Confession time: before I moved out west from Ontario, I’d heard many jokes about Saskatchewan’s flat landscape, and I believed them all.
When I got the news that I’d been offered a job at the weekly paper in Davidson, my dad offered up the oldest one in the book, about how when a dog runs away in Saskatchewan, its owners can still see it running three days later.
My mom, who had visited out here herself many moons prior, told me about driving on the Trans-Canada Highway between Regina and Moose Jaw, and how it was all level, with just one bend in the road. (A bit of an exaggeration, but as it turns out, not by much.)
When I arrived, I remember being impressed while driving Highway 11 from Regina to Davidson, and encountering the Qu’Appelle Valley near Lumsden. For a newcomer expecting nothing but flatlands, it was breathtaking.
I sometimes joke that there’s “one interesting point” between Davidson and each of the major cities. Heading out to Moose Jaw, it’s Buffalo Pound Lake, of course, while en route to Saskatoon, it’s the hill at Blackstrap.
Now that I’ve been out here for a few years, I can debunk these myths and argue that Saskatchewan’s got lots of wonderful scenery — it just takes a little searching to find it.
Case in point: last week, my wife and I went for a bicycle ride, as we often do on our days off, and found ourselves heading towards Wakamow Valley.
We took the winding path that runs beside the river and passes by Valley View Centre, catching some amazing scenery along the way, from the vast valley itself to the towering train bridges.
Evidently, it’s been a while since the path received any regular maintenance, and we found ourselves ducking under branches, navigating through thick grass and having to head back after taking the wrong turn the odd time. But riding through the deeply-forested valley was an exhilarating experience.
(After we hit Seventh Avenue Southwest, we decided to walk our bikes up the massive hill. We trekked across South Hill, crossed at the Fourth Avenue bridge and made our way up to the Polar Bear, where we each opted for two scoops of mint chocolate chip.)
This summer, I’ve also had the opportunity to visit friends camping at Douglas Provincial Park, where we explored a quiet section of Lake Diefenbaker. (Yes, I know it’s an artificial lake. It’s still marvelous.)
And on our drive up to Strasbourg, which I discussed in an earlier column, we got to travel along the east side of Last Mountain Lake. Algae and lake itch notwithstanding, it makes for some great sightseeing.
Lots of our highways offer scenic views, whether you’re heading south on Highway 2 towards Assiniboia, or going north on the same road towards Watrous — both drives I wish I had more opportunities to take.
And there’s still plenty of regions within the province that I haven’t yet had time to explore.
There’s the Big Muddy Badlands in the south, home to Castle Butte, a 70-metre-high outcrop that has served as a landmark for generations, located about 19 kilometres south of Bengough.
Then there’s the entire northern half of the province, with its many lakes, forests and parks. I’ve talked to people who have camped up there, and I figure we need to try that eventually.
Saskatchewan may often be the butt of jokes when it comes to topography, but there’s lots of natural beauty to enjoy. One only has to look.
(Looking for a map of Moose Jaw trails? Visit moosejaw.ca.)
Follow Joel on Twitter @JVDV88.