Saskatchewan: worth going home for?

Novelist Thomas Wolfe claimed, “You can’t go home again.” But was he right? I grew up in Saskatchewan and moved to Alberta to find work. So many others have done the same thing that Calgary was called “Saskatchewan’s biggest city” by author Harry Hiller.

Waskesiu Lake takes it name from the Cree language

Waskesiu Lake takes it name from the Cree language

Novelist Thomas Wolfe claimed, “You can’t go home again.” But was he right?

I grew up in Saskatchewan and moved to Alberta to find work. So many others have done the same thing that Calgary was called “Saskatchewan’s biggest city” by author Harry Hiller.

Saskatchewan was not my preferred tourism destination as a teen, but after living away for three decades, I wanted to see if I could go home again as a tourist and enjoy it.

I headed for northern Saskatchewan, remembering my earliest camping trips to Prince Albert National Park. Tents then were canvas, air mattresses seldom held air through the night, and mosquitoes competed with bears for status as most-feared creature in the park.

This time I opted for comfort, staying in a rental RV at Emma Lake National Park, close enough to visit Prince Albert National Park but centrally-located to other boreal forest attractions.

When I arrived at my campsite with the trailer set up, wood stacked by the fire pit and a tablecloth on the picnic table, I felt like a glamper (glamorous camper). The potted flowers beside the door brought opulence my childhood visits to the area never had!

Within minutes of arriving in Saskatchewan’s north, I remembered what was missing from my life — bone-deep quiet. The stillness was total and the view fulfilled the boast on provincial licence plates of ‘Land of Living Skies.’

And there was mystery after the sun went down. A fellow camper had a shoe stolen from outside his trailer while he slept, sparking rumours that a Shoesquatch was behind the unexplained disappearance!

Not worried which animals had a shoe fetish, I started my day visiting Alaskan huskies at Sundogs Sled Excursions. Rain prevented me from mushing with a wheeled cart, but attending ‘puppy camp’ to learn about sled dogs netted me a graduation card, a used dogsled bootie and husky-hair-covered jeans. Sometimes northern joy comes in unusual forms!

Meals have improved since my childhood visits to Prince Albert National Park.

At the Hawood Inn’s Mackenzie restaurant, the chef’s board showcased meats from across the province.

The mother-daughter team of Connie Freedy and Heidi O’Brodovich run the Yellow Fender Bistro in nearby Christopher Lake. They returned home after years in France to offer tasty meals and European-style breads, unexpected in this village of 215.

Last on my to-do list was an interpretive boat tour of the Hanging Heart Lakes.

The McLachlan family has run tourism businesses in Prince Albert National Park since travel for the middle class started.

“Initially our business was to cut chunks of ice from the lake in spring to save for tourist iceboxes,” says Morris McLachlan of Waskesiu Marina Adventure Centre.

The introduction of electricity killed that business, but the McLachlans reinvented their company and now offer boat rentals and sightseeing tours.

As Morris sums up, “There is nowhere I would rather be than Prince Alberta National Park in summer.”

I had to agree as I discovered, yes, you can go home again. In fact, I found myself wondering why it had taken so long!

If you go:

• Retro RV’s Darci Schapansky will deliver a rental RV to any campground in Saskatchewan. Go to www.retrorv.com.

• To visit sled dogs or enrol in puppy camp, contact Sundogs Sled Excursions at www.sundogs.sk.ca.

• If you want an interpretative boat tour or boat rental for fishing, contact Waskesiu Marina at www.waskesiumarina.com.

Carol Patterson helps businesses and people reinvent themselves through adventure. When she isn’t travelling for work, Carol is travelling for fun. More of her adventures can be found at www.carolpatterson.ca.

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