Saskatchewanderer kicks off 10th anniversary with a visit to Duck Mountain

The very successful Saskatchewanderer program marks its 10th anniversary this year.

To celebrate, social media followers will be re-introduced to past Saskatchewanderers in what is being called the Month of the Retro Wanderer, said a release.

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Ashlyn George, the 2015 Saskatchewanderer kicked things off January 10 with a visit to Duck Mountain Provincial Park (DMPP), with temperatures hovering around minus 30.

George has been to Duck Mountain in the past, and considers it to be “one of Saskatchewan’s best kept secrets,” saying that there are many such gems to be discovered and enjoyed throughout the province, and as a Wanderer, she has had the opportunity to visit many of them.

For her recent visit, George came to spend the night in one of the trail shelters which are located along the 55 kilometres of ski trails located in DMPP.

“I enjoyed coming back here to stay at the Ski Hill trail shelter,” she said during a phone interview. “Even though it was cold outside, the shelter was cozy and welcoming. The best part is that the trail shelters, which are maintained by the Park in partnership with the Kamsack Ski Club, are stocked with just about all the supplies that you would need for a comfortable overnight stay.

“There is no charge to use these amazing shelters, but I would encourage those who use them to make a donation to the Kamsack Ski Club.”

Beginning at the Madge Lake Golf Course, George skied along the trail until she reached the Ski Hill shelter, where she set up camp for the night.

George is keeping a blog of her exploits for the week of January 10 to 17 and is posting photos and videos on the Saskatchewanderer Facebook page for fans to enjoy. She is also posting on Twitter and Instagram.

Opening her feature video in DMPP, one sees George’s toes stretched out in front of a cozy fire, and she went on to explain how she arrived at the shelter on skis and was able to make herself feel warm and comfortable with all the amenities of the well-stocked shelter at her disposal for the night.

George took the time to give her video-watchers a tour of the cabin, inside and out, including a reference to the “outhouse,” and explained what one would need to carry in by way of supplies to augment what is already there.

The rustic cabin/shelter has no power or running water, so George had to take extra battery packs for her electronic equipment, but the Wi-Fi reception was “amazingly good” for the remote area.

George explained that there are a total of six such shelters which are available for use by the public, and as such, are first come/first serve. If she had found the cabin occupied when she arrived, her option would have been to continue down the trail to access another trail shelter.

“Duck Mountain Provincial Park has so much to offer for winter recreation,” she enthused. “In addition to the 55 kilometres of ski trails, there are snowmobile trails, a downhill ski and snowboard area with tube runs, a toboggan hill, ice fishing and cabins for rent if you don’t wish to ski in and stay at one of the six shelter cabins available. But I have to say, this shelter is super cozy and comfortable.”

In her backpack, along with her electronic equipment, George had brought extra warm mittens, headgear, socks and sweaters, a sleeping bag rated for minus 9, a headlamp with extra batteries which she termed as “essential,” food items and a litre of water.

“All the pots and dishes, including tea towels, are already stocked in the cabin, and it’s easy to build a fire in the stove to melt water,” she said. “This cabin has indoor solar lighting on a timer which means I don’t have to use my headlamp as much.”

The cabin was stocked with a pile of wood, already chopped and ready to burn. “Before I leave I will go outside to the large pile of wood and chop enough to replace what I have used,” she said.

“If you stay at a shelter for a night and wish to leave behind something that you think will be of use for the next visitor, that’s great.”

George pointed out the attention to detail which the Ski Club was responsible for, including setting up an outdoor bird feeder, and leaving a supply of birdseed for cabin visitors to enjoy bird-watching. Fedoruk Seeds of Kamsack donates the bird seed.

George was born and raised in Saskatchewan, near Foam Lake. She now makes Saskatoon her home. After obtaining an education degree in 2010, she travelled the world on a strict budget, very successfully. She says with certainty that one does not need to cross borders to have an amazing travel experience. “All you have to do is explore what is in your own backyard to experience some of the most amazing sights and activities in the winter or summer.”

Winter is George’s favorite season and she enjoys all outdoor winter activities including night skiing. “The most important thing is to have dependable winter gear, and you can enjoy winter to the fullest.”

While skiing at DMPP, George met with Allan Bear, president of the Kamsack Ski Club, whose membership includes Nordic and Alpine skiers.

“Ashlyn appreciates the facilities and activities at DMPP,” he said of their encounter. “This isn’t her first visit to the park and she said this park is one of her favorite places.”

Referring to the trail shelters, Bear said they had been built by the Park, and have been maintained and upgraded over the years by adding insulation, rodent proofing, better-quality woodstoves and solar lighting. The Ski Club supplies some funding and materials for the shelters.

“The Park sets the trails,” he said. “They can be used for activities other than skiing, such as snowshoeing, just as long as the ski tracks are not disturbed.

“Last summer, the Ski Club was responsible for having all new maps and signs put in place on the trail system, and they are located at every junction, so folks can confirm they are heading in the direction they wish to go.

“We’ve gotten a good amount of fresh snow and that makes for excellent outdoor conditions for winter activities in the Park,” Bear continued. “The Ski Club will once again help organize the annual Duck Mountain Loppet, set for February 29, and this year it is celebrating its 40th anniversary.”

All the updated ski condition information, and information about the trail shelters can be found on the Ski Club website at kamsackskiclub.ca.

Those wishing to follow George on social media may access the Saskatchewanderer on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. George also has her own blog at the Lost Girl’s Guide to Finding the World, which details her travel exploits.

After leaving DMPP, George went to Meadow Lake Provincial Park where she spent a minus 40 degree night in a quinzee, a Canadian snow shelter that is made from a large pile of loose snow which is shaped and then hollowed.

In the two weeks following George’s 10th anniversary Saskatchewanderer kickoff, on January 17 and January 24, the Saskatchewanderer social media channels will be taken over by two other past fan favourites.

In early February, the new Saskatchewanderer, who will continue showcasing the province until the end of the year, will be officially announced, a release said.

“The Saskatchewanderer program has been a very successful platform to feature our province as a great place to visit, live, play and work year-round,” said Gene Makowsky, parks, culture and sport minister and minister responsible for Tourism Saskatchewan, in the release. “I look forward to hearing about what some of our previous Wanderers are up to now, and following our 2020 Saskatchewanderer on his or her adventures.”

CAA continues as the official vehicle sponsor of the Saskatchewanderer, renewing its support annually since the program launched.

“It certainly is official,” said Fred Titanich, CAA president and CEO. “CAA Saskatchewan is very pleased to return as the vehicle sponsor of the Saskatchewanderer program. We look forward to celebrating 10 years of exploring this great province with the Wanderer. 

“CAA Saskatchewan’s reputation as a successful business leader with 100 years of experience in the travel, insurance, roadside assistance and automotive maintenance sectors, certainly helps to profile the best that Saskatchewan has to offer. On behalf of our board of directors, staff and valued members, we wish the 2020 Wanderer the very best in safe travels and excellent storytelling.”

Along with the new Saskatchewanderer, the announcement in February will also reveal a new title sponsor. Through social media “teasers” the audience can start to guess which Saskatchewan business has come onboard to support the program, said the release.

Follow the Retro Wanderers in January and the 2020 Saskatchewanderer in February on Facebook (facebook.com/skwanderer). Read up on the wanderings on the blog at www.saskatchewanderer.ca.