Saskatoon

She's been everywhere, man: Sask. woman visits more than 900 places in province

With a stop at Cana, southeast of Melville, on Friday, Ruth Bitner completed her journey, having visited 16 cities, 144 towns, 284 villages and 517 hamlets over 12 years.

Ruth Bitner completes her own 'personal centennial project' on the roads of Saskatchewan

A photo of Ruth Bitner in Cana, Sask., her last stop during a 12-years-in-making car trip during which she tried to visit as many Saskatchewan communities below the 54th parallel as she could. (Ruth Bitner)

It started as a reasonably ambitious mission. Then it became an obsession.

Ruth Bitner of Dalmeny, Sask., recently finished a 12-years-in-the-making tour of more than 900 Saskatchewan communities by car.

In 2005, inspired by the province's centennial, Bitner set out to drive to as many places in Saskatchewan below the 54th parallel as possible.

With a stop at Cana, southeast of Melville, on Friday, she completed her journey, having visited 16 cities, 144 towns, 284 villages and 517 hamlets in all.

She called it "my own personal centennial project."

A photo Bitner took along the South Saskatchewan River southwest of Beechy. (Ruth Bitner)

"At the beginning they were day trips. We could easily go out for an afternoon from Dalmeny," said Bitner, who was joined on some trips by her husband, her sister-in-law and a friend who kept a diary of what they saw.

"If we saw a flock of cranes along the way, we'd write it down," she said.

Pack your imagination 

Bitner, a recently-retired employee at the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon, set one rule for herself: no drive-by sightings.

"We had to go into the community and take a picture at least; get out of the car. Sometimes we'd stop for a picnic."

But sometimes that just wasn't possible.

"Sometimes there wasn't even a road sign. Sometimes we had to use our imagination to figure out we were at the place."

Bitner said she gained a new appreciation for how big the province is and the diversity of its landscape.

"Who knew there were orchids growing in Nisbet Provincial Forest [southwest of Prince Albert]?"

"Who knew there were orchids growing in Nisbet Provincial Forest?" (Ruth Bitner)

Bitner says she now plans to travel to communities north of the 54th parallel.