We woke at Spruce Wood Provincial Park Manitoba. We had arrived there in the middle of the night and pitched a tent as quietly as we could and everyone fell immediately asleep. In the morning we lit a fire and Hana cooked a quick breakfast so that we could find the time for a long hike through the Spirit Sands and then find somewhere to swim because it was already starting to get very hot.
The Spirit Sands are a series of Sand dunes sacred to the traditional people of this spectacular part of Manitoba. Home to the “Devil’s Punchbowl”, the hognose snake and many pincushion cacti, it is definitely worth the 4 km hike – because with small children, you MAY wonder at some point, while climbing sand covered steep hills that feel like mountains in the sweltering heat, if it is worth it.
After returning from the hike we headed for Winnipeg and straight for the Forks. We shopped the market and picked up some fresh food for the van. We played in the gardens, and then hit the road for Ontario and drove through the whole night, and stopped at the day sight at Kakabeka falls for some shut eye. When we realized we’d pushed it too far, we headed to Thunder Bay for some coffee and breakfast, and then on to Sault Ste. Marie.
When we got to Marathon we discovered that the Highway was closed due to an accident, so we had to hang out and wait. We decided to head to Shriber Beach on Lake Superior. Wow. We had a picnic there, collected beautiful sea glass and did a little hike of the coast.
Eventually the highway opened back up and we headed towards the Saulte where our family lives, and spend a couple of days there hanging out before continuing the journey East.
We hit the road Friday when Eric finished work. Our first stop was a UNESCO world heritage site; Dinosaur Park, AB. We went for an evening hike thought the fossil laden hoodoos and canyons.
The landscape is like that of another planet. Unusual plants and animals including rattlesnake, bull snake and a variety of flowering cacti.
We hiked up and down the hills through the crevices as the bright red sun began to set on the cottonwood forest in the distance.
After that, the kids fell asleep in the back and we drove on. The next day was the city of Regina. We headed to the Royal Saskatchewan museum where we learned about the natural history and culture of the province.We then headed to Grasslands national park for a hike and a picnic. In Saskatchewan there is more than meets the eye. It isn’t merely a flat prairie land but a place that is rich in bio-diversity and gentle beauty. I can also say now after being here several times that the people are so kind. We are always pleasantly surprised at how people go out of their way to help others and show kindness, everywhere we go in Saskatchewan.
A lot of people are hesitant to travel with children especially those who are very young. We find that road tripping is a great solution to all of the common concerns that most parents have. It is cost effective, and you can stop whenever necessary for washroom breaks, breastfeeding, diapers, picnics etc.
It also provides a sense of freedom. If you see a great lake the kids want to dive into, or a hiking trail, you don’t need to rearrange a firm itinerary, you just pull over. We have four soon to be five children, and they all travel comfortably in the van.
Another benefit is that seeing a destination point emerge puts it into context. When the kids watch the landscape change, learn about the history and culture of the communities along the way, it’s easier for them to understand how it developed and exists as it does today. The waves of immigrants from different parts of the world at different times, the development of the railroad, industry booms and busts – these things are all discussed on the road. They see the remnants of times that came and went. It’s a much richer experience than simply reading about it in a textbook.
As wonderful as Saskatchewan was, it was time to move on. We were Manitoba bound!