MAPLE CREEK — Clumps of yellow wildflowers and a sea of golden wheat fields waved in the breeze as my car zipped west on Highway 1 toward southwest Saskatchewan and its many cultural gems.
This was the second year a friend and I had driven the Great Saskatchewan Road Trip. Last year we visited numerous places in the region that could be seen in a day’s drive. This year, we decided to go further afield and stay overnight in some locales we visited.
Our goal this time was Maple Creek, Fort Walsh National Historic Site and the T.rex Discovery Centre in Eastend.
It was a beautiful July weekend when my friend, G, and I hit the road. Our first stop was the Town of Herbert, which had a great train-themed museum. We then motored to Swift Current and had a delicious lunch at a Chinese restaurant.
While most of the land adjacent to Highway 1 is flat, it began to change when we hit Highway 21 and headed to Maple Creek. Level fields of yellow canola turned into green-coloured undulating hills and ravines, while the highway went from being straight to up and down like a snake.
We arrived in Maple Creek in mid-afternoon and began exploring. The three most fascinating places were a book shop, a kids’ toy and candy store and a museum in a former 1910 schoolhouse that still has the original brick exterior, moulded-tin ceilings and hardwood floors.
The book shop was exciting since it was like walking into a candy shop — a candy shop with materials I had read as a kid. From Robert Munsch to the Berenstain Bears to Dr. Seuss to the Hardy Boys, I was in heaven.
Furthermore, there was a large selection of books about Saskatchewan, from its history to landscape to grain elevators. There were also many materials about tractors, cowboys, ranching and the North West Mounted Police.
After purchasing a book by Dr. Seuss for myself and a book about tractors for my two-year-old nephew, we moseyed next door to the toy and candy store.
An explosion of colour — from pinks to greens to blues to reds to purples — greeted the eyes because of the toys on the shelves and walls. It’s impossible to list everything I saw, but from crafts to board games to card games to baking kits and even barrels of monkeys, it was neat — and aimed at the adults too.
Upstairs was cool because it contained thousands of puzzles and — according to the business — Western Canada’s largest puzzle display. This was true, as a massive puzzle featuring New York City covered a wall.
Puzzles ranged from 500 to 42,000 pieces, while the genres seemed endless. Whether you like the Golden Girls, John Wayne, puppies, classic cars, Disney or landscapes, there was something for everyone.
A puzzle featuring James Bond caught my eye.
“Just the stuff in here is like, ‘Wow, pretty cool,’” my friend G said.
“Oh, to be a kid again,” I replied.
Our final stop was the Jasper Cultural and Historic Centre, the largest tourist attraction in southwest Saskatchewan. The building has two floors and more than a dozen themed rooms, such as an actual railway station office, a collection of heritage saddles, and a Victorian Parlour.
My favourite room featured artwork by Charles Russell, who painted pictures of the Old West. During his career, he created over 2,000 paintings of cowboys, Aboriginals, and landscapes in the Western U.S. and Alberta.
A day later, my friend and I headed for Fort Walsh and Eastend.