How to use 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan to Plan Your Road Trip: Book Review

This week, 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan: The Best Parks, Conservation Areas and Wild Places helped me plan a two week long camping trip. It’s the summer of RVing throughout southwest Saskatchewan for my husband Chris and I. This book came perfectly timed alongside the opening of the Saskatchewan Provincial Park campsite reservation service.

Jenn Smith Nelson, one of the book’s co-authors, asked me about writing a review of her new book in February. I don’t normally write book reviews, but the title intrigued me since I make a point of exploring Saskatchewan. I thought this would be the perfect book to motivate and inspire my summer RV camping plan.


Imagine asking a stranger for directions and getting a lot of local expertise and hidden gems about the wild along the way – that’s what you can expect from this guidebook.

I relate to Jenn’s ‘Welcome to Saskatchewan’ message. In her introduction, she explains that her love of nature and pride for the prairies is what motivated her to write this book. Jenn says that the prairies are often overlooked. Next to her message is a gorgeous photo of the northern lights dancing above Castle Butte.

Jenn and I make it our mission to compile gems within Saskatchewan. And it helps to continuously discover more reasons to love our home province.

Pick up 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and you’ll likely read it cover to cover in a short sitting. You’ll use it again as a reference guide when researching a destination before hitting the road.

The book’s main introduction mentions “the healing power of nature” along with a call for readers to respect wildlife areas. The authors clearly want readers to explore rather than disrupt the fragile environments. So don’t all go stampeding into these wild places at once!

What to expect from 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan

On the day 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan arrived in the mail, I opened it somewhere in the middle and began flipping through. Its modern format, eye-catching headings, and clean layout makes each nature hot spot pop. Captioned photos reinforce each profile’s wild flora (plants) and fauna (animals).

Sections start with a map and point to which page you’ll find each nature hot spot. This visual Table of Contents is helpful to reference during road trip planning. Every hot spot has a short summary with information on location highlights and icons that indicate activity type.

Page view of 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan
An example entry of one of the 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan: The Great Sandhills. Photo courtesy of Firefly Books.

It must’ve been challenging for co-authors, Jenn Smith Nelson and Doug O’Neill, to keep each destination brief, yet detailed. There is no room for personal opinion within the hot spot entries which results in short descriptions. Imagine asking a stranger for directions and getting a lot of local expertise and hidden gems about the wild – that’s what you can expect from this guidebook.

You’ll want to check out the ‘Special Interest’ category at the back of each province’s section for information on waterfalls (yes, we have those and I’m surprised too), birds, paddling, and sky viewing spots.

How to use 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan to plan your road trips

It’s super easy to flip through and plan a road trip on the fly. The map at the beginning of the Southern Saskatchewan section was helpful in creating a circle route plan for our summer RV trip. For instance, we chose Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park, Grasslands National Park – West Block, Lake Diefenbaker – Douglas Provincial Park, and the Beechy Sandcastles.

In the future, I’m looking forward to exploring northern parts of the province and eventually Manitoba. This year, I’m focusing on the south and central regions. I found myself flipping to different parts of the book to dream about where we’d visit next. After seeing a photo of the swinging bridge, I literally booked a campsite at Nipawin Regional Park .

Beginner travellers and seasoned adventurers navigating through the prairies will find this book useful. If you’ve done a fair bit of Saskatchewan travel, 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan will shed new light on old favourites while introducing you to places you likely never knew existed.

For example, I learned about the Northeast Swale right here in my home city of Saskatoon. It’s located in the Silverspring neighbourhood, east of the Chief Mistawasis Bridge. On a spontaneous visit this weekend, I was surprised to find a beaver lodge along with a patch of wild crocus in full bloom and checked it off my spring bucket list.

A wild crocus blooms on the eastern edge of the Northwest Swale in Silverspring. Photo by Amy Rederburg.

Saskatoon’s entry reminds me of the natural amenities I have, steps from home: Meewasin Trail, the South Saskatchewan River, Cranberry Flats, and white pelicans at the weir to name a few.

110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan provides a broad overview of natural gems with unique details that you can only learn from a local. The personal touch within Jenn’s introduction would’ve been interesting to weave into each destination entry, but would’ve resulted in a much longer book. If you’re looking for a personal story of prairie wildlife, choose a hot spot and create your own adventure.

Author Info:

Jenn Smith Nelson, co-author of 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan: The Best Parks, Conservation Areas and Wild Places, is a well-known travel writer and media contributor who calls Regina, Saskatchewan home. Co-author, Doug O’Neill, is an established travel writer, certified hike leader, and Trans-Canada Trail ambassador. He resides in Toronto, Ontario.

Book Details:

110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan
The Best Parks, Conservation Areas and Wild Places
Published on April 15, 2019
Paperback
$29.95
ISBN: 9780228101697

1981 Class C Motorhome: A New Addition to the Do Sask Family

Do Sask is about making connections with the people and places in our home province of Saskatchewan. So it’s very exciting that I now have a 1981 Class C Motorhome to take across the prairies and get closer to that goal.

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This recreational vehicle is a DIY project that I definitely didn’t expect. After many years in storage, my mom gave it to my husband, Chris, and I to do what we want with it. And we don’t know exactly what that is just yet, as it needs a bit of work before it’s ready for a trip to the lake.

1981 Class C Motorhome

Chris looks pretty happy with his Class C Motorhome.

I’ve always made tent camping part of my summers, but Chris would rather scrap the tent for a hotel as mentioned in the epic Saskatchewan road trip post. The Class C Motorhome is a nice compromise which will likely satisfy both of our wants and needs when it comes to travelling in Saskatchewan.

This project technically started about a month ago when we went out to the storage lot to clear it out. Barn swallows made a nest just above the cab because it was sitting there so long.

After attempting to run it with the old battery, we gave in and purchased a new one to get it running. The new battery made the difference. It worked! Chris drove it back into town last week.

What needs repair on the Class C Motorhome

This week, we started inspecting everything to see what we’re getting ourselves into. So far we’re looking at:

    • Replacing the wood in the over cab,
    • Replacing the tires,
    • Removing the awning,
    • Replacing all of the cracked vents,
    • Insulating all windows,
    • And tearing out the carpet.

We tried to set up the awning on our driveway, but the plastic joints were so old that they literally crumbled. A 5 minute inspection turned into an hour of demolition. I really hope this isn’t a trend with the project – ’cause nobody has time for that!

The Class C over cab is a common place for water damage. In our case, it’s in the left corner.

Inside it looks like the decorator sniffed way too much coke before taking a crack at the interior. It’s a horrible 70’s design with orange and brown tweed upholstery, orange and white floral wallpaper, orange shag carpeting (yes – SHAG – in a frickin’ RV), and dated brown cupboards. We’d like to update the decor, but it’s not an immediate necessity.

Our neighbour calls it a honey wagon because it’s “sweet”!

This quintessential dinette is a staple in nearly all motorhomes.

Right now, everything seems good mechanically other than the break lines. The odometer only has about 45,000 kilometers, so that’s a win! Once a technician inspects it, we’ll know exactly what needs to be repaired under the hood.

It’s likely not going to be cheap, but we didn’t purchase the vehicle so it’s affordable. We hope to spend less than $5,000 to get it up to working condition. 

At this stage, we don’t plan on dropping everything and living as full-time nomads. The plan is to take this motorhome on weekend trips and getaways in Saskatchewan. We just hope it isn’t going to be a lemon. Wish us luck!

What do you think of this Class C Motorhome project? Leave your comment in the closed facebook group to have your say!

Watch how this Class C Motorhome DIY project develops. Follow Do Sask on Facebook and Instagram for details.

How to spend 48 hours in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan

Moose Jaw Saskatchewan has become one of my favourite short weekend getaways. Before I visited the small prairie city last year, I paid little attention to it. However I’ve since made two more trips specifically to spend more time enjoying its obscure and whimsical aspects.

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This time ’round, my hubs Chris and I were doing our best not to do too much. I am the kind of person who likes to fill my days while Chris prefers taking it easy. So this 48 hours in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan has a blend of relaxing and doing. This post is meant to inspire you to try something different the next time you’re in town.

FRIDAY AFTERNOON – DAY 1

Take an afternoon nap at Temple Gardens

It’s been a two hour drive, so spread out and melt into the king size bed after the trip. Once rested, change into your pool gear and head for a soak and tan in the top-floor mineral spa.

Temple Gardens is a three star hotel that’s connected to the Moose Jaw Casino. If the $200 per night price tag is too much, stay elsewhere and pay admission to swim.

Pro Tip: Adult night takes place every Friday and Saturday from 9 to midnight.

Do some day drinking over at Rosie’s on River Street

Tchotchkes abound in this hole-in-the-wall pub. With an array of items like 8-tracks, cards, plaster heads, and more stuck to the walls, you’ll discover something new on display every time you visit. Choose a nostalgic song from the jukebox while you sip their sangria for a berry thirst-quenching taste.

Walk the Queen’s Canadian Rose Garden

Crescent Park is located across the street from Temple Gardens, so you can roll on over when the mood strikes.

At approximately twenty-eight acres, the city park has a lot to offer year-round. With tons of trees, a stream, manicured gardens, lawn bowling, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, tennis courts, and a playground – there’s a lot to do and see.

Pro tip: Remember to bring your mosquito repellent.

FRIDAY EVENING – DAY  1

Hit up the cocktail lounge that’s for mature adults only

Once you’ve seen all there is to see at Crescent Park, head over to Manitoba Street. Serving the 24+ crowd, Cask 82 is located in the renovated basement of a sports bar.

Try the selection of craft beer and two of their appetizers: Vegas Fries and Italian Ribs. The former is an elevated buffalo blue cheese concoction and the latter is dry ribs smothered in a creamy Italian dressing. We were lucky to enjoy some live music while getting our late-night munchies fix.

SATURDAY MORNING – DAY 2

Wake up slow and grab a light breakfast at the Farmers’ Market

Every Saturday morning throughout the summer, you’ll find local producers selling their goods on Langdon Crescent which is kitty-corner to Crescent Park. We picked up fresh roasted coffee and cherry-almond scones from Chrysalis, Apple Pie Moonshine from Smooth 42 Craft Distillery and a bottle of rhubarb syrup.

Funny story: The Casino’s roving street team asked us to draw a Queen of Diamonds for a chance to win $100 cash. As luck would have it, my husband Chris drew the right card. We’re not gamblers, but Moose Jaw is known for its first-class gaming and entertainment.

SATURDAY AFTERNOON – DAY 2

Stop for a late lunch at Yvette Moore Gallery and Cafe

This stop makes it onto my list for nearly every weekend trip to Moose Jaw. Their fresh sandwiches, soups, and salads are reason enough to add them to regular rotation. Plus, tons of local art and crafts in their gallery on your way in and out.

Experience your choice of unique entertainment attractions and city culture

Moose Jaw Saskatchewan is known for its historic ties to Chicago. I’ve discussed several cultural events and tourist centres tied to this theme in past posts. This time around, we spent time at the Hometown Fair on the exhibition grounds.

If you want something different to do, plan to check out the Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre.

SATURDAY EVENING – DAY 2

Pretend you’re in the old country at Bobby’s Place

You definitely shouldn’t judge this spot by its exterior. Step inside this “old world” tavern and you’ll find stained glass windows, dart boards, church pew benches, and red brick walls which makes this spot a unique place to visit on the prairies. I ordered Yorkshire pudding for dinner and got a ginormous portion with mashed potatoes and roast beef.

Hear about local murders and hauntings on the Trolley Ghost Tour

We stopped for a selfie by Mac The Moose before boarding the sold out nighttime trolley (book your tickets in advance). Surprisingly, the small city has plenty of passionate killings and mysterious disappearances in its history books.  Some stories were graphic and vivid, so it may be best to leave the little ones at home. The guide couldn’t point out every location because people are still living in the haunted homes.

SUNDAY MORNING – DAY 3

Brunch at any one of the local cafes in town

But only after you’ve went for one last dip in the mineral spa.

Use Pokemon GO! to learn the background of the Moose Jaw Murals

The app’s interface has much more information about each mural than the map and guide brochure you’ll find around town.

Sip tasting flights at Prairie Bee Meadery

We stumbled on this gem while looking for a kettle sour craft beer and ended up sampling at least five different flavours of mead. 

Taste your way through the array of products. The owner started as a U-Pick near Moose Jaw and evolved into Saskatchewan’s first craft meadery. The sweet nectar is a blend of fermented honey and Canadian fruits.

My favourite flavour: Huckleberry

Moose Jaw Saskatchewan is close enough to escape to for a quick weekend trip, yet far enough to satisfy your travel bug. We wanted a balance of relaxing and doing because Chris wants to do less and I want to do more. In between the ideas listed here, we spent most of our spare time in the mineral spa. There’s always something new happening, so it’s worth more than one visit.

Which spots do you recommend in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan?