In celebration of the 150th year of Confederation, we are trying to visit every Canadian National Park that we can drive to. This is the western portion of that tour.
Even though I had packed ample supplies to feed myself, when morning rolled around I decided to check out the town of Wasagaming. Apparently the cinnamon rolls at The Whitehouse Bakery are so well known they are even mentioned in my National Geographic book “Guide to the National Parks of Canada”. So once we had gone for a short walk, I packed up while the dogs had their breakfast, and that was where we headed.
Fortunately I knew where the town was from our meanderings the night before trying to find bison. Of course when the town is right next to your campground it’s kind of hard to miss. I drove to the thickest concentration of buildings and lo and behold, there it was. The people lined up out the front door was kind of a clue that we were at the right place. I brought the dogs out and left them tied up outside while I went joined the queue. I had enough time to ponder the offerings in front of me. I had hoped for some breakfast to go since they didn’t have any seats on the patio but that was only for the sit-ins. OK so I had to pick from all the different kinds of cinnamon buns and even though I had planned to only get one, I ended up getting two: a plain and one with cream cheese frosting. Oh and an americano to wash it all down.
During the wait and the order, I kept peeking at the dogs who were sitting so quietly and patiently outside. I mean they were intently watching the door but there were no shenanigans from them. I noticed several people who would look at them then look around and look back at them. You could almost watch them trying to decide if they should go in for a pat. The funniest part was that the dogs knew who wanted to pet them and would wag and look at them expectantly as though they were saying “Well what are you waiting for?” It was so funny it made me laugh and I told whoever was there that the dogs would love some attention.
They were still getting their loving when I emerged with two large cinnamon rolls and a coffee. I somehow managed to juggle everything so that I could clip their leashes to the carabiner on my belt and we walked to a nearby picnic table where I decided to eat the cream cheese roll first. Jack has this habit of sitting next to me on picnic tables and he jumped up so that he was basically in my lap. I guess he wanted to make sure that I knew he was available to help with finishing the roll, seeing as it was so big and everything. My verdict on the cinnamon roll: the texture is out of this world light but the cinnamon flavour was lacking a bit. It was still a fine roll and I debated going back for more before the voice of reason chimed in. The dogs also seemed to enjoy the tiny samples they were offered.
We stopped at the visitor centre so I could grab some souvenirs and I took the opportunity to check out an oTENTik that was set up nearby, as a sales pitch I guess. The dogs aren’t allowed inside them so I opened the door just enough to wedge my head inside and peek. I tried to get a photo but I guess they figured that an open door meant they had to walk inside and they tried. Oh how they tried. Rather than wrestle with a moving tide of dog, I gave up on photos. I will say that they are really neat looking: it’s got a wooden floor with heavy fabric walls, beds, and it looked like there was even cooking equipment. It’s like a small tent cabin.
With my belly full of sugary deliciousness, we jumped back in the car and started to head north out of the park with an eye peeled for some places to work off our indulgent breakfast. I was intrigued by the sign for Wishing Well so that was our first stop. I did not expect to see such a beautifully landscaped and planted garden complete with carved wood sculptures. We went to find the wishing well…OK let me be more accurate: I went to find the wishing well and the dogs splashed in the little river. I guess we have different priorities. In keeping with our wishing well tradition, I held a coin to each dog so they could touch it with their nose before I tossed it into the well.
A few (OK a lot) of photos later and we continued on to Moon Lake. It’s a short walk to the lake from the parking area and when I found a stretch that had no one around and no animals, I let the dogs splash in the water. I was a bit worried that Piper may overwork her leg and I figured that giving her every chance to get in the water and cool her hocks would help ease any inflammation, like opportunistic icing. Once they had emerged, we walked back to the car and continued out of the park.
Now cell service in the park had been very spotty and I assumed it was because we were in a remote area. So naturally I thought that as we passed through Dauphin, which seemed more like a city, there would be more service. No. I had nothing. So when I saw a gas station, I stopped to buy a map. Nope they didn’t sell maps. Huh. When I had to fill up the tank further down the road, I again tried to buy a map. Again, there were no maps to purchase. However, I did get directions from a few people inside the gas station. Great. Off we go. Not wanting to stop anywhere, I tucked into the plain cinnamon roll. Verdict still stands: it was still so good.
Well it turned out that at some point I missed a turn. I knew that I was going in the right general area but not the best route. I looked at my phone and was shocked to see that even though I could not access my maps, I had cell service. So I called our destination: Prince Albert National Park in Saskatchewan. The gentleman that answered the phone was very helpful and pulled up a map on his computer so he could give me directions from where I was. After I hung up the phone, I turned it off to see if a re-boot would help. It did. Dammit. So we ended up taking a somewhat scenic route. It’s kind of what we do. On the plus side, I did let the dogs out so I could take some photos of a field and they could stretch their legs. Leo rolled. Of course.
When we arrived at Prince Albert National Park, we went to go pick a campsite. This is another park that has a town inside the boundary and two campgrounds are on the edge of town so we went there first. I was driving along and made the turn to the campgrounds when I looked over and saw an elk walking towards me on the opposite side of the road. Walking into town. I stopped for some photos and listened to Piper whine behind me. As the elk walked past us, Piper literally tried to climb through the back window to watch it.
We drove around and looked at the sites but they were all serviced. I just did not feel like paying extra for electricity that we were not going to use. So we went to go check out another campground, Narrows, that was outside of town. On the way, I saw a sign for a dog beach. Well hey Piper needed to ice her legs so of course we had to stop. The beach was very narrow but there was still plenty of things to sniff and of course play in the water. At one point I watched Piper go bounding through the water and down the beach with Leo and Jack and I was so happy. Then I physically cringed and thought “No frolicking! You’ll hurt yourself! Stop having fun!” Fortunately it was just a quick outburst and then they went back to sniffing. We climbed back in the car and made our way to Narrows.
The campground is at the end of a long dirt road and as we drove along I noticed something in the road ahead of us. It was moving towards us so I slowed down and watched a fox come trotting along. It stopped opposite the car and watched us watching it. Now we don’t have a lot of foxes at home so I’m not quite sure what the dogs thought it was but they were vocal about it being there. The fox didn’t seem to care about the ruckus coming from the car which makes me think that it has been fed from cars before. While I was happy that it was close enough to get photos, it makes me so mad that people would jeopardize the well-being of animals by feeding them.
We found the campground and picked a nice site. Even though we were next to Waskesiu Lake, we did not have a clear view to the water since there were several walk-in sites between us and the path down was so steep I did not want to risk any of my senior citizens going there. So we walked around to get the layout of the campground. As I was making my dinner of ramen noodles and dehydrated beef and vegetables (yes that’s to nights in a row since I didn’t feel like trying to find a place all the way back in town) some neighbours moved in. Yaaaaaaaa I’m sure the whole place knew they had arrived. I looked over at them and when I realized how young they were, I just wanted to yell over that they should be in school. Then one of them pulled out a guitar and began singing some attempt at something and I thought “Wow was I ever like that?” Payback for younger days I suppose.
Fortunately, I kept to myself and we crawled into the tent. I think they all went to the water since the noise died down and I was still able to get to sleep. After I pushed Piper off my sleeping bag. Of course.
3875 sq km
The east side of the park is more developed with a town and cottages. The west side is mostly undeveloped.
HOW TO GET THERE
Get a route before you drive. Seriously though, Highway 2 and 264 will get you to the east gate and is the quickest way to the town of Waskesiu. Highway 263 is a much longer and more scenic road to drive and Highway 240 will get to the south side. As the west side is mostly undeveloped, Highway 55 is the only way to go.
There provincial bus line, STC, does go to the park from early May to early September from Saskatoon and the city of Prince Albert.
WHAT TO DO
There are plenty of hiking trails to enjoy on foot or on bicycle. Canoes can be rented or you can book a pontoon boat tour. Trail and wagon rides operate in the west side of the park. There’s also an 18-hole golf course. The park is open during the winter for skiing and snowshoeing.
Serviced, unserviced, and backcountry sites are available along with oTENTiks.
WHERE TO EAT
There are restaurants in Waskesiu however they are seasonal. When I was there, the town was in the process of shutting down.