What began as a personal project to celebrate Saskatchewan’s anniversary quickly culminated into something much bigger for Ruth Bitner of Dalmeny – a project that would take her 12 years and thousands of kilometres on the province's backroads and highways to complete.
“It all started in 2005 during Saskatchewan’s centennial celebrations,” Bitner said. “I thought I should visit 100 communities to celebrate our 100th anniversary and so I did.”
Bitner added exploring new places became so much fun she decided to expand her horizons and include every community in Saskatchewan.
“I’ve always been inquisitive and had a zest for adventure,” Bitner said. “So a few months after we began the journey, I decided to visit every dot on the map in Saskatchewan south of the 54th parallel.”
In total, Bitner and her various travel companions visited 961 communities: 16 cities, 144 towns, 284 villages and 517 hamlets, ghost towns and places long gone.
She said some places were much more interesting than others to visit but it was the hidden gems on the back roads which peaked her interest time and time again.
Bitner recalled one afternoon when she and her sister-in-law Roxanne Bitner were roaming along the countryside South of Wynyard and came across a sign for Stone Church Road so they decided to investigate.
“We discovered a little stone church that was built in the late 1880s that was being restored by a group of stonemasons and carpenters,” she said. “Since I always had a fascination with history from my working career with the Western Development Museum, this was a nice find for me.”
Besides her sister-in-law, Ruth would sometimes be joined by her husband Lorne on the odd excursion. But it was her longtime friend, colleague and history buff Leslee Newman, who shared most of the journey with Bitner over the 12 years of travel.
“I think that if anything surprised me it would definitely be the diversity of our landscape,” she said. “People generally think that Saskatchewan is flat and boring but it is anything but.”
Whether it was the windswept buttes of Grasslands National Park or the drifted dunes of the Great Sandhills or to the forests of the Duck Mountain Highlands, Bitner encourages everyone to take time to check out Saskatchewan’s natural beauty.
“Sometimes you just drive along a grid road not knowing what you are going to find,” Bitner said. “More often than not something exciting and interesting will turn up unexpectedly.”
On Twitter: @RJWtheReporter
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