Tag Archives: La Colle Falls Hydroelectric Dam

Escaping the City (with a 2016 Ford Escape)

Well this weekend was interesting.  Of course it started with Mark getting hurt at football on Friday night.  Hard blow to the lower back and really hurt his kidney.  Mark made a tackle and someone came in a fraction of a second late and hit him.  Weird thing with this is that it can way worse so the doctor gave us a list of what to watch out for.

So instead of getting up insanely early and heading north to Prince Albert National Park, we let him get more sleep while we loaded up the Focus.

Loading up the 2016 Ford Focus

He stumbled out of the house, into the Ford Escape, turned on the heat on the front seat, grabbed a blanket and went back to sleep.  He was in a lot of pain.  The good news is the heated seats made a lot of difference.

By the time we got up, the Park Cafe had a line of people outside the door.  After a quick vote, we went to Humpty’s and ordered some Splash Omelettes for Wendy, Mark and myself and a M&M pancake for Oliver.  They made the mistake of ordering pierogis as a side and regretted it, you always order the pan fries.  You know that means they all took some of my pan fries.

M&M pancake at Humpty's

The plan was to head up Highway 42 to Alveena and then cut across to the Battle of Fish Creek (and the cool looking Fish Creek Church) and then 28 kms up to Batoche.

Two days of constant rain had turned our roads to slop.  I decided to take the Fish Creek road and see what it was like.  I went a kilometer and even with the AWD of the Ford Escape, I turned back to the highway.  We went into Alveena and realized the same thing.  The top couple of inches of road was waterlogged and moving.  If I had to get through, I could have but it wasn’t worth risking it.

So we drove to the Watrous intersection backtracked and went to Batoche.  It was closed.  For fall, it closes on the weekends which makes no sense to me at all.  That would useful to have on the front of your website but it’s the Government of Canada, I should have known better.

So we crossed the river, headed north on Highway 11 and got into Prince Albert and then Waskesiu.

We had booked a lodge  at Waskesiu but then a week later they called back and said, “oh, we were overbooked”.  In other words they got a longer booking and we got bounced.  There is a big fun run up there this weekend and we quickly found out all of the other accommodations were booked.  W

e booked an oTENTik which kind of a hybrid tent and cabin.  At first the cost seemed way to high for what I was getting but when we got there, it was nicer than what we would have had at the hotel.

A muddy 2016 Ford Escape

Let’s chat about the oTENTiks for a second.

Mark and Oliver in front of a oTENTik at Prince Albert National ParkWendy, Mark and Oliver with an oTENTik at Prince Albert National ParkMark Cooper and an oTENTik at Prince Albert National Park

The first thing is that you need to stay in one.  They can sleep 6 really comfortably.  You bring your own sleeping bags and pillows and inside they had a platform with four single mattresses along the bottom and a double mattress up top.

There is a table with four chairs and a small bench to toss your bags.  Parks Canada also gives you a LED lantern for a light when you check in.  It looks cool but kicks out almost no light.  We had head lamps and are glad we had them.

The structure is half tent and half cabin.  The floor is raised, has laminate flooring, but the roof is a plastic canvas tarp.  You can also lock the door.  We didn’t need it but there was a propane heater.

There is also a metal bear cache out front for your food.  I’ll be honest, it was the only thing I didn’t like but maybe I am a little over sensitive after the wolf incident this summer.  I wish it and the barbecue was further way from the oTENTik.  It seemed to close but then again, I am probably over thinking this after what happened in Banff.

Finally there is a picnic table that is screened in alongside a fire pit.  It is a great setup and I’d rather stay in one of these then some of the cabin’s that are in Waskesiu.  It’s really nice.

I don’t know what it is like in the summer.  The widows open up but I am not sure how hot it would be but for the fall when crisp autumn weather is the norm, it is an amazing place to stay in and I would pick it over a cottage or lodge any night.

After unpacking, we drove from Beaver Glen campground to downtown Waskesiu.  On the way there, we saw a large herd of these guys just chilling out while the male acted aggressive (the rut has begun) and was walking around looking for a fight.

Elk patrolling the trailer campground at Waskesiu in Prince Albert National Park

These were taken with Wendy’s Olympus OM-D E-M10 II and her 75-300mm lens (which is a equivalent of a 150-600mm lens).  We were a long ways away as I am not sure how Ford Escapes handle being rammed by giant elk.

Elk in Prince Albert National Park

For those of you who have never been around an elk or a moose in a rut, they are gathering up all of the females to breed with and are constantly on the look out for any other elk or people that could be a threat.  They are more or less insane and quite dangerous.  I wasn’t being flippant when I said they would ram the Escape because they would.

From there we did some shopping in downtown Waskesiu.  Oliver was choked the entire time.  He knew Mark was hurt so he was constantly challenging Mark to races which he was sure he could win.  While he was right, Mark was too hurt to even walk easily so there were no races.

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We did go into a high end boutique that was blowing everything out from 50-80% off and Mark did find an Oakley hat that he liked.  I found a great looking shirt that was still $200 on sale.  So I passed.

From there, we went to Pete’s Terrace and ordered the Volcano Pizza to share.  You can order it in terms of heat from 1-5.  We had a two which was hot enough.  They did bring us a side of #5 and my mouth still burns.  Actually it hit all of us except Oliver who just said, “I don’t do spicy”.  Wise kid.

Here is the thing about Pete’s Terrace.  The pizza is good and affordable which means in the summer, EVERYONE IN WASKESIU and NORTHERN SASKATCHEWAN eats there which means long waits because the restaurant is packed, the deck is packed, the non-licensed sidewalk area is packed.  In the fall, it’s just kind of normally busy and the services is really fast.  So the summer of last night was great pizza, great service and I still shouldn’t have tried the #5 hot sauce.

Last night we took a slow drive just past dusk and when I say slow, I mean 30 kph slow.  Explaining to Ford why there is an elk lodged in the front seat is not a conversation that  I wanted to have (okay, it would an hilarious conversation to have but you know what I mean)

This is what we saw.  Elk sleeping on the shoulder and in the middle of the highway.  Right in the middle of the highway.   Is it because of the heat or because they are in rut (we never saw it but you could hear elk in rut challenging each other in the distance while out walking).  It was really weird to be driving (we were going about 30 kph) and seeing them and not moving.  Not that I would ever do this but from their non-reaction, it looked like you could have picked one up and brought it home as a (giant, destructive) pet.

I did discover something last night, the Escape’s headlights go from high beam to low beam automatically which is a feature I have waited for my entire life.  It really makes driving at night a lot more pleasant and safer.  We didn’t drive that long with them on but from what I can tell, they aren’t confused by yard lights in the distance which is also pretty interesting.  They only dim for car lights coming at you.  Great technology.

Sunday morning Mark was even in worse shape.  We were going to go to Mud Creek Flat to see if we could find some black bears but that was cancelled, also the road still sucked.  We talked to locals about Highway #263 and they are about to impeach the Minister of Highways over how long it has been under construction.  Also they said, “don’t take it after this rain.”

We had planned to hike to LaColle Falls Hydroelectric Dam today but as well but looking at Mark, he needed to head home so we grabbed some food and got him back to Saskatoon.

In talking with Mark, the heated front seat of the Escape made the trip for him.  Yes he was on painkillers but he said he felt uncomfortable as soon as the heated seat turned off and felt better as soon as the seat kicked back in.  On the way up, you would see it turn off and then a moment later Mark would take up, hit the button and go back to sleep.

In the end, it wasn’t the trip I had planed (we are blaming Mark for that).  If you have ever seen the excellent documentary 180 South, there is a great line in it where the main character goes, “It isn’t an adventure until something goes wrong.”  It was relaxing and it was nice to check out the Ford Escape on a trip like this.  Here are some thoughts.

  • We took 4.5 three season sleeping backs, a medium sized cooler, three camera bags, three tripods, four pillows and some extra blankets.  There were also four backpacks in there and we had lots of room in the back.  The Escape holds a lot of stuff for weekend trips like this.
  • It’s powerful.  When I had to pass, the engine didn’t even work up a sweat.  It never kicked into a passing gear despite firing us forward.  It may be the form of a SUV but it’s soul is a sports car.   The EcoBoost engine is one part of the equation but so is the really smooth and always ready to go 6 speed transmission.
  • I like the addition spot for your phone/fob on the console.  I think it’s new for 2017 and it’s a nice touch.
  • For the first time ever, I actually plugged my iPod Nano into the sound system and played music rather than just ESPN Radio.  The sound system is amazing.  Rich highs and lows.  Ford did a great job with this.
  • Fuel efficiency was good.  On the trip it was 8.7 litres per 100 km.  The highways were quiet and not a lot of passing but still, it was good mileage.
  • This the first time I have never noticed this but the GPS was a couple hundred meters off from the map at times.  Not a big deal when driving through Duck Lake but for those that rely on it, it may be disheartening.  That being noted, my Bushnell and Wendy’s Magellen GPS both have done this while hiking so I assume it is a GPS satellite thing.  Also it could have happened before but I just noticed it a few times on this trip.  Also to be fair, there was a heavy cloud cover and the GPS could have had a hard time acquiring a good fix.
  • I’ll be honest.  I didn’t do a fair test on the Escape.  I only drove it in drive, not in sport mode and kept it to within safe speed limits.  Hey it’s how I drive (despite getting two tickets this summer). Even when you aren’t in sport mode, it feels like a sports car.

I get grief every single time that I say that the Ford Escape is my favorite car out there.  We are a family of four.  We live for weekend trips like this or heading out to the mountains to hike in the summer.  We have a dog that is rowdy.  This vehicle works so well for us because when Mark was sick, it was big enough for Mark to ride up front and Wendy to be comfortable in the back.  It is big enough to hold our gear without thinking too much about it (although if I owned one, I would have a carrying rack up top for camping).  I could tow an ultra light tent trailer behind it.  Most of all, I really enjoy driving it.

I have been in love with the Ford Escape for years and in 2017 Ford made it better.

Oh yeah, Mark will be fine.  They did a CT Scan at Royal University Hospital and he lacerated a kidney.  We technically the kid that hit him lacerated his kidney.  He will miss practice this week and the game and start practicing next Monday.  He’s just sore right now and doesn’t want to aggravate the injury.   It’s football.  It could have been worse but he will be fine.

La Colle Falls Hydroelectric Dam

On Sunday I decided to take the family along the backroads to Prince Albert.  We explored the Ukrainian Catholic Church of Ascension, Fish Creek Church, and eventually the La Colle Falls Hydroelectric Dam east of Prince Albert.  Mark shot some video footage while there which you can see below.

Wendy wrote a little more about the day on her blog.

La Colle Falls Hydroelectric Dam

Some photos from our hike to the La Colle Falls Hydroelectric Dam site which is abandoned dam project 45km downstream from Prince Albert on the North Saskatchewan River.

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Here is how CBC News described the project

An avid history buff is marking the 100th anniversary of the day the plug was pulled on a massive hydroelectric project that was started on the Saskatchewan River, north of Prince Albert, Sask.

What was launched as the La Colle Falls Hydroelectric Development instead became a multi-million dollar monument to lofty ambitions, and a financial millstone for Prince Albert taxpayers for decades to come.

"The dam was one-third finished, into the river," Paul Van Pul, a hydraulic archaeology surveyor who has written extensively on the La Colle blunder, said Tuesday. "They never managed to start building the power station."

According to Van Pul, who checked out the remnants of the project, there are only a few holes in the ground that could have been the start of foundation work for a power plant.

The unfinished dam, however, is a prominent — if odd-looking — feature on the river.

By the time the project was halted two years of construction work had gone into it and Prince Albert had spent $3 million, or about $62 million in today’s terms, adjusting for inflation using a Bank of Canada calculator.

"The project was, in fact, too big for the engineers from Prince Albert," Van Pul believes, when asked how it was that the plan was scrubbed. "They had to depend on the city engineer at the time who had no experience at all building such a big, complicated project."

The city was sold on a hydroelectric dam by the engineer who developed Niagara Falls. That expert, however, rarely checked in on how the La Colle venture was proceeding.

Van Pul said design changes, during construction, also added to the costs.

The burden of loans used to finance a project that was never completed nearly drove Prince Albert into bankruptcy, and it wasn’t until 1965 that the debt was paid off.

"P.A. never became the second-largest city of Saskatchewan just because of La Colle Falls," Van Pul believes.

"And the thing is, they almost got there," he added, wistfully.

Van Pul is hoping the concrete structure that remains is designated a heritage site.

"It’s a cautious reminder," he said, even as cities embark on large-scale projects today. "Something can go wrong and then we’re stuck with it for the next 50 years."