Stonehenge, Saskatchewan, is just a little over two hours southwest of Regina, just past the town of Assiniboia. I've explored this area of the province before on previous trips, but I've never been to Stonehenge. In fact, my journey started out as a trip to Castle Butte, but after seeing a nearby marker for Stonehenge on a map, that quickly became my primary destination.
I've driven this area a few times looking for abandoned buildings. Normally I'd keep an eye out for them, but I knew most of them were a little further south. Before I got that far, I took the turn off to Ogema.
Shortly after, the landscape began to change. Long stretches of prairie turned into rippling hills and then hills turned into a dramatic snow-covered valley. Although I had arrived in the Big Muddy Valley, I still had a bit to drive before arriving at Castle Butte. Under the snow and ice, the valley looked like a massive stretch of prairie, but looking at maps later I realized there were plenty of streams and lakes hidden under the snow.
As I ventured into the valley, my GPS lost signal. I followed the single road through the valley, past a turn off near a dairy farm and then back up the other side. I imagined Castle Butte would stick out like a sore thumb, but I didn't see it. Once I was able to regain signal, I realized the turn off near the dairy farm was exactly what I was looking for. Returning from the south, I then saw a sign that said "Castle Butte" with an arrow. I didn't see a sign coming from the north, so I wonder if the winds of winter had stolen it and buried it under the snow.
After winding past stretches of cows, I eventually saw Castle Butte sitting on the edge of the valley. I had expected it to be surrounded by prairie, but instead there were nearby sandstone cliffs. The road leading up to it gave the illusion that there was nothing around it, but it wasn't as much of a "sore thumb" as I had expected.
Nevertheless, the butte was impressive, and being always adventurous, I immediately attempted to climb it. Unfortunately, as the spring run off had just started, all the main climbing paths had turned to mud. In fact, the road up to Castle Butte was nothing but mud as well. I guess that's expected, since the area is called the Big Muddy Valley.
Big Muddy, and Castle Butte, were a primary landmark used by both the earlier settlers and the RCMP. This area is where Wild West outlaws such as the Sundance Kid, one of Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch members, often hid to escape law enforcement. Caves throughout the area gave him the ability to disappear from the police, only to appear days later. These caves were used by other outlaws as well, such as Dutch Henry and his brother Coyote Pete, Sam Kelly and the Pigeon-Toed Kid. Considered the most northern part of the "Outlaw Trail" this was the final stop on a network of trails that led from Mexico, through the United States and up to Canada. In the summer this area is home to several tours, and the rocking Gateway Festival. Today though, the Butte sate silent, covered in a mix of snow, mud and sand.
Unable to climb the butte, I walked around the half a kilometer wide base of the free-standing structure, amazed at the sedimentary stone that jutted out awkwardly of the otherwise smooth surface. In the winter the massive geological formation was impressive, so I wondered just how breathtaking it would be in the summer.
When I had finished taking pictures, I jumped into my Ford Escape and started back towards the dairy farm. I turned north, exited the valley and carried back onto Highway 13. I passed through the remains of Horizon and drove through the towns of Verwood and Willows before arriving in Assiniboia.
Although Assiniboia is only a couple hours away from Regina, I don't believe I have ever explored it. I stopped at the local A&W for a bathroom break and took a quick look around the town. The first thing that impressed me were the wide streets, and late 19th century shopfronts that were once common throughout the prairies. A lot of them have been replaced with brick buildings in Regina, so I often only see them in ghost towns or Boomtown in Saskatoon. Instead, I saw streets and streets of them in Assiniboia. This really impressed me, and I hope to revisit Assiniboia in the summer so I can explore them further.
After leaving Assiniboia, I followed Highway 2 south for a few kilometers. The road curved so I kept following it. I had checked my phone in Assiniboia to see how far I had to go before I arrived in Stonehenge (as it didn't show up on my car GPS) and I felt like I had gone far enough. Granted, I didn't expect to see a monolithic stone structure, but since it showed up on a map, it had to be something, right?
I pulled over on the empty highway and checked my phone agin. Although the road had curved a few kilometers past, I had mistaken that for a change in highway. I had been going the wrong way for about 10 minutes. I turned my car around, found the correct highway (Highway 719) and kept driving.
Finally, I found the turn off to Stonehenge. I was really excited! What could it be? Was I going to find the "new Beechy" in Saskatchewan? Would this be the new hot spot for provincial travel? Would there be some kind of sign symbolizing the stone formation 6,700 kilometers away? Was there going to be a Heritage Saskatchewan pullover that talked about the British settlers that arrived here over a century ago?
I kept driving and I didn't see anything, so I pulled out my phone again, checked the map and it saw I had driven past it. I turned my car around, held my phone against the steering wheel and watched. Slowly I encroached closer and closer to the marker. Was it here? No, just a little further. Was it here? Not yet. Now? Finally, I had arrived.
But there was nothing here. I was sitting in the middle of a gravel road surrounded by snow covered prairie. There was no sign, there was no structure, there was no building, and there certainly wasn't a 5,000-year-old pile of stones.
It turns out Stonehenge is a rural municipality. It's a vast area, not a singular location, and this marker just happened to be where it began. The population of Stonehenge is somewhere around 440 and covers a vast area of farmland. I didn't explore the area to see if there was anything that connected it to Stonehenge in England, other than the namesake, so I made my own little Stonehenge instead.
It was small, and probably fell down the moment I drove away, but it was a journey to Stonehenge nevertheless.
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And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
As I stood in the courtyard of Fort Henry, I heard screams emanating from within. Fort Henry was constructed to protect the Kingston Royal Dockyard from the invading American forces during the War of 1812. The threat was so real that the capital of Canada – which was then Kingston – was moved to Quebec to protect it. The docks are all that stood between the United States and the St. Lawrence River and both countries were all too familiar with how easily it would turn the tides of battle.
As the screams from inside Fort Henry faded, I turned to the man beside me. He had come with his family. We got talking, trying to calm our nerves as bloodied clowns and undead mimes began wandering out from inside the fort.
Last autumn I visited Kingston, Ontario for the first time in about seven years, and while I mentioned I had been there before, I never explained why.
Several years ago I travelled to Kingston to represent Southern Saskatchewan at the NEXT Generation Leaders Forum. The purpose of this international forum was to discuss urban planning in the mega-cities of tomorrow. We had to think outside the box and solve problems like housing, garbage collection, employment, energy and transportation. When the forum was complete, and we submitted our ideas to a panel of judges, my group won the "Global Vision" award for our ideas on improving housing for the future.
For seven years that award and my time in Kingston sat on my bedroom shelf collecting dust, and while the experience was memorable, it never amounted to anything.
Cemeteries are a place of solace. All people, regardless of wealth, status, religion or creed are equals within a cemetery. It's a place of remembrance, respect and reconciliation. If you visit a cemetery, you are visiting the graves of lost loved ones. These may be children, pioneers, rebels or everyday people. Every grave has a story, and all are longing to be told.
Because of this, cemeteries are a library of knowledge. They hold the lessons of our past, and the wisdom of our future. As the leaves change and the days get shorter, cemeteries attract a much different crowd than that of just historians and family members. With autumn crisp in the air, cemeteries fill with thrill-seekers and paranormal believers. There is a fine line between what is and isn't acceptable within a cemetery and those who dabble into the affairs of the afterlife know this all too well. Few people go into cemeteries looking to disrespect the graves; instead, most are just hoping they can answer their own questions about life after death.
Not all cemeteries are haunted, but each holds their own stories. Keep this in mind while you read this article. If you end up visiting any of these sites, remember to step softly, speak quietly and respect the surrounding graves. You might not be as alone as you think.