Friday, July 9, 2010

Spring Trip 2010 – Day 22 - Makwa Lake Provincial Park, Sask.

By the time the morning of May 13th dawned we had had enough of Crane Lake, so were up and on the road by 9 am….headed to the town of Cold Lake, in search of a bank machine to replenish our depleted supply of cash.  It was a short trip but one word of caution….if you are relying on your G.P.S. to take you to the town of Cold Lake, and what you really want is to find banks and stores….don’t turn left when it says too…turn right…..turning left takes you into, I guess, what could be called ‘touristy’ old town right on the lake….all the major businesses are now out along the highway south of town….it didn’t help that the main road was also torn up and being re-constructed!  However, after finding our way there, finding an A.T.M., a grocery store and even an OPEN visitor’s center….we were finally ready to make it into Saskatchewan, the first of our actual ‘destinations’…..only about 2 weeks later than planned and at the opposite end of the province.

Following #55 east we had no sooner crossed the provincial border when we spotted….

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this pond at the side of the road….absolutely full of …

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Franklin Gull!  Aha!  maybe Saskatchewan was the Mecca for bird watchers we had been led to believe it was!

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closer look at the gulls….this was, however, the only scene like this we encountered….although admittedly we never did get to any of the ‘birding hot spots’….

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Our 2nd impression of Saskatchewan….the roads were in deplorable condition!  This was a highway….and it doesn’t look nearly as bad as it really was with dips and dives and patches and crumbling edges….  We’d only ever visited Saskatchewan once before, probably about 15 years earlier and that had just been a quick through and through….but we had driven this highway and we don’t remember it being like this….

Since time was running short, trip wise, we decided we didn’t have time to head to the center of the province, but would turn south on the first major secondary north south route and hit all the parks along that route until we got down to the southern part of the province…..which is why, when we came to #26 we turned south on it…

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If #55 was bad…#26 was worse….we pulled over at this only wide spot we found to give the dogs a break and to use our ‘facilities’ since none had been forth coming along the route, this is looking back the way we had come….we realize that this area of the province isn’t that populated….but really, the Dempster highway in the N.W.T. might be gravel, but it was smoother and in better condition than this!

Our destination for this day was Makwa Lake Provincial Park and we really didn’t know what to expect….what we didn’t expect was what we found….a whole tourist destination with stores, golf course etc. etc. built around the park.  We also discovered, if this and other parks we ended up at were an example, that Saskatchewan Parks have a very sensible policy…..their parks are ‘OPEN’ year round although not all of the campgrounds within the park, and it seems each park has a number of campgrounds, are, but they ALL have at least one area where camping all year is allowed and they have a sensible, reasonable rate of $11 per for that ‘Off Season’ camping…..AND the water was even turned on!!!!

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Not all is rosy though….the concept of ‘graded, level’ campsites doesn’t seem to have caught on and it took a while to find a site that was, first of all big enough (some would barely hold a tiny car with a tent), not sloped the ‘wrong’ way, and with branches high enough up to allow us entry – yes our unit is high, but a lot of units are high these days….however, we finally found one that would do and set up camp….where I had the fun of putting everything inside back where it belonged after the roller coaster ride over the highways…

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So with everything back in place and it being a beautiful warm, but not over bearingly hot day, we set out to walk one of the many well marked trails….

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the trail started out past this hillside covered in Birch trees.  This park is at the southern edge of the boreal forest….which was good because I was really getting tired of ‘boreal forest’ – it wasn’t the habitat I had come to see this trip…

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Trail continuing on over one of the wet lands…..  The latitude here is about half way between Lac la Biche and Edmonton (Elk Island), but ‘spring’ here, was more advanced than anywhere we’d been since B.C.’s Okanagan…..

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part of one of the extensive wetlands….

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Wild Strawberries were in flower everywhere…

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and these Early Blue Violets…

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further along the trail, we were back in ‘boreal’ forest…..with it’s ground cover of crisp lichen….

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There were Swainson’s Thrush here and these, Red-breasted Nuthatch….

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and here, like there had been at Crane Lake….scattered Prairie Crocus…

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the trail finally emerged at these wetlands….where we could have continued on but opted to head back to camp for supper….

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the trail moved down and through the wetlands where Marsh Marigolds were just coming into full bloom…

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Back at camp….Shantz curled up in one of our camp chairs ~ you wouldn’t believe how many people do a double take at this…but Shantz is positive this is where dogs belong….either that or she doesn’t consider herself to be a dog…

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after supper Ernie and Shantz took off for a walk in one direction, where he took this picture of an over view of one of the wet lands….

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well I set out in another direction, following a trail along the lake edge.  Makwa Lake appears to be a very large but with a convoluted shoreline lake, this area was just one small arm…

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the trail I was on passed through another small wet area where more Marsh Marigolds were in flower….

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I wanted to show this sign….which is much in evidence at all the Saskatchewan Parks….I really like that 24 hour quiet time…..I wonder how much it is enforced? 

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The day ended with this spectacular sunset – picture courtesy of Ernie (I know it says Kathy on here….I just have the computer set up that way)…..I think, by the time sun was setting, that I was already in bed.

Bird List: Red breasted Nuthatch – 4; Black Cap Chickadee – 1; Yellow Belled Sapsucker – 4; Swainson’s Thrush – 5; Ring neck Duck – 4; Green Wing Teal – 2; Canada Goose – 1; Mallard – 4; Yellow rump Warbler – 10; Spotted Sandpiper – 1; Robin – 1; Crow – 1; Veery – 1 *this was a ‘lifer’ for me, unfortunately, no picture; Osprey – 1; Song Sparrow – 1; Ruby Crowned Kinglet – 1; Raven – 1; Ruffed Grouse – 1; Common Loon – 2; Snipe – 1.

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