My wife and I had been planning this little jaunt since July. I say ‘little’, because, compared to our trip to St. John’s in August, it is short. At that time we decided to wait until the Fall rather than travel in 32°C+ weather.
We certainly succeeded in avoiding hot weather on our trip in September.
Our objectives were simple: visit Sagebrush Studios near Estuary, SK; visit friends and relatives; return to some childhood memories, visit the Yvette Moore Gallery in Moose Jaw; and see, for the first time, the Japanese Garden in Lethbridge. That was a lot of driving for us old folks, but we enjoyed it. Both of us are from ORFs, so we can travel in the flatter openness of the prairies and reminisce.
Our first stop was at Estuary. I can envisage most of you clambering for your map of Saskatchewan—never mind, there are many Saskatchewanites who don’t have a clue where that is.
It is just east of Empress, AB, across the border. I haven’t been able to find out why it is called Estuary. An Estuary is, by most definitions, the tidal mouth of a large river. Being as there are no ‘tides’ to be found in Saskatchewan, I questioned the name.
After searching various dictionaries, I came across a ‘Scottish archaic’ definition which is simply, ‘water mouth’. I presume that during homesteading times in the late 1800s, there was a Scot who came across the junction of the South Saskatchewan and the Red Deer rivers and, quite naturally, called the location ‘Estuary’. A glance at a map of the junction shows that the junction covers a large area.
This is what it looks like on the ground. The pylons in the distance used to carry the CPR secondary line across the South Saskatchewan to Bassano, AB.
That first day we stayed at a small, prairie style, rental home called Mammy’s Place in Estuary. It was very comfortable and is popular with ornithologists in the Spring.
Looking at the countryside in this video, you can see that there is not very much green on the landscape. In that part of Saskatchewan, they had not seen rain since June 15th. It was so dry that the grass crunched underneath my feet.
The next day we took a short drive to our real goal which was Sagebrush Studios. This is a fascinating place and I recommend it. The studios are owned and operated by artists, Dean and Fran Francis. It is their home. All the artwork we saw on this visit was by Dean. The place is unique and Dean’s paintings are top drawer. He understands the prairies and his paintings capture the feeling that I get when I’m out in the prairies, whether I’m in Saskatchewan or Alberta. Rather than write any more about it, I encourage you to watch this video of Sagebrush Studios.
You can see Dean’s art at the Sagebrush website.
Our intent was to next go to the Great Sandhills, east of Leader. It was cold and the wind was strong, so we skipped that side trip and carried on to Swift Current and then to Regina. We had to stop at one of our favourite coffee houses, Urban Ground in Swift Current. The lattes were as good as ever and the ambiance pleasant.
The next day we visited Regina Beach on the west side of Last Mountain Lake, where my wife spent time at her grandparents cottage for many summers in her youth. She has many good memories of that place and reminisced about much during our time there. That was capped off with Butler’s Fish and Chips at the Bluebird Cafe. It was there in the 1950s and is still making great fish and chips today.
After our time at Regina Beach, we made our way around to friends who have a cottage on the east side of Last Mountain Lake. We settled down to some wine and goodies, and had a good bit of craic.
While in Regina, we made the necessary walk around part of Wascana Lake where the Saskatchewan Parliament buildings are located. If you’re ever in Regina, this is a must, regardless of the season. The gardens and parks surrounding the lake make for a wonderful place to relax.
We then had a coffee time with my relatives who I hadn’t seen for many years. The visit was great.
Next was our planned visit to the Yvette Moore Gallery in Moose Jaw. We had a lunch, as good as expected, before settling in to look at the art. This was my wife’s first time there and she loved it. I had been many times before, but there was lots of new art, so I took my time.
Our final visit was to the Japanese Garden in Lethbridge, which neither of us had been before. We overnighted in Swift Current, then had a pleasant drive to Lethbridge.
The land on this part of the trip was anything but dry. There were many lush crops some of which were vegetables of one kind or another. The grain crops had already been taken off.
Along the way I was remembering what it was like to travel that way with my folks back in the 1950s. On those trips the classic grain elevators were still in use and the small towns around them were still viable. When you saw a grain elevator, that usually meant that a gas station and a small restaurant were there as well.
As I was reflecting on those memories, we came to one of the ‘new world’ grain handling services that are called ‘Inland Terminals’. I’m sure you’ve seen them—they’re huge. There’s no historic romance to these structures. Typically, they aren’t located in a town, so there’s no indication of civilisation in sight. The grain is hauled in by large truck-trailer units designed for grain haulage. On this trip we came across one of those on the highway every five minutes and often less. I image four or five of these truck-trailer units would have filled one of the old prairie grain elevators.
We arrived at Lethbridge in time to go to the Japanese Garden the same day. We were inspired to visit the garden after watching a video on Knowledge Network about Roy Sumi, a Master Garden Designer. (Video - ‘Borrowed from Nature’). If you're not a member of Knowledge Network you will have to log in. There is no charge to do this.
I recommend that you watch the whole video, not just for the aesthetics, but also for the messages from those being interviewed.
The Lethbridge garden is called NIKKA YUKO - the Friendship Garden. One hears about how Japanese Gardens promote peace within oneself. Well, for me, it worked. I won’t say more, but here are some of my images of the garden.
On our next and final day of travel, we continued west on Highway #3, then turned north on #22 to Cochrane and home.
From Fort MacLeod to the Highway 22 turnoff at Lundbreck, we came across many views like the one shown here.
The last time I was on this section of Highway 3 was about eight or ten years ago. I don’t remember the line up of wind turbines that I saw this time. Looking to the south, the turbines were mounted on every higher part of the foothills for as far as I could see. I guess it was inevitable, given our drive to instal renewable energy generation and the constant winds that come out of Crowsnest Pass.
I hope that the farmers and ranchers, whose land these are on, are receiving leasing payments similar to what an oil or gas well producer pays.
The remainder of the trip up Highway 22 was delightful. It was sunny and there wasn't too much traffic. That is one of the most enjoyable drives in the foothills of Alberta that I know.
Jack’s Coffee House Reviews
I love good coffee and detest the bad stuff, of which there is much. I test espresso coffees using that as my metric. Here are the results from this trip. I only rated the coffee, not the food.
My bar is set at 10 and that is held by Sought X Found Coffee House in Calgary.
Name and Location
Given the comments on their website and Trip Advisor,
I expected something better. Most of the comments given there relate to the food.
The Latte was fine, but there were a lot of people in the cafe, and the noise and echo made it hard to communicate, even across the table.