31-Jul-2001 -- After successes at two other confluences today -
N50° W102° and
- we were headed for attempt three, N51° W103°. We were an optimistic, yet bedraggled, wet and muddy team - a result of the first confluence visit of the day. Hopes were high that this time we'd come across a confluence that wasn't our typical Saskatchewan "park beside a grain field and walk to the spot" experience. Following Highway 15 from Bredenbury, the previous confluence town, we approached the small city of Melville. We saw orange and white "tents" dotting the fields on both sides of the highway as far as the eyes could see. These tents are the homes of leaf-cutter bees, who pollinate the alfalfa fields. We stopped to get pictures of the tents with their decorative hives hanging around the perimeter of the inside walls. At this location the alfalfa fields were thick and healthy, unlike the poor spindly plants that were attempting to grow in the parched dry soil next to the leaf-cutter bee boxes we photographed near Elstow at
52°N 106°W earlier in the month.
We hoped Melville would have a Dairy Queen - the team needed ice cream cones for fortification before the final hunt of the day. The young man at the Esso gas station, where we filled the van, directed us to the Dairy Queen in the center of town. Those cones were just what we needed. On the way out of the city we were forced to take a short detour because of the smoldering remains of the huge wooden twin annex Saskatchewan Wheat Pool grain elevator which caught fire around midnight the night before. Yellow plastic "crime" tape cordoned off the area. A fire truck and crew stood guard. Interested people were gathering to watch the fire and smoke billowing from the remains. We stopped to take a picture too.
A few kilometers west of Melville we turned off Highway 15 about 2.7 km east of the small community of Fenwood. We saw trees, we saw a lake, but surely we'd end up on a flat field AGAIN. A narrow road lined with trees brought us as close as we could drive. Somewhere across the alfalfa meadow, and through the trees in the distance was our confluence. With a fresh spray of mosquito repellent, all four team members set out. Thankfully Max, our Wheaten Terrier, was left in the van. There were burrs - his coat would have been plastered in them!
The barbed wire fence ended right at our approach to the alfalfa meadow. How convenient for us. We crossed the thick, but beautiful field. White, yellow, and deep purple to violet alfalfa blooms carpeted the field. Butterflies, bees and numerous dragon flies were busy visiting the blooms. None of them would sit still long enough for a picture. When we reached the trees an opening to another little meadow was found. Across that little meadow a barbed wire fence conveniently ended right there for us to continue through. Growing in the tall grass along the fence were gorgeous purple wild flowers that looked very much like garden variety asters.
To continue towards the confluence we had to cross a dry but spongy creek bed. Imbedded in the mud were deep hoof prints made, we think, by deer. With the help of a few rocks and roots we made it across without getting stuck in the mud. The tangled trees on the other side were a little challenging but we made it through to another small clearing. Small shrubs, wild raspberries, prairie wild flowers and grasses were growing here. At the edge of another thicket of trees the confluence was found and the zeros on the GPSs in place after several climbs over, under and around branches and tree stumps. Pictures were taken with hungry mosquitoes circling around us looking for fresh blood.
This confluence is situated not far from a small lake. The area is, or was, inhabited by a colony of highly intelligent beavers! Most of the trees gnawed down by the beavers' self-sharpening teeth had been carried off to build beaver lodges and dams, leaving only the pointed stumps behind. However, one felled tree was left in place marking the confluence spot. Surely these beavers were of a higher power!
With mosquitoes still humming in our ears we quickly took pictures in each direction, then of the lake, the beaver hewn stumps and the beautiful wild flowers all about. We headed back on a different route. In a small thicket of bushes we observed a spot where the tall grass was packed down flat to the ground in an area about the size of a large animal. We speculated that this was where a deer may have slept. Continuing on, we found a slightly muddier place to cross the creek. At this location the water looked quite green and slimy. Through the trees, across the alfalfa meadow and we were at the road again. Max was happy to see us.
Back at the van we spent some time picking the burrs from our jeans, socks and shoe laces. They were very stubborn green prickly burrs. We took a picture of the confluence team along side the road as quickly as possible then hurried back into the van. We weren't fast enough - a dozen or so mosquitoes came in with us.
At 6:30 pm we were ready to head home after three successful finds. Half way home the rain started again but we were thankful that only one of our three confluence hunts was done in the rain. Back in Regina at 8:15 pm we stopped at a fast food restaurant for supper. We had been on the road for almost eleven hours putting 593 km on the odometer (Gladys and Grant had yet another one hour's drive to Moose Jaw). We were a hungry bunch but looked too wet, muddy and bedraggled to go to any "real" restaurant. With a week of rest we should be ready to go again but next time our confluence 'kit' will contain a few extra things such as spare socks, extra shoes or boots, change of jeans, and perhaps wet suits!