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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Cranberry Portage, Manitoba

Cranberry Portage sign
Cranberry Portage boasts a lot of history.

Monday May 28th we left Iskwasum campground still on our trek to Flin Flon following Highway 10 along the edge of the park. The next community is Cranberry Portage,  a small resort community on the shores of Lake Athapapuskow,  a very large lake.  Athapap, as the locals call it which is much easier to pronounce, as it turns out, has more than its share of history.

Cranberry Portage Lake Athapapuskow
Lake Athapapuskow is a very large lake. Bakers Narrows Provincial Park, near Flin Flon, is also located on this lake.
Cranberry Portage deep water
Deep clear water home to some great fishing in the many bays.

 It was an important part of the pre-European contact trade routes of the Cree and Assiniboine peoples. Long before the fur trade with the Bay and during the fur trade, this location was used as a campsite and portage between Grassy River, at the head of a number of well-used routes from Hudson Bay, and Lake Athapapuskow, which connected to the Saskatchewan River system. Once on the Saskatchewan, routes were open through the prairies to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

The area has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Archaeological digs on Lake Athapapuskow revealed pottery, arrowheads, and other artifacts which were at least 2,500 years old and indicated regular habitation by the “Shield Archaic Culture”, who hunted caribou in the area as far back as 7,000 years ago. They were eventually supplanted by the Woodland Cree who were nomadic hunters in this region. The site of Cranberry Portage has been an important portage route linking the Grass River and Saskatchewan River watersheds for at least 2,000 years.

Cranberry Portage route
The portage route of the early Cree settlers and fur traders.
Cranberry Portage lunch spot
A great lunch stop.

This was a great place for us to stop and have lunch and we hoped to check out the art gallery and local stores. May is early in most northern communities that rely on tourists so most were closed. This is a good reason to come back for another visit. There is at least one small private campground in the community.

Cranberry Portage float planes
Float planes are a popular travel alternative to boats.
Cranberry Portage campground
There is a small campground located just off the main beach area.

I just love the history of the fur traders and the early Cree settlers in the northern communities.  Just after my love for the untouched beauty of the forest and lakes, many just the way God created them and we have not changed or destroyed.

I hope my writings bring a little of the history and information on the beautiful areas we visit in this country, and not get all of the history so you visit for yourselves.  We are just fortunate enough to be able to travel and enjoy the simple beauty we see in the people we meet and the land we occupy. Our travel foot print is very small; we love the luxury of our truck camper. The camper is small and we can park just about anywhere and the 4 wheel drive is also nice. We love arriving at clean campgrounds that show little if not anything of the people who just left it. I cannot believe people who camp and leave their garbage in fire pits and scattered through the trees. People, your tin bean cans do not burn…the garbage bins are just a few steps from you …use them!  These people must have had their mom or someone following them around picking up after them… grow up, if your mom is not there to pick up after you please do it yourself. Park people have much better things to do then play mom to you.

There I got my rant out of the way, please leave your campground like you were never there, and report those who are destroying the beauty.

Lunch over we headed out towards Flin Flon, we planned on staying at the very popular Bakers Narrows Provincial Park. For how long…as long as it takes.  Well as it turns out we have a lot to say about this beautiful campground and the rocky area of Fin Flon. Now we are “in the Canadian Shield”, stay tuned for a lot of photos.

Until my next post, we hope to someday meet you “Down the Road”.  For those interested in our travels a subscription which is free will get you a notification when a new post is put up. We enjoy reading others experiences and spots to visit and would like to share the beauty we find. Charlotte and Gerry..the RV Cowboy

Grass River – Part 2

Grass River
The beautiful Grass River.

Saturday, May 26, a cool morning approximately 18 Celsius, we had set up our screen tent on Friday so had a slow start cooking breakfast in the tent and sitting around the fire with that first cup of coffee. Amazing how much better coffee tastes with smoke in your eyes. Note we found Manitoba provincial campgrounds have the worse firewood we have ever encountered. It was like they had dug it out of some slough and was tough to get burning and very smoky. We blamed it first on this campground but later discovered all parks must have the same supplier of firewood…but hey it was free. I think Manitoba Parks are gearing up to start charging for firewood or at least a fire permit to burn similar to the National Parks. I’m told firewood is one of the parks’ biggest expenses.

camp kitchen
Our simple camp kitchen in the screen tent.

We registered until Monday at Iskwasum, cleaned the camper,  had  lunch and decided we would head to Snow Lake. Snow Lake is approximately  80 kms northwest on Highway 39 then onto #395 and goes to the end of the road. Snow Lake is a mining town situated on the shores of the lake; the mine produces gold, zinc and copper. Topped up the diesel  at $1.91/litre and groceries were a little expensive so picked up only what was necessary. On the way to Snow Lake we passed Wekusko Falls Provincial Park situated on the Grass River system, a beautiful place with some fantastic rapids and falls. It looked like a great campground facility so we would have to return to check it out and stay a while. Returning back on Highway 39 we passed Reed Lake Mine. We  were told the mine produces some of the world’s finest purest copper. That may explain the large number of trucks we saw  coming and going. For some reason mining has become somewhat less viable, probably because of the environmental  standards and, only in Canada,  gender equality.  Reed Lake we were told was scheduled for closure as for many northern mines in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Wekusko Falls
Wekusko Falls Provincial Park
Wekusko Falls
Wekusko Falls
Road side to Snow Lake.
Along the highway to Snow Lake.
Snow Lake
Along the highway to Snow Lake.

The sun was coming out as we arrived back at our campground at Iskwasum, spent the evening reading around the campfire and looking forward to airing up the Sea Eagle and checking out the Grass River.

Sunday May 27th, Woke up to a great sunshiny day,  started our daily routine, reading and coffee around the fire, breakfast and kitchen clean up, always a very slow start. We aired up the kayak and although the winds were gusty we headed out anyway…the sun was shining and the river calling how could we not go. The Sea Eagle we found,  was extremely stable in the waves and handled much better than expected. We travelled up stream to Iskwasum Lake, a beautiful trip. Since Charlotte and I have canoed all of our lives we were having a hard time adjusting to the kayak paddles soaking ourselves and making a lot of splashing noise. We had left our canoe paddles at home, so we decided we would borrow a couple from the store and try them out.

Grass River towards Loucks Lake
Paddling along the beautiful Grass River towards Loucks Lake.
Grass River
Beautiful sunset seen from Grass River.

That evening the winds had not died but we felt comfortable in the Sea Eagle in the waves so we decided to go down stream to Loucks Lake. The canoe paddles were for us, they worked great, were quiet and we stayed dry.  From here on in our Sea Eagle is a kayak/canoe. This craft is fantastic in waves and very stable, its low profile in the wind makes for less side push. We did however find it a little harder paddle than our hard side canoe, that is the only downside, but it is better in rough water.

Getting back to camp we deflated the Eagle and rolled it up, packing it behind the passenger seat of the Dodge. We enjoyed a great supper of tossed salad and chicken breasts done over the (smoky) fire. After taking down the screen tent we enjoyed reading and a tea around the fire.

We had a great day slowly paddling along,  spotting an Eagle and taking a short hike to an abandoned Rangers cabin. We have no idea what the temperature is or the weather is going to be like tomorrow as we have no service and can get Arctic radio only occasionally and fuzzy reception. We love it and hope all is well in the world out there as it sure is great in our world. Not sure where we will end up tomorrow as we leave Iskwasum for who knows where, but heading north up Highway 10 towards Flin Flon.

Sea Eagle on Grass River
Finally getting the Sea Eagle onto the Grass River.
Eagle
An eagle from the kayak is a little fuzzy due to rough water.
Rangers cabin at Iskwasum
A short hike into the ranger cabin at Iskwasum, no one home.
Butterfly along Grass River
Benefits of paddling slowly along the shoreline you see all the the beauty.
Shoreline beauty
Enjoying the shoreline beauty.

Until tomorrow, hope to see you “Down the Road”….Charlotte and Gerry, the RV Cowboy.

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Grass River Provincial Park

Iskwasum campground sign
Home for a lot of the summer – our return to spot.

May 25th– Grass River Provincial Park is just south of Cranberry Portage, Manitoba and east on Highway 39.  We had noticed several campgrounds on the map so arriving early in the day we decided to check them all out planning to stay at one overnight. None of these campgrounds have power, sewer hook-ups or water connections. All have clean washrooms, and solar gravity-fed showers and sewer dumps. Non-potable water is available.

We traveled east into the park reaching Gyles Campground on Simonhouse Lake, a very large lake. Gyles has over 50 campsites and is very popular because of the beach area for swimming and is very family friendly. Further up the road we came to Iskwasum campground situated on the wide part of the Grass River, again around 50 sites with the same services as mentioned. Here there is no power, no cell coverage so not popular with the connected crowd. If your cell is grown to your hand this is not the place for you. The beauty of these campgrounds are there are no reservations so if you find a nice spot it’s yours for as long as you pay the tab, not having to leave Thursday because someone booked it for Friday and Saturday on line. Iskwasum is popular with fishermen during the month of June; we are told that is the only time the campground is full.

Travelling further east we reached Reed Lake Campground, similar to the others and popular for the swimming area, more family friendly as it is situated on Reed Lake, a very large lake.

Reed Lake
Reed Lake, “Home of the Big Northern”.
Reed Lake Grass River Provincial Park
Reed Lake is large and can get very rough.

Our choice was Iskwasum campground.  Pulling up to register we found a sign saying cash or cheque only. Wow cheques! With no power even to the office; yep cash works best, your phone app is no good here. This has got to be the place for us. We loved the campground, very quiet, surrounded by pine and very large rocks. Campsites are private, washrooms are clean, has the solar shower and beautiful river access, what more could you ask for. We are staying here for a while, as it turns out this is now one of our go to spots anytime but June.

Iskwasum solar shower
On those warmer days, enjoy the solar shower.

Perhaps we will get our blow-up kayak/canoe inflated and check out the river. The river connects Iskwasum Lake up stream and to the east down river Loucks Lake. The Grass River is part of the historic fur trader route and one can canoe over 400 miles on the historic route. Lots of history in the area we were looking forward to learning more about.

Grass River canoe route sign
Grass River is part of the historic fur trade route.

That day it was rainy and overcast so we decided to hike in approximately 3.5 kms to Karst Spring and Falls. You can tell we are on the edge of the Precambrian Shield as evidenced by the very large rocks, some the size of our cabin and larger. The hike was worth it.  The fast moving stream appeared to come from under a large rock to the falls and into the river. We noticed a lot of fish in the stream, bear buffet I thought, and then it hit me we may be on the menu as well. Good thing we had bear bells with us. The trail was a loop from the campground and returning with access also to Highway 39 we found out. On the way back I noticed, with amusement, a sign on the ground saying Highway 39, continuing on we did come to the highway a long way from the campground. When we realized it was the wrong trail, turning to start back we noticed a large sign, BEWARE OF BEARS. No problem, the bear spray was in the camper but we had our bear bells!

Karst spring trail
Lots of large rocks to hike over.
Karst Spring trail
The Karst Spring and Falls trail.
Karst trail in Iskwasum campground
Beautiful undergrowth and marshy areas along the Karst trail.
Stream to Grass River
Stream on its way to the Grass River.
Karst spring trail
Karst Spring
Bear buffet.
Karst Spring trail
The fast moving falls seen from the Karst Spring trail.
Falls leading into Grass River
The fast moving falls entering the Grass River.

That night we turned on the furnace in the camper as it hit freezing, our “Igloo” was very warm and cozy. The Northern Lite is four-season rated with heated tanks.

Iskwasum campsite
Home safe in the “Igloo”.

Until tomorrow…good night and hope to see you “Down the Road”

Travel plans change

I’m writing this Feb 16th, 2019 it’s a beautiful snowy day here at our cabin on Pike Lake, only minus 17 today as we are relieved of several weeks of minus 39 with high minus 40 wind chills…balmy.

It was May 25th, 2018 when we traveled north on Highway 10 until we reached Highway 39 just south of Cranberry Portage, MB. We were just planning on overnighting at a campground and moving on to Flin Flon. We planned on heading towards home,  first meeting up with our nieces and friends who were fishing at Jan Lake, just off the Hanson Lake highway. From there we would start our trip to Dawson City Yukon; this is where we had planned on joining up with other truck campers that were leaving Aug 12th for Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories.

Well it’s a good thing when one has no set firm plans. Little did we know we would fall in love with northern Manitoba.  Although we have traveled just about every highway in Saskatchewan, north of Prince Albert in the pine forests is where we felt at home. A lot of people who have traveled Saskatchewan never leaving the boring Trans-Canada highway have missed the beauty of a very diverse province, “The Big Muddy” area south of the TC through the hills of the Grasslands, areas like Wood Mountain, (best rodeo in the west), through Mankota ranch country and Cyprus Hills and of course the famous Sand Dunes all in the southern part of the province.

Moose Jaw
Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, home of the famous Snow Birds.
Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park
Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park in the beautiful Qu’Appelle Valley.
Narrows PANP
The Narrows in Prince Albert National Park.
South shore of Kingsmere Lake
South shore Kingsmere Lake, Prince Albert National Park.
Churchill River in Saskatchewan
The Churchill River, north of La Ronge, Saskatchewan.
Float plane at Otter Lake
The float planes of northern Saskatchewan, necessary transportation to communities and great fishing.

Well, the further north one goes the beauty changes to pine forest, lakes and rock in the Shield area around La Ronge. Saskatchewan I’m proud to say has it all….but wait if you love rock and pine forest with lakes full of fish everywhere and great roads, probably because there is few of them, we discovered a new north, one we could not leave in a hurry. Flin Flon area is like B.C. without the hassle of mountain roads, lots of traffic and Albertans riding up you bumper and passing on solid lines… yes beautiful but if you have to travel through at sonic speeds one sees nothing. You probably got it by now…we did not leave Manitoba all summer. Coming up in the next  posts photographs of the parks and lakes of northern Manitoba. Hope to see you “Down the Road”, Charlotte and Gerry, the RV Cowboy. Free subscription if you like will let you be notified when I get around to posting again…cheers.