After The Canadian Cross Country Road Trip.
Article #8: The Open Spaces Of Freedom in Saskatchewan
The feeling of freedom is a feeling that continuously grows as you progress from what took you away from it in the first place. When you’re working a job that doesn’t fulfil you in any way other than for a means of having a secure financial lifestyle, the escape that you construct in your head becomes a formulated image based on what you interpret freedom at that given moment. When you have the opportunity of taking on the freedom that you’ve been striving for while you’ve been daydreaming at your unfulfilling job, there’s a probability that the image you created in your head doesn’t fully match what is waiting for you within your interpretation of freedom based on the boundaries of economic and societal standards. When you take the chance to embark on your vision of freedom there’s a probability that it’ll feel liberating and exciting at first. The catch with a situation like this is that as much as you plan your escape and your first steps, you never fully know what will happen since you spent most of your time planning in the confines of a mindset that was in a different headspace altogether. The unknown is facing you now. And that’s where things become beautiful.
With the morning light slowly seeping through my tent I open my eyes and stared straight up trying to gain consciousness. I’m in Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba. This will be my last day in this wonderful getaway to the prairies. As I’m making my way out of my tent, I’m automatically running my objectives of the day. Throughout this trip, I had preplanned a route to where I wanted to go each day and things that I wanted to do. That preplanning slowly went out of the door as I made my way across the country. Throughout the beginning of 2016, I worked on my days off on a layout of what I would be doing throughout the cross country road trip. The layout was saved in my phone and on my laptop and I revised it when I was home in Nova Scotia. That was the last time that I looked at it. Don’t get me wrong it’s crucial to have a plan when it comes to travelling for any long distance but it’s easy to get swept into the moment when you get onto the road and see all sorts of surprises that you never knew existed. A part of the trip relied on the layout, but most of the choices that were made were done off the fly. It was a good way of keeping the trip exciting. I went for a quick bicycle ride that morning around the area to get the blood circulating since I’ll be sitting in my car for a good deal of time. Once again the tent got broken down and loaded up in the cargo carrier of my car, and with one last look at the wonderful Riding Mountain National Park, I was on my way towards the Saskatchewan border.
Being known as a major agricultural and oil and gas industry, Saskatchewan is the central prairie province that sits in between Manitoba and Alberta. With an estimated population of 1,150,632, the northern parts of the province are mostly boreal forests and beautiful clear lakes with the added bonus of the sand dunes in the Athabasca Sand Dunes Provincial Park. The southern parts of Saskatchewan are the prairie landscape that the province is known for. My destination of the day was going to be Regina. As much as I enjoyed the various scenery that I was seeing throughout this trip, I have grown so accustomed to the prairie landscape in the last eight years that I felt more at home driving alongside the wide open fields. Having this type of space around me has a psychological effect where I have room to breath and think and be more within the present moment. You look at any direction and your eyes can wonder forever. The landscape rolls along in a manner that is relatively flat but not boring. The variable agriculture that grows in these fields is so colourful and rich in the energy it gives off that you could almost feed off of it. As I’m slowly making my way towards one of the prairie cities I started wondering what I was going to do when I’d be done with the trip. Alberta was where I was from and I spent a lot of time exploring and documenting the wonderful things within it. British Columbia was going to be my last province of the trip and then that was going to be it. Five months of planning and preparing had been executed and was soon going to be over. Then in an instant, I snapped back into the present moment and continued focusing on what was in front of me. I still had a lot of ground to cover, a lot of different things to see, and there was no room to try to figure out something that I had very little control over. With Regina in my sight, I straighten myself in my seat and motored along.
Heading towards the capital city of Saskatchewan, with an estimated 193,000 people and continuously growing, I wanted to go to a nice spot and relax. The Legislation Building is what came to mind. It was a gorgeous afternoon and there was a lot of people that we’re out enjoying the beautiful summer weather. I grabbed my camera and went for a little stroll around the grounds of the Legislature. Built in between 1908 and 1912, this Beaux Arts-style design has aged well. Being over a 100 years old I’m awestruck with the complexity of the architecture with the resources that would have been used in that time period. I went for a walk alongside the Wascana Lake watching some rowers charging along the water. After laying under a tree to get away from the sun it struck me that a tv series that my dad is a massive fan of was filmed in Saskatchewan. Corner Gas was filmed somewhere in a rural area of the province and I thought it would be a great idea to see if I could find it. My search results showed that it was 40 minutes away from where I was so after regaining a little bit of excitement I ran to my car and bolted southbound on highway 6. When I was spending time with my parents in June, every day at 5 pm it almost seemed like a priority for my dad to have the tv on Corner Gas reruns. I never watched the show before but with time I eventually enjoyed it. I think part of the reason was because I was spending time with my dad which is something I don’t get to do often since I live far away from home. From highway 6 and then westbound on a dirt road, which one perk of the prairies is most of the dirt roads are smooth and straight which works well for a little hatchback sports car, I finally made it to a little town called Rouleau.
With a population of 453, starting life as a location for a post office in 1895 and then eventually incorporating a town in 1905, there’s a good chance that this town would be better known for being the set for the tv series Corner Gas. Airing in 2004 and ending in 2009, the set was abandoned up until an entrepreneur bought it as a tourist attraction for the town. I didn’t know what to expect when I’d get there. When I arrived the set looked great. They repaired it to make it look close to what it did before and I was smiling from ear to ear being able to see this little piece of history in front of me. I instantly got into my car and parked it by where the gas pumps would have been. A little context, the set was a gas station and a restaurant in one building. I got my camera and took several photographs and placed it on Facebook right away. I was hoping that my dad would get to see the photo at some point and be excited about it. After soaking as much as I could of the moment and feeling like a celebrity, I made my way north on highway 39 to my final destination, Moose Jaw.
With a population of 33, 274, this town is known for being an important junction for the agricultural industry of the province, and also being home to the Snowbirds which is the Canadian acrobatic military air force group. This town had a lot of amazing older buildings that have been kept in great care. My campsite of the night was on the south end of the Moose Jaw River which was nice because I was looking for a location that was close to the city but not into it. I set up my tent and eventually went to explore a little bit of the city. My first impression of the area was that it had a more relaxed pace than some of the comparable cities I had been into. I got a chance to examine some of the structures like City Hall. One of the tourist attractions of the area among many are the tunnels that are underneath the city. Established in the beginning of 1908, these tunnels were used for multiple purposes. Originally built for underground steam systems that were later abandoned, these tunnels were used for hiding Chinese railway workers from the Yellow Peril, and then later used in the 1920’s for rum running during the prohibition in the United States. It also served as a location for gambling and prostitution, and some say that Al Capone had supposedly visited Moose Jaw expressing interest in the bootlegging operations when they were active. Eventually, the tunnels got restored and were open to the public as a tourist attraction in the year 2000. With all of the amazing history that was literally under my feet, all I could think about was eating supper and going to bed. I was hitting one of the few mental brick walls that eventually made me decide to take some time for myself and relax.
After spending the night in Moose Jaw I got out of my tent a little more refreshed than the day before and was ready to charge through another day of exploring. My destination was Saskatoon. Located north-west of Moose Jaw, I got onto highway 2 and the eventually on highway 11. I passed by a beautiful lake that I later found was associated with Buffalo Pound Provincial Park. Taking some aerial shots of the body of water that was nestled into the prairie landscape, I couldn’t help but think of the stereotypes that the prairies are known for. I’ve personally learned throughout the years that the prairies have beautiful hidden gems if you decide to explore. When I got to the city of Saskatoon I had this strong urge to go into a bookstore. I don’t know about you but as much as it’s a luxury to carry a library in your pocket that also has the accessibility of buying books anywhere there’s cell phone reception, there’s nothing like feeling the pages of an actual book. I said to myself that I wasn’t going to buy any physical books since I was travelling, but I never fully committed myself to that agreement.
With an estimated population of 305,000, this is the largest city in the province. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time here because, in order for me to have the time and finances to explore larger landscape locations like the Rocky Mountains and the various landscapes in British Columbia, I’d have to keep moving forward and spend less time in the upcoming cities. Saskatoon, Toronto in Ontario, and St John’s in Newfoundland will be future trips I’ll plan for in the course of the next three years. As I’m making my way westbound on the Trans-Canada highway I was already imaging the epic images I’d get throughout the following two provinces which were going to be Alberta and British Columbia. The prairies were a refreshing scene for a set of tired eyes. Having the vast landscape stretch in front of you gives you a feeling of freedom. A feeling that I continued to experience and learn about its many colours and emotions throughout the trip. Taking the opportunity to step away from what was considered an uninspiring headspace to a vast amount of landscape ready to be explored at your command had been something I had been dreaming of for a long time. With this in mind, I made my way west to the Alberta border, towards the wild rose country.
- Thank you so much for taking the time to check out this article. Please check out my work on my website Resonance Reflection Photography and as well you can follow me through Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Also I’ve filmed daily vlogs alongside the trip which the links are below: