Down memory lane at The Narrows

GEP40209

The weather for the week ending May looked excellent so Charlotte and I loaded the “Igloo” and headed north to the Narrows in Prince Albert National Park. Of all the campgrounds in the National Park this one has the least services including sketchy cell service. Washrooms with cold water are the only luxury, but the secluded campsites for some make it worthwhile. The marina has boat launching and a few amenities but with covid even that has been reduced. Boat and canoe/kayak rentals are available as well. While we had young children, we found Beaver Glen near the main beach, playground, shopping and ice cream stores made that site our go to as it was much easier to keep them occupied and maintain some sanity. The Narrows is a quieter place for those not requiring services to entertain themselves or children so it is now our go to place for over 35 years, at least once a month for days or months.

Playground of the NOFS, an elite  group formed by summer resident Johnny consists mainly of, to put it nicely, experienced campers and regulars to the Narrows for many years. (See previous article on the NOFS.) For those of us who appreciate the beauty and quiet of these campsites we guard the privilege of being there and keeping it as pristine as possible. We are proud to be members of this group and this trip allowed us to reconnect with many camping friends and met a few more.

It was hard to get anywhere in the campground as visiting was breaking out all over and appeared contagious as we  shared our locked up experiences of last year. It was great to see Donna and Jim, Jan and Norm, Denise and Ernest, marina Jim and of course Mr. Narrows our leader John. As we were early in the season some regulars were not up yet and I know I missed some. We also met a fine young lady Cara and her daughter. Cara just recently took early retirement and left her sticks and bricks dwelling for the free life living in her neat little Class C camper. She plans on travelling where the weather is good and where ever the road leads her, doing what many of us nomads dream of full time. We hope to see them again down the road perhaps in Arizona this winter or on the coast.

We also met Kathy (I think I got that right) and Blaine who, like us, spend a great deal of their year in their Northern Lite Truck camper and Ford F350 6.2 gas. We had much in common and had a chance to compare many notes, upgrades and problem areas but both agreed we were totally happy with our choices of travel and living accommodations and would not change a thing. Both of us have had every RV imaginable except a Class A rig. We like the truck camper as we park anywhere a vehicle can and with 4×4 go where we feel like when we want to, our only restriction sometimes is height but nothing is perfect.

A great week, warm weather not too windy, lots of canoeing, hiking, visiting and photography all in the company of experienced campers and RVers. Generator rules were followed with minimum of use, no garbage and food left around to attract bears who live there and the quiet as campfires died around 9 pm at most sites.

Fox

Unfortunately one of the regulars, Morton the Fox was not present this year, we noticed signs everywhere with his photo asking us not to feed the wild life. I hope the park did not have to put him down or relocate him because some fool camper fed him and may have been bitten. When around us they become fairly unafraid of humans (we are thought to be the intelligent ones) and they feed them, but wild is wild and if they feel threatened they will defend themselves. Please do not feed wild life or leave you junk food around so wild animals and birds can get into it, they are no different than us and are always looking for a free easy meal. God gave them a natural diet on which to survive and they do not do well on our processed junk food. Want to kill a wild animal feed it what you eat, so please use your head and allow our wild life to be wild life.

I do this site mainly to share the beauty of nature and light that God has given us to enjoy if we stop to see it as well as interesting places to see. I try my best to capture this beauty in a photograph without retouching any of them but quite frankly nothing beats seeing it in real time. I even took the time to use my Hasselblad medium format film camera and a light meter used by my father to try and capture the moment and will have to share those results later, as the film is out for processing…yep have to wait for it and hope I remembered what photography is all about, light and timing and setting the camera manually to capture what I see. Hopefully you will enjoy some of the images and subscribe.  It’s free and your address is not shared, but it’s what keeps me wanting to do this. You can feel good that you have kept a senior off the streets and out in nature taking photographs.

Hope we see you down the road.  Look for studiowest.ca and the igloo.  Would like to meet you – until then love one another, be kind to each other and respect our natural resources and wild animals.

Next week I will share our photos from our trip in northern Saskatchewan.

As always you can reach me at gerry@studiowest.ca

Before the rush

Cowan Dam site recreation

It appears there has been a lifestyle change since 2020, people who could never be bothered to spend a lot of time outdoors have suddenly discovered fresh air. As with anything that becomes flavour of the month, we tend to overdose on whatever it is and take things to the extremes.

This is evident in the sales of anything outdoors from running shoes to expensive RV’s and cars. Money has not been the problem since 2020, the supply of outdoor toys has been and the shortage of green spaces. I keep saying the streets in Saskatoon were designed for a small city not the one it has grown into which creates traffic congestion. This goes also for everything outdoors these days as we go berserk in our efforts to amuse ourselves since our usual venues have been limited.

Try and book a tee time, or go for a quiet hike or bike ride thinking you will get some personal space, or book a camping site in one of our parks. This has been great for those marketing all these outdoor adventures and its great people are getting outdoors. One big problem you were somewhere else in previous years before and our courses, parks and trails were not designed for this kind of traffic. Our parks were not fully utilized, now it’s impossible to book a weekend unless you got the credit card out and spent your day on the internet booking every weekend possible.

 I feel sorry for anyone buying a new RV these days as they are flying off the line as fast as they can produce them, pride of quality gone as people are willing to pay anything without question. People who have just bought an expensive home on wheels and have not realized they would have to share with bugs, animals and people’s garbage left at sites. The skies are not always sunny as on YouTube. They now discover when you flush that is not the end of the story, and one hour showers are not going to happen at all let alone every day. And internet is a luxury not guaranteed with the price of admission. We are all guilty in the rush to satisfy.  We grab for the first flavour that is offered and get a double or triple scoop having never tried it before. Yep if you want an RV or an expensive set of golf clubs or one of the new electric bikes…just wait until what we will call normal returns, whenever that may be, and the market place will be flooded at 10 cents on the dollar.

It’s becoming frustrating for people who have always enjoyed spending time travelling around our beautiful country in their RV’s and yes that is us. How can you travel across the country when you have no place to stay the night as weekends are booked solid in most parks this summer. Heck even Walmart has started banning overnight stays as some have totally abused that privilege leaving garbage and living on the lot.

Those of us who have been RVing  for years may have to put up with this and get creative as we know we can and just wait it out until, like chewing gum, after awhile it’s not so tasty anymore and expensive RV’s will rot in backyards and storage facilities as this too will happen. Our parks, campgrounds, golf courses were not built to accommodate this sudden rush of traffic so for a time we will have to manage the ant hill living lifestyle, which admittedly some love.

Living with nature can teach us a lot and can provide a place of relaxation and beauty and a lot of people have discovered and enjoyed. As more and more people head outdoors, even early in the season we found garbage and human waste everywhere. What is it with people who have to litter and destroy the beauty around them by leaving their garbage.  It’s a danger to wildlife, pets and humans.  Why??? I will not refer to you as swines as that would be an insult to that breed, you are simply put, pigs in the simplest terms. Before long we are going to lose the privilege of camping, hiking and biking in some areas as they have to be shut down to protect the environment and ourselves from ourselves. Take your garbage out with you and leave no trace of being there….Please.

Garbage left behind
Garbage left behind

Admittedly in our travels on Saskatchewan highways and parks we have noticed either a lack of or no way to dispose of waste or re-cycle containers in the parks and at rest stops. Manitoba and B.C. do an excellent job of this but for some reason Saskatchewan pales in comparison. This however is no excuse to just drop it where ever. For that reason I will not be sharing those hidden gem camp spots that are out of the way and quiet that we have discovered on our own. This is at the request of others that go there and the fact that the next time we return we do not want it to be the new go to place and full of garbage. If you find these spots on your own the effort is worth it and you will probably respect it as we do. We will try and inform you on the regular spots and our experience at them as we see it you will have to experience them on your own.

Dock at Meeting Lake
Rising water at Meeting Lake.

I will share some images of our trip as we spent the first night “moochdocking” at our very good friends’ place at Meeting Lake, Saskatchewan out front of their cabin. Meeting Lake is one of the few lakes that the water is rising every year with no real explanation. Now the beach area is gone and cabins on the lake are surrounded by dirt berms. After a good visit we left and plans changed while on the road and we were headed for Big River. What seemed like an eternity on some of the worst back roads we have ever been on we arrived at the resort community of Big River where we found a really nice regional park to stay at right on Cowan Lake. The community has two very nice regional parks and a couple of private ones that appear to be seasonal spots only. As we, along with one other RV, were the only ones there, we found the spot quite quiet and relaxing.

Campsite at Big River
Overnight stay on the shore of Cowan Lake.

The next morning we headed north again in spotty rain, found a road used a lot for logging trucks and a sign that said Sled Lake. We decided to give the road a try as it had rained and check out Sled Lake. At first the road was fairly good but did deteriorate and get a lot narrower but we made it and found one of the prettiest little lake communities we have ever seen.  No luck, nothing was for sale or we would have never come home. The community consisted of perhaps 30 residences and an outfitters camp, the whole community was well groomed and a pride of home ownership showed everywhere we looked. They have closed the campground there, possibly they did not want the distractions or forementioned problems so we could not stay overnight.

Sled Lake
Shoreline of Sled Lake.
Sled Lake
Shoreline of Sled Lake

We respected their wishes and from there we moved on to the Cowan Dam site recreation area where we found many people fishing and camping there. It is a really nice spot to camp or fish, but was very crowded and the fish flies were incredible so we moved on.

Not far from Meadow Lake we decided to head there as our granddaughter is finishing her pharmacist training there for a couple of months. However she had left for home taking an extended weekend but we checked out the Lions Park campground in Meadow Lake. A nice little spot right outside the community and there was some pre-season preparations happening and it was not our cup of tea so we headed to Meadow Lake Provincial Park north of the community. The park covers approximately 1600 square kms and features over 20 lakes and several campgrounds, some hike in tenting only. This is an excellent northern park for those tenting and not wanting to be surrounded by RVs. The lakes are beautiful and clear with many hiking trails around them. We had spent time there one fall out of season and it was very colourful if you catch the leaves at the right time. We headed to Waterhen Lake, one of the largest lakes.  We had been there before, but upon arriving found the campground just about full of people who were fishing and the spots were limited. We decided to take a chance the Greig Lake campground was open at this time and discovered a beautiful campground surrounding the lake and very sparse. We could pick just about any site we wanted. The sites are all very well kept and provide a lot of treed in privacy I don’t think there was a bad spot in the campground. We are not beach people but for those that are the beaches are great at several of the lakes. We spent the night there hiking and exploring the surrounding area and would recommend this campground but imagine in prime time it could be very busy. And if you don’t mind busy this is a go to spot.

We left the park early the next day and travelled through the park to the community of Goodsoil where we took Hwy. 26 south to Loon Lake. This section of 26 is really not advisable if you love your RV or in anything less than a 4×4, we have traveled similar logging trails. From Loon Lake we took Hwy. 699 and visited Steele Narrows National Historical Site of Canada. This is the site of the Northwest Resistance which began in the spring of 1885. During that time, several battles were fought between the Indigenous people and the North West Mounted Police (NWMP). The battle of Loon Lake took place at Steele Narrows on June 3rd, 1885. This concluded the Northwest Resistance and was the last battle to be fought on Canadian soil. There we met a young native family who were there teaching their young ones the history of the area which was so good to see. Regardless of how they felt about the history at least they were sharing it, now in our society we try and hide our past rather than learning from it.

Steele Narrows view
This is where the last Canadian rebellion took place.

There are campgrounds there I think that are provincial as I did not take notes, that were very nice but for tents or smaller units under that 30 ft. overall length for sure. We then headed to Makwa Lake Provincial Park 60 kms west of Loon Lake. This provincial park is made up of expansive forest connecting five lakes, it features three campgrounds and multiple sandy beaches. Again many beautiful hiking trails in the area with wheel chair access to the beaches and service centers. We have never stayed there but may be a consideration in off season. I think it would be beautiful and great lakes to canoe. A great start to beat the rush and approximately 1200 kms later we were happy to have experienced more of our province and perhaps some go to again areas.

Camping table
My new camping table for sites without amenities, road tested and worked well.
My camera tripod works as a table leg.

Now to find those really off the pavement and off the grid areas for some more adventure, photographs and great canoeing we hope to someday meet as we go down the road.  As usual if you like what you see please subscribe and like. I am open to questions and nice comments only at gerry@studiowest.ca

As my new friend Jeffie Bear would say “be kind, love one another, love ya all”, see you soon.

Thoughts on the RV/Nomad lifestyle

Mount Robson

This covid thing has changed a bit of our adventure travelling plans in our camper but has also given time for reflection. What do I miss the most about it  – just being able to head down the road and wherever I stop is home. We have everything needed and are completely self-contained, if we do not like our surroundings or weather we simply leave to a better location.

We have been fortunate to be able to spend a great deal of time on the road and living in our truck camper. We have been able to do this on a very limited retirement income as a result of downsizing to a small cabin on a small lake. The purge of items was tough, I had rooms and sheds full of stuff I needed. We had intended on going full time in our RV so the purge was massive at first. The more we got rid of the better it felt, so much less to care for, much of which we never used. To keep the larger home, two car garage and countless storage sheds, four different deck levels, one acre lot on the lake, docks, lawn and garden equipment and that was just the tip of the iceberg. Inside we had to furnish all the rooms so we did not look like we could not afford furniture. I had sheds too full with quads, snowmobiles, pontoon boat, canoes and kayaks, yep we had it all and more. Oh yes I almost forgot a very expensive RV sitting in the driveway. Having it all meant 8-10 hours of both of us working to pay the taxes and to keep all the stuff, and all that stuff sat because we did not have time….billable hours were important. The more we had the more it looked like we were successful, actually we felt quite different, we were slaves to our lifestyle. We did not go into debt to finance toys,  that would have been even more stress, but just maintaining and looking after what we had kept us behind the computers working.

The road was calling, fish needed to be caught and rivers paddled and different backyards for hiking when we chose. We decided that what we really loved was time, time for ourselves and friends. Time is something we all take for granted, time to stop and enjoy what we have. Well we did not even have time to enjoy our canoe, a passion we both enjoy.  It sat next to the pontoon boat with the brand new motor we used when we had time and next to the two kayaks we used when we had time, notice how often the word time came up.

The more we unloaded the lighter the load and the more time…which brings up another word Free. Free of stress and hours of work to support our commercial habit of owning stuff just to own it. We thought this stuff was to make life better….Our kids did not even want the stuff we collected when we started to purge. I would hate to think how much I added to our landfills over the years with the packaging of the stuff. Some of which even lasted a year when the warranty ran out. Don’t get me going on packaging, landfills are contributing to climate change, but no we tax gas and just keep purchasing more junk wrapped in layers of plastic. Junk we do not need.

I gotta shorten up this story, to make it short we sold out on the stick and bricks thing when a small cabin came up for sale overlooking the lake. Yes we bought it and spent two years replacing everything in the cabin and out. Bonus we paid cash, the lot is small, the cabin is only 800 sq. feet so taxes are low and we can afford it without having to work. It took those two years to sell our other place and when that sold we no longer needed to work. Anyway it was time they did not need marketing consultants that were aged as myself, I did not know all the different names and lingo the new generation of marketers came up with for “look after your customers.” Yes I was in the business of making people want what they did not need but had to have.

Without the larger home we used very little of, and living simply without all the stuff, we could follow our dream of travel and canoeing with time to spare. It was never my intention to die the richest man in the graveyard,  that never made sense to me at all.

The more time we spend in our RV the more we realize just how little we really need, to look after our basics such as shelter, food and water. Due to space we have only the essential daily cooking and kitchen accessories, but the essential only, no room for gadgets. With our canoe only or inflatable Sea Eagle we had no more gas to haul, no motor to maintain and launch fees to pay. Not for everyone, but to us it means freedom. We can launch the boats from anywhere easily and quickly, no mess, no fuss just keeping it simple. We could quietly paddle the shorelines and rivers for some interesting animals and great photographic images. We could fish and always catch just enough for supper, no more fish finder, we caught just as many fish in our tin canoe without all the gadgets, hard to believe.

RV lifestyle is becoming more popular with more people going full time even in Canada,  estimates are close to a million. Some consider them homeless and drop outs from society. I see them as successful for several reasons, words like financial freedom, freedom of time, freedom to move, freedom from waste, less stress come to mind. Having the courage to step out of the mainstream to enjoy a simpler life, one they chose to live that was out of what many consider normal.  RVing has taught us how to conserve water, resources and to live comfortable with the minimum of stuff. This has made us better stewards of our planet as it even carries over into our cabin lifestyle. We have a lot of respect for those who choose the nomad lifestyle over living up to society’s expectations. Is being successful a huge mortgage, taxes and payments and toys you do not have the time to enjoy?  Unfortunately we judge people by what they have and usually the bigger and more expensive the better. When in actual fact they may be slaves to their possessions. It’s the only kind of slavery that is allowed these days, good for the economy. When a person steps out of a shiny new pick up or BMW with worn out torn up jeans we consider him trendy, those same jeans on a person getting out of an old pickup not so shiny makes him look less trendy and more needy even if his truck is bought and paid for. Success is being able to wear jeans someone has already worn out and you just paid $175 bucks for. Heck I used to be embarrassed to go to school with iron on patches on my jeans, boy mom could have saved a lot of time patching if she was around now with three boys. However we would have not been wearing designer jeans, Army and Navy fashion outlet was first stop.

Everyone wants different things from life, however sometimes the marketers get us hooked on the “good stuff” we can’t live without and without realizing it we are hooked and slaves to our habits. Spending lots of time in our RV or our little cabin we are able to kick the habit, usually because we do not have room, and when it comes right down to it, just did not need it. My grandfather once told me if I could separate my wants from my needs I would be a lot happier. Well I once was young and those words just ran straight through my head, never even stopped. Now I realize after purchasing it all at top prices and practically giving it away on kijji just how smart he was and how much those words meant.

Now I see being successful is having the time to enjoy what we have. Time to enjoy the beauty of this country if that being in the U.S., Canada or abroad, time to pursue dreams and goals. We have traded for a modest lifestyle, one we can afford to enjoy time and freedom of stress even though it’s not corporate Canada’s plan. When life here is through the size of my house and properties, my toys and make of vehicle will not factor in. The time spent enjoying people and places, freedom to move, less stress and just being content inside my soul to be able to enjoy God’s gift of nature and the beauty surrounding us. It’s hard to see beauty outside when there is turmoil and strife inside. Remember the bigger the fire you build the more wood you need to keep it going.

Thanks for the RV lifestyle we really have discovered a simpler way of life where you discover how little you really need to live BIG!  It’s just too bad it has taken me so long to learn these lessons and concentrate on the inner peace and quality of life. I was told a rose cannot be opened from the outside it opens from inside. Just a few thoughts that have allowed us to retire, travel just about every highway in Saskatchewan, travel some in B.C. and discover the beauty of Northern Manitoba. Let’s get this covid thing out of the way, more roads are waiting and our backyard is becoming familiar.

Yes we must hit the road soon so those of you who subscribe don’t have to endure these ramblings and we can share some of the beauties of this country and people along the way. Thanks for reading, keep it simple and we hope to see you down the road. If you can put up with this please subscribe it make us feel good….cheers Gerry and Charlotte…that is if she posts this.

Wildlife affected by Covid!

Osprey

Yes a sensational headline, but true. No one wants to hear anything more about this virus thing, but it is real and it is killing many. It’s killing me to sit still and not being able to enjoy the beauty of B.C. or Manitoba as we are asked not to travel. I can question those rules all I want but the fact is the virus is not spreading itself, we are spreading it and the sooner we stop sharing it with family and friends the sooner it will go away. I am waiting patiently for that day. Yes I have had the “FIX”, being seventy has it advantages, but like most fixes it is just temporary unless we do our part and stop passing the bug.

Enough already.  Covid has caused many changes in how we are handling restrictions. We are able to sell our homes far over market value to a cash rich younger generation who can borrow right now for literally nothing. When homes can sell for three hundred thousand over asking, I am wondering why I have not sold and moved into the camper. I sold a set of golf clubs I tried literally to give away at three years of garage sales, for almost new price this year….bonus for me. We have created such a demand for lumber now most of us who do not want to finance a couple of 2x4s over three years have to do without. Cannot buy an RV in decent shape, canoes, camping gear, bikes and other sporting goods are almost cleaned out. And the list goes on. We have become, all of a sudden, lovers of the great outdoors because of nothing else to do. And that is great if we realize it’s a privilege, and to respect and enjoy nature in all its’ splendour.

Nature does not destroy itself, it is self-sustaining. When one plant dies it is to feed another, some plants provide shade so others can grow and provide for the wild life, our forests and untouched areas of wilderness have existed since the beginning of time without our help. Amazing. We could learn a lot from nature, it never destroys itself. We do that when we change it to our liking or abuse it. It is a God given beauty we have become so busy and fixated on acquiring things we have no time to stop and enjoy what makes it all work in harmony, peace and beauty. This, while supporting many different creatures whose existence depends on nature.

Unfortunately our beautiful wildlife neighbours are starting to feel the effects of Covid.  As thousands of us take to the parks each year now there are thousands more, and in our rush to see nature at its finest and break free, we fail to notice the beautiful undergrowth that nature provides and trample it into the earth killing it. Paths were created in parks for a reason to protect the natural beauty. Some have watched YouTube and see all the back country campers and mountain climbers, not realizing these people have been trained in what they are doing, they are not doing it for the first time. The store will sell you all the gear you want to be a copycat but unfortunately they do not include experience or in some cases, common sense. These ill equipped people put the lives of rescuers and firefighters at risk along with the homes of hundreds of animals and birds that live in the wild.

We are now seeing parks closed for that reason, to protect not only the natural beauty and the wildlife but also from endangering ourselves. Garbage is being left which can kill the wildlife, we would not consider feeding our dogs that but have no problem leaving it for wildlife to digest. We are littering the beauty we are supposedly set out to see with our garbage….Why? Our lakes are becoming polluted and it ain’t wildlife that’s doing it or the fish and millions of other creatures that just want to exist in clean water. I know the answer to that one, it’s the other guy…right! My solution is simple – don’t be that guy (sorry that was totally incorrect) that person. If you are just too rushed to stop to enjoy the beauty of the park or lands and respect the privilege, just too busy and self-important to pick up your own garbage and take it with you….just stay at home and do all of us, as well as nature and its inhabitants, a big favour. Before we lose our entry into parks and the back country let’s all try and do our part to preserve the beauty, keep it clean for others and those who live there. Perhaps even pick up a little garbage left by the ignorant.

Just thought I would share some photographs of our neighbours we have met who live in the wild and are being affected by this Covid thing….let’s not pass it on to them. Keep it simple….life is too short.

The beauty of northern Manitoba in photos

Northern Manitoba

In all our travels in Canada I have two areas I have always enjoyed. The first is the far northern areas of Canada in the forests and rocky country filled with thousands of little lakes and rivers. The second area is  the southern Grasslands of Saskatchewan in the rolling hills around Mankota, Wood Mountain and Big Muddy area. Here you can look for miles across rolling hills and see no sign of civilization, it gives one the feeling just how small we really are in the whole make-up of the universe.

On a cattle drive several years back I had the chance to experience the beauty of the Grasslands up close and personal. Riding through the hills gathering cattle from the ravines and heading them home was in itself peaceful as one could only hear the sounds of the wind. Cresting a rise on one of the trusty ranch horses, I could see as far as my eyesight allowed, natures beauty the way it was intended, lay before me. I was just a little speck sitting astride the horse, realizing just how small we really are.  Just a beautiful reminder not to get too caught up in how big of a role we actually play on earth, definitely humbling.

My first love however is the northern, untouched forest areas of northern Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. We have travelled fairly extensively in Saskatchewan and northern Manitoba, with Manitoba having a special place in my heart just because of the unspoiled beauty of the rock, lakes, rivers and forest areas. Like the south this area is sparsely inhabited. One would start to think I am a recluse and that would be partly true as I do not require an audience but I really do love people and enjoy visiting. The lack of people means we have not altered the beauty of nature the way it was intended to suit our commercial needs. It has not been knocked down, flattened out and paved, but remains a beauty the creator has given us to learn from nature if we take the time.

So as one can imagine growing up in central Saskatchewan in the middle of farming country a tree was a cursed thing as one would have to take the time to swing the big seeder around. A bush meant a few bushels of grain less to market. I could never get it when people would cut down a beautiful six foot spruce tree to hang decorations on for a few weeks when I could look for miles and hardly spot a tree. I get it and we are lucky to have hard working farmers that risk it all, year after year, to feed the world, but sometimes that need to draw every dollar out of the land, plowing every available inch, backfires as nature has the final say. But as our populations grow and we start paving further and further into the countryside, our farmland shrinks, so I can see now how perhaps every inch will count to produce food at the price of changing nature to our needs.

This is perhaps why Charlotte and I love to get away to where we can find nature unaltered by us humans. It amazes me to know that for thousands of years the beauty God created grows, dies and regrows to continue the cycle of life ever beautiful and productive. A beauty that is home to all sorts of life forms and animals all existing quite fine, all without the help of mankind. It amuses me to see people come to get away from the towns and cities to camp in areas they know bears, wolves and lynx roam and expect the parks to chase these animals away from their home and hunting grounds so they can feel safe. The only times we have problems with wildlife is when we do not respect their space, no different than the trouble you’re going to get if you try and shoo me off my place. We can all exist together just all that is required is a little respect one for another and that goes for wild life as well.

Getting into the backcountry and exploring the rivers fur traders, explorers and the native Indians used for travel in our canoe is exhilarating. Exploring bays and rivers in the peace and quiet of nature we imagine, not since the fur traders or natives, we are the only ones that have been in this exact spot. Not! Looking into the water we see a beer can and a little further on shore an oil can. That dream over, we paddle on to a historic canoe portage, unload and are shocked to see the litter everywhere in the trees and left at campsites. Yes human animals have been here and like some animals have marked their territory by leaving their garbage for others to enjoy. Obviously they were out there for a reason, was it to enjoy nature as we were, or did they simply go a long distance to party up, or did they make the trip to dispose of their garbage. I know God created man equal but sometimes my belief in humans is shaken. We sometimes just have to mess up a good thing. Please there is nothing historic about your garbage being left, it’s just a sorry statement on humankind.  Luckily not everyone is like this, but a few will ruin it for many. We have to journey further and further away to find areas now untouched by man and still pristine without garbage and that is what keeps us going that extra mile, because it’s less crowded there.

Love all of you who take the time to read this rambling. Covid has definitely cut down our adventures as we try and limit our chance of spreading this virus. If we could just all do our part for each other…but then that is like the privileged few who leave their garbage for others. I really do love people just sometimes have a hard time understanding what we are doing to our planet in the name of progress. Lots of us care, but it’s the ones that don’t that kinda get under my skin.

Sharing with you some of the northern beauty of one of my favorite provinces Manitoba Canada, enjoy and we hope to meet you down the road. Please subscribe, until next week.

Beyond cellular with SOS security

I always talk about going that extra mile, just because it’s less crowded there. I am right usually because there are fewer and fewer people who can be out of touch on their phones. It’s getting so everywhere you go there is a phone in hand and our heads are bowed. Well the emergency benefit of the cell phone can be argued but mainly it’s an addiction to connectivity to friends, family and social media. You know what I am talking about, all the platforms out there that are running our world leaders chasing their tails. Oops I did not mean to get political. I beg your forgiveness.

Boondocking

We try to break that addiction when we have better things to do like enjoy nature, new sights on our travels and just plain disconnecting from a connected world. The places we love to canoe, camp and just plain enjoy nature are places less crowded and we have been finding these spots have no cell reception or internet, usually no power or services.

End of road

When we travel we become nomads and only move when we feel the desire to do so, if we like a location we may stay a couple of days, a week or possibly a month. If our location, for any reason, is unsuitable for our tastes we simply move on. We love our lifestyle but those we love such as family sometimes get concerned when they have no idea where we are or if we are OK, this we value as well.

We are always finding ourselves out of cell range depending on our Ford to get us to where we are going and all the tires staying round. As well we take off in our canoe or on hikes that could lead us into some danger or be stranded due to weather or accident. I don’t know about where you are from but I know in Saskatchewan, B.C. and northern Manitoba cell service is hit and miss and you just never know when you have service and especially in the north of our country.

We bought ourselves what we feel is the best insurance for our lifestyle that is possible and that cost compared to other insurance we pay is a deal.

SPOT X – 2 way satellite Messenger with Bluetooth is our connection to the world no matter where we are. I am told there is a little spot in Siberia that we may not be covered, I think our stay there might be limited anyway. Our SPOT X provides us two way messaging when we are off the grid using a constellation of satellites and can also connect to our smart phone via Bluetooth. An added feature is the SOS that can send a message to the 24/7 search and rescue center where we can message back and forth about the extent of our emergency and confirm help is on the way providing them our GPS location. This is true peace of mind for us as we just never know when we get ourselves into a situation we cannot fix ourselves.

Our SPOT X has a keyboard so we can text messages, we can also get an app on our phone to connect to the SPOT X but we see no need for this feature ourselves as the model of phone we have is self-contained so the benefits we see are:

1-Connect to Bluetooth for satellite connectivity.

2-Exchange text and email messages with any cell anywhere in the world.

3-Send SOS in dire emergency to the Search and Rescue center.

4-We can set up tracing in different minute intervals and track our location on cloud based mapping.

5-One button check in letting selected people know we’re OK.

6-Compass navigation with the built in compass and programmable way points.

We picked the SPOT X as it is totally water, weather and dust proof and the lithium battery is good for approximately 10 days per charge while tracking. As well it has the keyboard so we do not have to carry another phone or attachment that could get lost or damaged. There are many plans that cover all needs and budgets including ours. Now that we have it we would never travel again without it, even if we are not hitting the deep back country. It’s just plain peace of mind and it’s “beyond cell”!

I will include the link to this below. There are others on the market, we have this one tested and recommended…..hope we see you down the road.

Until next week.

https://amzn.to/2P3wYTS

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