Hike back in time to the Aschim Homestead near Candle Lake
A unique forest filled with history is tucked on the side of Highway 120 and only a 10-minute drive south of Candle Lake. The unassuming turn-off to the Aschim Homestead Heritage Forest is marked by a small sign that does not foretell just what a fascinating area this is to explore. Believe me – it is worth a visit.
Step back in time on a hike that enables you to interact with Saskatchewan’s history. Past the parking lot and gates, a short trail through the forest opens to reveal interpretive signs, an outhouse and bench. Signage highlights the significance of the area and includes a detailed map of the 3.4 km of trails to explore.
Beaver Pond Loop is the main trail that provides access to the viewing point, Aschim Homestead and the Climbing Tree. The landscape varies significantly for such a short, flat and easy trail. Hikers cross marshlands on boardwalks, pass by white spruce and aspens, and walk through a tall black spruce forest. Enjoy spotting the beavers that frequent the area and notice the trees that have been munched along the hike.
Diverse vegetation is not the only thing you will encounter as you hike through the forest. Along the trails, signs provide visitors with the history of the homestead. The story is truly what makes this place so special. In 1932, Ansgar and Christina Aschim purchased the 320 acres. They built a two-story Norwegian-style cabin from fire-killed spruce, harvested from the east side of Torch Lake.
Still a strong standing structure, it is one of the main attractions along the trails. Visitors can imagine life in the 1930s by exploring inside of the homestead. Just past the door is the kitchen with cupboards and dishes. A woodstove that kept the Aschims warm through cold winter nights stands tall in the living room, while a set of sturdy stairs leads up to bedrooms on the second floor.
Make sure that you sign the guest book in the kitchen before exploring the property, which includes a smokehouse, old farm equipment and shop house. In the shop house, visitors can leave a donation to support the work of Candle Lake Communities in Bloom. The community received the Provincial Heritage Award in 2020 for upgrading and maintaining the buildings, boardwalks and trail systems in the Aschim Heritage Forest.
The end of the hiking loop passes by the Climbing Tree. Over 100 years old, the white spruce towers 24 metres (74 feet), with a diameter of 64 centimetres (25 inches). Interestingly, white spruce struggle to grow in the area because of competition with aspen that knock the tops off the spruce trees. Some aspens have been removed around the younger spruce to promote growth, making the age of the Climbing Tree even more impressive. A poem on a plaque highlights the remarkable growth of the old tree:
“Hi! I am a large white spruce that has had the opportunity to grow in rich moist soil.
How old do you think I am? You can find out by reading the sign part way up my trunk. Climb at your own risk.”
So, what are you waiting for? Enjoy uncovering the history of this beautiful area on your next weekend getaway.
Author and Photographer: Annika Mang
Annika Mang is a writer and photographer based in Regina, Saskatchewan with a focus on family adventure.