Tanaeya Kring walks through the entrance of NCC's Old Man on His Back site. (Photo by Mark Taylor)

Tanaeya Kring walks through the entrance of NCC's Old Man on His Back site. (Photo by Mark Taylor)

Grandmother-granddaughter duo travel 2,500 km to visit NCC grassland property

“The land of the living sky - that came true for me,” says Jean Kendall who had been trying to visit the property for 10 years

Jean Kendall (left) and her 10-year-old granddaughter Tanaeya Kring walk through the fields of grasslands at NCC's Old Man on His Back site. (Photo by Mark Taylor)

Jean Kendall (left) and her 10-year-old granddaughter Tanaeya Kring walk through the fields of grasslands at NCC's Old Man on His Back site. (Photo by Mark Taylor)

Jean Kendall and her 10-year-old granddaughter travelled from northern Ontario to southwest Saskatchewan for the chance to see rolling hills of prairie grassland. They clocked about 2,500 kilometres one way.

“I’ve always wanted to come here,” Kendall said about the Old Man on His Back property. She first heard about the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) site about 10 years ago through Sharon Butala’s book, The Perfection of the Morning. Butala, the former owner and donor of the land (along with her husband Peter), wrote about the spiritual feeling she got from the property. Kendall was hooked.

She was emailing with Butala about how to get to the property. A few contacts with the Nature Conservancy of Canada later, and Kendall and her granddaughter were signed up for the annual August volunteer conservation weekend on-site.

It was a unique nature experience. Ten-year-old Tanaeya Kring lives near Timmins, Ontario, and said the landscape and the sky were very different than what she was used to.

While the long grass scratched her legs when she wore shorts, she was amazed at how it mimicked ocean waves.

The off-road hills of grassland at Old Man on His Back are for walking only. (Photo by Mark Taylor)

The off-road hills of grassland at Old Man on His Back are for walking only. (Photo by Mark Taylor)

“It’s really neat when the wind blows,” she said. Tanaeya also watched prairie sunsets for the first time. She got a chance to learn about the stars and see them on the nocturnal preserve like she had never seen them before. She spotted the big dipper.

The open spaces were also a welcome experience for her grandmother.

“The land of the living sky — that came true for me,” Kendall said. “Because I love that. I like being able to see way over there. Nobody can sneak up on you.”

It was also a special experience to see conserved land. It's estimated that only 17 to 21 per cent of original native prairie in Saskatchewan remains intact.

Kendall hoped to give Tanaeya a sense of how big Canada is, and how diverse its nature is.

“I just feel better when I can have room around me,” she said. “I love it. I could live out here.”

On the last night of the event, the grandmother and granddaughter chose to climb out of their tent and sleep under the stars.

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