When I was younger, I had a travel bug and I remember my brother saying to me, “Why would you ever want to leave Canada, we have everything!” Over the last dozen years, I’ve really begun to see and believe that what he said is very true. Please don’t tell him!
Canada has 3 oceans, 100s of mountains, natural hot springs – to name a few, but we also have sandhills. The Great Sandhills Ecological Reserve is located 27km south of Sceptre, Saskatchewan, but finding a map to its location online is far from easy. Map to Great Sandhills For some reason, this map isn’t floating around on the internet. I thought Google knew everything! We ran into a couple other tourists at the Great Sandhills Museum and Interpretive Centre in Sceptre, who made the same comment. “Where are the Sandhills?” Luckily for $0.50, tourists can buy a photocopied map to the Sandhills! (Note my sarcasm!) I’m very curious as to why there wasn’t signage along the road, after all this is a Canadian landmark. At the museum you can also purchase crazy-carpets for sliding down the dunes – yep, sand sliding! With 2 kids, we’ve learned to buy 2 of everything, it saves a fight! Sadly, the crazy carpets were nothing more than a money grab as they were duds when attempting to slide at the hills. The sand was so soft, it didn’t matter your size, you sunk instantly. To our surprise, a flying saucer style sled was left at the hill and I’m excited to say that both kids were able to make it down the hill… slowly! Be prepared to have sand in every crevice of your body!!!
The sandhills covers 1,900 square kilometres of land and are active, moving approximately 7 metres a year creating a changing landscape. Plant life is evident, although I’m not sure how anything survives with minimal precipitation.
The drive out to the hills was a little bumpy and slow thanks to freshly laid gravel, but traffic was minimal. The sandhills are truly a hidden gem. In the 2 hours we were there, we maybe saw 10 people. Upon our arrival we geared up with a single bottle of water (could’ve used 10!) and ventured toward a small sand path up a hill. At the top was a archway made of cowboy boots. The archway was created by John Both, the former caretaker of the Sandhills Stockman’s Association. The archway was inspired by two of his favourite sayings, “No one should judge another person until you’ve walked in his boots”, and “When my boots hit the ground, that’s the start of a great day”. The archway was a cowboy’s way to show appreciation and love for life. John died in 2007 and some of his ashes are beside his boots.
In the distance the dunes are covered with plant life, but visible. We decide to follow the path to the hills in the far off distance and make our way back. Seemed like a good idea … until we arrive at our destination and my shoe breaks. “I told you to wear proper shoes!” snarks my supportive husband. LOL! He’s always on my back about not wearing flip flops. Being the nice guy he is, he offers up his shoes but I only take one. Did he really think he was going to be able to go barefoot on the burning sand?
Eventually we were able to ‘Macgyver’ one of my flip flops by hooking the key chain around the bottom of the shoe to the strap on the top and Clive got his shoe back. We made our way back to the truck to get some water, running shoes for me and to relax in the a/c before trekking to the closest hill to master the art of sand sliding.