Cacti in Saskatchewan?

Cacti at Douglas Provincial Park

It was with anticipation that we set out that afternoon to travel the back roads of southwestern Saskatchewan. Our goal? Buffalos! Sand dunes that were 75 feet high! Cacti! It was enough to make the prospect of a 120 km drive from where we had left our trailer in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan worthwhile.

Our first stop was 30 km from Moose Jaw, Buffalo Pound Provincial Park, where we enjoyed seeing invisible buffalo. Hum. Not exactly what we had bargained for! And as we got back into the van, we noticed something else we hadn't bargained for: The shaking we received from the lovely dirt road in that beautiful park (what my youngest son called a nice back massage!) had succeeded in dislodging the electrical connection for our trailer from its normal, safe spot up on the hitch, and the road's gravel had eagerly "devoured" it! I had no idea that Saskatchewan roads were that hungry!

Without the connection, we couldn't tow the trailer, so instead of driving on for the dunes, we were now forced to drive back to Moose Jaw. Fortunately for us, the first RV retailer we found had the necessary part. They couldn't replace it right away however, so we made an appointment for the next morning and headed back down the road to the dunes.

We arrived at Douglas Provincial Park more than an hour later, only to discover that the sand dunes were mostly covered by varied vegetation, thus rendering them-invisible! Invisible buffalo, invisible dunes. Why should we be surprised? And of course, there was no cacti to be seen. Could it be that it too was invisible? The landscape WAS surreal however, with the dunes undulating like waves on open water, and the plant life was beautiful. Maybe the cacti and the visible dunes just didn't like to show themselves around the visitor's centre . . .

This was our hope as we headed up the trail, and after about 2-3 km of hiking, we did find cacti. Two different species graced the slopes of the invisible dunes, the prickly pear and the pincushion cacti, and the fact that we found them made the hike seem worthwhile.

We would have hiked further, but we couldn't help noticing the sound of thunder rumbling in the direction of the visitor's centre. Looking back, we realized the sky had become filled with threatening cumulus clouds that were quickly moving our way. Being a fearless family who loves to live on the edge (not!), we turned around and, at a much faster pace, headed back to the car. For once we found ourselves hoping that something else would be invisible: The rain! If only the "soaking experience" would happen AFTER we were in the safe confines of our van!

My oldest son must have sneaked a can of spinach with him, for he took off, leaving us in a trail of dust. Wow! Grandma must have been a gazelle, and he took after her! When we finally arrived in the clearing, we found him fast asleep in the van . . . Oops I just received an elbow in my ribs! Change of story! He was impatiently waiting for us by pacing the visitor's area. He had no way to get into the van! I had the only set of car keys with me, a great way to make people wait for me! However during his pacing, he had managed to find cacti in the sand around the visitor's centre . . . He pointed this out to us when we finally arrived!

The storm was still a couple of miles away, and for this we were grateful. If we hurried, maybe we could make it back to our camp before it struck! Somehow the idea of blinding, torrential rain on these narrow, pitted roads didn't seem appealing . . .

Once in the automobile we discovered that our gas gauge was on empty. We didn't worry right away. While driving in, we had seen a gas station. We would simply make this our first stop. But when we arrived, we discovered that it was an unattended Coop station that would not accept any of our credit cards or any of our cash. What good is money in deserted areas anyway?

We looked at our gas gauge again. Still on "E". Funny how the worry now set in. There was no way we could cover the 100 kilometers back to Moose Jaw with that little gas! We consulted our Roadmate for any nearby gas facilities, but it confirmed our suspicions. The closest one was truly in Moose Jaw, and it was really 100 kilometers away.

Meanwhile, remember the storm? It was still after us!

What do you do when facing impossibilities? You pray. And you pray. And you pray some more. And then, being the vigilant type, I fell asleep, only to be woken up 100 kilometers later by my wife, who wanted to know if I preferred Shell or Petro-Canada.

"We made it?" I said with confidence, and I proceeded to fill the van with the exact amount of gas the car manual indicated it would hold.

"We drove on air!" Exclaimed my youngest son.

"No son," my wife corrected him, "we drove on God's grace!"

The torrential rain eventually caught up to us, but by this time it had lost most of its stamina (that is what happens when you chase people!), and we were safe and sound in our camp.

Impossible you might say. Humanly I would concur. We had avoided two potential disasters. God had intervened on our behalf and we praised Him for it. However we also know that if we had, indeed, run out of gas or been soaked by the storm, God would have given us the necessary grace to make it through.

Why worry when we are in God's hands? We can be assured of one thing: "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matt 19:26 NIV). This is why, Peter tells us: "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord." (1 Peter 3:14-15 NIV)

My friend, nothing is impossible for God!

Rob Chaffart

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