So the new must see place in Saskatchewan is the Gem Lakes. Nobody’s ever heard of them but because the Saskatchewanderer went there and put it on the Instagrams, it’s all the rage! So naturally, we also jumped on yonder band wagon. Gem Lakes are a sweet collection of lakes in the Narrow Hills Provincial Park. They have that aquamarine alpine-esque appearance that makes them snazzier than the average body of prairie water. You can camp there but we opted to stay at Lower Fishing lake and do a day trip. The campsites are lodge-pole with not much privacy between them. If you can book an outside ring site rather than the middle, that would be good. We hiked all around the gem lakes which is a nice walk with quite a bit of elevation changes.
The weather absolutely sucked for our trip. Cold. Rainy. Windy. Some sunshine poked thru every once and a while. But I imagine that if it was hot and nice, it would have been 17% more enjoyable. Because of the rain, I only brought my Samsung S20 phone along for photos. As such, all pictures in this post are shot with that.
Like most of Saskatchewan tourism, it’s a generation behind. By that I mean, they promote a hidden gem like the Gem Lakes, but the “whole tourism” package is lacking. For instance, there was zilch for signage about these lakes basically until you’re there. It would be right corking if Tourism Saskatchewan worked on the bigger picture. We found this to be the case when we went to Grasslands (albeit National Park). They hype it but don’t tell you there aren’t any gas stations in the region! 😂
From the Lower Fishing Lake campground we also did the scenic drive up the esker (hill top ridge) to Mackie and Grace Lakes. The view from there was incredible and the only place we had cell service. The road is good, very well packed sand. We did it no problem in a 2WD Mini Van. The sand helps with the drainage on the road. If it was down pouring, it might be a bit dicier. The view of Grace lake from the top is awesome. Hiking down the sand embankment is not recommended. The view is only so-so and the path way is nearly vertical!
By far, the craziest thing about the Gem Lakes hike was this outdoor toilet. Very handy but so whacked on so many levels. 😂😂😂
All in all it wasn’t too shabby. Bugs were manageable. Thermocells were the cat’s pajamas at night around the campfire. Bring your warm layers for sure, even at the end of July it was chilly at night. Also, if you’re planning on hiking the lakes, we recommend doing it counter clockwise. When we did it, we went clock wise and it’s an easier hike that way, but then its harder/more elevation gains on the other side. It would have been better to get that out of the way first rather than saving the tougher part for last.
Well finally something of interest happened! How about freedom in the “true north strong and free?” Sounds good to me! There is an absolutely massive convey making its way east to Ottawa. The mission? End all the crazy health mandates that the tyrannical government has imposed on the citizens of Canada. There are hundreds if not thousands of big rigs and trucks converging on Ottawa in the next few days. They swooped passed Moose Jaw today, which actually turned into tonight. There was a nasty batch of icy Saskatchewan roads that slowed things down, but rest assured, nothing is going to stop this convoy.
I grabbed the old Nikon DF and a 24mm f/1.8 lens and we took in the rally. It was heinously cold, approaching -30ºC with the windchill. And, it was really, really dark. I was shooting at ISO 75 billion and trying to make images. It was very challenging conditions. But hey, that’s the price of freedom. Never give in. Never give up!
Support the cause: https://gofund.me/cf5c9fcf
There are very few “camping” spots left in the camping world. Most have segued into the world of accommodating massive trailers and 5th wheels with all the comforts of home. But what about old timey camping? No power. No flush toilets. Small, private campsites. What about a campground in the middle of a pine forrest with a beautiful stream running right through the campsites??? What if such a place existed in the middle of Saskatchewan farm land? A myth? A fairytale?! Enter: Pine Cree Regional Park
We spent 2 nights at Pine Cree and it didn’t disappoint. It truly is a Saskatchewan hidden gem! It’s close to neighbouring Eastend with their very cool T.rex Discovery Centre, sporting “Scotty” one of the only complete TRex fossils in the world. It is also close to the Frenchman River which supports a glorious scenic drive. Unfortunately for us, it poured rain that day. But the area has lots to do and see and is the gateway to Cypress Hills.
One other detail for future travellers to the park. The river really cools off the campground at night. It was ~35ºC when we were there during the day but it got really cold at night. So make sure you’re well bundled!
Photographically, this trip was shot largely with Samsung S20 and also the iPhone 11 and the FujiFilm XPRO2 (23mm, 35mm, 90mm lenses).
At the top of my Sister-in-Law’s bucket list has been hiking to Grey Owl’s cabin. It’s a 40 km round hike in Prince Albert National Park, an enormous federal park in northern Saskatchewan. You can look up all kinds of information about who Grey Owl was and what he was doing up on Ajawaan lake. This blog post will simply chronicle our journey and give suggestions and coordinates for future hikers.
Hiking advice is generally relative, depending on many factors from weather and gear to preparedness and individual athletic ability. However, this advice is absolute:
DON’T DO THIS HIKE IN SUMMER!Jason Schultz
Unless you like 70 trillion insects swarming and buzzing your face and body non-stop and you love sweating all the time. LOL. We did this trip at the end of June and our temperatures were an unbearable 36-38ºC with absolutely no breeze. Kingsmere lake was absolutely glass the whole time. The insects went from bad to worse with mosquitos, black flies, deer flies and horse flies each taking their turns attacking us non-stop. The greatest challenges this hike provided us would have been remedied by doing it in late September/early October.
That, and ultra-lite gear. We just used stuff we had on hand and that made for a bit of a challenge. Our gear was heavy and we had to camp at the far end of the hike, at Northend – which meant we had to carry the gear pretty much the entire hike. If we could have lessened that load, I predict it would have made the journey 17% more enjoyable.
This map is provided by Parks Canada but it doesn’t include GPS coordinates for the campgrounds. I find it so helpful to have these things marked so that you can tell how far the next stop is going to be. Here are my GPS coordinates for the camp stops and trail heads along the way:
1) Trail Start: N54° 01.565′ W106° 24.933′
2) Westwind: N54° 02.974′ W106° 24.419′
3) Chipewyan Portage: N54° 04.462′ W106° 23.778′
4) Sandy Beach: N54° 07.117′ W106° 24.604′
5) Northend: N54° 08.085′ W106° 27.391′
6) Grey Owl Hike Trailhead: N54° 08.043′ W106° 27.728′
7) Grey Owl Cabin: N54° 08.990′ W106° 27.808′
It truly is a gorgeous hike with lots of spectacular scenery. We had a good but challenging time! The most challenging section was Chipewyan Portage to Sandy Beach, mainly because it’s the most open part of the trail and it was unbelievably hot. We were able to get cooled off swimming at Sandy Beach thankfully. The registration process to hike the backcountry has to be the day you start the hike at 7AM. Then you have to drive the 35km to the trail head, so you don’t actually start hiking until around 8AM or so. It was already sweltering by that time. The park really needs to employ an online registration setup with night-before access so you can start earlier. We started our return trip before 6AM and didn’t regret it at all. Thankfully, we saw no bears either. Elk in the Waskesui campground was about as exotic as it got.
Hiking in to the Cabin June 30th – 24.6km, 10:15 hours total (including swimming stops).
Hiking out July 1st – 17.9km, 5:56 hours total.
All photos taken with Samsung S20.
Well friends, it has been a slice! After nearly 13 years in Oxbow, the Schultz Clan is MOVING north to the ancestral homeland of Moose Jaw, SK! I want to thank all my photography clients over the past decade! It has been an honour to capture your family memories. I’m looking forward to the photographic opportunities that await in The Jaw.
We shall be in touch! 😎
Went outside and looked up and saw this incredible halo! I don’t know anything more about it than that! That and 16mm on a full frame isn’t enough to capture it all. Probably need a fisheye. 😎
There were glorious sundogs this evening.
I was changing a poopy diaper.
I was too late.
The good ol’ skatin’ rink! There are not many more iconic small town venues. We had the extended family down for a couple days and took part in the public skating. Our rink upgraded their lighting from horrid barf green sodium vapour to glorious LEDs which is awesome x 100000000. However, I still shot black and white in a street photography style because I like it. Before, you used to have to shoot B&W to get rid of the putrid lighting. But now, we have the freedom to do it for fun! 😎
I shot this all with the FujiFilm XPro2 and the beloved 35mm f/2 lens. I shot JPEGs and locked them into my ultra contrasty black and white TRI-X film simulation. Here’s the settings:
I did cheat and shoot a bit of colour for the baby and the water tower which was bathed in glorious golden light. But that’s our little secret! 😉
Just a couple of quick sunset pics tonight with the Fuji XPro-2 and the 90mm f2. I dig the super saturated Velvia look in bleak winter! 😎