Day 06: Duck, Duck, Saskatoon

The Harvest Moon Inn is the type of establishment where you pull your car right up to the door of your room.  When we arrived last night after dark almost every room had a large, white pick-up truck parked in front, yet when we awoke at 8am ours was the only car in the lot.  Were we late?

The answer was yes, a little, as we’d intended on getting an earlier start to the day but apparently our circadian rhythm had other ideas.  Nonetheless, we were out and about by 9am, ready to go.  Trouble was, to where?  We hadn’t booked the following two nights of lodging because we wanted some itinerary flexibility.  Being the rigid type, this was all a bit unsettling but it was time to put on my go-with-the-flow pants.

Blast of Beauty as you enter Duck Mountain (MB)

Blast of Beauty as you enter Duck Mountain (MB)

We eventually settled on a route that would take us up through Duck Mountain Provincial Park in Manitoba.  It was another beautifully sunny day and we wanted to see some provincial ducks.

Duck Mountain has the highest point in Manitoba at 831.2m (2,727 ft) above sea level, and as we neared it via Road 367 there was definitely more undulation in the terrain.  Just like Riding Mountain National Park, as soon as you enter the park you are met with astounding beauty.  Unlike RMNP, all the roads throughout Duck Mountain are unpaved and gravelly.  It was no matter, it just made us slow down a bit to really take it all in.  And I’m not just saying that because we were in a rental.

Along the way through Duck Mountain we stopped at Child’s Lake (full of gulls), Gull Lake (no gulls or childs), Beautiful Lake (which is a bold claim considering they could all be subtitled that), Chain Lakes, and Spray Lake, where we stretched our legs with a short 2km hike.  I’m not much of a sports fan, but with all the green and gold in the forest I couldn’t help but feel my Green Bay Packer-loving friends would be pleased.

Gull(less) Lake

Gull(less) Lake

Although we saw very few other cars on the road in RMNP, we saw far fewer in Duck Mountain.  I counted a handful during the entire time we were there, and overall Duck Mountain felt more wilderness-y and had more water features than RMNP.  While they are both unbelievably gorgeous, we collectively liked Duck Mountain more and were super glad we took the detour to get there.  Oh, and we also saw 1 deer, 3 red squirrels, a black-billed magpie, possibly a chickadee, some other random birds, 2 ducks, gulls, and I glimpsed a beaver.  Thank you.  We casually moosed, too, but didn’t see any.

Morning snack time

Morning snack time

Because we had gotten so much enjoyment out of Duck Mountain in Manitoba and we didn’t have anywhere to be, the decision was made to zig and zag our way south and west to Duck Mountain Provincial Park in Saskatchewan.  Wait, what, there are two Duck Mountain Provincial Parks?  Yes, it seemed a bit odd there were two separate ones in two separate provinces so close to each other, and I assumed someone, at some point, was being very stubborn.  The Manitoba version looks to be about 5 times larger and the drive through the Saskatchewan one was a lovely, but brief, one on paved roads.

Lesia the Ukrainian Lady

Lesia the Ukrainian Lady

I’d like to now interrupt this nature report to bring you the World’s Tallest Ukrainian Lady, found in Canora, Saskatchewan.

We continued going the back way on Hwy 5 west until we came to a crossroads:  we could turn north and overnight in Melfort, the City of Northern Lights, or keep going west to the Saskatoon area.  The original plan was to go to Melfort, but we’d discovered the biggest problem with Northern Lights is they come out as we’re going in.  It would be a lot more convenient if they’d come out around noonish.  But they don’t, so we opted to get further west so we’d have time to hit up Elk Island National Park the following day.

The drive along Hwy 5 west was very rural, with miles and kilometers of farmland with small groves of trees interspersed, few homes, and tiny towns.  It was such that if we needed to turn left, I’d look right and give Jimmy a traffic report.  For instance, at some intersections I’d be able to tell him it was free and clear for the next hour, or 5 hours, or, at some particularly middle-of-nowhere junctions I’d feel pretty confident it was clear for the next day and a half.

One more green and gold photo for good measure

One more green and gold photo for good measure

As we neared Saskatoon we could immediately tell it was a bustling type of place, but we had nowhere to stay and were getting pretty hungry.  That combo is a recipe for marital discord, so we pulled into a Boston Pizza for dinner and free wi-fi.  Fortunately we were able to get a lot of things accomplished over pizza, and soon we were on our way to the Courtyard by Marriott by the airport.  Yes, Saskatoon is so bustling it has an airport.  It also has a lively-looking downtown that looks like a fantastic place to be.

It had been another long day full of leaf-peeping, some moosing, and time spent in the car gawking at every roadside sign, animal, and bump in the road.  Our eyes were googley and it was high time for bed.

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