Unexpected Misadventures to the Limestone Crevices
· 23 min. read
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Northern Saskatchewan is nothing short of an enigma shrouded with mystery and surprise. One of these surprises is the Limestone Crevices, a prehistoric geological formation unlike anything else in Saskatchewan. I had never been there before, so I decided to go see them. However, every time I go to northern Saskatchewan, something bad always happens. Ever since my misadventure in Prince Albert National Park last fall, and my nearly fatal hike in Utah this past winter, I did everything I could to make this trip not only successful and safe, but punctual and non-life-threatening.
And I failed 90 minutes into it.
I have travelled to northern Saskatchewan a few times, and I always take Highway 11. Highway 2 is faster, but I am always meeting somebody in Saskatoon or veering over to the Battlefords. Highway 11 is ingrained into my muscle memory as the only way to go north. So, it is no surprise that I took Highway 11.
But, Highway 11 goes northwest, while the Limestone Crevices are northeast. When I realised I was going the wrong way, I still had seven hours left to drive. Because I was on the wrong highway, I added an additional 90 minutes to my drive. I had to make a decision ? do I drive back to Regina and go the shorter route, or just keep going?
I decided to keep going, which led me on a loop through Saskatoon, through Prince Albert and then back on the right highway up north. I left at 10 AM and ? after stopping for gas and a bite to eat ? arrived in Creighton, Saskatchewan at 6:40 PM.
If you are planning a trip to the Limestone Crevices, you can find them at 54.539389, -102.133083.
Last time I was in northern Saskatchewan it was autumn, and I was canoeing across Kingsmere Lake. Prior to that, it was mid-day and I was in Cochin and the Battlefords. It had been a long time since I was in the north in the summer and I forgot how vicious the bugs were. Anytime I pulled over to check my map, Jurassic-sized horseflies would ping against my car windows and buzz angrily against the glass. Flies swarmed my car like a rotting animal as my white car slowly got darker and darker with caked-on insects.
Once I got to Creighton, I got some gas. There have been too many times I have just made it back to Regina on fumes of gas, so I didn't want that to happen again. I also got a pizza from Flin Flon ? another town only three kilometres across the border. Creighton has a population of around 1,500 while Flin Flon has a population of around 5,000. Although Creighton was nice, I felt Flin Flon was a lot more picturesque and I enjoyed navigating the wild, winding roads that twisted around hills and lakes.
After resting up and getting my bearings, I looked online on Tourism Saskatchewan for the coordinates to the Limestone Crevices. The description of it was an unmarked trail on the side of the road, which lead to the crevices.
Around 8:00 PM I pulled up to the coordinates and got out of my car. It took a moment, but I found the trail. The surrounding trees were thick and dense, but the trail was worn by ATVs so it was obviously manmade. I followed it for a bit and noticed it began filling with water. I turned the corner and there was no longer a trail ? just a pool of water. It was too wide to jump over, and too deep to walk through. The left side of me was a thick forest and the right side of me was more thick forest, but submerged in water. After going over my options, I decided the best way was to cut through the trees on the left and just come out on the other side. I backtracked, crossed a narrower part of water and scrambled up a hill into the trees.
The trees were dense, and I walked with my arms covering my face. Somewhere along the way, I lost my camera lens cap ? it was probably yanked off by a branch. I pushed my way through the trees, snapping small twigs and stepping over fallen logs. I was worried about ticks so between moving branches, I was also brushing off anything that somewhat resembled an insect. After a few minutes of huffing and puffing, I pushed my way out of the trees?
And into more water. The entire trail was flooded.
There was a narrow path between the ATV ruts that I could stand on, but it was thick, muddy clay and didn't support my weight for very long. One shoe submerged into the water after I stepped on it. I then hop-scotched my way from one muddy platform to the next. The ground rose before me, and I saw that the water was coming from above. As I climbed, I saw what must have been some giant beaver dam. The dam was blocking the water, and what was leaking from it was what was filling the trail below.
But, something didn't seem right. I read nothing about this beaver dam online. It was supposed to be a short walk to the crevices. This was much too far.
I looked around and saw an old wooden bridge, but it was in the bushes and long forgotten. I read this path was often frequented by teenagers, but nothing here said it was visited for a long time.
I didn't have a lot of time to stand around and ponder this, however, as the bugs I had avoided when in the trees had found me. In a moment, a cloud of insects swarmed me. I was slapping my arms, my legs, my back and face. Some were buzzing in my ears, my eyes, my nose. The cloud of bugs came out of nowhere and they were seemingly vengeful for all their brethren I had slain on my way here.
After a few minutes of frantic slapping, I decided this was a fight I could not win. I went back to the beaver dam, back down the hill, across the mud islands ? got the other shoe wet ? and back into the trees. Unperturbed by the branches, the insects continued their violent assault. So, I ran. I'm not sure if I was just sweating from the heat or crying because of the bugs, but I stumbled through the trees, getting slashed and pricked and prodded.
Now, I want you to imagine some poor bird seeing all this. What is normally a quiet path where no human goes, suddenly there is a wailing, burly, dirty, muddy, 280-pound man running, crushing, swatting, cursing his way through innocent trees, snapping twigs and branches like toothpicks. It would have been hilarious but somewhat horrifying sight to see.
I got out of the trees, got back on the path, and staggered back up towards the road. The insects followed and met with their friends who were swarming my car. I unlocked my car, swung open the door and drove inside. With me, it seems, came a dozen flying menaces. I systematically began insect genocide while the others pinged and ponged against the windows of my car.
After killing all that I could, I stopped, turned on the AC and drank some water. After what seemed like an eternity of ragged breathing, I took out my phone and consulted Tourism Saskatchewan's website again. I was in the right place? but something was wrong.
The next Google search result was a piece Ashlyn George wrote a few years ago. She said there was a trail about 10 kilometres south of Denare Beach, next to a small parking lot. I was south of Denare Beach, but where was the parking lot? I opened Google Maps, put on the Satellite view and began following the road. A little bit below Denare Beach I found a small road that branched off and looped around. That must be it!
I started up my car, drove up a bit and found a small gravel road. I then started driving down it. It didn't take long before I encountered another issue ? parts of this road were also underwater.
I knew I couldn't go through the water and I didn't dare attempt to walk around it either. Instead, I skirted around the edge of the pond, dipping the left side of my wheels into the water, while keeping the right side on the land. The first time it worked out good, but the second puddle of water I encountered was wider. I had less space to move around. I sped up into it, made it halfway through and heard my car whine. A moment later and I was out of it. How close was I to flooding my engine? I have no idea.
After that, there was no more water in sight. My wheel was making some strange noises, but I figured it was just mud on the axel or a twig in the wheel well or something annoying but not overly problematic.
I cruised down the gravel road, peering for the crevices, but saw nothing. I splashed a few more small puddles and kept scanning the trees. There was nothing. It was just a dead-end that looped around. This wasn't the right way at all. It also meant I had to go through the water again.
I was able to skirt around the bigger pond of water without a problem, but something went wrong on the second pond. I'm not sure if I hit a bump or a tree stump or what, but when I got out of the water and back onto the road, my car didn't feel right. It felt like something was dragging and there was a lot more gravel being thrown up behind me. It felt as if my front tire had stopped spinning.
I got back onto the main highway and kept driving. None of my dashboard lights came on to say I had a flat, and I wasn't having engine problems. Everything seemed fine but felt wrong. I even got out once, fought past a wave of bugs and checked. My tire was fine. The wheel well was empty too.
Before I continued, I Googled the Limestone Crevices again. Tourism Sask's article didn't help me, Ashlyn's article didn't help me, and although the next result by Saskborder was good, they canoed there so it didn't help either. I then saw the 2017 Saskatchewanderer's article. I skipped over reading this article previously because typically the Saskatchewanderer just puts a couple of sentences and a YouTube video as their article. But, at this point, I was desperate. I opened it up, scrolled down and my jaw dropped. Neil ? the wanderer at the time ? has a map to the location, with actual coordinates! And they are different than what Tourism Sask had!
I plugged them into my GPS, noticed it was about 15 minutes away and started driving.
But as I was driving, my joy of possibly finding the crevices faded away. My car still felt wrong, like something was being dragged underneath it. As I wondered what to do, I saw a pothole in the road up ahead. I decided to take a gamble. I aimed for it, accelerated and drove right into it.
Something under my car broke.
But it felt better. I wasn't kicking up as much dust and my wheels all seemed fine. It must have been a branch or something, I laughed, completely unaware that I had just lost my undercarriage.
I followed the road, past the path to the beaver dam and around a corner. As I approached the marker on my map, I finally saw the trail. Not only was it maintained, but it wasn't filled with water either. I drove into it and saw another vehicle parked there too. I had finally found the Limestone Crevices!
It was 9:30 PM, almost 12 hours since I had left Regina.
It was still plenty light out, but the bugs had lessened. A few horseflies buzzed around me angrily, but I crushed them the moment they landed. After about the fourth fatality, they seemed to have learned their lesson.
Ashlyn said in her article it was a short thirty-second walk from the parking lot, and she was right. The ground splits off into chunks, with deep fissures travelling a dozen meters straight down. As I stood in the blistering July heat, I could see snow at the bottom of the crevices. I could also see garbage and spray-paint, but a surprisingly high amount of snow.
The crevices are accessible to those who want to risk it, but the area isn't very maintained. Other bloggers went into the crevices via ropes and climbing gear, or with guides who know the area. I had neither and was also at the end of an exhausting day. Instead, I followed the beaten paths that criss-cross and encircle the crevices. They go on for over a kilometre, going deeper and deeper into the Pre-Cambrian Shield. It reminded me very much of the landscape of Devil's Garden in Arches National Park, but instead of it being a rocky desert, it was a rocky forest.
A few times I tried to find an easy way down, but I couldn't find a crevice with a shallow incline. I decided against it. After the day I had had, the last thing I wanted to do was get stuck at the bottom of a pit with the sun setting.
Seeing the Limestone Crevices has been on my bucket list for years, and I was supposed to take this journey earlier this year with Tourism Saskatchewan. In fact, we had a collaboration booked for May 2. However, the coronavirus pandemic hit in March and everybody was under a shelter in place order. The trip was cancelled, and to be fair, I am not sure Tourism Saskatchewan would want to be associated with this kind of misadventure anyway.
I spent about a half-hour at the crevices and then went back to my car. I sat, rested, and decided on my next plan of action. I had planned for this to be a day trip but the wrong highway and wrong roads made an already long trip even longer. I could have stayed in Creighton or Flin Flon ? which would have been nice, as the landscape is so beautiful ? but I decided on one more misadventure for the day. Instead of staying the night, I would just drive home.
As I started on my way, the sun was setting behind the towering trees. I stopped driving and took a picture of the sunset as it glistened on Amisk Lake. As my camera focused on the water, I noticed a smudge on my lens. Somewhere along the way, I smudged my camera. All of the pictures I took had a smudge on them. For a moment I considered going back but decided against it. I had seen the Limestone Crevices. I was done with them.
Northern Saskatchewan is beautiful during the day but dangerous at night. Although I did see two deer and a raccoon while I was driving home, the scariest moment is when a black bear materialized in the middle of the road. I had to swerve to avoid its mammoth-like frame and watched as it rumbled back into the bushes.
Something else incredible about Northern Saskatchewan is the sky. In the autumn and winter, the night sky lights up with the Northern Lights. I saw that when I went to Grey Owl's Cabin last year. But in the summer, the sky is equally as fascinating. Instead of getting dark, it stays bright. Except for the brief hour I was surrounded by tall trees, the sky was always illuminated. I'm not sure if it was from the sun or a summer version of the Northern Lights, but I pulled over at 2 in the morning and sent Jessica a picture of the horizon just outside Choiceland, the midway point between Creighton and Regina. The sky was lit up like morning, but it was the middle of the night. I was looking north, so there was no way it might have been light pollution from Prince Albert either. The only thing it could have been would be the midnight sun.
I arrived back in Regina and pulled up at a gas station at 5:50 AM. It was the same tank of gas I got when I arrived in Creighton nearly ten hours earlier. I got more gas, went for a car wash, and drove home to bed.
A lot of things went wrong on this trip, and if I did it again, I know I would do it differently. I might spend the night in Flin Flon and drive back in the morning, or I might explore the crevices a little longer. I would go down the right gravel road, and most certainly take the correct highway. But if I did all that, then where is the misadventure?
Have you ever explored the Limestone Crevices? Would you go after reading this? Let me know in the comments below.
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Categories: Canada, Hiking, Saskatchewan