It is almost impossible to resist the open road; to ignore the whisper of a stream as it slides over moss-covered rocks; to disregard a wink from the tallest tree in the forest; to snub the open arms of a sandy shoreline. Every year, undiscovered dioramas of crooked rivers, sparkling lakes and mountain vistas entice us to explore their beauty. This year, Canada Post pays tribute to the beauty and diversity of Canada with the first of a new stamp series, "Scenic Highways". The stamps will be issued in sets of four, one set per year for the next three years. The opening set, scheduled for release on June 30th, features a visual delight of contrasting scenery; Cape Breton's Cabot Trail, Ontario's Wine Route, Saskatchewan's Big Muddy, and British Columbia's Sea to Sky Highway.
In his first work for Canada Post, designer Lou Cable has just juggled several elements to give us a striking photographic image of each of these, the first four stamps in the Scenic Highway series. Each combines four elements: a landscape photo; a depiction of one local cultural, historical, economical or recreational aspect; an official provincial road sign; and one area of a map showing the specific piece of the road.
Some think of Saskatchewan as an unending plain of wheat fields interrupted by grain elevators. The design chosen for this stamp issue will help dispel that myth. It depicts the Big Muddy, a rough landscape of rugged hills and craggy buttes 100 miles south of Regina, sparsely covered with sage, cactus and gray-leafed bush known as wolf willow. Nineteen kilometres south of Bengough, on Highway 34, a 60-metre high outcrop of compressed clay rises abruptly from the prairie. Castle Butte's solitary mass heralds the Big Muddy Badlands, a 3.2-kilometre wide valley of eroded earth and sandstone along Big Muddy Creek. For centuries, this spectacular and solitary expanse has attracted seekers of isolation, from the native peoples of the region to outlaws in need of concealment. In fact, Highway 36 is part of the "Outlaw Trail" blazed by the infamous Butch Cassidy, while Highway 13 - the "Red Coat Trail" - honours the role played by the North-West Mounted Police in the settlement of the west. Together with Highway 34, these roads encircle the Big Muddy Badlands. Today, Bengough recalls the early years with its annual summer fair, Wild West Days and the Big Muddy Stampede, a Canadian Professional Rodeo Association sanctioned event. The adobe huts are gone; so are the outlaws, but this area remains timeless.
The contributing photographer for the Big Muddy is Peter Timmermans of Saskatchewan.