, , , , , , , , , ,

I’ve heard over and over again, how awesome it is to go hiking in the Eastend area, where the potential to find fossils big and small (think Scotty the T-Rex) are significantly higher than average, but being the rule monger I am, I’m always worried about trespassing on private property and generally try not to go stomping where I shouldn’t.

After driving around town in all directions, we didn’t see anyplace in particular where a hiking was allowed, aside from the path that can be found outside the T-Rex Discovery Centre, so we simply did a little shopping at Shannon’s Closet (where I got a great little purse, and some wonderful spices), at Whitemud Clay Studio (where I got the beautiful bowl pictured) before grabbing some lunch at a little place called Jack’s Cafe.  Aside from the extremely tasty fare, Jack’s Cafe (which has been around since 1910) also has this amazing mural, painted by the current owner’s wife Angela Doulias (click here to learn the story of the mural).

Jack’s Cafe Mural – photo by Lorraine Brecht

After spending a really great day just driving around and exploring, we decided to head home, only to see a sign for a “Point of Interest” just east of town, where we discovered one of the many markers that litter the Southwest, roughly marking the trail that N.W.M.P. followed on their 1874 march west, from Wood Mountain to Fort Walsh.  A trail that was set in 1875 and followed until 1912.

Everett Baker, the first President of the Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society (SHFS), placed historic markers on the Trail in the 1950s and ’60s and the Society continues to maintain the Trail markers today.

It wasn’t difficult to imagine what it must have been like, traversing into unknown territory and not seeing a soul in site, as that’s pretty much what we were doing ourselves.  While there wasn’t much of a trail itself to hike on, there were a couple of interesting sights, including an explanation of some of the piles of stones and mud you may come across whenever you’re looking around the area, known as Chimney Coulee.

The remains of chimneys that were once part of Metis cabins, trading posts and a police post.  The placard that described these piles of stone reads:

“From the middle decades of the nineteenth century Metis hunters, and traders regularly wintered here, where a chapel was maintained for their use.  Some of the chimneys mark the location of a Hudson’s Bay Company outpost operated by Isaac Cowie in the winter of 1871-72.  In the season Cowie collected 750 Grizzly Bear Pelts, 1,500 elk hides and hundreds of smaller skins. Despite such success he never returned to this no-man’s land where Cree, Assiniboine, and Blackfoot often clashed.”

To learn more about this historic trail, you can head to the Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society webpage: http://shfs.ca/nwmp-trail/ – where they describe not only the trail itself, but the work they’ve being doing to preserve it.

It’s really beautiful country down there in the Frenchman River Valley – that really should be seen to be believe.

How To Get Here:  From Swift Current you can get to Eastend by heading West down Hwy 1 making a left hand turn at Gull Lake to head to Shaunavon, once through Shaunavon, it’s a right hand turn on SK-13 W (there’s signs for Eastend) and just before you reach Eastend you’ll see the sign for the “Point of Interest” (and pass a lot of Llamas before you reach it!).  Follow the map.

Gotta Go?:  If you didn’t go while in Eastend, you’re left to the great outdoors.  Luckily there’s a big treed gully (?) which both I and another writer we met along the trail considered a great place to hide dead bodies (gotta love writers and their imaginations) – it’s also a place where you can have a little privacy should you have to go!
Good to Know:  If I only knew then what I know now.  It would have been helpful to us prior to heading to Eastend to check out the Dino Country website(duoh!).  If you click on the Tourism tab at the top, it will show you a “Secondary” menu where you’ll see listed:  “Hiking and Driving Tours.”  In addition to 7 different maps of tours available (including allowed hiking routes for you rule mongers like me), you will also find information on how you can book Guided Tours that are 1, 2, and 3 hours in length, for beginners to advanced.  (Children 6 and under are free).Cost for the tours are as follows:  (Contact info can be found on the site).1 Hour – $45/Adult, Children Ages 7 to 14, $35
2 Hour – $65/Adult, Children Ages 7 to 14, $40
3 Hour – $80/Adult, Children Ages 7 to 14, $45
Call for Group Rates
 Needless to say we’ll be heading back soon, to either take in one of the guided tours, or to try one of our own, with maps in hand, and maybe find a great find like Scotty ourselves!
Happy Hiking!