Happy trails on the Yellowhead Highway

Story by Shel Zolkewich
Vacay.ca Writer 


That’s Happy Rock and he’d be very glad if you stopped to take his picture. (Shel Zelkovich/Vacay.ca)

NEEPAWA, MANITOBA — The TransCanada Highway is a thing of beauty — an efficient, scenic east-west link across this vast country of ours. But the great thing about Canada is that we have options, and one of them comes in the form of a cross-Canada roadway called the Yellowhead Highway.

This stretch of highway begins in Winnipeg, Manitoba and ends in Masset, British Columbia on the archipelago of Haida Gwaii, tallying up 2,960 kilometres. Named for fur trader and explorer Pierre Bostonais (or Tête Jaune) — who sported a headful of golden locks — the Yellowhead runs north of the TransCanada, through small towns and alongside the Canadian Pacific Railway line. It’s the road less travelled.

Head into Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, and make your way to Island Park where you can dig out that bag of carrots and feed the resident population of exotic deer.

Feeding the deer may remind you that it’s lunchtime. In that case, your destination is Horfrost, where chef Jeff Mialkowski will knock your socks off with bison spring rolls, buttery pickerel and homemade ice cream that will have you making a reservation for a return trip before you leave the area.

Head west and look for the turn-off for the Yellowhead Highway (it snakes off the 100-year-old TransCanada at this point, becoming its own thoroughfare). Watch for the road signs that alert you know Gladstone is coming up. You must have your portrait taken with the town’s cheery monument, Happy Rock. (Are you connecting the dots yet? Glad Stone, Happy Rock.)

Motor into the town of Neepawa. Look for the charming historic homes lining the streets and the profusion of lilies. After all, Neepawa is the World Lily Capital and home to a grand festival every July.

Our first stop is the childhood home of Margaret Laurence, author of The Stone Angel and one of Canada’s grand dames of literature. The museum will make any lit hound squeal. You’ll see the portrait of one of Laurence’s high school English teachers, the one who inspired her to write. You’ll also see the typewriter where she penned her novels and the iconic “owl” glasses that she was seldom seen without.

Next it’s on to the cemetery, because if you’ve read The Stone Angel you know there’s something special there. But there’s also a little piece of tragic history at Riverside Cemetery. It’s the final resting place of the only Titanic victim to be buried in Western Canada. Look for the Lewis Hickman marker.

Time to stretch your legs and practice that swing at the Neepawa Golf & Country Club. Don’t underestimate this 18-hole course. It’s sort of like a supermodel—beautiful and challenging. It rises and falls along the Whitemud River, momentarily causing you to forget the task at hand and simply admire the rolling countryside.

Vacay.ca contributor Shel Zolkewich is on a road trip through Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Watch for more of her stories in coming days.

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