It was 10:30 AM by the time I pulled into Coronach, with my gas tank getting low after 320 km of driving and me getting hungry since my breakfast of an orange with a yoghurt four and half hours earlier. This little community was actually one of the reasons I decided to explore this part of Saskatchewan, for reasons that will be explained in the...more
I still say if he was not wearing his elevator shoes I could probably take him! Actually, the reason I visited the museum in Willow Bunch was to have a closer look at their local giant - who I had never even heard of until I drove into town. Room #4 of the museum is dedicated to Edouard Beaupré, a local boy who grew to the amazing height of 8-ft...more
After wrapping up in the Coronach area, I continued west and then north on highway 36 to the small community of Willow Bunch, established as one of Saskatchewan's oldest settlements in the 1870s by a group of seventy-five Metis (French-speaking) families from Manitoba. They were fleeing from the increasing domination of English-speaking settlers as...more
The main attraction of this part of Saskatchewan are its badlands, especially 'Big Muddy Badlands' that I could see looming ahead as I continued west. This first valley leading into the Big Muddy valley was just a bit east of Big Beaver and I enjoyed dropping down into the valley and taking a closer look at the eroded formations along its walls...more
I never go on a trip without my binoculars and books on the birds and trees of eastern North America so, as soon as I had taken care of my little chore at the USA border, I began exploring this south-central part of Saskatchewan. I had no sooner turned off highway 6 to begin exploring just north of the border on highway 18 when I spotted a...more
The museum only uses the rooms on the first floor of the old convent and Room #3 specializes in 'House & Home', with a variety of old contraptions and everyday items needed to make the world go round - it reminded me of my younger days visiting grandmothers who lived on farms in New Brunswick in eastern Canada, especially since one of the houses...more
As I headed north out of Willow Bunch to complete my circular drive back to Regina, I had not gone far after climbing out of Big Muddy valley before the long and narrow Willow Bunch Lake came into view beside Highway 36. It is another of the strange lakes in this part of North America - due to the fact that they are located in a small geological...more
It was 1 PM and 31 C by the time I was set to leave Willow Bunch, but first I had to stop for a photo of this amazing restored old relic that looks like it was right out of the gangster era of the 1920s. I had a closer look at it, but it had been restored such that there were no markings as to what type of car it started out as. Seeing the car...more
The Poplar River power station was developed as a result of the Arab oil embargo of 1974 following the latest Middle East war with Israel, combined with the fact that the extent of the huge coal deposits at Coronach were finally recognized. Following the embargo, Canadian and other utilities began switching from oil-fired to coal-fired plants to...more
With almost 700 Megawatts of power from it's two generators, the Poplar River power station is one of the largest run by the provincial utility, SaskPower. My reason for wanting to visit this part of Saskatchewan is linked to this plant and also stretches back 35 years to when I was working in Luanshya, Zambia. While there, I met a British worker...more
I had put 250-km on the car by the time I reached the Big Muddy valley and had not seen a single gasoline station, so decided to turn around and head southwest for Coronach to fill up. As I was leaving the valley I saw a 'Point of Interest' marker at the side of the road, so stopped to have a look at its words:"The Willow Bunch-Big Muddy Trail....more
As I neared the first community located just off the highway, a small hamlet with a population of 15 people called Big Beaver, I noticed it's cemetery located a short distance up a side-road and made a detour to check it out more closely. I was surprised to see a couple of tombstones with 'Brown' inscribed on them, located close to a fragrant Lilac...more
It was almost 11 AM by the time I parked in Coronach beside Orlie's Family Restaurant, and I was starting to feel hungry by then as the effects of my simple yoghurt with an orange breakfast at 5:30 AM were starting to hit. According to the guy at the gasoline pump, a few minutes earlier, this was one of only two functioning restaurants in town. It does not look like much from the outside, but I found the interior to be pleasant enough even if it was nothing special.
Favorite Dish: The young waitress was very quick, friendly and efficient as she took my order in no time at all - I chose their toasted BLT sandwich with the soup of the day (barley-beef with rice). I ordered a glass of water to help wash things down and sporadically listened to some of the local truckers having conversations about life on the Prairies (3rd photo) while I waited for my food to arrive, which it did in quite short order. The sandwich was perfectly done and went very well with the soup, so I had no complaints at all. By 11:20 I was finished, settled up my $7 tab and was ready to hit the trail again. I recommend this place if you happen to be passing through.
A car or a dog-sled is the only way you are going to reach Coronach, located in the heart of this part of Saskatchewan! In my case, I had left my 'good' car behind in Fredericton, NB (Sue needed it for the 8-month period before she joined me in Regina) when I drove west to take up my new job on short notice in the old back-up 1996 Chrysler. It actually turned 230,000 km during this little weekend drive to the American border area.
Although dinged here and there with dents and a few rust holes from the road salt used during eastern Canada winters, it still seemed to be doing OK as I parked it outside one of the town restaurants. I had put 320-km on it already that morning and had not seen another gas station since leaving Regina, so was glad to be able to top the tank up in Coronach before sitting down for an early lunch.
As soon as you get off the main north-south highways in this part of Saskatchewan, you are dealing with paved secondary highways that are kept in quite good shape. The problem is that they are quite old and consequently quite narrow, with no room even for shoulders to pull over onto in an emergency (a bit strange in this province with so much undeveloped land!). I had one episode not long before reaching Coronach where I met an on-coming large truck towing some sort of farm implement. We both got over a bit, each with one set of wheels into the loose bits of rock beside the grassy verge. We were both going at quite a clip as we passed and, coming from somewhere, I heard a volley of pebbles strike my windshield. It did not sound good but I could not see any obvious damage until, about 2 hours later when I noticed that a 6-inch long crack had already developed, one more wound on the old car.
Another thing to watch out for are the Prairie Dogs, a member of the squirrel family. They inhabit the Prairies in their millions, and are all over the highways - running out onto the road and then stopping to look around. As you are driving along, you never know which way they will dart as you approach them at high speed and there was a natural tendancy on my part to swerve to try to avoid them if they moved the wrong way (I just don't like to kill things)! Just something else that you have to either deal with or slow down to a snail's pace.
This section of the road map of Saskatchewan I was using shows my route while exploring in this southwestern part of the province, with the bottom of the map being just south of the Canada-USA border.
I drove straight south from Regina for just over an hour and a half to reach the US Border Customs post at Regway, where I turned over my one-year work visa that had been issued under the terms of the North America Free Trade Agreement. I had needed it for a 2008 work assignment at a potash mine in New Mexico and it had to be surrendered before the year was up. Since I was in the neighbourhood, I decided to make a day out of it and explore the surrounding area of Saskatchewan.
Fondest memory: I immediately back-tracked into Canada and headed west on highway 18 as I took in many bird and animal sightings as well as the geography of the Big Muddy Badlands. It was a pleasure to drive along these deserted roads at my own pace - no vehicles to be seen in either direction for miles and miles. After taking a brief detour further into the Badlands on highway 34, I back-tracked to Coronach for gasoline, lunch and the look at a couple of their local attractions. Then it was back on the road as I continued west and then north to the interesting community of Willow Bunch. From there, my drive took me up to the intersection with highway 13 where I headed east to close the loop and return to Regina - 9 hours and 570 km after I had left.