08-Jul-2002 -- We live on to do another confluence! At our last confluence, see N49° W105°, we trespassed and that noose still hangs perilously over our heads. On this trip we decided to visit Manitoba, the province to the east, where we are yet unknown, to hunt for N50° W101°. As well as feeling "safer", finding this confluence would complete the 50th parallel across the three prairie provinces, from W96° in Manitoba, through Saskatchewan to W114° in Alberta. This vast area is the Canadian prairie region with each of those confluences, except W114°, being on flat prairie land. W114° sits just on the edge of the prairie, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
We headed 290 km east of Regina on the Trans-Canada Highway to Highway 83, near the small city of Virden, known as "Manitoba's Oil Center". This intersection is the junction of two of the world's longest highways. Highway 83, "Palms to Pines" route, stretches north and south all the way from Swan Lake, Manitoba through the United States to Mexico. The Trans-Canada Highway stretches east and west from sea to sea across Canada. Driving north on Highway 83 for 9.5 km we turned east on Victor Joslin Road towards the confluence area. We drove around the confluence looking for the best approach. A narrow trail bordered with trees and bushes through the fields, but not shown on MapSource, led us to a railway track crossing only 525 m north of the confluence. This provided us with an easy path. We parked near the crossing, walked along the track, through the ditch, over a fence and across a cultivated field right to the spot near a windbreak of trees.
Back on the train track after taking our pictures, we stopped for a water break as it was a warm and sunny day. On the way back to the van we took time to admire the many wild flowers growing in the ditches beside the track. The western red lily, in particular, stood out against the green plant life. This lily, a protected species, is the official flower of Saskatchewan.
The Assiniboine River Valley is 7.5 km east of the confluence. We found an access road into the valley and enjoyed the beautiful views. The hills were green, the valley floor yellow with canola (rape) fields and green with grain and hay fields. Sounds from a tractor working a hay field broke the silence. The tree lined river meandered and twisted its way along the valley. Wild flowers were abundant. A startled deer bounded into the trees.
There were a lot of pump jacks in fields near the confluence proving that Virden is indeed an oil center. As I was about to climb back over the fence to cross the ditch after taking the pictures of the pump jacks, I narrowly missed destroying a Red Winged Blackbird nest containing five small eggs. It was built in the tall grass just half a meter off the ground and camouflaged quite well. Thankfully I saw it, so was able to move to the next fence section to cross. I wondered why those blackbirds had been scolding me! As soon as I was safely in the van, the blackbird pair sat on the fence looking at the nest in an agitated state, flapping and squawking. Sensing that all was well, the brown female settled on the nest. The handsome male blackbird with distinctive red band on his wings took up his post nearby.
Southeast along the tracks from the confluence is an abandoned grain elevator, once owned by the Lake of the Woods Milling Company. We believe they made Five Roses Flour as that brand name is printed in large letters on the west side of the elevator.
On the way into Virden on the gravel back roads we spotted an old stone barn and large stone house, once a proud homestead, but now abandoned and deteriorating. Many of the farms in the area had beautiful old homes probably built by settlers in the early 1900's. The farms were well maintained. Some farm entrances looked like parks with their rows of trees, expansive mowed lawns, and colourful flower beds.
Our trip took 12 hours and covered 652 km. Much of that time was spent exploring the region and enjoying the great day.