Running the Boreal Trail – Part 1

A series of guest blog posts from trail enthusiast Russ Hodgins.

Under the category of “it seemed like a good idea at the time,” here is what I did on my summer vacation:

I had a dream of running the Boreal Trail across Meadow Lake Provincial Park and thought about attempting it in one long run but navigating by headlamp on an unknown trail isn’t high on my to do list, so plans were adjusted to run over two days and thanks to my supportive family it came true.

Day 1

My wife Pam shuttled me to the start in the early morning hours of Aug. 9th, dropping me off at the east end of the trail. After the obligatory photo, I was off. Any dreams of keeping my feet dry ended immediately as it was a cool morning with a heavy dew, so within minutes me feet were soaked. Oh well, how sad, never mind.

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Shortly after starting, I came to this bog and as the trail runs parallel to the road, I hiked out, ran down the road and then bush-wacked back in to the trail and carried on. It was too early to get that wet but my joy was short lived. A few miles later while crossing a much shorter wet section, I stepped into what I thought was a shallow puddle but it went up very high on my body. It officially became a trail run.

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The first seven or so miles were kind of like this. The grass and shrubs were halfway to my knees and I didn’t realize it as the legs were fresh, but it was hard work dragging my feet through this stuff. At one point, the trail ran down the power line and I ended up in neck high reeds and ankle deep water. Once again, it was quicker to detour out to the road and bypass this short section.

The trail eventually took me to Kimball Lake, which has a large campground and cabin subdivision. Heading east after Kimball, the trail gets much better and suddenly it’s fun again. From here, it goes to Tall Timbers Riding Stables (where I had cached some extra food and water on our drive out) and then the trail is an old road going down to a Chalet which is also part of the snowmobile trail. This 33 km section from Tall Timbers to the park entry gate was the longest stretch, with no road access, so along with my Camel Back hydration pack, I carried two extra water bottles. Even with that, it was a warm day and I ran out of liquid a mile short of the park gate where the next water cache was stored.

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The chalet was my stopping place where I changed into dry socks inside and got away from the winged motivators. The mosquitoes were ever present, but not really a problem unless you stopped completely. Having said that, a nice cool September day with fewer bugs would be a much more pleasant time to wander on this trail, so I should probably go back and test that theory.

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From the Chalet, it’s a hair under four miles to the first back country campsite came to called BT 7. Much of this section runs along the Waterhen River and at one point, I scared up four sandhill cranes. This was probably the best section of the trail in terms of good footing/easy running on day one. It didn’t hurt that it was very scenic with great weather.

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The trail after BT7 comes to an area where cattle graze and runs just outside the fence. It was grazed down inside the wire so I jumped over and ran in the pasture which was parallel to the trail. After leaving back country campsite BT 7, the first sign of the grazing was crossing through a cattle gate. After this point, I had a fence on my right and after a certain point, an overgrown trail under my feet. Seeing as the cattle had done such a good job of mowing down the grass, I hopped the fence and ran on the grazed side as it was much easier.

(I have since learned that the access to BT 6 is near here but the sign wasn’t up two years ago. I’m sure it is there now)

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The cattle also make nice trails to run on but the bad part was I missed the sign that would have shown me where the back country campsite BT 6 was, thus I never got to see it.

As I was running, the trail eventually came inside the pasture and all was going well until I caught a glimpse of a trail sign on the other side of the gate. It went a short distance and ended at the water in a muskeg.

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The water looked deep enough to swim in but not all that inviting. Swamps tend to have beaver dams and after a short search and a ten minute bushwhack, I was crossing on the beaver dam to circle back and pick up the trail on the other side.

This is my view from the dam back to the trail:

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After the muskeg, the trail was decent but overgrown. There were markers about every km and as I got closer to the main road and the park entry gate, the trail became more of a road and the running got easier. That was good news as about a mile or so from the road and my next water and food cache, I downed the last fluid I had with me and was getting mighty dry in the 26 degree temperature.

And then I was there! I had also left a chocolate bar as part of the reward of crossing this 30 km plus section and Pam was waiting for me when I arrived. She had rode her bike out and joined me for a short, much needed rest.

Best I could tell, I now had 16-18 km to go until I was back at our campsite in Murray Doell Campground. What I didn’t know was what the trail was like in front of me. I knew they had built a new section but had no idea what it would be like. It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t know…

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2017 STA AGM Fast Approaching

The 2017 STA Annual General Meeting (AGM) is scheduled for Saturday March 25, 2017, from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Home Inn & Suites Saskatoon South (253 Willis Crescent, Saskatoon). The event flyer and agenda can be found below.

The registration fee is $25 and includes lunch, a program and a business meeting. To register,
email info@sasktrails.ca or call (306) 522-9326.

This year, we have some exciting and informative presentations on the docket, including:

Putting Trails On The Map: There is a lot of interest in the trail community about creating better trail maps since some are outdated and poorly designed. STA secretary Ryan Goolevitch will discuss how OpenStreetMap is a great place to send trail mapping data.

Heading Down The Right Insurance Path: Keith Bossaer of Oasis Insurance lets trail
administrators know which will insurance is right for them. If you think all you need is a “Use
At Your Own Risk” sign to cover you in the event of an accident, then this is the session for you.

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Bill Shurniak donates $1,000 to the STA

We would like to thank Bill Shurniak for his $1,000 donation to the Saskatchewan Trails Association. In making his donation, Shurniak becomes our first Trail Ranger, a classification of donors who give between $1,000 and $4,999.

For more information on ways you can support the STA, click here to visit our Get Involved page.

Deadline for STA Member Grants fast approaching

The STA would like to remind members that the deadline for applications to STA’s Members Grant Program is Dec. 31, 2016. Funding grants of $200 to $500 for maintenance such as updating maps, GPS trails, fixing signs, purchasing maintenance tools, etc., are available through an application process.

To learn more, visit our funding page.

Also, the deadline to nominate someone for the STA Volunteer Award and/or STA Stewardship Award is Feb. 15, 2017. The STA Volunteer Award is designed to recognize the outstanding volunteers who dedicate their time and effort to developing, maintaining and promoting trails and trail development in Saskatchewan. The STA Stewardship Award is designed to recognize the outstanding people and organizations that have been dedicated to the restoration, preservation and enhancement of Saskatchewan’s trail system.

To learn more, visit our awards page.

The STA would also like to remind members to notify us of any updates to your trails, as we will pass along the information to Tourism Saskatchewan to ensure the trail directory remains up to date. If you have any changes, email info@sasktrails.ca.

SaskHiker: 5 Reasons Why Saskatchewan Winter’s Don’t Suck

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Jay Brown, the SaskHiker, is an avid outdoorsmen and hiker from Saskatchewan who is continually looking for the next adventure. He runs the website www.saskhiker.com, which he encourages people to use as a guide to their own adventures.

Well folks, we got hammered with an early taste of winter. With a 100 year snowfall record being broken in the past 24 hours, we are all participating in the same old conversation whenever winter decides to blast us with a taste of cold, “Why do we live here?”

I know we all love sitting on a beach basking in the warmth of the sun, but in my opinion you wouldn’t appreciate it as much if you didn’t have to spend 6 months enduring winter. To me the best part of living in Saskatchewan is the fact that we get the full experience of all the 4 seasons. We are living in a postcard world it is just that some days it is tough to see it!

So while you are grumbling at work and trying to find your winter jackets and gloves, I thought I would remind you of 5 reasons why Saskatchewan winter’s don’t suck.

Click here to visit the SaskHiker’s blog and read the entire post

Join the STA at the Saskatchewan Trail Mix

The STA will be hosting the Saskatchewan Trail Mix on October 27, 2016 from 9:00-11:30 a.m. at the Delta Hotel in Regina. The Saskatchewan Trail Mix is an opportunity for trail builders, users, and enthusiasts to meet and discuss common issues, review community needs, develop best practices, and develop new collaborations.

The agenda for the meeting includes:

• Welcome and Introductions – Saul Lipton, President, Saskatchewan Trails Association
• Overview of STA – Pat Rediger, Administrator, Saskatchewan Trails Association
• Roundtable Discussions – Each member to discuss issues that most concern their organization
• Themed Discussions – Place discussed items into various themes for further discussion, either as a group or individual discussion groups
• Possible Solutions – Identify possible solutions to the issues that have been identified
• Closing Comments – Saul Lipton

The Trail Mix allows the trail community to come together, learn from each other and work collectively on solutions that benefit everyone.

This meeting is open to everyone. If you plan on attending, please contact the STA at info@sasktrails.ca to register.

Saskatchewan’s section of The Great Trail now connected

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Trans Canada Trail (TCT) is thrilled to announce that Saskatchewan’s section of The Great Trail is now connected, province-wide, making it Canada’s fourth province or territory – after Newfoundland & Labrador, Prince Edward Island and Yukon – to reach this milestone. This achievement was marked at a public celebration (in collaboration with Wakamow Valley Authority) on Oct. 1 in Moose Jaw, in conjunction with the unveiling of the new Wakamow Valley Suspension Bridge, part of The Great Trail.

“The Great Trail has become a living symbol of national collaboration, as we work with partners,  volunteers, donors and all levels of government to connect the Trail country-wide for Canada 150 celebrations in 2017. With Saskatchewan’s section now connected, we are much closer to making this bold dream – launched in 1992 to celebrate Canada’s 125th – a reality,” said Deborah Apps, TCT president & CEO. “Saskatchewan can be proud of being the fourth province or territory in Canada to connect their section of the Trail, and we could not have done it without that truly Canadian spirit of helping each other and working together.”

TCT partners, volunteers, donors and government supporters were in attendance, including Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (Regina-Wascana). Representatives from the Canadian Armed Forces were also present, including reservists from 38 Combat Engineer Regiment, 38 Canadian Brigade Group, based out of Saskatoon and Winnipeg, responsible for the construction of the Wakamow Valley Suspension Bridge, funded by Trans Canada Trail, the City of Moose Jaw and the Wakamow Valley Development Fund. The bridge was a key component in fully connecting The Great Trail in the province of Saskatchewan.

“Since 2009, it has been Wakamow Valley’s dream to build this style of bridge over the Moose Jaw River and connect the trails on either side,” said Paul Spriggs, Chair of Wakamow Valley Authority. “We couldn’t have achieved this without our donors, the Wakamow Valley Advisory Committee, TCT, Canadian Armed Forces 38 Combat Engineer Regiment, the City of Moose Jaw and the many people who attended our fundraising events.”

“The Great Trail will unite us from coast to coast to coast as a sustainable national treasure, one that helps to create economic drivers for tourism, and healthier, more active communities,” said the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. “Today’s milestone celebration in Saskatchewan is an important step toward the Trail achieving full connection for Canada 150 celebrations in 2017, and a wonderful example of community collaboration.”

TCT is supported by financial contributions from donors in both the public and private sectors, who believe in TCT’s commitment to investing in vital infrastructure for safe, affordable outdoor activity, and fostering an appreciation for Canada’s spectacular natural heritage. The following TCT donors played an integral role in connecting Saskatchewan’s section of The Great Trail:

PotashCorp
RBC Foundation
R. Howard Webster Foundation
SaskTel
Berkshire Hathaway Energy Canada
Information Services Corporation
Bill Shurniak
Jack Cockwell, in honour of Daphne Cockwell

All gifts to TCT are matched by the Government of Canada, as part of a funding program to support TCT’s 2017 national connection goal.  This program has the Federal Government contributing one dollar for every two raised, up to $25 million. This support allows for Trail development across the country, benefitting Canadians and strengthening communities.

Every Canadian province and territory is home to its own section of The Great Trail, which is owned and operated at the local level. Formed in 2014, the Saskatchewan Vision 2017 Trans Canada Trail Committee is comprised of dedicated volunteers from across Saskatchewan, with representation from provincial and municipal governments, Indigenous peoples and user groups. The Committee has been the driving force in connecting The Great Trail across the province.

Now connected, The Great Trail route in Saskatchewan spans nearly 1,700 kilometres from the Alberta to the Manitoba border. From prairie to pine, and waterway to greenway, Trail users can experience rural and urban municipalities, ferry crossings and several of Saskatchewan’s provincial parks.

The Great Trail currently spans over 20,000 kilometres across the country and, nationally, is 87% connected. TCT’s goal is to connect the entire network, nearly 24,000 kilometres, in 2017. But connection is only the beginning: TCT will continue to encourage Canadians and visitors to discover, experience and cherish the Trail by supporting improvements and by sustaining its integrity for future generations.

For more information, visit https://thegreattrail.ca.

October Trail of the Month: Wakamow Valley trails

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Each month from May to October, the STA is promoting a trail in a different part of the province to encourage people to explore nature and be physically active.

For trail enthusiasts, there are plenty of reasons to flock to Wakamow Valley at the heart of the Moose Jaw River. The area is home to 190 bird species, and as you make your way through the Wakamow Valley trail system – featuring nearly 15 kilometres of trails – there are prime opportunities for bird watching.tag

In fact, if you visit the Wakamow Valley Authority office (276 Home St. E), you can even borrow a bird kit, including: binoculars, a bird book, a check-list of birds and bird seed.

Beyond bird watching, Wakamow Valley Trails are also designed for walking, cycling, in-line skating and water activities such as canoeing and kayaking.

Trail users will appreciate the vast amount of amenities located within the valley, including washrooms, picnic benches, BBQ pits, a playground, concession, gazebos, canoe and kayak rentals, a boat launch, pedestrian bridges, parks and plenty of free parking.

There’s plenty of great tourist destinations within the trail system:

  • Plaxton’s Lake: Picnic and water activities. Complete with sun shelter and boardwalk;
  • Lions River Park: Picnic tables and barbecues;
  • Kiwanis River Park: Picnic tables, fire pit, canoe launch and the outdoor Speed Skating Oval;
  • Rotary River Park: The Burger Cabin, McCaig Gardens, accessible playground and sun shelter;
  • Kinsmen Wellesley Park: Accessible playground, sun shelter, picnic tables and barbecues;
  • Connor Park: Barbecues, canoe launch, fire pit, picnic tables, pavilion, and playground;
  • Devonian Trail: A 4.2 km pedestrian and cycling asphalt pathway from near Union Hospital, through Plaxton’s Lake, Lions River Park and Rotary River Park to Kinsmen Wellesley Park.
  • River Park Campground: Campsites, canoe launch.

Agenda: The Great Trail connection celebration

On October 1, 1-3 p.m., at the NEW Wakamow Valley Suspension Bridge in Moose Jaw, Trans Canada Trail (TCT) — in collaboration with Wakamow Valley Authority — will officially announce that Saskatchewan’s section of The Great Trail is now connected, province-wide.

This event will also feature the unveiling of the new Wakamow Valley Suspension Bridge, part of The Great Trail.

This celebration will be attended by TCT partners, volunteers, donors, and government supporters including the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

AGENDA

1-1:30 p.m.: Speeches and unveiling of new Wakamow Suspension Bridge, constructed by Canadian Army Reservists from 38 Combat Engineer Regiment (38 CER), 38 Canadian Brigade Group (38 CBG).

1:30 p.m.: Performances by Black Cloud, a family Drum Group from Muscowpetung First Nation, and World Renowned Hoop Dancer Terrence Littletent from Kawacatoose Cree Nation, accompanied by his nephew Steve Obey Jr., from Piapot First Nation.

1:40 p .m.: Military fly-by

2-3:00 p.m.: Family fun activities including a guided Trail walk

The idea of creating a trail that would be a gift from Canadians to Canadians began as a bold dream in 1992. Since then, TCT – a not-for-profit organization – has been working with donors, partners, governments and volunteers to create an epic trail of trails offering a wide range of outdoor experiences on both land and water routes. Every Canadian province and territory is home to its own stretch of The Great Trail, which is owned and operated at the local level. TCT’s goal is to have The Great Trail connected from coast to coast to coast in 2017, for Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation celebrations.

For more information, visit https://thegreattrail.ca.

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The Great Trail finds a great home in North Qu’Appelle

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In August, Saskatchewan achieved connection of The Great Trail, province-wide. As the longest recreational trail in the world, The Great Trail offers a wide range of activities through a variety of landscapes – urban, rural and wilderness, along greenways, waterways and roadways across Canada. In celebration, the Trans Canada Trail staff has released a series of articles highlighting different stops along the way.

Previous articles: 5 Must-See Sections of The Great Trail in Saskatchewan; Creating trail tourism in rural Saskatchewan; Prairie Hospitality on the Trail

Hiking through a grove of birch trees in North Qu’Appelle, Marcy Johnson emerged to find herself in a field of purple crocuses — all just steps from another spectacular view.

“Out of nowhere, there’s Sacred Heart Church, a fieldstone church with a belfry tower from the early 1900s, and another red-roofed chapel with 14 stations of the cross,” says Marcy, the administrator for the rural municipality (RM) of North Qu’Appelle, just 70 kilometres northeast of Regina. “It’s a special moment, to come across it like that. You feel the history of the early settlers. You appreciate the architecture. It’s really quite contemplative.”

The Qu’Appelle Valley is nestled between four lakes. It’s home to four First Nations, 2000 residents, meandering waterways, open marshes, and rolling grasslands populated with Saskatoon berry bushes, foxes and coyotes.

There are also 30 kilometres of The Great Trail in the region, and work is underway on a new 10-km section to join the village of Lebret to Fort Qu’Appelle. Part of the new section of the Trail will include a waterway connecting Lebret to Sandy Beach.

Right now, a tractor is dragging a grader along the new land portion of the Trail, grooming it for year-round usage. The RM of North Qu’Appelle matched a donation from Trans Canada Trail, bringing the budget for this project to $22,000 to pay staff and the contractor.

“We’re grooming a hilly section along Mission Lake to encourage hiking, cycling, running and walking—no quads allowed. That’s just our culture,” says Marcy.

The Trail makes its way into Qu’Appelle Valley south of Melville near Crooked Lake, after which it continues west along the historic Fort Ellis Trail, into Fort Qu’Appelle and onto the Qu’Appelle Valley Waterway.

While work advances on the new 10 kilometres, citizens and fitness buffs are making use of the other local Trail sections, including the 6.9-km path around the town of Fort Qu’Appelle, past the museum and the historic Treaty Four Governance Centre. Then there’s the Katepwa Lake Trail, a more secluded track further off the highway.

The Great Trail in Qu’Appelle Valley is an important addition to the region’s recreational infrastructure, and it makes for a great tourist attraction, all thanks to the collaboration of the rural municipalities of McLeod, Elcapo, Wolseley, Abernethy and North Qu’Appelle.

“Everyone knows the Trail,” says Marcy. “It’s popular with couples and families, as well as groups of retired teachers and ladies who walk every day.”

Having lived in the area for 22 years, Marcy is happy to see The Great Trail thriving in North Qu’Appelle.

“It’s about more than going somewhere to pick Saskatoon berries at the end of June, although that’s fun,” she notes. “It’s about building community year-round.”

Saskatchewan’s connection milestone will be celebrated on Oct. 1, 1- 3 p.m. at the Wakamov Bridge in Wakamow Valley (Home St E, Moose Jaw) in an event featuring food and fun for the whole family. For more information on The Great Trail, visit www.thegreattrail.ca.