Esther and I camped at Narrow Hills this past August and as usual took the Esker trail. I couldn’t help thinking then of all the dumb jokes people from other provinces make about Saskatchewan.
You’ve heard them all I’m sure. “Saskatchewan is so flat you can watch your dog run away for 3 days…Saskatchewan people get nosebleeds driving across overpasses.” And worse.
The “esker” (actually a push moraine--look it up) is a high, wooded ridge with spectacular scenery. A narrow trail--accessible by most motorized vehicles--climbs the ridge and then runs along the top of it for several miles. There are many spectacular scenic stops from which you can look out across a vista of lakes and forest spread out below you. Much as you might see from a mountainside trail. And strangely enough, there are many places form which, after seeing that view from the southwest edge of the esker you can turn around, walk across the trail, continue on a few feet and see still more lakes and forest far down on the other side. Thus “Narrow Hills”.
Remarks posted on the web by tourists and writers who have been there show they were greatly impressed. A photo of the top of the esker looking down on the three pretty little Grace Lakes is often used in brochures and periodicals by Saskatchewan Parks and other tourist promoters to arouse interest in our province’s attractions.
There are many other attractions in the Narrow Hills Park: large, attractive, electrified campsites; large, fine beach with sandy-bottom shallows; several lakes good for boating and fishing; walking trails ( remarkable ones around the cluster of the beautiful little Gem Lakes: Pearl, Opal, Sapphire, Jade and Diamond.)
Actually most of Saskatchewan is not flat--the flattest parts are along the Trans Canada highway. There are many ranges of hills: the Cypress Hills, the Pasquia Hills, the buttes of Grassland Park, the badlands near Wood Mountain and many more, plus the entire northern half of the province, most of which is very hilly.
But it’s not just our landscape that gets bad press; it’s also our climate. Most of us have British Columbian relatives, and they’re about the most irritating of our critics: “If Saskatchewan is so great (as we’ve been trying to tell them) then why do so many of its citizens retire to B.C? For our mild winters and temperate summers, right?”
“No,“ I like to tell them, “Our seniors don’t seek out retirement in Lotus Land because they LIKE it there. Not a chance. In fact their aim is to live there and then brag to the locals about the extremes of heat and cold, tornado and drought, hail and blizzard that they have survived. This gives them an opportunity to demonstrate their superiority over the B.C. folk and their wimpy climate.”
Narrow Hills Provincial Park can be reached from Prince Albert in a drive of less than two-hours. Take Highway 55 east to Smeaton, then turn north on Highway 106. I have camped there possibly 50 times over the years, Esther has been there often since childhood as well. The first time I went there was as a child, 68 years ago. In an open trailer, two families aboard, pulled by a slow and tiny Allis Chalmers field tractor. It was a drive of many hours down a narrow, winding, sandy trail. We all slept under a tarp that night and fattened a few thousand mosquitoes. No motor homes or fifth-wheel campers then. I believe we were the only campers there for the two or three days we stayed. All of us were charmed by the place and I remain so today.