Fall hikes got off to an early season and somewhat tentative launch on Sept. 23rd with Heather leading her traditional foray into the wilds of the Macdowall forest. Temps were unseasonably low, wind was howling and drizzle was making conditions not nice. But a small group soldiered onward and upward! The weather improved dramatically for the Sept 30th Dana Hike, still with low temps, but light winds and a mix of sun & cloud, encouraging a small crowd of 20 to register.
As mentioned on the Yahoo group announcement and the Nordic site calendar posting, the Dana Hike traverses a mix of open grassland and forested bluffs interspersed with sloughs and water courses. The terrain is continually undulating with several ridges and hill tops providing panoramic views of the countryside. The color palette was complete with all the fall hues, virtually intoxicating in places. The attached photos will provide the proof!
In addition to the spectacular scenery, wildlife is abundant and numerous waterfowl take flight whenever one approaches a slough. We were treated to the remarkable sight of a herd of elk trekking (quickly) past our lunch site two years ago. I have encountered moose and elk as well while developing the hiking route over the last several years.
Suppers have become an indispensable part of fall hikes. There was no community type supper in the immediate vicinity when I launched the Dana hike as a pilot in Nov. 2015. The hike was offered again in early Oct 2016 with a privately catered supper at the famous Dancing Sky Theatre in nearby Meacham. From the typical fall supper in a church basement or community hall, this was a step up to supper in the romantic and intimate atmosphere of a small town theatre dining room.
I was out of town for most of last fall, so was unable to lead the Dana Hike then. For this fall, I had to find another supper venue as the theatre was undergoing renovations. I managed to secure reservations at Champetre County Wild West Resort at St. Denis, conveniently located close off the highway on our way back to Saskatoon. For those who haven’t been there, it’s definitely a place to get an acquaintance with some of the old west culture and architecture.
Prior to supper we were given a guided tour of the premises - a nice display of hospitality that I wasn’t expecting. We found lots of antiques in the General Store, saw where wedding dances are held in the spacious Town Hall and checked out the small rustic bunkhouses (old granaries!) all outfitted with modern amenities. We even toured through one of two restored Eaton’s Catalogue “you-build-it-yourself” homes, circa early 20th century.
Supper was served smorg style on the ground floor of the open ceiling Howling Coyote Saloon. All told, the food and authentic atmosphere and hospitality made for a memorable visit to one of Saskatchewan’s unique attractions and a fitting close to a hike in the country!
Submitted by Cliff Speer - Hike Leader