Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fort Walsh and Cypress Hills

JJ and I drove to Fort Walsh National Historic Site in the Cypress Hills on the Saskachewan side of the border shared with Alberta. Our visit was two fold: research for my Mountie story, and to see if I could find a Mountie to use for promotional purposes with my story. The Cypress Hills are the highest land elevation east of the Rocky Mountains. (I can't remember at the moment if the Laurentians in Quebec are higher.)

Fort Walsh was part of the Old Forts Trail which ran from Fort Benton, Montana up to Edmonton, Alberta and other places.

To get to Fort Walsh, we had to go down this hill, across the valley, and up a steep, winding road. This road with hairpin turns is so steep, you're advised to unhook your trailer/camper and leave it in a designated parking area for that purpose. Once you get to the top of the hills, you cross the wide plateau you see at the top of this photo. After several kilometres, you find the visitor's centre with the actual fort down in the valley below.

We took a bus from the visitor's centre down to the fort where two young Mounties greeted us. They really look young and yet this is the age of most of the recruits back in the 1870's which this fort represents.

This is the fort guardhouse, of particular interest to me because of my story. If you look closely into the cells, you'll see they are only the length of a bed - or a mattress - and back then, people were smaller and those beds were short!

JJ tried out the cell for size.

See what I mean about the height?

Not sure if I like him in there, though.

This is an authentic cooking tent for when they were on the road. Inside is a box stove where the staff created cinnamon buns as a treat for us visitors. (Small piece, but great taste.)

An exciting part of the day was this mock trial using visitors as law-breakers. Very entertaining. The Mountie presiding over the court was an excellent actor and kept the crowd in stitches. This staff operates on a minimum staff and I was amazed at the multi-tasking and role-playing of these members. Not to mention once court is over, he does a quick change out of his uniform and into civilian clothes and then drives the bus.

JJ took advantage of the offer to test out the Mountie beds for softness. NOT!

The barrack building consists of sleeping quarters as well as a mess hall for dining and recreation.

Lookee here... I finally found someone who looks like the fictional hero of my Mountie story. His name is Michal (Me-hal) and he'll be used in all my promotional material for the character, Remy Bisset.

Thank you Michal for taking the time to pose for pics. Someone has already asked me if you were a model in your former life. *grin

This is a scale model of Fort Walsh. They have a legend with little buttons that you push and a red light will glow to show the corresponding building. Excellent workmanship but I didn't get the modeller's name.

We missed the bus after we finished taking photos and instead of waiting an hour for the next one, JJ and I walked back up the hill. As you can see, it's about a mile up. That was my exercise for the day on top of all the other walking around.

We left Fort Walsh behind and headed over to Conglomerate Cliffs to take a few photos from the top of Cypress Hills looking east...

... and looking northeast. What an exceptional view!

The trip to Fort Walsh and the Cypress Hills was so worth our time. The staff - especially Tracy and Michal went beyond any employees I've met anywhere. They spent invaluable time with me ensuring the research for my Mountie story was accurate. But the rest of the staff both down at the fort and up in the visitor's centre were welcoming and attentive to our needs. Kudos going out to the Fort Walsh National Historic Site.


  1. Bob and I visited The Fort a few years ago.
    One of the best historical sites in Sask.
    It, along with the Cypress Hills park is a great
    place to visit!

  2. I agree Brenda. I wish there'd been an inn or something closer to it than Maple Creek, though. There's only the Elk Water Resort and summer is their high season.

    Also, we had to backtrack back to Maple Creek to get onto the TransCanada. You'd think with such a treasure, the gov't would build a road straight north and out of there.

    But those inconveniences didn't detract from the beauty and historic value of the place. My first trip to the Cypress Hills is certainly memorable. :)

    Thanks for visiting, Brenda.

    ps - am praying for your church.


  3. wonderful! I love these kind of trips and so glad you shared it. As I just happen to have a bitty bit of knowledge about your story and setting, I'm loving it even more.

    "Remy" was a good sport. How often do you get an opportunity like that? Wow. Thanks Anita. The scenery is amazing and I know how you'll use those details in this story to such advantage.

  4. And since you do know so much about my story, I'm glad you're lovin' the pics. :)

    Yes, Remy was a very good sport, as was Tracy the Fort 'manager' of the re-enactors who took over his duties as tour guide so he could work with me. I am indebted to them both.

    See you at Inkwell Inspirations, Deb.

  5. i love seeing and reading about your research trips Anita. i'm so glad the people there were so helpful. Does your "Remy" fully understand that lots of ladies will be appreciating his willingness to be your Mountie model? He's quite the handsome man. *heh*
    I think it is so cool that you and your son do such things together. I'm hoping to be able to have that same relationship with Nathaniel as he grows older. You're an inspiration. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Hi Anita! I stumbled across your blog while looking for people interested in what the Cypress Hills have to offer for a video promotion I'm doing - and was pleased to find a fellow writer!

    Feel free to check out this video regarding the Cypress Hills that I had the pleasure of working on - not only does it "show" people a little more about the Cypress Hills as a place where History comes alive - it could also have helped you with your accomodation issue by letting you know of the Redmond House B&B! Enjoy! Looking forward to more of your adventures!

    Cypress Hills - Feel the History:

    (Let me know if you want to embed the video and I can provide you with the actual video file!).

  7. Hey Deb, sorry for not replying sooner. I've been in a rush to finish my ms before the end of Aug so am far behind in my blogs and social activities.

    Regarding Michal, it was quite weird explaining that I thought he looked just like my fictional hero, Remy. But I once saw a man who looked like another of my heroes except I was too shy to ask for a photo. I mean all kinds of connotations can be implied with a line like that, right? But you can't use someone's photo without there permission so when I saw my Remy, I shucked my inhibitions and asked.

    And I'm so glad I did. Michal didn't laugh or even snicker. Nor did he boast and puff up. He was quite serious and very professional while posing. Perhaps he did have modelling experience.

    But having a real person to refer to is bringing my story to life. :)

    I loved the time JJ and I spent together. I went adventuring with both girls when they were that age. It seems to be the time they're most receptive to sightseeing. I don't have to carry them, they appreciate new experiences and they don't mind line-ups. Much. LOL

    I hope you and Nathaniel share special times together, too.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Deb. :)


  8. Hey Gail, I appreciate you posting the URL for your YouTube video. Although I won't embed it at this time, it will be here for readers and in case I do use it in the future. And yes, I sure could've used the B&B portion when I visited.

    If you work on any productions involving Fort Walsh or any other historic locations, please let me know so I can feature them. I'm particularly interested in the Mounties, the HBC and cowboys and the ranching industry.

    Thanks for stopping by with a comment. I hope good things come from your writing and video productions. :)

    Anita Mae.

  9. Very interesting how Western Canadian history has the footprint of the Northwest Mounted Police, now RCMP in helping defining part of the history. We also have a RCMP museum, Fort Calgary.


Come on, tell me what you think...