Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Mistiming Everything : Two Days to Eyebrow, Two Days in Eyebrow

Given the troubles we'd encountered walking the trail spur south to Moose Jaw, we decided to accept the very generous offer of a ride back up to the main trail rather than re-walk the same 30+ km route along the very busy highway. After being dropped off, we continued along down gravel roads among very flat, wide-open fields of golden grain.  About half the fields have been harvested and the other are still waiting, now a little longer given all the rain. The trail made giant steps, heading north, then west, then north, then west (repeat, repeat, repeat again). There is little to say about our two days walking along the 100 km of roads leading to Eyebrow, beyond  the fact that we are traversing a beautiful region in which the fall yellows of the fields glow against the now frequently dark storm clouds in the sky.  Though admittedly, sometimes, there was so little change in the landscape that after hours of trekking it felt like we hadn't moved at all. One of the most entertaining things for us was the interesting cloud formations that shifted as we walked - Saskatchewan, Land of the Living Skies. 

Another part of the walk we enjoyed were the abandoned farm houses that can still be seen across the landscape.  They always make us wonder about the lives that were lived there, the people and animals those buildings sheltered, and stories they could tell.

After two days of wandering seemingly endless dirt and gravel tracks we were both physically exhausted and mentally drained.  The fact is that on a hike such as this you only see what you are open to seeing and, to be entirely honest, 20 hours of hiking along exposed concessions over two days, had made neither of us very receptive to the world around us.  From what I recall, not even the birds were singing - it was us, the trail and the buzz of millions of grasshoppers and crickets in the harvested fields around us.  Our focus was on putting one step in front of another and getting to the campground at Eyebrow. 

Then as we came over a ridge in the road, we received an unmistakable message.  A TCT trail sign fixed underneath a flashing stop sign!  We were clearly meant to stop and stay in Eyebrow for the evening.

When we reached the quaint and quiet community of Eyebrow we made our way to the Village of Eyebrow Centennial Campground.  We sat at the picnic table in the red wooden gazebo for a while, taking a break and having some water, and then we pitched our tent in one of the eight treed sites beside the baseball diamond and ice hockey rinks. There was one other very friendly retired couple in an RV at the campground, but otherwise we had the place to ourselves.

The village of Eyebrow, population 119, apparently got its name from a local hill which is shaped like an eyebrow, and which also gave its name to the nearby Eyebrow Lake.  We didn't see this eyebrow shaped hill on the walk in to town, or on the way out, but maybe it was just a failure of our limited imaginations.

As evening approached we walked through downtown Eyebrow, which was one block long.  The colourful buildings with their false fronts - typical of a western train town - and the blooming flower boxes gave the wide Main St. a distinctive and pleasant charm.  There was a General Store with a lovely display of straw bales, corn, and yellow flowers in front of its colourful blue and yellow exterior, but sadly it and the local cafe were closed.

We enjoyed the two murals on the Main Street, which showed the centennial town in its heyday.  From a historic plaque we also learned that Eyebrow claims to be the first village in Saskatchewan with concrete sidewalks.   At the far end of the street we walked down to the old wooden grain elevator at the edge of the railway tracks.  There was a line of railway carriages parked under the elevator, ready to be filled with grain.  Not far down the line stood its modern concrete counterpart towering far above the town.  Both stood out dramatically against the colours of the evening sunset.

After a peaceful and quiet night we jumped awake to the resounding boom of a thunderstorm and torrential rain at 5:30 am. There was a short break in the onslaught around 7:30, so we dashed to the picnic shelter to make breakfast.  As we boiled water for coffee the rain began coming down in sheets once again, and as we watched the road in the campground turn to muddy soup as an RVer leaving his site only dug further in while attempting to depart.  As such we decided to hunker down and stay put for the day once again.  We've learned from experience that the roads the trail follows will also once again be reduced to a quagmire of thick mud by this much rain.

During breaks in the rain throughout the day we watched groups of Tree Swallows flying past overhead, chattering incessantly.  The rain soaked shrubs surrounding the campsites were full of red berries, and we spotted American Robins, Grey Catbirds, Black-capped Chickadees, Yellow Warblers, Eastern Kingbirds, Tennessee Warblers, and a Least Flycatcher feeding among the leaves, which are beginning to curl and turn yellow.  The soft cooing of Mourning Doves filled the air, and a Ferruginous Hawk soared overhead among the stormy wind-tossed clouds.

As evening approached another lovely couple arrived in an RV.  We watched in amazement as they skillfully maneuvered into the campsite, and then we got to chatting.  After hearing our story the man very kindly gave us two absolutely delicious pears he'd purchased from the fruit truck at the edge of town.  It was a wonderful end to a rather cold and damp day.

Tomorrow we will continue on, venturing some 54 km along the Trans Canada Trail to Douglas Provincial Park on the shores of Diefenbaker Lake.

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