Saturday, February 21, 2009
Zoe (my girlfriend) and I decided that we needed a bit of adventure and the first thing that came to my mind was the Old Tree. A Cotton Wood tree near the North Saskatchewan River is the largest known tree in Saskatchewan. I had been to the tree in the summer but never in the winter so I wasn't sure how the roads would be. So we dicided to take snowshoes. It was a good thing we had snowshoes with us, the grid roads are not well maintained in this area. There are no farms or anyone that lives along this road so I don't think that the roads get cleared on a regular basis. We drove as far as we could being careful not to end up in the ditch. It would be a long walk back to the highway to get help. Finally the snow covered the road and we could go no further. Leaving the car at the side of the road we dawned our snowshoes, quickly checked my gps for a direction and headed off across a stubble field. I knew we weren't far from the tree and the gps confirmed that we were only about 4 km's from it.
The weather was nice, around -10 to -15 with a very slight wind. When we crossed the field and approached the river valley we discovered that we would have to descend a large hill to the valley floor. Before we made our way to the bottom we took a moment to snap a few photos and take in the view. From the top of the valley we could see a number of deer running along the trees. We slowly made our way down the bank like a switchback road making it's way on a hillside.
Making the final jump at the bottom of the hill we found ourselves on a skidoo trail which I had a feeling would lead us right to the tree. The Old Tree, you can't miss it. A plains cotton wood crossed with black or balsam popular, it stands 68 feet high with, its branches reach 104 feet and is estimated to be over 160 years old. Over the it's life time this old tree has seen a good deal of changes in the area. This area is rich in dukabor history and surely was held in high requard.
After spending some time at with the tree, sipping tea it was late in the afternoon, the light would be fading soon so we packed our things and retraced our steps back to the car.
If you're feeling a bit adventurous or would like to get out of the city for an afternoon, the old tree is definitely a nice place to visit. The tree can be found at this location. N 52° 44.724 W 106° 43.334
Friday, February 6, 2009
Bryan and Rob picked me up Saturday morning and after getting gas and Tim's we hit the road. We parked at the south parking lot at Eb’s ski trails, crossed the highway and headed east toward the South Saskatchewan River. It was very nice on Saturday, though windy with gusts up to 35 km/hr. As we made our way along the trail we pulled our pulks through open meadows, dense poplar forests and open stands of pine. The aroma of the forest, filled the air. It was obvious that we were nearing the river, the land started to descend at a steeper rate and soon we found ourselves at a very steep bank that was the final drop to the rivers edge. Bryan was the first to make his way down, half way down he very gracefully lost his balance and tumbled the rest of the way down. Landing in a pile of ridged poles, snowshoes and covered with snow. I was the second to make my way down and after watching Bryan’s attempt, decided to try another approach. I unhooked from my pulk and walked it down though somewhat out of control on the slippery surface. This went much better. Finally it was Rob’s turn, his was a text book descent, under full control.Along the bank we were out of the wind and in full view of the sun so we took the opportunity to stop for a snack. Muffins, bannock and gorp were on the menu for today.
We didn’t really have a set destination, so we put togeter a loose plan to folow the river south for a few miles then find a suitable place to camp. From our snack spot we could just make out an island a mile or two away so we headed off in that direction. When we arrived at the island we checked it for possible camp spots. We found a nice spot in a stand of white spruce but decided that it was too exposed given the winds, so we pushed on. After a short lunch break we were all feeling a bit slugish and found our pulks to be a bit heavy. For a moment I thought that the dog, Kaya, had stowed away on my pulk for a free ride up the bank to higher country. When we arrived at the top of the hill we were greeted by a wide open, meadow, that swept to the south. Dicrectly across from where we crested a hill was an invited stand of pines, nestled into the lee side of an even bigger hill. I think we all were thinking the same thing and imidiatly went over to have a look. After a brief look around we decided to make camp.
Three grown men and a dog pulling toboggans up a hill must have been a ridiculous site but having discovered that the other side of the hill that we were camped next to was a, long gental slope, we couldn’t help ourselves. We disassembled our pulks and went tobogganing. Senseless immature fun, what more can you ask for.
The wind died, and the evening was warm well into the night and we enjoyed sitting around the fire, eating good food, sipping coconut cream hot chocolate in our fleeces. When it was time we entered our tents prepared for a balmy –10 degree night. I was cold during the night and choked it up to getting old but when I got up in the morning and saw that the thermometer read –20 , I knew that I hadn’t dressed for the weather. Historical data on Environments website listed the temp at –30 with and wind gusts up to 78 km/hr over night.
Though it was cold we still got up and went for an exploratory outing into an area that I’ve never been. As we were leaving camp I noticed that there were fresh deer tracks on top of our tracks from yesterday. They had visited us during the night and though we didn’t see any deer on this trip it’s still nice to know that they’re there. Upon our return we broke camp, ate a quick lunch and headed for home. It was sunny again but just as windy as the previous day, only it was –15 this day.
The route back to the vehicle was mostly the same but near the end we found another trail, or what looked like a trail, and gambled that it would take us back to the highway. Actually, judging by the tracks and the signs along the trail we figured that we were following a coyote trail. It did eventually lead back to the highway but we came out further south than we had anticipated and had to walk threw the ditch back to the parking lot.
Good times were had by everyone. All in all it was a great way to spend a weekend.