Clifford Wiens, grand old man of Saskatchewan modernist architecture, did a campsite on the Trans-Canada Highway west of Maple Creek, that looked like this orchard. I stayed in it in the mid-80s and all the trees were thin and weedy, indigenous species such as poplar and aspen, saskatoons and willows. The layout was like a miniature version of the Dominion Grid, each camp site a section. It was enchanting, so deeply rooted in a historic organisation of land, so proud of prairie trees that flutter in the relentless wind, so very orderly and in its way, unsentimental about what is needed when one pulls off the highway after a long day of driving. Strangely I seem to have forgotten completely the heroic concrete entry pavilion that usually represents this project:
In 2001, driving back from Halifax, I tried to find it, actually to camp in. This after a whole day of driving across Saskatchewan and finding the network of small towns that had existed just fifteen years before completely gone, and this campsite abandoned. The trees were tall and untended, some had fallen, one ripped off my radio aerial as I drove in thinking I might stop there anyway. But it felt haunted, a tragic failure of provincial pride. A most uneasy site. It had been a small thing, approached with a brave sort of rigour.