Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Crossing Town : to West Regina

Today we only walked 17 km, but it gave us time to explore the beautiful urban trails of Regina.  We picked up the Trans Canada Trail where we left off, on the paved cycling path around Wascana Lake, which is also called the Blue Route. 

One of the first things we passed was Willow Island, which is one of several small islands in the lake that support a variety of birds, including waterfowl.  It was fairly quiet this morning, but we spotted several families of Mallards paddling about, lots of Canada Geese, and a couple Double-crested Cormorants.

From this side of the lake we again enjoyed a wonderful view of the Saskatchewan Legislative Buildings, and the decorative Prince Albert Bridge beside them.

A little farther around the shore we came to a complex of large wood paneled buildings that housed the Wascana Racing Canoe Club and the Regina Rowing Club.  There were a fleet of colourful kayaks and canoes for rent, and a group of young summer campers were out learning how to paddle.  It looked like a lot of fun.  At the upscale Willow Bar above the club patrons enjoyed the view across the lake from large, cozy looking chairs on the outdoor patio.

As we made our way along a small sandy beach and then crossed a curved pedestrian bridge with picturesque red railings we stopped to watch a group of birds.  There were Canada Geese and Mallards in the water, American Crows sitting in the red pines overhead, and young Ring-billed Gulls hanging out on the shore.  A small flock of House Sparrows was eating grass seeds, and a group of Rock Doves joined them.  A Barn Swallow was foraging above the water, and a lone American White Pelican was paddling below it.  As we watched this activity a young city worker asked if we were interested in birds, and told us there is a Peregrine Falcon nest on the Legislative Building.  Very exciting to learn about the potential to see a Falcon in the city as well as be reminded that people everywhere are closet birders!

As we continued around the forested shore we came to a beautifully carved and colorfully painted totem pole, which was gifted from the BC government in 1971.  It was created from western red cedar by Lloyd Wadhams of the Namgis First Nation, and given to mark the centenary of BC's joining with the Dominion of Canada on July 20th, 1871. 

Just a few meters farther down the forested path was the Sisters Legacy Statue, depicting two Catholic sisters, one a teacher and the other a nurse. The bronze casts were done by Prince Albert artist Jack Jensen, and were intended to commemorate the courage and commitment of religious women across Saskatchewan who helped establish health services and education in their local communities.  The proximity of this monument to the totem pole gave us food for thought, and pointed to the complexity of the role religious orders have played in our history and in that of First Nations.

As we continued around the lake we came to a small water treatment facility that had a large pipe with water flowing out of it.  What could have been an ugly necessity was made into something interesting by the presence of several cute wooden animals positioned on the pipe, and the story of a squirrel named Frank which details how the woodland creatures made their home a better place for everyone!

It was a mostly sunny morning, and the trail was full of people out jogging, walking, and cycling.  I always enjoy seeing a beautiful trail being well-used and appreciated, and the waterfront certainly seemed to be alive this morning.  The park itself was also being revitalized, with construction work being done around the "Bitter Memories of Childhood" monument which commemorates the famine in the Ukraine, USSR, and Cossack territories in 1932-33, that killed millions of Ukrainians and Cossacks.

We were surprised to find a cairn dedicated to the United Empire Loyalists a little farther down the shore.  The monument honours Americans who sided with the British during the American Revolution, and apparently the stones in the cairn were collected from the farms and homesteads of the descendants of Loyalist pioneers who settled the lands around Regina.

At this point we had made it around the lake to the Legislative Buildings, and enjoyed walking past the beautiful flower gardens once again.  As we passed by a jogger stopped to ask what we were doing, and enthusiastically declared that he was jealous of doing a cross country hike.

Next, the trail took us alongside the festive looking Prince Albert Memorial Bridge, which spans Wascana Creek.  The bridge was constructed during the Great Depression as part of a relief project that also included the dredging and deepening Lake Wascana, and creating two islands in the middle.  The bridge is highly ornamented with Egyptian motifs, lamp standards, flags, glazed terra-cotta art works, buffalo heads, and images of Queen Victoria.  It was opened in 1930 and dedicated to the soldiers who died in WWI.

For the next few kilometers we walked along a paved bicycling path that wound through multiple parks and green spaces following the contours of Wascana Creek.  First we visited Kiwanis Park, with its treed picnic area, colourful flowerbeds, picturesque fountain, and baseball diamonds.

Next we wound our way into Les Sherman Park, with its expansive grassy lawns, shade trees, play ground, and multiple pedestrian bridges crisscrossing the creek.  Although the walk was very pleasant, and the scenery was beautiful, the reddish-brown waters of the algae-filled creek were giving off a strong and sometimes almost overpowering smell of sewage. We later discovered through an article published by the CBC that this odor was the result of the drought and high temperatures and that it would fix over the winter or when it rained. 

Next we wound our way around one of the largest off-leash dog parks I've ever seen, which had about 50 happy looking dogs and their owners milling around in the large open field.  From this spot we had a pretty good view of the sloping white roof of Regina's Mosaic Stadium, which is home to the Saskatchewan Roughriders Football Club, and can seat up to 40,000 fans.

As the trail took us around the Royal Regina Golf Club, which was full of people out enjoying the greens, it began to rain gently.  The skies had been getting progressively darker and more overcast throughout the morning, and they finally opened up.  We took shelter under a tree beside a historic interpretive sign, and waited for the rain to pass, which thankfully it did after only a few minutes.

From the sign we learned that we were in the historic community of McNab.  It was in this spot that the history of Regina began, when Lieutenant-Governor Dewdney announced that 'Pile-of-Bones' would be the new seat of the North West Territories in 1882. 

In 1882 the headquarters of the North-West Mounted Police (now the RCMP) were also transferred to this spot.  It was at these new headquarters that the M├ętis leader Louis Riel was executed for treason on November 26th, 1885.  The RCMP Headquarters later moved to Ottawa, but McNab is still home to the RCMP Training Academy, which we saw from the trail.  There is also an RCMP Heritage Center in the community, where visitors can learn about the past and present role of the iconic Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Unfortunately, since we had all of our hiking gear on us it was impractical for us to visit.

We took a short break at one of the many shaded picnic tables in the park, and stopped to check out a Trans Canada Trail Pavilion. We were very impressed by the interpretive sign showing artwork by the 14 year old Regina artist, Jennifer Truong.  Every year students across the country take part in the Canada Day Poster Challenge, where they design a poster that shows their pride in Canada and being Canadian.  Jennifer's poster won in 2005, and she says it shows how "The hardships of the pioneers, explorers, and First Nations led to the creation of the wonderful Nation we know as Canada today."  It was an amazing piece of artwork!

The next section of trail took us past an island in Wascana Creek that was labelled Prairie Island on one end and Boreal Island on the other.  It included a variety of habitats, and we stopped to watch families of Mallards and Northern Shovellers paddling around, and a group of three American White Pelicans fishing in the water.  The birds were almost perfectly reflected in the water, along with the dark green cattails, yellow grasses, purple flowers, and rusty red railings of the footbridges.  It was a very beautiful spot.

Not too long after this the paved trail left the parks and green spaces behind, and followed the edge of a rather busy road.  We were grateful for the paved pathway, and not to be walking on the roadway.  We followed this path alongside treed neighborhoods and then past modern condos.  Eventually the path ended and the road turned to a gravel concession.   Our time in Regina had come to an end, and before us stretched golden fields of harvested grain once again. 

We've been pushing pretty hard recently, and with the long days of hiking we've gotten behind in more than one set of obligations.  From what we can tell we've got some logistical difficulties in our future, including trail spurs that end in the middle of nowhere, sections that may or may not be gated, and a water trail with no easy way around it.  Since we need to prepare for these challenges and do a lot of catching up on other things we have opted to spend a night in a motel at the edge of Regina before striking out once again into the countryside.  So with gravel concessions again in front of us tomorrow our short but enjoyable day of hiking comes to an end.

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