Echo Valley Provincial Park- Winter Edition

All winter I have been eyeing the weather, and availability for a yurt at Echo Valley.

It finally happened, one night available. *Sold*

One night was all that we wanted as this truly was an experiment. This was as “winter camping” as it gets for us. We honestly had no idea what to expect with regards to how warm or cold we would be. I had called the park inquiring about the heater situation and was informed that there were 2 radiant space heaters. We were still worried, worse case scenario we freeze – or pack up and go home.

Fun fact – our family of 5 only had 2 sleeping bags. Maybe we weren’t ready for this?

I swear I tried to be minimal (as the truck is packed full).

Here’s what we packed:

  • Sleds
  • Skates
  • Sleeping bags, blankets, pillows
  • Winter gear
  • Clothing
  • Food for supper night one
  • Food for breakfast
  • Snacks
  • Kettle for instant coffee
  • Dishes/ cutlery

After a big dump of snow Thursday, it was still snowing Friday – the perfect time for winter camping – a snow storm. Upon arrival the park was pretty quiet ( ie we were the only ones there).

We set up our beds in the yurt and Ty started the fire for our gourmet hotdog and brown beans supper.

The kids were being not their best selves. It was bad, and really dragging us down. We contemplated going home. Privileges were lost (marshmallows, movie before bed, tv for the week). My six year old told me he was never going to talk to me again, even when he is an adult.

It turns out everyone was HANGRY. I swear as soon as we ate a switch was flipped and we were back to having the best time ever. Hanger can truly gets the best of us.

After supper (it was a later supper). We decided to skate the park. Selfishly I really wanted to see it all lit up. Upon arrival (it was dark) , P was scared of wild animals, specifically – wolves.

We made it one lap, I didn’t even put on my skates (just so much effort). P was so scared, the kids started to get cold, was everyone crying? Maybe?

This is the point of our weekend where we realized we would have a flat tire in the morning. Thank goodness for tire sensors am I right? Not sure how, or when, but it was something we (Ty) would worry about in the morning. Spoiler alert – at some point we drove over a screw. Cool, cool.

As we listened to the sound of popcorn popping and fire crackling, you could hear the sweet sweet sounds of a toddler yelling “Mom!” “Dad” echoing through the trees. Nature, so zen.

We ended the night with a popcorn (and a popcorn meltdown). S wanted more popcorn and there was no popcorn and the ultimate solution as a 2 year old is to yell “popcorn” at the top of your lungs, so we obviously bribed her silence with chips. Also, now just realizing no one brushed their teeth.

I lied. We ended the night with a diaper blow out. Pooping in a diaper seemed better than a 2 year old and a pit toilet at 9 o’clock at night, the blow out was a bonus. The only reason we had extra pyjamas for her was to use as a fleece layer under winter gear.

Everyone had a sleeping bag and blanket, the children slept wonderfully. Sweet little S was the last one standing around 11pm. Bless her. Ty and I slept as comfortable as you could as millennials in a camping cot (our backs). We had moments where we felt cool in the night, but never uncomfortable.

Rise and shine! We woke up around 7am and had a gourmet breakfast of muffins, cantelope, and yogurt juice. Ty and I enjoyed some instant camping coffee mochas. Ty also enjoyed changing the flat tire.

The kids played on the snowbanks while I packed up. Why are sleeping bags so hard to put back in the bag? Why?!

To end our 24 hour adventure I really wanted to try something new, I then changed my mind, but Ty persisted. Snowshoeing. Rentals are available at the park office for $10 a day, $5 for children. We took advantage of the rentals for less than 1% of the day.

We tried to follow an existing trail to a look out, and carved a little bit of our own path as well. The kids really enjoyed getting to the look out. The kids did not enjoy having to snowshoe back. P cried hysterically the whole path back. I’d also like to make in known that we were snowshoeing for less than 30 minutes. M had a good attitude and let me know at the end that he was just thinking about what he would order for lunch.

Lunch – we planned our final meal to be from the Echo Ridge Golf Course stationed at the visitors centre. Ty and I both got the cue bowls (pulled beef or pork, mac and cheese, coleslaw). M went with mac n cheese, P went with nacho Doritos (the snowshoe was hard on him- anything goes). S was able to take anything from anyone. We tried eating outside, but it didn’t last long. We saw/ heard the signs and packed up to head home.

The kids slept soundly on the drive home, we played a new game that I had started on the way there. Anyone who falls asleep on the drive gets a prize. Everybody wins, it is my new favourite game.

Final thoughts – The snow fell magically all weekend, it was beautiful. We really enjoyed our one night in the woods. There was chaos followed by calm and despite our challenges (behaviour, hanger, meltdowns) we would do it again, and even for 2 nights (weather depending).

You don’t know if you don’t try – so we try.

Keep on sasking [in the snow] ❄️

Duck Mountain Provincial Park – Hiking Trails

Moose Lake Cabin Trail

This trail was recommended by Joyce @thedomesticatedcaker. She had taken her FOUR children on this trail to have an overnight in the cabin. IT RAINED. Bless her.

We did this trail first as it was the longest. On our trips we usually start big and end small, so the kids hate us less.

This trail is a part of the Kamsack Ski Club. We started at the Batka trail head. The trail we took was 2.9 km one way (the shortest trail to the cabin). It’s a big trail system and there’s definitely lots of trail options to take.

Because it’s a cross country ski trail it was wide- think trail groomer. Everything was so green and lush, I mean every single shade of green was present that day. There were some small hills, mosquitoes, and due to the forest fires up north, a little smokie air. This was definitely a challenge for the boys, and there were some piggy backs on the way back. The cabin was super cute although there was some garbage which was bleh, and I think due to that there was a little smell. It was fun for all of us to explore inside, and then check out the different vantage points of the lake. Would definitely do again. Beautiful.

Big wheeled stroller friendly.

Fen Trail

Short, but sweet this boardwalk is fun (0.5 km). We completed this after the Moose Lake trail, and the boardwalk feature was our selling point.

The kids just ran up and down the boardwalk- you would think they would have been tired as they had to be CARRIED only moments ago.

The trail takes you through the trees, and through 3 interactive points over the fen.

100% stroller friendly, 1000% a must do trail.

Woodland Trail

This trail is located within the Duck Mountain Provincial Park campground. The almost 2 km loop is crushed rock, and on even ground.

We participated in the SaskParks lead Creatures of the Night walk. This was a super interactive guided walk. The interactive parts were broken up throughout the trail – voice recognition, echo sound exercises, echo meters, and more. This is the trail where I realized how much M is absorbing watching Wild Kratts.

Stroller friendly, bear friendly (there was evidence). Easy loop in the campground. Also goes through the start of a new development at the lake (private campground).

Pelly Point Nature Trail

Day 2 of camping / hiking. I think we chose this trail based on it’s easy rating, and it was a tad shorter than Moose Lake cabin (4.5 km there and back). The trail was more narrow and lead you through the bush, at the trail end there’s a picnic table, warm up shack, and Madge Lake views. There was a bit of stinging nettle, and it was the perfect grazing height for our 3 year old.

Not Stroller friendly.

Damselfly Trail

This trail was accessible from the campground. The dads and older cousins went golfing and we were looking for something easy to occupy our time. The boys rode their bikes, and I had the stroller for S. This trail was quite lovely, and only 0.8 km one way. Easy trail for biking as you go from forest to wetland, and back to forest. The trail ends at St. Michaels Bible camp. There we posed with the angel wings, and investigated the hail damage from a recent storm (it was A LOT).

A great short and easy trail within the campground.

Stroller / bike friendly.

Boreal Forest Nature Trail [ ? ]

Ok – this is a little bit of a mystery trail. The trail entrance was a short jaunt from our campsite, curious about it my sister in law and I decided to check it out at sunset one night. Good idea and bad idea. The trail was heavily storm damaged. Fallen trees and signs. As it got darker it was harder to see a trail, and being not prepared we only had the light on our dying phones. We were trying to follow the interactive signs, but eventually they stopped. We turned around because we were scared and unprepared. The good was that this trail was something the kids would LOVE. Crawling under, over and across fallen trees. The next morning we checked it out again (in daylight). It was so cool, and certainly worth exploring – just trying to piece the trail together in general. We concluded it was a loop, and my plan was to deep dive into google and put the trail name together. It was a fun little adventure and the added obstacles made it interesting for everyone.

Not stroller friendly. Currently not an “advertised” trail, but it was one of my favourites to explore with the family.

The Duck Mountain trails were awesome, and there were more that we weren’t able to check out. I highly recommend visiting this park. Gosh it was good.

Sask Ya Later.