Come on. Let’s go for a drive, work off some of our wanderlust!
Most of my reports from Manitoba places have articles, pictures and videos of the sites.
Third Annual Carberry Heritage Festival
Friday & Saturday August 7 & 8, 2015
First 2015 Spirit Sands Hike article and pictures
Yurting at Spruce Woods Park do it!
Criddle/Vane Homestead article, pics video
Ascending Pilot Mound 4 minute video
Cartwright Buffalo Jump short video
Old Deloraine Pioneer Cemetery above Newcomb’s Hollow
Newcomb’s Hollow on Boundary Commission Trail video
Fieldstone Bank Vaults only 2 in western Canada video
Cypress River Boardwalk video along Hwy #2
Official Manitoba RCMP Museum Shoal Lake short video
10 Manitoba Sites in 2 Minutes video clips
Dog Day Harvest Flies at Spruce Woods short video
St. Claude Gaol town’s old jail video
Cooks Creek Medieval Festival 2014 video and pics
Vickers Viscount Airplane in Tiny Garland post, pics, video
Spirit Sands Hike September 2013 article, pics
Spirit Sands Hike August 2011 11 minute video
Three Unique Manitoba Houses Video of Percy Moggey’s cabin, Bottle house in Treherne, Doll House Art Project (now gone)
Manitoba Alluvial Fan north side of RMNP
Abandoned Ruined Places moody video
Inside Birtle Indian Residential School 2015 post, pics, video
Negrych Family Homestead unique in North America
Dauphin Train Station short video
Steel Trestle Bridge at Uno on CNR mainline
Narcisse Snake Dens 2014 spring phenomenon
Two Bridges over the Roseau one swings
Gathering Moonlight at Spruce Woods Park night hike
Carberry – Manitoba Heritage Gem! pics post
Portals to the Past moody video
Southwest Manitoba Tour see pincushion cacti in bloom pics
Another Southwest Manitoba Tour Hartney Miniota Spruce Woods pics
Wakpa Tanka Lookout/Silver Bend Trail post, pics
Gladstone aka Happy Rock short video
Alexander Ridge Park on the edge of the escarpment pics
The Halfway Trees between Winnipeg and Brandon post pics
Winnipeg to Dauphin by Rail 5 minute video
Southeast Manitoba Tour Sarto Steinbach St Malo pics
Marsh Lake in Spruce Woods Park post pics
For Thrifters – History of MCC Stores post pics
The Arches of Russell unique Manitoba experience pics
The Babushka Trail, Parkland Ukrainian heritage tour post, pics
Camp Hughes Rest Stop with fake forest pics video
Satterthwaite Homestead on the Burrows Trail post pics video
Hayfield ghost town and one-room Hebron School
For an overview of my Manitoba travels check out my thorough and copiously illustrated Year End Reviews for
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Assiniboine Valley Arboretum
Riding Mountain National Park/Mountain Road
Kiche Manitou Yurt
Pembina Valley Provincial Park
Barney’s Motel, Brandon
St. Leon Wind Farm
Summer Shack, Carberry
ASSINIBOINE VALLEY ARBORETUM
July 28, 2010
On this warm July evening along Highway 83, the wide Assiniboine Valley a few kilometers south of Miniota, MB offers its beautiful vista including several fields flooded by the river. At the south end of the valley, just off the highway, I discover the Assiniboine Riparian Forest Centre, an endeavour of Manitoba Hydro’s Forest Enhancement Program.
Situated on the high banks of the Assiniboine and not flooded, the Centre covers several acres with dozens of varieties of trees and bushes, all well planted, mulched with straw and very healthy. Over 600 trees were planted in 2008 with more added this fall. Each variety has a written description and picture of it when mature, easily read from the winding well-maintained pathway among the flora. Along with Manitoba’s familiar coniferous and deciduous trees, the arboretum features many fruit trees, berry bushes and some hybrids.
A maintained pathway, accessible from the arboretum, offers a pleasant stroll through the forest along the banks of the Assiniboine, a river with many secrets along its wide valley. The trail has benches and picnic tables, school and public tours are offered. The Riparian Forest’s grand opening is set for Spring 2011.
RIDING MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK/MOUNTAIN ROAD
May to October 2010
Just a 45-minute drive from my hometown of Shoal Lake, Riding Mountain National Park, otherwise “The Park,” is familiar and comfortable. I worked in Clear Lake for a couple of summers in my youth; my parents had a trailer there for a while. It is part of my history.
This summer I drove through The Park five times, always north to south and always in the morning. Untainted and beautifully preserved, despite having about a dozen new hiking trails, The Park still offers a pristine landscape that teems with wildlife. On my drives, I spotted moose, deer, coyotes and, elk.
Grayling Lake in Riding Mountain National Park, summer 2009. One of the last pictures Linda took of me.
If you start it just as you enter The Park and drive the 80 kms an hour speed limit, the first Deep Forest CD lasts all the way through the drive and ends just as you leave.
South of The Park and just past Erickson is Mountain Road, Provincial Road 357, once renowned for Philip Ruh’s magnificent Catholic Church, which burned down some years back. The highway takes you across the rolling foothills of Riding Mountain then, step by step, delivers you off the Manitoba Escarpment back onto the floodplain at Highway #5. The descent clearly features the various beach ridges of Lake Agassiz as the lake filled and receded over millennia. Finally, the last mile is a glorious chute around a gentle bend that is a thrilling finale to the ride.
KICHE MANITOU CAMPGROUND YURT #4
September 24, 2010
My first yurt experience proved to be damp, cold, warm, fuzzy and not without many magical moments. It rained most of the afternoon as soon as I arrived. The park gives you two keys: one for the yurt and the other for your little red wagon! Chained up to a railing at the parking lot are ten oversized red metal wagons with inflated tires that you use to haul your crap to the yurt since you can’t drive right up to it. An excellent idea!
Yurt #4 (of ten, three more added for 2011) at Kiche Manitou Campground in Spruce Woods Provincial Park, just a hoot and a holler from the high dunes of the Spirit Sands, is a fine little affair. Sixteen feet across with hardwood floor raised on a short foundation, the yurt has ample room, both floor and headspace, that even three adults wouldn’t feel crowded. It opens into a large dome that lets light and tree laughter in. The proportion and angle of the ceiling gives the room airiness.
Furnished in rough hewn natural wood, heavily shellacked, the yurt has a comfy futon (my bed for the night), a lamp, a round table with four chairs, each weighing fifty pounds, a coat rack, the curtain rods, a bureau and bunk beds, double on bottom, single on top. The beds have the hardest mattresses I’ve ever laid on. The room has a small wall heater, which ran all night and barely kept the dropping temp at bay. The yurt has a roofed wooden porch/deck with cooking area and electrical plugs. The view from the porch is spectacular with the yellowing oak leaves and the Assiniboine River flowing by below.
The strangest part of the yurt was the diamond-shaped lattice that covered every interior wall space, even the windows. The lattice is used in the basic structure of the place but exposed 340 degrees around you (the door isn’t covered), sometimes the room would start to spin. In my peripheral vision, it would move but stop when I looked that way. Somewhat disconcerting at first but an easily-won tolerance to tacky design.
When I first arrived at the yurt, I heard a sighing sound coming from under one of the three windows. After a few times, I named it Debbie as it had a definite human resignation to it. I suspect it was some communal scrapping of nature and yurt but Debbie offered her small sounds many times during the night, changing from startling to reassuring.
Coyotes gave several insane choir recitals in the night, making me laugh every time. It was the full moon and I was sorry I wouldn’t see it for the rain. About 5 o’clock I got up for a pee and the clouds parted and the full moon shone heavy and gorgeous, illuminating the area around my yurt with a mix of shadows and sensation. A little smile from Linda. Beautiful!
Yurts are for non-campers who still don’t mind smelling of wood smoke for a few days. The accommodation for the price – $54 all in – was more than fair, for a family, very economical. It would be most enjoyable on warm summer days and nights. The view of the stars off the porch would be grand.
To make moonlight hikes on the Spirit Sands much easier with a place to come home to, I thought I would try to book a yurt there every full moon next summer. This can be done online starting in February. From Mongolia to Manitoba, yurts are funky!
PEMBINA VALLEY PROVINCIAL PARK
July 2, 2010
Before going to Star Mound, my wanderlust takes me on my first visit to one of Manitoba’s newer provincial parks, Pembina Valley. Located south of Morden on the banks of the Pembina River, this small park once encompassed part of a farm owned by Henry and Elma Martens. The couple wanted to preserve the area’s natural elements and landscape and offered to sell the land for a park. The combined efforts of Manitoba Conservation and the Nature Conservancy of Canada, who jointly purchased the land, resulted in this lush little oasis.
The day swelters but a sweet breeze whistles along the Pembina Valley, cooling the bare skin and keeping the mosquitoes away. Around me is an almost circular windbreak of mature spruce and blue spruce, three deep and very effective against the winter winds. I feel well tended and safe among these old trees. During my entire 90-minute stay, I am the park’s only user.
Numerous trails of various difficulties provide wildlife viewing opportunities and magnificent vistas of the Pembina/Tiger Hill region. Picnics and family gatherings can be accommodated although no camping is allowed and the washrooms are primitive. I am lazy today so prefer the shade of a beautiful basswood and the wiles of my pen to a hike in a forest full of bugs. I languish instead.
BARNEY’S MOTEL, BRANDON
August 12, 2010
For no discernable reason I could see, the tourist guide says Barney’s Motel was nominated as “funniest motel in Canada,” unless they meant, “But not funny, “Ha! Ha!” and you consider red ants crawling about your room hysterical fun. All rooms face the highway but there is virtually no traffic sound inside the room. A friendly park bench under the front awning offers full view and ambience of the TCH with its non-stop rush of semis, SUVs, pick-ups and sedans – my evening entertainment already in progress.
Barney’s is the worst motel at the best location – an intersection with lights of the Trans Canada Highway and Highway 10 that runs from Flin Flon, Manitoba to Corpus Christi, Texas on the Gulf of Mexico. And I am encamped here in Room 105 for the night the weather changes.
I saw it coming. I was having sacrament behind Barney’s asa sharp line of darkening cloud moved slowly in from the west creating a phosphorescent orange and silver sunset. That eveningthe arc of summer reached its zenith, acme achieved, its first and last gasp of Orgasm. The Hinge was moving. As I stood and watched the advancing cloud, a red-tailed hawk, familiar from every sacred site I’ve ever visited, cried twice over the fields.“Every moment sacred.”
After dark, the Hinge slowly swung, bringing rain, refreshment and a spectacular lightning and roar show when combined with the running lights of the big rigs (a ride at the Ex) and the howling of the trapped but untamed horsepower under their cabs, everything backlit by the flickering lights of the fry pits along the route. I had a front row seat for it all at Barney’s. (One anecdotal scene was the truck that usually had LIGHT SPEED in huge letters along its load had LIGHT PEED instead.)
I watched the dark silhouette of a hitchhiker become waterlogged during the storm yet, afterwards, dance in wild circles under the eerie orange glow of the intersection lights, getting a ride into the wild prairie night surprisingly quickly.
Barney’s Motel is a landmark in Brandon. It was there when we visited as a kid tho I don’t recall ever staying there. It always had a garish neon sign but the present endeavour is rather lame. Once a thriving concern with a reputation, fires and futility has left Barney’s bedraggled and sad. But what a location!
July 13, 2010
Neubergthal is one of the best preserved single street Mennonite villages in North America. Located southeast of Altona, the tiny spot is part of the West Reserve set aside for Mennonites when they immigrated to Canada in the late 1800s.
The outstanding features of Neubergthal are the eight intact housebarns aligned along the street, actually Provincial Road 421. The traditional building style shows characteristic Mennonite architecture with house and barn connected. In the 1990s, local people organized to save the buildings, many of them unique in Canada. Today a fully restored housebarn interpretive centre complete with a functioning Russian bake heater offer visitors a glimpse into a bygone era and lifestyle.
ST. LEON WIND FARM
May 29, 2010
Restlessness overwhelmed me around noon today. I checked the weather satellite and it looked promising so I headed out to Carman, had an unsuccessful rummage in their MCC, bought 6 fresh doughnuts at the bakery and proceeded west toward Miami and the Escarpment which loomed blue and dark on the western horizon under thin variable cloud.
I drove past Miami and up onto the first of the three steps of the Manitoba Escarpment. Up the second level and finally atop the next level of prairie. A few miles later on the very top of the Escarpment, I encounter the St Leon wind farm, my first experience with a wind farm. Those suckers are big! And stretch for miles and miles across the rolling hills. Dozens of them! Very strange and surreal motion relationships with the car moving horizontally and the huge turning blades right there next to the road. If Alfred Hitchcock were making North by Northwest today, he’d have a wind farm in it.
I pass through Notre Dame de Lourdes and descend off the Escarpment into Rathwell. As imposing as the windmills are, the rolling black shelf cloud that covers half the horizon before me is awesome! I am driving right into it, cloud darkening around me. I drove 240 north to Portage la Prairie and the rain begins, buckets by the time I arrive at the PLP Horts.
I have encountered the once-in-fifty-years rainstorm. I watch the streets of Portage fill up with water. It lets up a little after an hour and I decide to try the TCH home. I get to the rest stop just outside PLP and pull in hoping for better visibility. It eases once more. By the time I get to Elie, this storm is maelstrom proportions. Zero visibility with people still passing me! I sit on Elie’s main drag for half an hour and it lets up more. I keep driving back into it, of course. Stupid white man!
The result of the rainstorm is flooding over a large area, especially between PLP and Winnipeg. The land is drenched with standing water everywhere. The rains that came even before I left the city meant the ditches were full, fields inundated, both sides of the Escarpment alive with ditch streams, La Salle and Assiniboine Rivers and Tobacco Creek overflowing their banks. Ah, the joys of living on a floodplain.
SUMMER SHACK, CARBERRY, MB
All summer long
Nearly every time after Linda and I hiked the Spirit Sands we drove north to Carberry and had chicken burgers and chocolate milkshakes at the Summer Shack. Our hill and gully hikes worked up two good appetites. Situated on Highway #5 (Check) the Summer Shack is a little fry pit that caters to locals in a paper plate and plastic utensil manner surrounded by over-shellacked, rustic, bolted-to-the-floor ambience.
Carrying on the tradition (and as homage to the inventor of the chicken burger – the Earl of E coli), the small coterie of souls who spread Linda’s remains on the dunes this August had some form of chicken afterwards at the Summer Shack. (Ordering tip: ask for extra mayo and lettuce on your chicken burger, to fend off dryness. They are a little conservative about that out there in Carberry.) A huge air conditioner above our heads vibrated the whole building while effectively providing coolness.
Of course, I would recommend the Summer Shack. It is three miles off the TCH and well worth the jaunt. Open only summers as the name implies, you order at a wicket and, miraculously, your food arrives. Yum, yum.