Last month’s visit home

Posted in Ball's Falls, Cemeteries, Home, Niagara, Ontario, Rural, Saskatchewan, Toronto, Travel, Vacation with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 22, 2016 by Amanda

With my next trip rapidly approaching, I figured I should finally write about my last trip.  Clearly, I’ve been even lazier than usual of late!  Anyway, in mid-July I headed back to Ontario for a few days.  Of course just a few days after buying flights on Air Canada, albeit at a pretty good price for that airline, New Leaf finally started selling flights.  At least, my trip was a little bit before they actually started flying.

In addition to shopping in Toronto, I went on a free walking tour.  It was interesting but also a bit depressing as I hadn’t really thought about just how few historic buildings they have now.  I also hadn’t realized how huge a problem cholera and typhoid once were there and that there is a park with like 20,000 people buried and that bones periodically just appear.  There were other interesting stories but I can’t remember them now.  I guess this is why I shouldn’t wait over a month to write about something!  I also went to a vegan restaurant as I don’t have the opportunity to do that very often.  It was good but the “cheese” was a reminder of why I’m a lacto-ovo vegetarian rather than a vegan

In Niagara, I mostly just visited with my family.  However, I also went to Ball’s Falls with my mom and we found that the falls were lacking in water.  I actually couldn’t believe just how dry everything in Niagara was!


Ball’s Falls


We also visited an old family cemetery that I hadn’t been to since I was a kid.  It is quite far off the road and I don’t think anyone would ever find it if they weren’t specifically looking for it; this really made me wonder just how many places like this exist but that hardly anyone knows about.  We also stopped by another, newer, cemetery nearby.  We were also related to more than half the people buried there.  My mom also pointed out where the one-room school she’d attended had been (“between those two houses over there”).  In Saskatchewan, ,many old schools still stand and even more have signs marking there location.  I’ve never seen a sign like that in Ontario which I think is kind of sad.  What I grew up thinking was the middle of nowhere I now find pretty densely population and not at all remote.  Rural southern Ontario really can’t be compared to rural Saskatchewan.  It is also amazing how much nicer some rural roads are in Ontario than some “major” highways are in Saskatchewan.  There are now windmills scattered all over the place which was kind of strange to see.


Family cemetery

Claybank Brick Plant, The Big Muddy and more!

Posted in Abandoned buildings, Ardill, Assiniboia, Bayard, Big Beaver, Big Muddy, Castle Butte, Claybank Brick Plant, Coronach, Crane Valley, Effigies, Expanse, Galilee, Ghost towns, Girvin, Maxstone, Outlaw caves, Readlyn, Saskatchewan, Spring Valley, St. Victor Petroglyphs, Travel, Verwood, Weather, Willow Bunch with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 8, 2016 by Amanda

Last weekend I drove down to southern Saskatchewan again. I managed to see quite a bit during the weekend and once again was quite baffled by people who say Saskatchewan is flat.

The weather wasn’t promising as I left North Battleford early on Friday morning. It was raining quite heavily and remained that way for much of the drive to Saskatoon; after Saskatoon, the rain was gone!

My first stop worth noting was at the Claybank Brick Plant, a national historic site south of Moose Jaw. When it ceased operation in 1989, it was pretty much left as it was. The next guided tour wasn’t scheduled for about an hour after I arrived so I opted to look around on my own. The site was well-signed and I did learn a fair bit. The clay deposits are conveniently located right near the plant. They made quite a few types of bricks that were shipped all over the world. The weekend before they had there annual event where the machinery is turned on which would have been interesting but, judging by where there were parking signs on the grass, very crowded. The toilet I just had to be flushed with a wire rather than a handle which I found rather surprising.


Claybank Brick Plant


The toilet

After leaving Claybank I went to look at some ghost towns, or in some cases, almost ghost towns. Bayard wasn’t in my GPS but it was in my Saskatchewan Road Atlas. The problem with the road atlas is knowing what counts as a road in the atlas as roads in the middle of nowhere very rarely have signs and my GPS more often than not just calls them “unnamed road.” Anyway, I did find Bayard easily enough but because of the way I approached it I wasn’t 100% sure until after I left town as that was when I finally saw a sign! It was rather small and looks like it had always been that way. Other than a nearby farm, it was definitely long abandoned.

I then drove to Spring Valley. It still clearly has a number of residents but was clearly once a much larger town.

I don’t think I actually found Galilee though my GPS though I did! My road atlas indicated that it should have been further off the highway. I did find a couple abandoned houses that were almost attached to each other though.

Crane Valley was far from abandoned but had clearly once been much longer. It also has an abandoned somewhat large, modern school.

Readlyn was probably my favourite town of the day. It was mostly abandoned and had also clearly been a good size once (street lights, sidewalks, paved roads etc.). I noticed another vehicle driving in town. It had BC plates and the guy was taking pictures. He seemed to be in a rush as he couldn’t have been there long at all as he later passed me when I stopped to take pictures not far outside of town.

I then headed to Verwood. I parked not far after entering the town and not long after a car drove by. It also had BC plates but was definitely a different vehicle than the one in Readlyn. I never encounter other people looking at abandoned buildings and towns and only occasionally encounter a local person or dog in semi-ghost towns and here I encountered two different guys from BC in two towns in a row; it was definitely unexpected! Anyway, Verwood was another semi-ghost town with interesting abandoned buildings.

After that I headed to Willow Bunch where I spent the night. I opted to stay there as the motel in Coronach where my tour would leave from had quite horrible reviews and the one in Willow Bunch had good reviews. Willow Bunch is famous for its giant, Edouard Beaupre, who was 8 foot 3. The museum was closed by the time I arrived in town but I was able to see his footprints and statue outside of the museum. I also walked around the town. I thought it was a nice little town.


Edouard Beaupre, the Willow Bunch Giant

I was a bit worried about the weather Saturday as the forecast kept changing and the girl I talked to when I booked the tour said that they stopped offering lunch as they’d cancelled the tour a bunch of times last year and the lunches were made and then not needed. Anyway, the tour to the Big Muddy went ahead and the weather was good!

After leaving Coronach we drove near the former and present mine sites. They have a lot of coal here and apparently produce electricity for a third of Saskatchewan. Coal certainly has a bad reputation but the area where mining was finished didn’t look bad at all. I’m not sure the wind power they are talking about replacing it with would be better. I was also introduced to Texas gates. I was apparently the only person who didn’t know what they were.

Then we stopped at Castle Butte. It is the one place on the tour that I wouldn’t have minded more time at. There was only time to either climb it or walk around it.  There were also small caves one could explore.  I climbed it as how could I not.  Apparently it used to be safer than it is now. Climbing up it was actually pretty easy. Getting down was a whole other story. I slowly descended my basically crawling down. Near the bottom I figured I could just kind of run down the rest. It was a lot quicker but the problem was stopping; I ended up really scratching my leg and a couple of the scratches bleed. I guess this is why I don’t run! Some guy rode a unicycle across the top of it recently. Our guide hadn’t heard about this which I thought would have been big news in a small town!


Castle Butte

Then it was off to Big Beaver. It may have a population of 17 but it has a open general store. The town was originally to the east but when the railway wasn’t extended any further, the townspeople decided to move their buildings to the where the railway ended. Aust’s General Store’s slogan is “if we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” They had a pretty good variety of items and some of the prices were surprisingly low, like the can of V8 I bought. The owner was working that day and we said he took cash or you could mail him a cheque (apparently, he was serious). The store had a guest book so it is clearly a tourist attraction and not just a store. The town’s campground was completely empty on a long weekend. Apparently they do get occasional campers these days. It was actually created to accommodate tours. Back in the 1970s when these tours started they were only held two weekends per year and the groups were large and they needed a place to stay. Big Beaver’s abandoned curling rink was also interesting.

We stopped for lunch at Paisley Brook School, a one-room schoolhouse. There was a large family reunion going on down the street and apparently some of the people at the reunion had attended the school and would be visiting it later.

Then we visited a former RCMP detachment. This was where the U.S. border was first quite close. If the dividing point wasn’t pointed out, you’d never know there was a border. There are now only foundations of the the buildings because the owner back in the 1970s didn’t like the talk of them becoming heritage sites and tore them down. It really is a scenic location though and it also has a natural spring running through it.

Then we headed to the outlaw caves. They were very tiny but I can see how people (and horses) managed to stay hidden there. The entrances were apparently much smaller originally. Again the border is super closer and if climb too close to the fence apparently helicopters suddenly appear. The property also had a turtle effigy but the tall grass really makes it difficult to see it. There were also several abandoned buildings on site but as the grass was so tall I couldn’t get too close.


The cave for people.

We briefly stopped to see an abandoned “mansion.”  It really didn’t look at big but at the time it was built it was huge for the area and the wood came from quite a long way away in Montana.  There are now holes in the roof as it was later used as a granary.


The “mansion.”

We then headed to a buffalo effigy which was a bit easier to make out than the turtle effigy. There was also a prayer flag. The site was quite close to a former border crossing. Apparently Canada closed its crossing not long after the Americans built themselves a new building. The Americans keep their crossing going for a few months but ultimately closed theirs too. The communication certainly sounds lacking! Anyway, aboriginals from Montana used to come here and pray all night but they haven’t been here since that crossing closed.

After the tour, I headed to the St. Victor Petroglyphs. The area was very nice but the petroglyphs were difficult to see and thus rather underwhelming. They have lots of signs and fences to prevent people climbing on the petroglyphs but there were still a couple people there climbing on them.

After leaving St. Victor the sky really started to darken and after a bit I saw some lightning. Still, I couldn’t resist a brief detour when I saw an old church and schoolhouse off the highway. This place was called Maxstone.

I then headed to Assiniboia where I spent the night. I stayed at a motel for $50 including tax. While it wasn’t the nicest place I’ve ever stayed, the bed was new and comfortable and I had a great night’s sleep. There really was no reason to spend more.

On Sunday, I stopped by three towns on my way back home. Ardill and Expanse weren’t too far from Assinoboia and not terribly far off the highway and not far from each other. In Ardill, the GPS wanted me to go on what clearly hadn’t been a road in a long time but it wasn’t far to another road. It still had some residents. Expanse was abandoned but a lot smaller.


The road my GPS wanted me to take to enter Ardill!

Later I stopped by Girvin which is right off highway 11, a major highway by Saskatchewan standards. This place isn’t quite abandoned but has a real abandoned feel to it and was clearly pretty large at one point. It was really weird to be places where it looked like you were not near anything but could hear all the cars on the highway.

And then I shopped a little in Saskatoon and headed back to North Battleford.

Victoria Day Weekend in Moose Jaw

Posted in Moose Jaw, North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Sukanen Ship and Pioneer Village, Travel, Western Development Museum with tags , , , , , on June 19, 2016 by Amanda

Once again, it has taken me an incredibly long time to get around to writing a blog post.  As this post is nearly a month late, I’m sure it will be considerably less detailed than it would have been had I written in a more timely manner.  It was quite windy but otherwise the weather was pretty good.  Moose Jaw definitely has quite a lot to do as despite this being my second visit to I still didn’t see everything.  I also realized that the park adjacent to the library was quite a bit large than I’d thought.


Downtown Moose Jaw

I found the Sukanen Ship and Pioneer Village the most interesting place.  It is actually about a ten minute drive from the city.  The Sukanen Ship is definitely the weirdest part of the place.  Basically, there was this guy named Tom Sukanen who started telling people he was going to build a ship and sail it from Saskatchewan back to his native Finland.  Everyone thought he wasn’t serious but he did actually build the ship though, of course, he never sailed it to Finland.  He actually ended his life here in North Battleford at the mental hospital.  He was originally buried here but his body was later moved to a spot adjacent to this ship.  It took about three hours to explore this place as there were close to fifty buildings.  It clearly isn’t a professionally curated museum which actually makes it more interesting in a way.  Some of the buildings were quite full of old items and there were a plethora of old vehicles.


Sukanen’s ship

The Western Development Museum was also interesting.  There were several things with a connection to North Battleford including information and a plane from an aviation club that had been here.  I hadn’t realized how many different car manufacturers there had been in the early part of the twentieth-century!  I think I found the trains, which you can go inside, the most interesting.


A train car


May masquerading as summer

Posted in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Weather with tags , , on May 5, 2016 by Amanda

I realize I haven’t written a blog post in months.  This is mostly because not much has been happening.

Today is a bit cooler (23) but the last few days it reached 30 degrees.  I really can’t believe that it is just the beginning of May.  It really feels like the middle of the summer here this week!  We haven’t had rain in forever and today the air is a bit smoky.  It always amazes how far smoke can blow.

Christmas etc.

Posted in Christmas, Flying, Niagara, Travel, Vacation, Weather with tags , , , , , on January 2, 2016 by Amanda

So, once again I’m rather belated to writing a blog post.  I don’t have a good excuse this time; I’ve simply been very lazy.

I flew to Toronto on the evening on December 17 and then headed home the next day; I returned here on the evening of Boxing Day.  I didn’t book flights until the end of November and these dates worked out cheapest when I booked.  As it turned out, I found that there were better dates available a bit later for around the same price.  Despite there being relatively late availability at pretty low prices, both of my flights ended up being completely full.

The weather ranged from kind of warm to unbelievably warm.  It really didn’t feel like Christmas.  I thought around Christmas in 2011 was warm but this is undoubtedly warmer.

A lot of what I did over this vacation was pretty unremarkable (eg. shopping).  However, I did visit an open house of a really interesting house built out of shipping containers in St. Catharine’s.  Although it was super narrow, with three stories it actually had quite a bit of room.  I think it would actually be a pretty livable though it could have definitely used more closet space!  I also went at looked at the Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls for the first time in years.


The exterior of the shipping container house.

My flight back to Saskatoon wasn’t terribly enjoyed.  Even before boarding, I somehow managed to lose my watch.  I think it must have happened going through security screening but I didn’t notice for a while as I went directly to the lounge and ate first and then couldn’t find it; luckily it was a cheap watch and I found another cheap one the next day at 60% off.  There were super annoying kids behind me on the plane that were singing and yelling for like 3/4 of the flight and the mother certainly didn’t do much to stop them; they were way worse than babies crying and I’m certainly not a fan of that!  We have an aborted landing; it was annoying rather than scary.  It didn’t like having to suddenly gain altitude when we were able to land.  The luggage took forever to appear which is uncharacteristic for Saskatoon and then it took a while to get a taxi to the hotel (I stayed at the hotel after instead of before this time).  Anyway, I think I was really annoyed because I just wanted to sleep and coming back to -23 wasn’t fun either.  I’m very glad though that I didn’t have to drive home that night.  Also, after seeing what happened to other Air Canada flights in subsequent days I know I actually didn’t have that bad of experience.

Now, I’m back in North Battleford and I think it will be a while before I travel anywhere.  At least, the temperature has been much improved lately!