-I’ve always wanted to see the frontier.
-You want to see the frontier?
-Yes, sir. Before it’s gone.
The frontier is still out there, in southern Saskatchewan, wide open and free where people still live close to the land and the government can’t be bothered to meddle. A recurring comment this week was that we couldn’t show southern Saskatchewan to others, lest our frontier be overrun. In fact I was supposed to inform you that we flew to New Zealand and rode there! 🙂
My time on the wagon train was the stuff of dreams, Monday most especially as it was the only day I got to ride a horse.
Once I got a handle on him and felt comfortable, I stepped away from the wagon trail. As I set off, Caroline called after me that I was going to sunburn my teeth, I was grinning so hard! I sat loosely in my saddle, held the reins with two fingers of the left hand, and allowed my horse to gently lope up a hill.
At the top, looking down at the valley below, I gasped as I had read a description of this scene in countless books and seen it in at least as many movies. Below me was the wide open prairie with the only sign of civilization the tracks our wagons made in the long grass. And the wagons were there, too, a short column lurching their way through the rough terrain. All we were missing were the buffalo.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The wagon train is an annual event that occurs at various locations around southern Saskatchewan. This year, it was hosted by a rancher who lives just north of Grasslands National Park. As the crow files, the ranch is just 70KM from Haven, but just over 100KM by back roads and more than 150KM by main highways.
It took C&C and myself about two hours to get there on Sunday. Charles was driving their bus conversion pulling the horse trailer, Caroline was driving their truck pulling a flat bed trailer holding the wagon, and I was driving my truck.
We arrived early afternoon and set up camp. I had chosen to sleep in my truck all week, cook off the tailgate, and use my large tent as a change room and storage locker. This setup worked out great.
We had a communal supper on Sunday night, with the highlight being roast beef. I had a whole slice and a couple of bites! Beef isn’t that icky if it is VERY well cooked.
Monday morning was a little brutal since our hosts were offering a pancake breakfast at 7AM. Thankfully, Charles was our elected coffeemaker for the week, so by the time I was up and at ’em, he had some of the hot brew ready. I don’t think we made it to breakfast until past 8:00. Everyone was in slow mo!
After breakfast, I met my horse, Dusty, and walked with him for a bit before mounting. We set off mid-morning, three wagons and a few dozen riders.
I hadn’t ridden in five years but quickly grew comfortable with my mount, even though he was very green and skittish. Little did I know this would be my only day riding. His owner chose to ride him on Tuesday and, well, didn’t do nearly as well handling his new horse as I did. He fell off twice and while he wasn’t badly injured, he had to go home on Wednesday morning.
My knees were killing me by lunchtime Monday so I decided to try riding in C&C’s wagon for part of the afternoon. Well, that was a bad idea. There is no seat in the back so they set me up in a plastic lawn chair that twisted and threatened to launch me back into orbit. I was glad to get back on my horse even though I was sore! By the time we got back to camp, my right leg wasn’t even working any more and I stiffened up even more as the evening progressed. The pain was worth the day, though!
Since I was so stiff on Tuesday, I didn’t feel bad that Dusty wouldn’t be available. Charles put a hay bale in the back of the wagon for me to sit on and that proved to be a good idea. Riding in the wagon was quite a bit of sport and not nearly as much fun as riding a horse, but it was worth it just for the scenery!
And that’s how the rest of the week went, with me riding in a wagon. On Friday, I rode in someone else’s wagon, on a proper seat, but the rig was so springy it didn’t feel any more comfortable than did the hay bale.
The week was fun and scenic, that’s the best way I can put it. I love camping, I love pretty scenery, and I love camaraderie. The week had all of that. It was rather nice to be out of my element and listen to people talking about horses rather than sitting around discussing RVing.
C&C are wonderful traveling companions and I must not be so bad since they insist that I MUST go on next year’s wagon train with them!
We dined together every evening, sharing our food, and I even feasted on Caroline’s homemade venison spaghetti one night! I had more red meat this week than I’ve had in the last 20 or so years combined! They also made sure to have plenty of their delicious homemade wine with which to toast our days.
Their bus conversion has a toilet but no shower, so they cleverly turned a stall in the horse trailer into a shower room using a Coleman instant hot water heater. So Wednesday night, we all got a chance to wipe off some of the week’s grime, but were filthy again by Thursday. It was HOT this week!
It was really good for me to disconnect for a bit. I didn’t even have a watch. I went to bed when the sun dipped below the horizon and woke up at sunrise. The week was a good reminder that for all I’ve gained in my RV travels, I have lost something, too, and I need to start camping again.
Below are a few pictures from the week. I doubt that any of you want to see 500+ different iterations of southern Saskatchewan scenery and I also do not want to include any faces. But these should give you a taste of the week and make you rethink of your notion of what Saskatchewan looks like.