The NOFS of Prince Albert National Park

NOFS

If you have ever camped at the Narrows in Prince Albert National Park over the last 30 or more years you may have noticed a decal on the back of some campers or a green and yellow flag with the letters NOFS.  This is the official logo of the “Narrows Old Farts Society” or to some “Narrows Old Farts Security”. I have had the privilege of being accepted into this prestigious group and proudly fly the flag at our campsite. Many of us have been camping at the Narrows for up to 50 years or more, which is one of the entry requirements to the exclusive group.

NOFS

I will use first names only as not to incriminate anyone but the group was formed by John several years back. John, who spends his entire summer every year at the Narrows for more years then he can remember, noticed all the others, like himself, who enjoyed each year at the Narrows.  On one of his busier days while lying in the sun at “his beach” he came up with an idea. “I have always liked decals and flags and stuff like that” John said. Belonging to a club with their own membership logo he thought it might be fun to form one for all the regular campers at the Narrows. Note to readers this came to John while lying in the heat on “his” sunny beach.

John designed a logo and a contact in the sign business made up a few stickers for him. Going one step further, a friend at the time, had access to a fancy embroidery machine and made up a few flags. “Those original flags and decals were a real hit with some of the regulars at the Narrows”, John said. He had to get more as other regulars were brought into the prestigious club. Now as many as 30 members are proud to be displaying the logo.

For those of us who feel a connection at the Narrows, it’s a special place, not just a place to camp but a place to come home to every summer.  It’s that connection we the NOFS all have in common, we come for the beauty, peace and quiet we find at the campground. The NOFS as indicated in the second clarification of the letters the S stand for security. The park campground is for all to use and it is great to see so many people find the enjoyment of camping there without all the plugins etc. However be aware as the NOFS are watching that you are enjoying the park and not abusing it. We have to remember, to some this campground is almost sacred and here for the enjoyment of all, so be respectful of others. Respect nature and leave your campsite better than when you arrived, put your fire out when leaving and garbage has its place in garbage containers, not fire pits.

I have met many of our members and hope someday I get permission to interview a few and bring you their stories…some very interesting people. Remember age is only a number.

The NOFS are watching….enjoy!

Respect for others and nature … camping etiquette

A reminder to us veterans and some advice to the new who will be trying camping for the first time.

Campsite

#1 – You arrive at your campground and the first task is to get a fire going, sitting around that fire and relaxing is a must. You look at your designated fire pit and it is full of garbage.  Everything from diapers, egg shells and drink containers and yes, burnt tin cans….yes tin cans do not burn.

Unfortunately this happens far too often and there is a garbage can 300 steps away or closer. And usually garbage is not just in the fire pit but also scattered throughout the undergrowth. Most often we blame the parks staff or the campground operator for not cleaning up instead of the last dimwit who camped there. In most cases park staff are kept busy and really do not have time to pick up and babysit every camper and shouldn’t have too.

You want a clean campground, leave it that way.  Do not expect maid service and if there is no garbage container handy take your garbage with you. Always leave the area better than when you found it.

#2- We leave the concrete jungles to experience a little nature and most campgrounds have a nice mix of grasses, shrubs and trees and provide parking areas for your tent or RV.  Park on these pads and do not ruin the natural area with ruts etc. Trees were not grown, over many years, to provide you a place to carve your name, or as I have witnessed, practicing your axe and knife throwing skills using beautiful live trees as targets. Chances are your children will not get to enjoy those trees, they will not be there.

Leave nature and the natural growth for others to enjoy with no human damage. Respect your surroundings and keep them as natural as  possible.

Tree damage

#3- You are just settling down after setting up camp, your favourite beverage in hand and enjoying nature, it is beautiful, listen to those birds and the wind in the trees…THEN what the HEY bagpipe music blaring away several campsites over!  Okay I admit I love the bagpipes, so I usually get some RAP music blasting throughout my quiet space. It’s not too bad because the other neighbour just started his CHEAP generator that sounds like a locomotive. But eventually the music ends and the generator runs out of fuel and the quiet returns…until the neighbour’s dog starts barking. Now dogs bark but there is something wrong when they do not stop… oh yes they went to the beach and tied up the dog to the camper. That’s when I realized my investment in camping equipment and RV as well as travelling expenses were wasted if I want to get away and enjoy some peace and quiet and listen to nature. Home or the Walmart parking lot would have been quieter. I hide in my camper for some quiet, so much for the great outdoors.

TIP: If the sole intention is to get away and party all night long and play your music loud, something you would not do at home because the neighbours would phone the police, do your research and book into a campground that has a reputation for parties.  Those campgrounds are rarely visited by those wishing to connect with nature or just some quiet time. This way you will probably not have to deal with the authorities being called as others are there for the same thing. Please be respectful of why others have invested their time and resources to camp or RV.

Have some respect for others, you are not the only ones in the campground.  Some have come to enjoy the outdoors, nature and some peace and quiet.  If not they would have gone to a disco. Not everyone likes your choice of music, not everyone likes the roar of a cheap generator, and not everyone likes listening to your dog bark excessively. I know fur babies have become the new flavour….but I did say excessively. And yes cheap generators are noisy and best used on the farm or construction site. I do love music at home and in my own private space for my ears only.  Just be considerate of others.

#4- Many times as of late, we have arrived at a campground on a Monday or Tuesday and booked a site thinking we would maybe like to spend the week there only to be told we would have to vacate the site Friday as it was booked Friday and Saturday. Okay so be it, then we find out the other sites are all booked for the weekend. So we spend a couple of nights thanks to Walmart. Later driving through the grounds over the weekend we discover that someone with a big credit card or good line of credit paid for the site but the weather did not suit them, so never showed up to use it. Not just one site that weekend but many and not just one campground this is happening everywhere where you have on line bookings. I realize sometimes circumstances change but this is becoming the norm not just random. For this reason we avoid parks that have on line booking like the plague and look to other parks and areas.

Even if you have a big credit card and lots of money to waste please consider there are a lot of people wanting to use these public or private parks so if you book it, use it. If not have the courtesy to cancel well ahead of time so others can enjoy.

#5- please when leaving your campsite for the day or heading out put your fire out. I do not care if it is in a fire pit. If you have ever experienced how fast a fire can travel in the forest or grasslands you would not do this.

Respect for others – respect for nature – let’s all just practice a little respect. Hopefully it rubs off and all can enjoy nature and the camping experience.

Thanks Gerry

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Lessons learned winter RV camping

Thought I would share a few little discoveries we made during our winter camping trips. We are definitely not experts in the field but, as usual, learned these lessons by trial and error.

Our trips were anywhere from minus 5c (23 F) to perhaps the coldest night at minus 21c  (-5.8 F).  Our truck camper is a 2017 Northern Lite 9.6. four-season.  When they say four season not sure they were in Saskatchewan, Canada camping at any time. As far as I am concerned no camper is a true four-season, some are just a little better than others. The Northern Lite, in my estimation, is one of the best along with a few models of the Big Foot, both made in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada.

In winter you have three problems to overcome –  heat, power and moisture and they are all connected. If one is hooked to shore power you eliminate two of these problems and possibly all three but in winter where we are you are not going to find sites where you can plug , we are back to three issues.

Trip #1 In order to save our two 6v 200 amp hour batteries by running the furnace all the time we would turn the furnace off during the day when we were our enjoying nature. Coming in for the evening we would crank up the furnace to 20c and in no time would be comfortable. Despite having two Dry Z pellet dehumidifiers we got a considerable amount of moisture inside on our windows. For those who do not know NL truck campers they have a double pane window from factory. The window also has a slide up reflective screen covering the window. By cracking the windows it helped a bit but increased furnace run time considerably draining the batteries. In the winter the sun is low and the days are short.  Even on sunny days the roof top 100 watt solar is not very productive so we ended up finding a quiet spot to park and run the generator, something I hate to do, it ruins the quiet we were looking for. I had left our portable 100w panel at home so it provided no charge at all.

Dehumidifers in camper
Dry Z pellet dehumidifiers
Portable solar panel
Portable solar panel

Prior to our winter camping we knew a big problem with RVs and moisture happens under your bed mattress. Tip: when purchasing a used RV look under the mattress first. We had purchased our NL in 2017 so it did not come standard with the Marine Hyper vent material under the mattress.  I’m told it has become standard equipment the next year. This is a no brainer in a four-season camper,  or for any camper if it’s good for sailboats it will work in a RV. And it works extremely well, well worth the price as it is not real cheap in my books.  No moisture under the mattress but one could feel the cold under it despite the camper having extra insulation there. We enjoyed our four day stay despite having to run the generator a considerable time to top up the batteries.

Marine hypervent material
Marine hyper vent material

Trip #2 Trip one we had the heat but noticed moisture and the furnace ran a lot putting stress on the batteries. The smaller the RV the better chance you have of being comfortable by having less to heat and maintain. Power was a problem so to eliminate the power draw for heat I brought a portable propane heater, Big Buddy style and used that.  We sure did have heat but the windows ran water and was hard to control the heat level as the temperature was up and down. I had also used reflective bubble wrap over the windows and vents to help keep the heat in, none of this appeared to work  controlling the moisture. Back to the furnace and running the generator. I reached out to Northern Lite and was told the camper was designed four-season as far the windows were concerned and that the furnace did not give off a lot of moisture. Just don’t crank the temperature down at night or when out during the day, just set it a 20c and leave it there. They also suggested adding insulation board under the hyper vent on the floor.

Marine hypervent material

Trip #3 We warmed up the camper well before leaving home and set the thermostat at 20c as we were told and left it there the entire trip. I had also added a ¾ inch solid foam board under the mattress, the insulation board has plastic on one side and a reflective silver on the other which I faced up under the hyper-vent material. I also added this to the bottom of all our closets and side storage. Outside I added reflective bubble wrap to the insides of all the access doors except the vented ones. I used a body shop style 2 sided tape to hold and this is working well. Well that old furnace worked and it was a comfortable 20c every time we walked into the camper, Charlotte loved this. This trip, admittedly the temperature only dropped to minus 15c at night and near freezing during the day, very minimal moisture on the windows with only the factory screens for cover. So keeping the temperature consistent and warm appeared to have worked to control the moisture. One big problem it drained the batteries constantly running so out came the generator. We were the only ones camping in the park so that was not an issue this trip. However I do not want to depend on a generator running for long periods in any campground or even boon docking areas, we are there for the quiet of nature. I had brought my portable 100 watt solar panel but the days were short and not always sunny, so that and the rooftop did not keep up. Not all was lost we had a great time away from it all.

Notes to ourselves

1-Although the basement and tanks in our Northern Lite are heated we do not use the fresh water tank or the trailer water system at all. We take our water in containers and use windshield washer antifreeze to flush the toilet. Got to rough it a little, however by running the furnace constantly our floor was nice and warm, not something you find in many campers in winter.

2-The extra solid insulation under the bed and in the closets worked. It helped keep the cold out a lot better and helped maintain the temperature. Money well spent, do not leave home without this.

3-Our furnace does not give off a lot of moisture.  Just keep from changing the temperature, keep it consistent. We did not feel a lot of cold coming off our dual pane windows and the factory covers appeared to work well. Perhaps a big quilted cover over the windows would help…the bubble reflective material not so much. We enjoyed the view and the little sun that came in through the windows.

4- Pack extra windshield antifreeze and RV antifreeze, gas line antifreeze, lock de-icer and extra fuel for the generator. A plus on the NL is the generator compartment is heated so the generator starts first pull…bonus!

Our Dilemma:

The two 6V batteries work great in summer, not enough in winter.  We made only four  winter trips this year – do I upgrade to Lithium at $1,800 yes $1,800 I am in Canada I know our US neighbours can get this considerably less. I also have to upgrade the charge controller in my 2017 NL for lithium, I understand the new ones come with a different controller now. Option 2 as we move our home with us sightseeing and getting to different ski trails would a DC to DC charger to top up the house batteries do the job. I know everyone is singing the praises of lithium but they as well as my lead acid cart batteries have issues in cold weather so is it worth $2,200 to upgrade.  I am cheap and on a retirement salary  of nothing.  Option 3, just open the border and I will be joining our US neighbours in sunny Arizona problem solved with this cold weather deal. I love winter 30 days is enough after that the novelty wears off.

These are just a few of the winter camping lessons and I’m sure we have a lot more to come.  I would appreciate those in the know to email me with their experience and suggestions….keep them nice folks. I will update our progress in dealing with power as that appears to be the big issue now. There is so much spam on these blog sites in comments these days I would appreciate any comments coming to me at gerry@studiowest.ca  I am also on Facebook and Instagram.  I appreciate the RV and in particular the Facebook groups for information as well. If you like what we are doing please subscribe for automatic updates weekly, it is important to us to keep posting.

PS: I have since ordered a DC to DC charger which is a challenge to install in my 9.6 Northern Lite so will keep you posted once I get it all figured out and how it works.  Next week The NOFS of Prince Albert National Park.

PS: I have noticed more people are going full time in their RV’s that live in Canada, we have some very different conditions other than winter to deal with. In a back post I have done a little research on the subject …hope it helps.

Thanks Gerry and Charlotte, hope to “see you down the road”.

Our first trip of 2021: Cypress Hills

Cypress Hills Provincial Park

The weather was quite mild for winter in Saskatchewan and even milder in the Maple Creek/Cypress Hills Provincial Park area. If you follow the weather, Maple Creek is usually the warmest place all winter in Saskatchewan.  With temps near freezing and a little in the plus range during the day dropping to -12 at night it was time to check out a park we had only driven through prior to our visit this time.

The Park is an interprovincial park running on the Alberta and Saskatchewan border and a little oasis with its’ tall lodgepole pine forest in the grasslands of both provinces. Cypress Hills, as the name implies, rises considerably above the rest of the Maple Creek area. The highest point is in Alberta at the Head Mountain at 1466 meters or 4810 feet for us old folks, in Saskatchewan  the highest point is in a farmers field at 1392 meters again 4567 feet.

Cypress Hills lodgepole pines
Cypress Hills Provincial Park
Cypress Hills Provincial Park

The park totally impressed us even in winter so it must be fantastic in summer when all is open. The park office was open during office hours every day and the designated winter campsites were plowed out. There are no services available to the campsites, there are pit toilets available and there is also a water fill up station open. This is not available at all provincial parks that are now pushing winter activities so call ahead.

The park features over 12 different campgrounds and 600 sites ranging from rustic to full service, group sites and barrier free sites. On our hikes through the campgrounds we found the sites extremely well cared for with raised gravel pads in the serviced sites as well as a lot of well secluded spots in the well-treed campgrounds.

Cypress Hills Provincial Park campsite

This park has a lot to offer for the price of admission, an equine trail riding area, zip lines, hiking, canoeing and boats with a small 5 hp rating on a small lake. Mini golf and ice cream as well as restaurant, a star observatory and a whole lot more we did not discover during our stay in the winter. To us the quality of the campgrounds says a lot about the upkeep of the park and the management. A beautiful lodge is also available for non-campers. Many cabins surround the little lake but the lake is accessible to the public around the entire lake. 

This park is a great family place where you probably won’t hear “I’m bored” we so often did and it has cell service.

It had been so warm the ski trails were ice, not great for us beginners, so snow shoes or hiking the other option  which we did a lot of covering up to 11-12 km each day. We still never covered anywhere near what was offered on well taken care of trails. We only visited the West Block on the Saskatchewan side we will return….in off season.

I was impressed by the number of older cabins that were totally log, not surprising in the lodgepole pine forest. They looked great in the treed setting however that cabin flavour being lost with the new condo size cabins that appear to be the flavour these days. Of course the trees are being lost to these monsters in the newer areas to accommodate the large square footage.

It was warmer but quite windy while we were there so found a site partially blocked by the trees, the sites were large and well-plowed out so we had no problem locating our ‘Igloo on wheels” to block some of the wind. We learned a lot about heating and winter camping that we applied to our stay here and just loved it. We set the furnace at 20 Celsius when we left home and left it there until we returned. Yes very cozy at the end of the day. We were able to cook outside and enjoy the fire as there was plenty of wood available.

Cypress Hills Provincial Park
Cypress Hills Provincial Park campsite

I had an automotive windshield protector, the ones made out of fabric and a rubber I had bought from Costco, this came in handy as I wrapped it behind our two chairs to block the wind and reflect heat on our backs. Worked better that way than on the windshield so will become part of our camp gear. Unlike the National Park, Rv’s of all sizes can be parked in the winter designated sites so larger units can enjoy winter camping here. The poor young man who was camped in his tent, the only other camper, froze in the wind which was considerable overnight.  We discovered at 6:00 am he was busy packing up. So much for neighbours.

I have always enjoyed the Maple Creek area and the community ever since we started attending their Cowboy Poetry gatherings when we published our Pure Country Magazine. The history in this area is very interesting as well the western cowboy lifestyle of the many ranchers living in the area keep me coming back. I attended my first day of school wearing my western hat and have had one ever since. Never been a real cowboy but photographed 100’s of rodeo performances as a rodeo photographer travelling with the people I had a lot of respect for, later to publish a magazine on their lifestyle, rodeo and more, you won’t meet many people finer than a cattle rancher. I did a prior post on the Moose Jaw bucking bronc school held each year in May and hope to be back to one this year if possible.

As I will be posting every Friday the next post will cover the lessons learned during our winter camping experience in our truck camper. Please enjoy the images we were able to get on this trip and do check out this Park as it is a gem hidden in southwest Saskatchewan.  Please subscribe for updates on posts it’s just why we do this to share a few images and thoughts. As always I can be contacted at gerry@studiowest.ca  or on Facebook and Instagram. Thanks to our already growing subscriber numbers it makes us want to work harder when we know others are interested.

Until next week hope to see you “down the road” say hi if you see us in the Studio West Photographers Ford and the Northern Lite,  our home on the road.

Gerry & Charlotte

The last RV trip December 2020

Prince Albert National Park

Our year of travel ended at the beginning of December with a trip to Prince Albert National Park (PANP), in Saskatchewan. We were lucky although there was an abundance of snow the weather co-operated and we were able to do more cross country skiing over the few days we were there than we had in the last several years. That’s probably why those 3-4 kms trails turned into 11 kms.  We were tired at the end but so worth it. PANP has a number of excellent groomed trails, snowshoe trails and of course hiking trails.

Over the next four days we enjoyed skiing and photography along the lake shore lines as well as doing a lot of hiking on the many trails right from the back door of our camper. Evenings we spent around the campfire but the days were short and getting cold so we ended up reading and getting some early nights. As early risers we were able to enjoy the sunrises over the frozen lake out our camper window with a coffee in hand. We camped at Paignton Beach, one of the several areas they allow tent camping in the winter. As our home was on the back of our truck we were allowed to camp there as well. We only take up the space of a regular truck in the parking lot and leave no footprint. If you have a large unit that will not fit into a regular parking spot I would check first as I do not think they would give you a camp permit. A camper van would probably work but nothing larger, check with the office first. The one thing I like about national parks is they have rules and actually enforce them, making it fair for all.

Prince Albert National Park
Prince Albert National Park
Prince Albert National Park

I personally have been camping in the PANP since 1998, yes I am that old. The one thing I appreciate is the way the park has been managed. Other than a few upgradesd roads, boat launches and park facilities much of the wilderness area has remained unchanged. Sure the town site and campgrounds have changed. I’m not sure for the better but changed any , it’s called progress for those who require comfort and all the amenities of home. I appreciate the enforcement of rules that have kept the wilderness areas pristine and not destroyed as we humans have a habit of doing. Our grandchildren can enjoy the wilderness if we can get them off the phone and take the time to look around. We have to teach our children to appreciate nature and its’ fragile nature when we change it. Nature can teach us a lot about life and our place in it if we take time to observe.  Nature does well without human meddling and changes, let’s preserve that for future generations.

Our biggest problem with winter camping, only because we want more comfort at our ages and the fact that we spent a fortune on a four-season camper, is power. Solar is pretty much useless in winter due to the sun curve is low on the horizon and very few hours in the day. We have two 6V batteries for 200 amp hours but in -20 that is only really 100 amp hours. That 100 amp is actually only 50 usable amps on lead-acid batteries. Our fridge is propane so the only power use is LED lights and our furnace fan. This trip I made some mistakes trying to conserve power and not have to run the generator. I used a Buddy style propane heater and filled the camper with moisture we had never seen before. OK so I scrapped that and went back to our furnace which is the best heat source as it heats our tanks below the floor and keeps the floor warm as well. This drains the batteries over several days. We were shutting the furnace off when we were out for most of the day and cranking it up in the evening to save power. This saved power but increased moisture in the camper as well with the heating and cooling of the air. We have two Dry Z pellet de-humidifiers which we like but they were not enough. We ended up finding areas away from all others to run the generator and charge our batteries during the day. If someone has made the effort to set up a tent or get away from the city in winter, the last thing I am going to do is ruin their peace and quiet to run my generator. I would go home before doing that. I appreciate the quiet in nature and winter is especially quiet so I would never ruin others experience to enjoy that. I also had made some reflective bubble insulation to fit over the windows, we also scrapped that idea on our main window as we wanted the view and the ones we covered appeared to have even more moisture.

We are new to cold weather camping -20 Celsius and lower so have made a few mistakes but thanks to some forums and experience we are learning fast as winter is too long to stay home. I will do a separate article on lessons learned and how we have outfitted our Northern Lite truck camper and some moisture areas to look for.

Until then enjoy the images I would like to share of the beauty of winter in PANP in the article and gallery. I am enjoying sharing my images and our experiences with you, take them with a grain of salt as I do have definite opinions that I have to own. If you like please subscribe to be emailed our updates and if you have questions or comments please email me at gerry@studiowest.ca  We would be honoured if you share our site with a friend who may be interested.

I am attempting to share thoughts and images on simple living, cabin life and RV travel every week and depending on internet every second week. Next article our camper and winterized camping lessons.

Thanks 

Gerry & Charlotte  and see you “down the road”.

Provincial Parks 2020 fall tour

Echo Valley Provincial Park

The virus created quite a different year for many as well as us, possibly the first summer we have spent so much time around the cabin. After our June trip north we decided to stay put for July and August as we were not allowed into northern Manitoba, our go to place to escape the crowds during those months. I agree with the government of Manitoba to close the borders to the north during this time to limit spread. We opted to stay put as many who had nothing else to do headed to the parks to try their hand a camping.

We live at Pike Lake in our little cabin located just outside the park and did some neglected yard work and just enjoyed our lake cabin. We’re thankful we are outside the park as it too was busier than we had ever seen it.  Although we have canoed the lake 100s of times we did that again waiting for fall to come and the crowds to slow down.

ECHO VALLEY PROVINCIAL PARK

September rolled around and we felt the need to roam. We loaded the camper and decided we would visit some provincial campgrounds we would never go to when they were busy. One reason being the on-line booking.  All spots are booked for the weekends over the summer even if they are not used, so extending our stay, if we wished, at these parks is impossible. It’s get out Thursday in most of them.  We have proven over and over again this is the case so we avoid the on-line booking parks like the plague. If there is a site available it’s the one in the bog or on a 45 degree angle.

We found Saskatchewan has some excellent campgrounds and in September we did not have to settle for the campsite in the bog. Our first stop was Echo Valley Provincial Park located in the Qu’Appelle Valley just west of the town of Fort Qu’Appelle, in between Echo and Pasqua Lakes. The community of Fort Qu’Appelle was established in 1864 as a Hudson Bay Trading post.

Echo Valley Provincial Park

The fall colours in the valley were awesome with many of the reds not common in other areas. The park was excellent with two large lakes to choose from and miles of hiking trails in the hills. I can see why this spot would be so popular in the summer as it is only 70 kms  northeast of Regina. The campgrounds were well groomed and lots of sites. Even the overflow had great views and sites that were great if you could dry camp. We are totally self –contained so usually look for spots without services, cheaper and usually less crowded. Although the weather was cooler and damp we enjoyed our brief stay.

Echo Valley Provincial Park
Coffee and breakfast at one of the campsites in the overflow area of the Park.
Echo Valley Provincial Park
Campsite was large and well-treed.

The forecast said rain was on its way, we decided to move on.  Duck Mountain Provincial Park would be our next stop.

DUCK MOUNTAIN PROVINCIAL PARK

Duck Mountain Provincial Park

Duck Mountain Provincial Park is located 25 kms east of Kamsack, Saskatchewan, set in rolling hills and boreal forest. The campsites range from wilderness to electric with no full service sites. Good fishing, hiking and bike trails ran throughout the Park. Again the fall weather was cool and damp but the fall colours were beautiful.  We did not spend much time on the beautiful sand beach, we found the Park was immaculately groomed even at that time of year.

During our travels mid to late September most of the campsites were closed with only a few being offered. The ones we checked out looked great, some were surrounding the lake and others secluded in the woods. The hiking trails were excellent so we did a little hiking and then explored what we could of the park and would highly recommend it to anyone not wanting full hook up. Electrical sites only but access to water and sanitation dumps. Once again the rain appeared to be following us so we decided to drive in the rain and head to Greenwater Provincial Park.

GREENWATER PROVINCIAL PARK

Greenwater Provincial Park

We drove out of the rain shortly after leaving Duck Mountain and arrived at Greenwater Provincial Park. The Park is located 16 kms south of Chelan, 38 kms north of Kelvington on Hwy. 38 in Saskatchewan.  Having never been to this park, even at this time in late fall, I can see why this was one of my late brother’s favourite go-to-park. I am told fishing is great and for boating an excellent marina and boat launch in a quiet channel of the lake, featuring hiking and bike trails, boat and canoe rentals, concessions and a large beach area. We walked for miles exploring the campsites and attractions and the weather even co-operated. This was the first opportunity to photograph and observe the beautiful swans on the lake. I could spend hours watching as they feed in the bay. For bird lovers this park is a must with more than 200 species, that’s their information as I did not do a count. The campsite, a fall site we stayed in, was very private with trees on every side. Other sites not open at that time also appeared well spaced with lots of privacy and able to handle small and larger rigs. A few of the fall sites were suited to billy goats and not sure other than a tent would work, although these were few.

When we were at Greenwater we found most our RV neighbours were either retired people like ourselves, or hunters that made up the majority. This on line booking deal they have going on in our Provincial Parks is interesting and I will endeavour to cover that in another article. But come Thursday the park began to empty. Upon speaking with many of those leaving they told us their sites were booked for the weekend, actually the entire park was so they could not even re-locate even if they wanted to stay longer. (Just to be politically correct as they say in the media, of course self-distanced when speaking to our fellow campers). We had been lucky and had booked as many days as we could getting four days, so we were there when the weekend arrived and guess what, of the 12 or so people who had to leave only two of those sites ended up having people use them. This is a shame!

Our time was up and it was time to head somewhere. Charlotte and I have a provincial map and we have marked every highway we have travelled in the province and it was tough to find one that we had not travelled to start our journey home. The weather was decent so we decided to head north to our favourite fall campground the Narrows in Prince Albert National Park, at this time of year…no services except pit toilets.

Three great Parks we had never been to and anyone of them I would highly recommend and would return to any one of them. A must for us is Echo Valley in the fall if the weather is right camped on the hill in the overflow. The colours and view will be spectacular.

Next week: The Narrows and photographs in and around the beautiful National Park. Please subscribe for future automatic notifications of new posts. If you know people who might be interested in the photographs and our travels please share this with them. We would consider this a great compliment, and give me a reason to keep taking photographs and being able to share them. Any questions email me at gerry@studiowest.ca no hard questions and only good comments please….I’m fragile.

Travelling during restrictions 2020

We started off 2020 just right, January winter camping in Prince Albert National Park.  Then Covid-19 happened sometime in March closing most campgrounds.

We spent early May and throughout the month travelling to check out some local regional parks and nearby provincial parks we never visit, mostly day trips. With our home in the back of our truck this was enjoyable as we had our own washroom and kitchen with us and felt safer for that.

Heading north
Heading north.

The Trip North Part 1

 A friend who owns land near Wapawekka Lake, east of LaRonge, offered us an opportunity to camp there and was only a short distance to the lake. This fit into our plans of distancing and spending some quiet time in the north. So in mid- June we set out.  We found a couple of places north of Prince Albert we could boondock as the parks were not open, but opening plans were in the works.

The weather forecast did not look good further to the north, and we were unsure of the side roads we would have to take to get to Wapawekka so we were not in any hurry to head out. This trip as we were unsure of the roads and where we would be spending our evenings, we decided not to take our small pull-behind trailer with the canoe. Instead we decided on taking only our inflatable Sea Eagle, a 16-foot, very tough and stable kayak packed in the rear seat of the truck. We were traveling light with only extra fuel, propane and generator. The generator is always with us, but is used only in emergencies, as we do not like the noise and feel few others do as well even though it is very quiet for a gen set.

Sea Eagle
Inflatable Sea Eagle

 We spent a night at my cousin’s place camping on her spare lot next to her store, Northside Antiques, then boondocked a few days in a northern area. After a few days we decided to head north to LaRonge where we would overnight, fuel up and head to Wapawekka. The Nut Point campground in the Provincial Park at LaRonge was open, a very nice campground on LaRonge Lake. We had approximately 100 kms of unknown grid to travel for our next overnight on our friend’s land. The beauty of a truck camper and 4×4 is we felt very secure heading out even though it had been raining previously.

Rest area near LaRonge
Rest area near LaRonge on the Montreal River.
Rest area
Montreal River
Montreal River
Swollen river that flows into LaRonge.
Nut Point
Overnight stay at the Nut Point Provincial Campground in LaRonge.
Airplanes at LaRonge
Westwind Aviation float planes in LaRonge.
Montreal River
Montreal River flowing into LaRonge.

I am not including directions for a good reason. There is no public camping where we are heading, only a couple of bear camps so extra traffic would not be appreciated by those who own and lease the land. Our directions said the camp was at the end of the road. After about 100 kms we did pass a sign that said Wapawekka but it appeared the road continued….they said to the end of the road so the end of the road it would be. They said we could not miss it.

Well that road turned into a cow trail. Knowing our friend and his love for the wilderness I figured that he just might have a camp on this road or trail. If it rains I’m not sure we will get out…but that’s okay we are loaded with food and supplies for several weeks and could wait until it dries up. Spotting a red flag hanging in one of the trees just before a curve in the road common sense kicked in and I decided to stop and get out to check out this trail. Well I was so glad someone other than me was watching out as that old trail turned into a bog that you could not get through with any 4×4 let alone one with a camper on it.

End of the road
The trail turned to bog!
Lunch at end of trail
Contemplating our next move at the bog. Stopped for lunch.

Well I guess we would just have to tell our friend we could not make it and head back, but first lunch so reversing into an open area on the trail we stopped. While having lunch a couple of quads approached.  It turned out it was one of the bear outfitters heading out to check his bear baits. We know in the north there are bears, we expect that, but we were informed that this season, with no hunters over the last few seasons, bears were everywhere…good to know. He also laughed and told us the sign we passed back at the trail head was where we should have turned and helped us with directions. He was the only one, along with hunters that used that trail. I watched as the two quads fought their way through waist high water and mud to continue on the trail…yep lucky I stopped, as once around the bend there was little way out. Yes we should have turned at the sign and yes we did find our friend’s place just as he said and it was even better than we expected. We set up camp for the night and would explore in the morning.

Bear tracks
A common sight, bear tracks everywhere.
Road into Wapawekka Lake
Road into Wapawekka Lake.

Part 2 – Wapawekka

Camping at Wapawekka we woke up to drizzle, we moved the camper to several different areas on the land before backing into a nice opening in the trees where camp would be…for how long, we never know, no plans, no time to check out, only when we get the urge to move on. We travel with a screen tent, small camp kitchen table, camp stove and portable kitchen box. We never did set up the screen tent even though at times the mosquitos were horrible; we used coils and lotion to survive. We set up the kitchen under our rear awning as the side awning had no room in the trees. This worked as we wanted camp as simple as possible, we would need to put in the rear awning and take our home to the lake if we wanted to have the kayak with us. No fire pits, no tables and no facilities worked out great as our camper has everything including hot shower, stove, oven, TV and a huge fridge and freezer.

Wapawekka camp
Boondocking at Wapawekka.
Wapawekka campsite

When I was on a cattle drive down in Mankota, Saskatchewan near the American border, we lived out of an old fashioned chuckwagon pulled by mules. Every night we would have a small fire as wood was very scarce to cook our meals and make coffee in the morning. That’s when our cowboy host showed us how to make a fire pit that would not destroy the area. We dug out the sod in a circle very carefully placing it aside. Picked up stones to ring the fire pit to keep the fire from spreading into the grassland, this worked great and next morning before leaving we randomly threw the stones around the site, poured water into the coals and replaced the sods. We were told if you could tell we were there it was not good enough. I will never forget that and that is how all campgrounds should be left….just like you were not there.

Campfire at Wapawekka
Campfire at Wapawekaa.
Campfire site after
Campfire site after.

I made a fire pit similar to that and it worked well and yes when we left you would not know where it was. I went back to take a photo and had to look for it….a pat on the back for me. In between rain showers we hiked the area that day and discovered the lake was within walking distance, but too far to haul our inflatable kayak so we would still have to move the camper….no big deal. Wapawekka Lake is huge with several islands scattered  throughout it.  On some of the islands, the local native residents have cabins. We were told as well it was commercially fished in winter.

Wapawekka Lake
Wapawekka Lake.
Wapawekka Lake
Shoreline of Wapawekka Lake.
Wapawekka Lake
Wapawekka Lake.
Wapawekka
Shoreline of one of the many islands on Wapawekka.

The next day cleared and the sun shone so we inflated the kayak and headed out on the lake, it did not disappoint. Beautiful bays and small islands to discover and just the silence and natural untouched beauty of nature the way God intended it to be. We would be doing this again the next day, as well as some hiking and exploring; we needed to find some dried firewood. As always in bear country we carry bear spray and have been very close to several but never had to use it, just a precaution that gives one a little more confidence to wander. I may sound wimpish but the way I got it figured if the cowboys could strap on a six gun then I for sure can carry a can of bear spray.  We must remember when in the parks and the wilderness we are in the animal’s territory, no matter what animal, we must respect their right to be there as we are the trespasser. If we respect that, keep our campgrounds free of food and garbage, they have no reason for a visit and would rather stay away. In all my many years of camping the only bad experiences I have had happened is not in the wilderness but organized campgrounds and they had two legs.

We also invested in a Spot X satellite phone which works anywhere in the world. As we try to camp in areas with little or no coverage this phone could be a life saver and we can let our loved ones know we are okay. When we leave home we usually only have a direction with no set plans or time to be anywhere and no set day or time of return so are hard to keep track of, and that’s just the way we like it, our kids not so much.

We enjoyed the rest of our stay at Wapawekka, even with the bugs and the rain showers off and on, the silence was beautiful. Except one night we heard a good old Saturday night party going on at the bear camp down the way….that was okay it was their camp and we were the visitors in the area.

Eventually we felt the need to move on and headed back to our cabin. We overnighted in Nut Point in La Ronge and as luck would have it the campground at the Narrows in Prince Albert National Park has just opened. We were the first ones in and stayed for a few days then back home to Pike Lake.

Birch Bay
Lunch stop at Birch Bay, Prince Albert National Park.
Kingsmere River
Short hike along the Kingsmere River, Prince Albert National Park.
Shoreline
Shoreline on Waskesui Lake.
Shoreline
Sunset
Sunset at the Narrows, Prince Albert National Park.
Sunset
Rainy day
Not everyday was perfect, rainy but beautiful.
Pondering on leaving
Pondering on leaving.

The virus is still spreading and getting worse. Usually we have an undisclosed spot we head to in July and August in northern Manitoba but Manitoba did not want us to visit this year…and that’s okay. The area in Manitoba has no long sand beach, no services, no power, no cell service, just a small beautiful campground enjoyed by folks like ourselves that are there for the fishing and nature. We find these spots are great as many cannot do without power and cell coverage for very long. So when other campgrounds are over-crowded we just stay away. This year we spent those months at our cabin and did some fixing there…when the crowds are gone we will venture out again.

Be sure to check out the photo gallery of this trip and please subscribe to our blog.

Truck Camper travels 2020

It’s January 2nd 2020 and Charlotte and I are on our first RV trip to northern Saskatchewan. The weather is great, -4 to -5 Celsius during the day and a low of -16 at night with a -21c wind chill. We have discovered the Prince Albert National Park has a couple of areas where they allow winter back country camping and we wanted to check them out. The PANP is located approximately 90 kms north of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada. The northern forest is beautiful in the winter and although this is one of our favourite parks in the summer we really had not experienced it in the winter except for a day tour, so decided to start the New Year off right in our 2nd home on wheels.

After posting some photos of our winter trip on my Facebook page and sharing it with a truck campers group I have had a number of questions how everything worked for us. This article is written to help fellow RVers and truck camper owners to share the good and bad of winter camping in a truck camper.

Our rig is a 2013 Ford F350 SRW, 4×4 Super Duty with crew cab and 8 ft. box. Our home on back is a 2017 Northern Lite 9.6 QE, four-season rated and the reason we refer to it as the “Igloo”.  We have owned a bumper pull camper and a large 5th wheel and many models of truck campers including an Arctic Fox with a slide out, all having their place on the RV food chain, but we kept coming back to the truck camper. Winter camping is a good example why. We have our home with us always, self-contained with everything we need in case we get stuck or stranded. Four-wheel drive to get us where we want to go and a small foot print we can park anywhere. Regardless I do not have to preach to those who already know the benefits.

We pulled into the Park office and checked to see where we could park for the night (without a Park Ranger knocking on our door), the young lady at the desk said she had just called her boss after seeing our camper to see if it was allowed. She informed us the two campgrounds were usually for winter tenting only. After seeing our rig he said no problem as we would not block the camping area and would leave less of a footprint than a tent would…..bonus! We planned on only spending the night but the beauty of retirement we could change our plans and ended up staying four.

Really there was no down side to our four days in the Park’s back country…except perhaps as Charlotte noted the outdoor toilets were not heated, but the upside, no long line ups. They were clean and we were the only ones using them. All four days were very overcast so this was not going to help our solar panel along with the fact sunrise was around nine a.m. and set around 5:30 p.m. We have a 100 watt roof top connected to two six-volt batteries which were fully charged upon leaving (12.9V). Just so they were not drained for the night I ran our 2000 watt generator for approximately 3 hours while the furnace ran to bring up the temperature in the camper as we turned off the heat to travel approximately 3 ½ hours so it cooled quickly.

Not wanting to run the generator any more than necessary, the quietness of the north is something in itself to be enjoyed, I shut it down when the camper reached 21 Celsius inside and left the furnace on. We started the evening after having used a few lights to read with about 12.7v and the furnace kicking in about every 15 minutes, outside temp was around -12c at that time. Over the night the temp hit -17c and the furnace did run more often, not sure how much. We were extremely comfortable. I kept the top bunk window on my side cracked about ¼ inch and our central camper vent about ½ inch. Near our heads at the front of the camper bunk we have two Dry-Z-Humidifiers that use pellets and they appear to work great.

Under our mattress we have a marine hyper-vent material that allows for air circulation and this should be standard equipment in any four-season camper as it works great.  Early next morning, and after making coffee on the stove I checked the moisture build up and was very happy with how little we had. There was a little on the bottom of the windows, under the mattress was dry as well as the top near the front. The NL has a sky light above the bed, this was also without moisture (we kept the skylight covered as well as the windows with the standard covers). The battery showed approximately 11.9v, not bad. I love those 6 volt batteries. It also helps that the battery compartment is heated along with our tanks in the basement. We used windshield washer antifreeze when using our toilet with some RV antifreeze in the tanks and hauled our own water for cooking and drinking, melting snow for dishes etc.

Next morning there was no sun again but as it brightened up we had a knock on the camper door, it was a young couple who had travelled from Saskatoon to do some ice fishing and had forgotten their fuel for the ice auger. I had extra so they were good to go. It was windy that day so we left the furnace running, did some hiking and in the afternoon four-wheeled into a campsite that was not plowed out to get away from those spending the day on the lake Ice fishing.  You would not do that in a Class A, B, C or a pull behind. We could run our generator out there (approx. 2 ½ hrs.) and not bother anyone as we did some snowshoeing along the lake.

Campfires in the winter are even better than in the summer, no bugs and very warming. We returned to our designated site for the evening and as there was no one around ran the generator for approx. another ½ hour topping up the batteries to bring them to approx. 12.5v for overnight. This was pretty much what we did for the remainder of our stay. Temperatures before wind chill (I think wind chill is a Canadian thing to make us feel worse than it really is) were between -9 Celsius to -18 at night. We went through 1¼ 20 lb. tanks of propane using only the stove and heater, we did not run our fridge.

What would I do differently? Take more fresh water, take our portable 100 watt solar panel, install an insulation pad in our roof vents not being used and may consider some reflective insulation on the outside walls of the closets and front storage bins (not sure this is necessary). Almost forgot a fur lined outhouse seat for Charlotte.

Not wanting to push camper brands but I feel the four-season NL is fairly well insulated (never enough), the batteries remain warm, under-mattress ventilation and the dual pane windows, heated basement which kept the floor warm along with the standard take out carpet. We do not have enough roof top solar in marginal sun conditions, I would like 200 to 300.

Overall we had it very comfortable, we enjoy the north and perhaps even more in the beauty and stillness of winter, hard to imagine until you have been there. Lots of snowshoeing and photography, wild life co-operated seeing two lynx, fox, wolf, otters and many Whisky Jack or Grey Jacks. I will let the photos shared speak for themselves….we will be back for more.

Take care safe travels and we hope to see you “Down the Road”…….

Bakers Narrows Provincial Park

Bakers Narrows campsite
This campsite was worth every penny we paid approx. $22 with taxes.

Wow!  The countryside changed even more as we got closer to our next stop, Bakers Narrows Provincial Park. More and more huge rocks, larger than most homes and in between the rocks, spruce forest and beautiful lakes. Can it get better than this!  This is the infamous Canadian Shield.  Arriving at Bakers Narrow’s campground we know now why it is very popular during peak seasons as it is only 12 miles from Flin Flon, Manitoba. We found that in May a lot of sites were available and as we are totally self- contained not requiring power, we were told of a choice spot overlooking  Achapapuskow Lake. I’m not revealing the site number as we love to get this spot as it has a huge rock, larger than our cabin back home, that is the ideal place to sit and look at the lake and realize just how beautiful this world is we live in. That afternoon we went for a short hike along the rocks to check out the campground. Char fell spraining her ankle, so that ended the hiking.  Thinking if it was not better in the morning we may be visiting Flin Flon and their hospital sooner than planned.  

Bakers Narrows campsite
Bakers Narrows campsite is home for a few days.
Bakers Narrows campsite
The sun rise and the start to another exciting day…no place we have to be, and no time we have to return home, just love the lifestyle – our home on wheels.
Bakers Narrows large rocks
The rocks up here sure grow big, we feel very small on most of them. Char found out you have to pay attention when hiking on them.
Bakers Narrows vegetation
I have a hard time growing these at home in the soil…here they thrive on the rocks.
Bakers Narrows beach
The beach beautiful sand just a few steps from our campground. A great place to launch the Sea Eagle.
Bakers Narrows paddle along shore
The paddle along the shore line is beautiful, although even far from shore rocks and reefs lie just under the surface.
Bakers Narrows shoreline
Shoreline of one of the many islands on the lake.

Since hiking was out we decided to air up the Sea Eagle and check out the lake. The beauty of this campsite is it’s just a short walk to the beach, an excellent place to launch the kayak on the sand between massive rocks. We are still thinking this rubber boat is fragile so the sand was good. We were still using the kayak paddles and they worked that day to get us on the water, discovering a very large lake full of islands and in some areas shallow rock reefs. Beware! those of you using props to get about in your watercraft.

One of the benefits about RVing  are the people you meet. That evening we met a couple Jim and Janice from Creighton, Saskatchewan who were camped across from us. They noticed Char’s limp and me running around looking after her every need and stopped over to see if we needed anything. We did! Thinking we had tensor bandages with us as I’m usually in need of one, we found everything else but. Lucky for us they had one and graciously offered it to us along with a pain cream for Char to try. Also the bush pies for dessert were very welcomed. Great people, swapped them a book to read on Elk Island Park in Alberta.

We also found a lot of people in the campground were people from Colorado, USA up to enjoy the great fishing. This was the first campground we had seen small deep freezers in the campground, wow we thought some people bring everything!  Later we saw large fish fillets being distributed to several of the campsites, finding out later it was an outfitter who cleaned the day’s catch.

Bakers Narrows Gerry fishing
Fishing is great in this large lake…not so much this time.

The weather was warm; the wind picked up in the evening so it was good we got our kayaking in early, usually the wind dies in the evening. The campground was quiet and we enjoyed an evening tea sitting on our private rock patio listing to the loons as the sun set.

Bakers Narrows docks
Docking for boats registered in the campground.
Bakers Narrows pontoon boat
Even the pontoon boats grow larger here.
Loons Bakers Narrows
The evening entertainment…just love those loons.
Bakers Narrows Site 22
Our favourite spot for coffee in the mornings and a tea watching the sun go down.
Bakers Narrows Scenic Tower sign
One of our favourite features in the Park “The Tower”. It is built towering above the campground on the rocks and hidden from view from within the sites. Perfectly not spoiling the natural beauty of the area.
Bakers Narrows steps to tower
The way up to the tower, we never did count the steps
Bakers Narrows steps to lookout
More steps up the rock hillside you do not realize just how high you really are.
Bakers Narrows lookout
Winding through the rock provides a beautiful hike and work out.
Bakers Narrows rest spot
Rest spots are situated along the steps, for those of us who are in shape but just want to enjoy the view.
Bakers Narrows scenic tower top
Just a few more steps and you are there.
Bakers Narrows view
The climb was worth, it you can see for miles the beauty of this area.

If Char’s foot is OK tomorrow we will stay here a couple of more days.

Bakers Narrows yurts
One of the Yurts for rental in the park sitting on the rock.
Bakers Narrows Yurts
These are great for non RV people and we thought great value. They come with log beds, table and chairs, BBQ, firepit, small deck and fire pit. PS: a great view from all of them.

For your information campsite reservations can be done at www.manitobaparks.com . The campground has all services, most sites with power and water and features close to 90 sites. All areas are wheel chair accessible, very clean washrooms with showers, some cleaned 3 times a day…this is good. Still very wet crappy firewood but at no extra charge.  Six Yurts are available to rent and sit overlooking the lake high on the large rocks. If memory serves correct last summer we paid $18 per night for no service and $22 per night for power with no sewer.

More on Bakers Narrows to come, until then hope to see you “Down the Road”….Charlotte and Gerry the RV cowboy.

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