I've known Jenn Smith Nelson for several years now, and I often look up to her for inspiration and guidance on how to grow with my blog. I remember hearing about her book over a year ago, and I've been holding my breath in anticipation ever since.
Smith Nelson teamed up with Doug O'Neill, another talented travel writer, to cover two Canadian provinces. Their new book, 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, is a part of a Firefly Books series that showcase Canada's diversity of nature.
Many people in Saskatchewan travel west into Alberta for the holidays, but there are just as many incredible and beautiful places in Manitoba too. I had the pleasure of experiencing some of these places last fall, but after reading this book, I realized there still a lot more that I need to see.
110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan not only mentions rural locations, but also major urban centres like Regina and Saskatoon too. Both cities, while often not considered "nature hot spots", contain unique ecosystems, such as bird sanctuaries, marshes, waterfalls and natural habitats.
The trouble with bringing urban centers into a book like this is that it can easily take up the bulk of it. For example, The Forks in Winnipeg could easily have made the list too. I was happy to see there was only a handful of urban centres in the book, with the rest being rural locations and parks.
110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewanalso comes with a legend to quickly highlight what kind of activities can be expected at the different areas. Some of these activities are common, like hiking, biking and camping, but others like scuba diving and fossil hunting are almost unheard of in the prairies. I assumed that this legend was just used throughout all the books in the series and might not necessarily be relevant to this one, but I was wrong. Although I spent a weekend with Parks Canada in Riding Mountain National Park last year, I was completely unaware I could scuba dive there. And, you're going to shake your head when you read this, but I totally forgot you could go fossil hunting in Eastend!
As an avid Saskatchewan traveller, I was pleasantly surprised by the list of places I have never been, and even some places I have never heard of. It was also great to see some places on my bucket list in this book, like Claybank, Creighton Limestone Crevices, the Crooked Bush and Wanuskewin Heritage Park. This reminded me to get out on the road and see them while I can.
I was also fascinated by all the places in Manitoba I have never heard about. Clearwater Lake Provincial Park, for example, was voted the best provincial park in Manitoba in 2017 but I had never heard of it. This park is not only home to a massive, crystal blue lake, but also the Caves Self-Guiding Trail and The Pas Moraine – an escarpment that sounds like the one I saw in Riding Mountain National Park.
What I also like about the book is how at the end of each section there are a few pages dedicated to specific natural sites, like the best place to watch the Northern Lights or where to find waterfalls. Until reading this section, I had no idea about the geological formation known as The Eye on the Porcupine River, or that Hunt Falls are the highest waterfalls in Saskatchewan.
Jenn Smith Nelson and Doug O'Neil wrote 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan not only to share some of the most beautiful places in those two provinces, but to encourage people to treat them with respect. The most beautiful environments are the most fragile, and seemingly innocent actions can cause devastating effects. This is particularly true about the Beechy Sandcastles. Smith Nelson covered these in the book, but less than a month after it was published, Beechy announced they were closing the sandcastles temporarily in 2019. Over-tourism – which is something that you wouldn't think would happen in Saskatchewan – has caused damage to the area and they are giving it a year to regrow and heal. People need to take care of these nature hot spots, or we might lose them forever.
If you follow my blog, you know I love history. History is what makes us who we are today. It defines our accomplishments and highlights our failures. Most importantly, it helps us move forward as a society.
A lot of my focus is Saskatchewan's history, but there's plenty of amazing history to be told in our neighbour province of Alberta too. From First Nations culture, through to early pioneers, the oil boom and the legacy the province today, there is always something to learn about when visiting Alberta.
When I first started this project, I didn't know what would come of it.
During my interview with the Saskatchewanderer, she recommended I approach Tourism Regina and see if I could write for them. Tourism Regina agreed and published my article, but due to it's size restrictions, I wasn't able to talk about as many places as I wanted to.
Since beginning this project, I have sent over three dozen emails to many organizations and businesses around the city. Once I was done my initial research, I had more questions than answers, some of which I don't think I'll ever know. Once realizing the vast amount of information out there, I decided to cut this project down substantially. But, although it ended up different then I thought it would, I am happy to finally present to you, "8 Places to Visit in Regina".
Earlier this year I did a presentation at The Artesian about the Spanish Influenza. It was the first time I had ever done a presentation like this and I was nervous about the number of people that might attend. I told my mother I would be thrilled if five people came that night, but forty people showed up instead. For a topic that very few people know anything about, I was excited to see so many people interested.
But one person in the audience was so interested that several months later she reached out to me to see if I wanted to do my presentation again. Instead of doing it in Regina, she asked for me to travel to Craik, Saskatchewan to tell the Craik Museum and Oral History Society about what I had learned.
For knowing so much about a topic nobody ever asks me about, I was super excited to talk about it. The organiser reached out to Craik School to ask if the students would be interested in attending the lecture too. The teacher said they wouldn't be able to make the time slot work but asked if I could speak to the students about being a blogger at a different time.