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Ex­plor­ing aban­doned ghost towns Pre­par­ing per­fect pork chops!

As far back as I can re­mem­ber, when­ever I‘ d spot old houses and barns crum­bling by the road­side, I’d won­der about the sto­ries be­hind them and about the fam­i­lies that had lived there. Ghost towns spark many a per­son’s in­ter­est, but each per­son’s story and ex­pe­ri­ence is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. Not too long ago, my sis­ter Ann asked if I’d like to come to Saskatchewan to do a tour of some old ghost towns and of course I was ex­cited to go.

We de­cided to meet half­way, in Regina, so we could spend some time to­gether and then leave the next morn­ing on our trip—wher­ever it led us.

We had been told by sev­eral peo­ple what to do and not do while vis­it­ing these places, so we were very re­spect­ful of our sur­round­ings. We didn’t have GPS, so on our map, we cir­cled names of small ghost towns that were scat­tered in and around south­ern Saskatchewan, and plot­ted our route.

At 9 a. m. the fol­low­ing day, af­ter a hearty break­fast, and with a ther­mos of cof­fee in hand, we headed out, plan­ning to stop for lunch at some point. The weather wasn’t great, but we thought it was all the more fit­ting for see­ing and pho­tograph­ing these gloomy places.

We headed west a fair bit be­fore turn­ing south. Along the way, we en­coun­tered many home­steads be­side the high­way that had be­gun to de­cay and crum­ble. Our cam­eras were ready to go and we be­gan tak­ing

a lot of pic­tures. At some stops, we had to tread very gin­gerly through the tall grass— of­ten link­ing arms— as we weren’t sure what was be­neath us. Now and then I’d call out to Ann if I couldn’t see her, just to make sure she was okay. We’d been warned to keep an eye out for open wells—scary!

In or­der to see the re­ally rus­tic home­steads and empty towns, you need to get off the beaten path and head out into the boonies, where it seemed there was not a soul to be seen.

By early af­ter­noon, our ther­mos was empty and we were hop­ing to spot a café for lunch. Lit­tle did we know there were no restau­rants for miles around.

Now and then we would run into some­one driv­ing by who would stop to chat as we were tak­ing pho­to­graphs— some folks even told us we were do­ing a won­der­ful thing by keep­ing these his­toric build­ings alive through our pho­tos. Oth­ers re­quested we send them the im­ages of these places we were cap­tur­ing.

Back on the road, we be­gan look­ing for a ghost town called Ba­yard. We drove for ages, some­times along gravel roads. Af­ter a while, you be­gin think­ing that you’re driv­ing in cir­cles. With no air con­di­tion­ing in my car, we had the win­dows open and were breath­ing in a lot of dust. Even­tu­ally, we came across a run-down house-trailer with a lone oc­cu­pant. We asked for di­rec­tions to Ba­yard and she re­sponded, “Well this is it, but there’s noth­ing here but old build­ings.” We couldn’t help but laugh.

Af­ter our fun- filled day, we were hun­gry and thirsty, so we de­cided to head back to Regina

for the night. Ar­riv­ing back around 9 p.m., the first thing we did was eat, fol­lowed by long, hot baths and fi­nally, bed. Boy, did we sleep!

The next day, we were a lit­tle more pre­pared. We packed plenty of food and also brought along a lot of water.

We headed to­wards what’s re­ferred to as the Ghost Town Trail, which co­in­cides with High­way 13 be­tween Wau­chope and Goven­lock. There are 32 ghost towns along this high­way, many of which we vis­ited. Lit­tle did we know the won­ders, feel­ings and dif­fer­ent emo­tions we would ex­pe­ri­ence as we ar­rived at each place and spec­u­lated about the hard­ships their oc­cu­pants might have faced.

Some places were hard to leave, as we strolled around in thigh-high grass, feel­ing an in­ner com­fort, imag­in­ing happy fam­i­lies and kids play­ing on the now-bro­ken swings or with the old toys ly­ing in the deep grass. Other places evoked dif­fer­ent feel­ings, leav­ing us some­what cold; I don’t know why. In these spots, we’d take a quick look around and leave, with no de­sire to linger. I won­der about that from time to time as I sit day­dream­ing on my couch at home.

The whole ex­pe­ri­ence left me with a lot of ques­tions about the lives of the peo­ple who once lived there. Ann and I also ex­pe­ri­enced many mo­ments of sad­ness as we sat on the steps of old, aban­doned homes with noth­ing but the wind whis­per­ing in the still­ness of the early evening sun­shine.

All too soon, our trip ended and we had to say our good­byes. The ex­pe­ri­ence it­self, com­bined with the op­por­tu­nity to spend time with my sis­ter, made it a trip I will al­ways cher­ish. ■

Above: An old, aban­doned train sit­ting along­side a Saskatchewan high­way back­lit by an evening sun­set. Left: He­len snuck into an aban­doned build­ing to cap­ture this shot—beautiful view!

Clock­wise from top left: He­len came across this bro­ken ca­noe and an­chor next to a beautiful lake; a re­tired pair of skates hang­ing on the black­board of an old school; He­len says her heart feels lighter ev­ery time she pho­to­graphs a church, this one is in Kayville, Sask.; a shot of a small home­stead on a rainy day in ru­ral south­ern Saskatchewan.

Clock­wise from top left: He­len’s favourite old gas sta­tion in Brom­head, Sask; a cute lit­tle aban­doned house in Rob­sart, Sask.; an old truck put out to pas­ture in Car­rot River, Sask.

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