12-Jan-2004 -- After a period of frigid weather we are experiencing a warm spell as the cold weather has moved east. It was -8°C. A "balmy" day like this deserved a winter confluence outing. We left Regina in darkness at 7:30 AM to drive 375 km north on Highway 11. This highway would take us within a kilometer or so of this confluence located just southeast of Macdowell. It was windy but most of the way the highway was clear. North of the city of Saskatoon the sun was shining so the highway became icy due to snow and melting. The grid road we drove along for 1.2 km just southeast of Macdowell was snow covered but passable. All along the highway edges, ditches, and up onto the fields were fresh tracks where snowmobliers had been out enjoying their machines in the newly fallen snow.
Near 53°N we backed onto a field access to get off the grid road which had only one set of ruts through the snow. We gathered our equipment, put on our boots and made the 272 meter trek across the snow covered stubble field arriving at the confluence about twelve noon. A light snow was falling intermittently. It was cool but the row of trees protected us from the wind, making it fairly pleasant. Tracks in the snow all along the tree line showed us that something had been here before us - probably a couple of deer. It was still and quiet except for the distant barking of a farm dog and the passing of a train a couple of kilometers away. Sounds travel far across crisp prairie winter landscapes. Near the end of the row of trees Alan was able to zero the GPS. This confluence is in the trees, about a meter from the edge of the field. The former visitors have slightly different views at this confluence but their GPS is not zeroed. The location where they took their pictures appears to be on the other side of the opening between the two rows of trees. Their south view shows the east side of the row of trees shown in our view south. Because the confluence was in the midst of the trees, I moved a meter south to take the east, south and west pictures to get better views.
We trekked across the snowy field to a spot about 100 meters southwest of the confluence for an overview shot then returned back to the road and our van. After taking our group picture we enjoyed a little walk and run along the road with the dogs. There were no mosquitoes or grasshoppers or flies to bother us, just the cool air that finally had us retreating to the warmth of our vehicle.
By this time we had worked up an appetite so ate the sandwiches purchased on our way through Saskatoon. It was then time to explore the area. As we drove past the farm 800 meters directly south of the confluence we slowed down to take a picture. I was about to get out of the van when we noticed two big excited farm dogs running full speed towards us along their driveway. We continued driving! After turning around about a kilometer up the road we drove slowly back past the farm again. No dogs were in sight so I hurried out and took pictures. Out on this open road, unprotected by trees, the wind was brisk and bitterly cold. Dogs or no dogs, I would have hurried.
In the village of Macdowell there is a church, a school, a very small post office, a park, some homes, a farm and Ronnie's Tavern and Confectionery. Ronnie's seems to be the main business in town. Parked near Ronnie's were three snowmobiles, possibly the three we had seen earlier speeding along the ditches of the highway then turning into Macdowell.
We were soon on our way south. Near Duck Lake we took a snowy grid road for 5 km east towards the South Saskatchewan River. In summer a ferry takes vehicles across the river. In winter the ferry is up on blocks because the river freezes over. Once the ice is thick enough, a road is cleared across the river. When I stepped out to take a picture, a man driving a truck stopped to talk to us. He reassured us that the crossing was safe - a tractor had crossed earlier. This same river in Saskatoon, 65 km upstream, was open and still flowing swiftly. We crossed this ice "bridge" 19 km south of the confluence and included pictures from both sides.
This region between the South Saskatchewan and North Saskatchewan River Valleys is full of history - from the time of aboriginal natives, to European exploration of the new land, the establishment of fur trading forts, the hunting of bison until they were wiped out, and of rebellions and uprisings. The Batoche National Historic Site, on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River, not far from our ice crossing, has been established to commemorate part of this history.
Back in Saskatoon we stopped at Critters Pet Supplies where dogs are welcome. Max and MacDuff got to shop, visit with some admirers, and pick out special treats for the trip home. We stopped an hour later for our supper and arrived back in Regina at 7:30 PM, exactly 12 hours after we left. Our total drive was 770 km. It was a fun winter outing and a very enjoyable day.