Right Up My Valley

The Saskatchewanderer uses the Mysask411 app to find the business and local information he needs as he tours our wonderful province.  As a result, I had an opportunity to spend a rainy, windy September day sharing my favourite Qu’Appelle Valley spots with him. I would love to share them with you, as well.

The Qu’Appelle Valley has played a major role in my family’s history since 1890. I’ve been fortunate to have great childhood memories from the grandparents’ cabin at Round Lake, as well as a chance to make adult memories at Katepwa Lake.

Our meeting spot was the Valley Bake & Coffee Shop in Fort Qu’Appelle. It’s an eclectic mix of the smell of fresh baked cinnamon buns, and the sight of bright local artwork. The cinnamon buns and breakfast are exceptional, but it’s a favourite of mine because it’s the best place in the Fort to run into old friends and acquaintances.

I quickly learned that the Saskatchewanderer is famous, but not rich and famous. I paid for breakfast.

Next, we visited the former Hudson Bay Store, built in 1897. It holds a special meaning for me – several years ago, my family used the 2nd floor to host a 50th anniversary celebration for my parents.

With a break in the rain, we decided it was time to climb my favourite hill in Lebret.  From a single vantage point, one can see Lebret, Fort Qu’Appelle, three of the region’s four lakes, a giant teepee, a cute chapel, an historic fieldstone church and so much more.

I thought about the manual labour that would have been required to build the church. Reportedly, local farmers spent two years hauling stones from their fields before construction could even begin.

As we explored the Qu’Appelle River by car, the wind quickly calmed. Given the beautifully coloured foliage that day, it became obvious that we needed to explore the river by kayak and drone as well.

Once in the water, we acclimatized ourselves to the cold, but were grateful for the extra warmth our life jackets provided.

This river and the glacial valley that surrounds it has answered human needs for game, shelter, firewood, human companionship and spiritual awakening for millennia. A rich culture was flourishing for countless generations before the first European setter arrived. As we entered the mouth of the river, we were mere feet away from an archaeological site where a 3,000 year-old fishing camp was discovered. Regina’s Royal Saskatchewan museum has a great diorama based on this site, recording the findings before they were covered by vinyl siding and asphalt shingles. I thought of my own lot just a few yards away and wondered what time capsules we might have covered with our own development.

Our trip officially ended with a return to Fort Qu’Appelle to try the great pizza crust at Houston Pizza. From there, it was time to part ways with promises to do this again.

As I drove back to Regina, I thought about how we have come to use buildings as a measure of age –  Lebret’s had a mission since 1865, (its latest church was built in the 1920s), while the HBC store is 121 years old.  Yet they both remain relatively brand new compared to this ancient valley and the people it fed and sheltered.

Allan Millham is a Marketing Manager on the Revenue Growth team at Directwest.

October 10, 2018

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