fast fire can spread along the prairies.
But, in addition to that, there are so many other things to be grateful for, we thought we would pull them all together in a post that looks at some of the Top 10 things we are grateful for as we head into this Thanksgiving long weekend.
Where else can you see wild Pronghorn Antelope charging across the open prairie, deer munching passively along the side of the road, or meet a newborn baby moose as it wanders through your campsite. I’ll tell you where…HERE! We are so grateful for all of the opportunities we have to see nature up close and personal. Whether it’s the one-of-a-kind opportunities like the Prairie Dogs in Grasslands National Park (the only place in Canada where you can find them), the majestic kind of opportunities where you see a bull Moose in all it’s antlered glory, the historic kind where you see Bison once again roaming the prairie, or the conservation kind, where you can see species at risk like the Burrowing Owl, Sage Grouse, or the Greater Short-horned Lizard. And the birds! An incredibly array of birds, the likes of which you’ve never seen! (Check out Cypress Lake for their incredible assortment and the island Bird Sanctuary it boasts).
We’re even thankful for those rare but possible wildlife-like thrill opportunities that could put us in proximity of a cougar, badger, or rattlesnake (all of which we have never thankfully seen personally!). If you like connecting with nature, then this is the place for you.
#9 Fantastic Food
This one appeared on last year’s list too – but how could you NOT repeat, when you look at all the great food that surrounds us? The Cypress Hills Destination Area has some of the most incredible food in all of the prairies, no matter what side of the border you’re sampling from. Whether it’s the foodapalooza that is the Wine in the Hills, Wine Festival, at the Elkwater Lake Lodge or the tasty snacks left for guests at Guesthouse 71, as the Alberta representatives, the mouth-watering steaks offered up by the Ranch Hall Grill at the Historic Reesor Ranch, straddling the border between Alberta and Saskatchewan, the continued greatness of The Shop Cafe & Catering, The Daily Grind, The Rockin Horse, and Grotto Gardens in Maple Creek, or the new food adventures brought to us by Chef Joel Fitzpatrick (formerly of the Star Cafe) at his new Lakeview Grill located in the Centre Block. We’ve even got the ingredients you need to make your own tasty dishes through places like Ranch House Meats in Shaunavon, and The Daily Grind and The Shop in Maple Creek, all of whom offer you the chance to buy unique ingredients to elevate your own home-cooking.
Even in the teeny tiny Village of Val Marie, the gateway to Grasslands National Park, you have the opportunity to enjoy great food. Whether it’s the healthy fare offered up by Sky Story Bed and Breakfast, or the good for the soul, if not the waistline of the lattes and cinnamon buns offered up by Prairie Wind Silver Sage Eco-Museum.
But don’t just take our word for it…take a look!
#8 Amazing Scenery
Sometimes all it takes is one view. One scene. One big breath in a place that fills your heart with happy. We’ve got those scenes in abundance. Whether you’re a forest dweller, feel happiest around water, or need to take in wide open spaces to release the tensions of life, our scenery is so diverse, that it’s hard to imagine that it is all located within a two hour radius. From forest to sandhills, prairie to badlands, we’re grateful that we’ve got it all. Whatever kind of space fills your soul – we’ve got plenty to spare!
History comes in many forms. From Natural History in the form of flora and fauna, or the prehistoric kind found in the story of fossils, to the history of an Area’s people, how they got there, who got there, when they got there and why they got there. And these stories are told in so many ways in the Cypress Hills Destination Area. From the stories found in the T.Rex Discovery Centre which tells the story of the rich fossil beds nearby, including that of Scotty, the World’s largest T.Rex discovery, and others who roamed when she did. To the stories of the people of the West, found and preserved by those whose First Nation’s ancestors first explored this land, to the western settlers who arrived, all archived in museums big and small in Gull Lake, Leader, Val Marie, Maple Creek and Eastend, and archived at the Historic Reesor Ranch, Saskatchewan’s first ranch to be designated a Provincial Heritage Site. There is even the much larger and impactful story of Canada’s North West Mounted Police. A story which evolved into our present day RCMP. A story whose origins can be found in and around Fort Walsh National Historic Site, and the newly listed Cypress Hills Massacre National Historic Site. These are the stories of the Cypress Hills Destination Area, and we are grateful to have the chance to hear, see and learn about them.
#6 Cowboy Culture
Just copying and pasting this one from last year, because it’s just as true today! From riding the open range with real cowboys, to enjoying the benefits of a working ranch, you’ll get firsthand knowledge of that mythical of creature…the Cowboy. Here, the folks you’ll see in the Cypress Hills Destination Area are not costumed interpreters, they’re the real deal. Hard working men and women, who help to put food on the plates of the world, who work hard and who play hard. They can rope a calf, recite a poem, or tell you a tall tale around a campfire.
If the spirit of the west captures your imagination you can enjoy western-themed accommodations at Horseshoe Haven, the Historic Reesor Ranch or Ghostown Blues, take in western themed events such as Maple Creek’s Heritage Days, the Maple Creek CCA Rodeo, the Val Marie Indoor Rodeo, or the Buckin Broncs and Indian Races of the Cowtown Showdown. Or enjoy guided experiences at Grasslands National Park including Cowboy Coffee and a guided hike title “The Cowboy Way.” Enjoy a good local steak at the Ranch Hall Grill, or wolf down some delicious horse nuts (not what you think!) at The Rockin Horse, or even cook your own from local ranches purchased at Ranchhouse Meats. Take in the cowboy boot arch at the Great Sandhills, see the Cowboy Hat display at the Prairie Wind and Silver Sage Museum in Val Marie, or view the remnants of old homesteads in Grasslands National Park and throughout the Cypress Hills Destination Area. Cowboy culture is alive and well! Giddy up!
#5 Art and Music
Art and Music, they are what feed the soul. And just like with our other food-worthy delights, you’ll come away full in a culture sense when you visit our Area. We are so grateful for the art and music that surrounds us. From the world-class exhibits hanging at The Broken Spoke Fine Art Gallery, to the simple local works that hang in Area restaurants and hotels, and the music that fills our many unique venues.
Due to our incredible landscapes and rich cultural history, it’s an Area that inspires artists, so we’ve made it easy for them to hang out here with not one but two locations where they can retreat and create. One in the Park at the Johnson Cultural Centre and the other at the Tumbling Angels Artist’s Loft in Maple Creek. We also host many amazing art, photography and other art-filled workshops through both private providers and locally organized events, including Culture Days held each year in most communities throughout the Southwest. The Town of Leader even has giant “Larger than Life” artwork throughout the Town.
As for our music….you know what they say, The Hills are Alive with the Sounds of Music and we’ve got some of the best. From the Hills are Alive Culture and Music Festival that happens each June in Elkwater, to the spiritually uplifting sounds of the Frenchman River Gospel Jamboree in August, or the country-sounds of the music-filled Cowboy Poetry event each September. We’ve also got music by incredible artists that happens in the more intimate settings provided by the locales of Ghostown Blues, Broken Spoke, The Rockin Horse, the Lakeview Grill and the Elkwater Lake Lodge. With past featured musicians including David Gogo, Jeffrey Straker, Big Little Lions, Little Miss Higgins, Taking August, the locally grown Hunter Brothers and more!
For those who love to hear their music in the great outdoors, you also have the opportunity of taking in the porch offerings at Ghostown Blues or Grotto Gardens, or the wide open settings of the Cypress Hills Centre Block’s amphitheatre, and campfire songs and other musical events that happen at the Historic Reesor Ranch or Grasslands National Park.
#4 Sunsets and Sunrises
Nothing makes you feel more grateful to be alive than a beautiful sunrise or sunset. For the night owls, a sunset can mean the end to an incredible day, or the start of Dark Sky viewing in one of our two Dark Sky Preserves (Cypress Hills and Grasslands National Park) or our Nocturnal Preserve (Old Man on His Back Nature Conservancy), while a sunset can mark the start of a new day, a new dawn, a new beginning, and fun new adventures to be had.
STILL never thought we’d be able to say with a straight face that we’re thankful for winter….but here we still are! Repeating our gratitude from last year, there’s simply nothing like the peace and quiet of a snowy trail as you cross-country ski or snowshoe, the rush of the wind in your face as you downhill ski or snowmobile, the quiet stillness and camaraderie of a day spent fishing with your best buddy by your side, or a game of shinny on a frozen lake or rink. Add in, that it seems to be the perfect time to get together with friends and family who are otherwise too busy in the summer, and the perfect time to view wildlife, who don’t just leave when the snow flies, and cozy fires with those you love, and it just gets better and better. Winter also has some great events, both big and small to take in, including Cowtown Christmas in Maple Creek, Winterfest in Gull Lake, Battle of the Little Big Puck, the Christmas Bird Count, and the New Years Day Tobogganing Party.
Winter is also the time that some of our finest and most affordable packages are available. We’re thankful we don’t just get to experience the Cypress Hills Destination Area in the summer – we get to experience it all winter long too!
#2 Exciting Adventures
Adventure means different things to different people. Whether you like your adrenaline to be at an all time high while cruising through the woods on a Segway (once he takes you off “turtle” speed), galloping or heading downhill through the trees on your trusty steed, (either the four-legged variety, the four-wheeled kind, or the two-wheeled kind), or you like the more laid-back adventures that sees you cast your line in a creek or lake, a meander through the woods or open prairie on a paved pathway or rugged trail, zenning out with goats during a yoga class, or yelling FORE, we have the kind of adventure you’re seeking. Paddle, hike, golf, swim, bike – whatever adventures you’re looking for, or whatever adventure you hope finds you, chances are the Cypress Hills Destination Area has been there …done that.
#1 Time with Family and Friends
Life is SO busy. Has it always been this way?? Trying to coordinate calendars? Trying to find free time in a jumble of commitments? All we know is that having this place where you can go to – to connect with family, to hang with friends, to share new adventures and new experiences, has got to be the number one thing we are grateful for. You can have all the most wonderful businesses, all the most wonderful attractions, all the most wonderful experiences, and all the most wonderful places to explore, but if you don’t have people to share it with, it all seems rather empty. We’re grateful for the families and friends that choose the Cypress Hills Destination Area as their place to reconnect.