Be an Explorer of Life

In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

In other words, explore! Exploring is all about getting out of your comfort zone, whether that be walking the streets of a new neighbourhood, going for a drive in the country, or reading a new book. Exploring doesn’t have to be done in another country, although that is a lot of fun! It just has to be something that stimulates the imagination and shows us what is possible. All we have to do is open our minds and take a look around.

Most people save their exploring for their vacation. Ah yes, the time to kick back, forget about work, forget about day-to-day routines and troubles. The time to explore somewhere. Well, a pandemic sure puts a kibosh on that, doesn’t it? But really, there are still so many local opportunities to explore that don’t require a great deal of money or going great distances…perfect for a recent retiree who doesn’t have a great deal of money nor the urge to go to any faraway places right now.

“I’m not lost. I’m exploring.”

– Jana Stanfield, comedian & motivational speaker

Geocaching is a great way to explore. One of Joanne’s favourite geocaching experiences was snow shoeing on a chilly night to search for Saskatchewan’s oldest cache. This cache was placed in a group of trees in a farmer’s field about 20 km outside of Saskatoon towards Asquith on Jan. 7, 2001. That’s 20 years ago!

I love to explore. I love to imagine what strangers are doing, what their stories are, what got them to this point. I used to love taking lunch at Civic Square and wondering about all the people I’d see. I did meet a few very interesting characters and most were quite open about sharing their life with me once they found out I was not judging, just curious. Again, the pandemic has really put a damper on that pastime! For now, exploring has to be done with social distancing in mind and mostly on my own. After talking to my friend Joanne for my last blog, I decided to take up geocaching. That is a great way to explore! I’ve found a few caches already and am looking forward to searching for more.

A friend of mine who retired a few years ago spends most of her summers between her home in the city and her cabin at a nearby lake. She wouldn’t trade that for the world, but on a spur of the moment trip to Manitou Lake, she lamented that she hasn’t seen much of the province. Only an hour or so out of Saskatoon, Manitou Lake is one of the places that many just don’t get around to visiting. It’s not too late, even though the summer season is over. Check out the Little Manitou Art GalleryManitou Springs and Mineral Resort, and Manitou Waters. In the summer, you can also enjoy wandering through a couple of eclectic shops, great food, swimming—or floating—in the saltwater lake. You can even take in a movie at The Drive-In at Manitou Beach which has been in operation since 1955!

If you live in Saskatoon, there are many places to explore especially along the river. But, if you drive just a few minutes out of the city on Lorne Ave., (13 km south on Highway 219) you will come to the Beaver Creek Conservation Area. I have been going there for years and it is a wonderful place to walk, reflect, feed the chickadees and if you’re lucky, hear the splash of a beaver’s tail.

Hafford – The Crooked Bush

If you do have the resources to go a bit further, Robin and Arlene Karpan, award-winning writers and photographers, have published many books about Saskatchewan. My favorite is The Great Saskatchewan Bucket List. This book delves into 50 natural wonders, and I bet you haven’t heard of a lot of them. I sure hadn’t. One of the weirdest places listed in the book is The Crooked Bush. You heard that right. This phenomenon can be found about 20 km north-north-west of the town of Hafford, and 5 km south-west of Alticane. Rural Saskatchewan at its finest! I must admit that when we journeyed out to see what the fuss was all about, we had to flag down a farmer on his tractor for directions. But now, with some 5,000 people visiting the site per year, it is much easier to find. 

What is so special about the Crooked Bush? Well, the trees are twisted. They don’t stand straight. It is uncanny how this happens in this one little grove when there are other trees close by growing normally. You can imagine some of the explanations for the abnormality, including some of the paranormal nature. But, cuttings from the trees show the same twisted growth so the cause must be “rooted” in genetics.

Tourists have been visiting this strange grove of trees since it was first discovered in the 1940s. How or why it was discovered, I don’t know. I asked the same question of Jarvis, our host for a farmhouse Airbnb that I’ll tell you about soon, about why rocks from his land were picked to be used at the U of S. He figured someone was doing aerial surveillance and just noticed them.) Here’s an interesting fact: the aspen grove, in the middle of nowhere, can even be seen in the 1957 Disney film Perri. Go take a look for yourself! Rick Simmonds owns the land on which the grove is situated and he welcomes tourists. He has installed a boardwalk to make it easier to navigate the grove, and also hopefully remind people not to destroy or climb the trees. 

Back to the Great Saskatchewan Bucket List. This gem presents many other places to visit, including the limestone crevices at Amisk Lake, the Great Sandhills near Leader, Castle Butte, the Outlaw Caves in The Big Muddy near Coronach, and the Lake Diefenbaker Sand Castles. The Castles are so beautiful that access has been closed to the public for now. Funny story about our trip to see the Castles. We got lost in a field and ended up driving through a community cow pasture. This was no easy feat in a PT Cruiser! Fortunately, we ended up at the home of the pasture manager. We were welcomed with open arms, fed, and then taken out to see the castles. This was almost 10 years ago and we are still Facebook buddies. I will never forget their hospitality . . . and tacos!

Saskatchewan is also home to a lot of Airbnb’s. We explored a few this summer, including two farmhouses and a tiny house. One farmhouse near Hepburn really hit the mark. This house is 110 years old and has been lovingly refinished to bring it up to code, but maintains its character with vintage touches such as original wood and beautiful stained glass windows. The house overlooks the ravine and North Saskatchewan River offering a lot of room to explore and marvel at nature’s beauty. We even managed to get right down to the river albeit with the help of our generous host, who rescued us when we went down the wrong path one 36 degrees afternoon! There are many interesting things about this place, and as I mentioned earlier in this blog, some of the first rocks used to build the U of S Thorvaldson Building were taken from the land in the 1940s. How cool!

The thesaurus has many synonyms for the word explore: analyze, delve in, probe, try, research, travel, and my favorite, leave no stone unturned. Exploring, especially for those who are retired, will add purpose to your day, keep you sharp and if anything, give you something to talk about other than your aches and pains. Oh, is that just me?

The Dalai Lama says, “Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” And face it, the Dalai Lama knows what he is talking about, right? So, whatever you decide to explore, embrace it! Be an explorer of life!

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