Tag Archives: park

Gathering Moonlight at Spruce Woods Park

Reid Dickie

“The moon’s a harsh mistress, it’s hard to love her well,

The moon’s a harsh mistress, the sky is made of stone,

The moon’s a harsh mistress, she’s hard to call your own.”

– Jimmy Webb

These are the buttery days of a new ancient summer. In their fluttering perfection, butterflies dot the world. Their true colours range from solid black through red, orange, yellow to iridescent blues, always stoned on some intoxicating nectar or other. Dragonflies have started to appear; mosquitoes aren’t far behind. Such was the world I entered Monday when I checked into Yurt #4 at Spruce Woods Provincial Park for a two-day stay.

Ensconced on my deck facing WNW, the temperature around 28 degree C, I have found a little Eden. The late afternoon breeze plucks music from the oaks and cottonwoods along the Assiniboine River, which I can see shining below. A dozen kinds of birds twitter in the trees, their songs striving to capture the counterpoint of the afternoon. They are successful every moment.

A huge yellow butterfly with blue trimmed wings dances above my glass of wine. Unable to resist, it lands on the rim, sips delicately and does a backward somersault off the glass into its fluttery world. My plan is to await dusk then hike out on Spirit Sands to watch the full moon rise over the dunes.

The day is cooling perfectly as I head out to Spirit Sands about 9:30. The golden sky deepens to red then crimson then purple and darker as I surmount the log ladder up the dune face. Arriving at the place on the dunes Linda and I always visited, I hear voices among the trees below. The last of the humans are clearing off the trails. I am alone.

As I await moonrise, coyotes howl in the west and are answered by others in the east. The flies and mosquitoes find me extra attractive with my coating of sweat from the hike. As a slight evening breeze cools my skin, a pale glow on the northeastern horizon heralds the full moon. It swells into view bulbous and red, and I am filled with bliss and gratitude for this witnessing.

I spend an hour watching the night deepen and the moon whiten. Hiking back during the very last moments of twilight, the shadows are flecked with occasional fireflies. After decades of gathering moonlight, the long-fallen bodies of blown-down trees shine like silver. Standing armies of wolf willow glow eerily in the moonlight.

Back at my yurt I light a fire and watch the stars come out. Hundreds of fireflies flicker on and off in the trees around my yurtyard. Fireflies are a positive sign of a healthy habitat. Crickets and choruses of frogs, the small cries of night birds, crackle of the fire and rustle of the constellations harmonize around me.

After a long sound sleep I awoke Tuesday to another perfect day! I took a drive to the nearby Criddle/Vane homestead (blog post to follow), toured the area a bit, lunched at the Robin’s Nest in Carberry where I see the temperature to be even hotter tomorrow. The Robin’s Nest is a quaint little restaurant and motel along the TCH. I recommend it for its good country food, friendly staff and it’s now licensed.

Back at Yurt #4, the drone of a bumblebee intoxicates me in the heat. A red-headed woodpecker taps out a secret message on the trunk of a gnarly old oak. The park is still and quiet today with just the warbles and sighs of the denizens. The day wears away and night captures the land. Like stars, the fireflies are continuous tonight. Everywhere I look I see them, flitting through the treetops or winking shyly from the pitch-black understory.  As I stand, a firefly zips by my face exploding like a tiny flashbulb.

Crickets and frogs keep time with the pulse of the night and, later, dozens of coyotes in all directions create an exhilarating aural experience making it sound like the whole world is composed of nothing but coyotes and their haunting theories. Another thoroughly restful sleep ensues.

Crews continue working to bring Spruce Woods Park up to its standard before last summer’s flood. Today as I was pulling out I noticed the road to Spirit Sands was cut and a large culvert was being inserted under the road. The ditch along the highway is being worked to remove some of the flood cake that still coats parts of the park. Daily horse-drawn covered wagon rides to the dunes and punch bowl begin in July and summer nature programs are scheduled. So whether you are gathering sunlight or moonlight, the park’s numerous trails await your hiking boots and your curiosity. (Take water. Do a tick check.)

Two other things to mention about Spruce Woods:

  • Turkey Vultures: from my deck I saw several large black birds soaring high on the thermals when I arrived on Monday. I took them to be ravens due to their size. Later they soared lower and I saw they were turkey vultures with their stubby necks and bright red heads.  Abandoned farm buildings around the park make excellent nesting places. I also saw turkey vultures perched on the roof of the ruins of the Lyon’s mansion just outside Carberry north of the park. The old house would be a perfect site to raise their bulky young. I will keep an eye on both locations to see where they are actually nesting. I have blogged about turkey vultures and the Lyons house before;
  • Sundance: a large sign at the Epinette Creek turnoff pointed toward a sundance being held this week in the park. Sundance is a days-long ritual of sacrifice and transcendence where prayer, piercing and offerings of flesh open the path to personal healing. The public is welcome, however, please remember, no drugs, no alcohol at sundance. A step-by-step guide to the daily ceremonies for this particular sundance are here.

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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, Birds, Carberry, Day Tripping, Natural Places, Parks, spirit sands

Spruce Woods Park Today

Reid Dickie

I am such a lucky man! I had my seventh hike so far this summer on Spirit Sands in Spruce Woods Park today. After a cool rainy week, the weather is warming. No wind, a few popcorn clouds and an upbeat attitude made it a perfect day for a hike.  The hoary puccoon – it’s just fun to say, go ahead, say it out loud – and three-flowered aven are still  blooming wildly everywhere, tiny violets wave trailside and the poison ivy is having a great year. I loll at the special place Linda and I have on the dunes. Back at the parking lot two and a half hours later I’m a little sunburned but happy and calm.

This is a shot of the kiosk at the trailhead with The Sentinel in the distance.

At Marsh Lake I pitch my camp chair between the four red maples located at the picnic shelter. All four trees are in full delicious bloom as witnessed by the bees and butterflies swarming the trees. The air is abuzz with happy insects and redolent with the precious scent of the maple blossoms. In the fall these maples turn blazing red. I saw my first red-tailed hawk of the summer in the park today

It appears Spruce Woods Park will have its amenities mostly prepared for the full tourist season in July and August. Other than the lower campground, most of the park will be in operation. Access to the campground and day use area is much easier now off Hwy #5. Crews are working on further repairs to the washed-out sections of the highway through the park.

I’ll be back to Spirit Sands later this week and again next week when I’m booked in at the yurts. Check for wood ticks. Happy hiking!

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Filed under Linda, Manitoba Heritage, Natural Places, Spirit

The Changing Light – Subtle, Relentless, Pure

Afternoon turns into night. Time lapse photography from the porch of Yurt #4 at Spruce Woods Provincial Park. Click pic to watch my video

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Filed under Film, Images, Linda, Parks, Sacred Places

Spruce Woods Park Today

Reid Dickie

Last Friday I took a drive out to Spruce Woods Park to see how the little park overwintered. Park workers have cleaned up most of the debris that cluttered the ditches. The plastic and metal grid dams that were washed away and strewn about the park have been removed. Some infill in wash-out areas, such as around the park sign and in ditches where water stood all last year, has been done. The huge pile of trees next to the bridge has been removed, likely providing the park with firewood for the next five years. The low road to the campground is still impassable and there remains plenty of evidence of the flood’s impact on the landscape. 

According to Manitoba Parks, the entire lower campground (bays 1 – 7) and all the campground buildings at Kiche Manitou in Spruce Woods were completely destroyed by the floodwaters. Currently the department is assessing damages and planning reconstruction, however, the lower campground will NOT be open for the 2012 season. The upper campground and yurts will still be available.

I stopped at the trailhead of Spirit Sands and took a few pictures. Though they never moved all last summer, the three covered wagons await their horses and a flood of tourists to carry out to the dunes. Other than the lower campground closure and most of the trail system needing repairs, the park will  operate more or less as usual this year. I’m looking forward to watching the natural changes the park will undergo this summer.

The status of several other provincial parks damaged by flooding last year remains uncertain. The department is reporting that availability of parks around Lake Manitoba inundated by high lake levels will vary. Since its campground and park infrastructure were completely destroyed, camping at St. Ambroise Park will not be offered this year. Also on the lake, Watchorn Park was damaged badly and assessments are currently underway, but it’s uncertain whether camping will be available this year. The campgrounds at Rainbow Beach and Manipogo Parks are now under repair with the intent that they’ll be open on May 11. Lundar Beach Park suffered extensive damage and, although repairs are underway, availability of camping this summer is uncertain. Slowly our parks will bounce back.

There have been changes this year in Manitoba Parks. Camping fees have increased slightly, between $1.05 and $3.15 depending on services offered. Park entry fees will be charged this year, ending three pleasant years of free park entry. Annual permits are just $30, amongst the lowest in Canada. Three-day passes are $8 and single day is $4. Permits are required after May 1 and can be purchased by mid-April at any Manitoba conservation office including campground offices, large stores like Canadian Tire and small stores that cater to fishers and hunters.

The Manitoba Provincial Parks Reservation System kicks into life tomorrow, April 2, 2012 at 7:30 a.m.  They should have the latest information on campground availability around the province. In Winnipeg call 948-3333, elsewhere toll-free 1-888-482-2267. Their website is manitobaparks.com

The mighty Assiniboine that caused havoc last year at this time is a much more peaceful river today as you can see. Here it’s rounding the bend at Spirit Sands trailhead. I’ll have many more reports on Spruce Woods Park and my other travels this summer on my blog. Stay tuned. Happy trails!


Filed under Accommodations, Carberry, Day Tripping, Flood, Natural Places, Parks, Spirit

Tamaracks in Spruce Woods Park

On Wednesday, October 19 I shot some footage of a bright yellow display of tamarack trees next to Hwy 5 in Spruce Woods Park. Distinctive because they turn yellow and lose their needles every fall. Although coniferous, they aren’t evergreen. Sometimes called larch.

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Filed under Day Tripping, Natural Places, Parks, Spirit

Fall Colours at Rainbow Falls

Reid Dickie

One of my day trips this week was east into Whiteshell Provincial Park with a visit to Bannock Point Petroforms and a stop at Rainbow Falls. Lake and river levels are low at this time of year so the falls was a mere shadow of its spring and summer self but the surrounding forest glowed bright with autumn hues.

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Filed under BEAUTY, Day Tripping, Natural Places, Parks, Roadside Attractions

Manitoba Flood Aftermath

Reid Dickie

In a farmer’s field I saw an eagle tearing into the carcass of a stranded fish, just one of thousands of outwash fish delivered by flooding rivers into pools of water that evaporated, leaving them to die. Flooded ditches are now the scene of slowly dying fish, suffocating in the disappearing water.  This first picture is a flooded ditch along the Trans Canada Highway east of Portage la Prairie right next to the Assiniboine River taken in May. The second picture is the same ditch today. I saw several gasping fish slowly swimming in the shallow water last week.

At Marsh Lake in Spruce Woods Park I saw only one painted turtle sunning on a downed log. In past years there would be dozens of turtles in the sunshine. The Assiniboine River inundated Marsh Lake, which is an oxbow, changing the habitat of the lake substantially. It will be several years before the lake rebounds from the flood and hopefully the turtle population will survive.

Every time I passed through the Assiniboine Valley this summer I was surprised by the amount and vast distribution of flood cake, the grey rind left behind by the flooding, now cracking and broken in the late summer heat. Whole valleys are white from the stuff with little black soil in sight.

In the Assiniboine Valley along Hwy 83 south of Miniota is a recently planted arboretum known as the Assiniboine Riparian Forest. I reported on it on my Day Tripper page. The arboretum sits on the valley floor and I was concerned the river may have washed the whole thing away. I was pleasantly surprised to see little damage to the trees and pathways with just a couple of rows of trees having evidence of flooding. Overall it survived the inundation well, however, the surrounding farm land was thick and white with flood cake.

Heading into fall, Manitoba has thoroughly dried out in many places with others still covered in standing water. The next two weeks promise to be dry so more moisture will disappear from the land. We could use a thirsty spring that soaks up the excess water next year.

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Filed under Flood, Natural Places, Roadside Attractions

Shining a Light Into Hidden Places

 Reid Dickie

This summer I have sat on desolate hilltops, communed with Spirit and received guidance and healing. I have slept in the deepest coulee next to a burbling stream dreaming my life into existence while Spirit danced through the trees. I have travelled in trance to the Lower World deep in the earth and to the Upper World high above the treetops, meeting helpful and engaging spirits everywhere. My awareness spans more worlds now than ever before in this lifetime. My imagination builds, integrates and transcends the dream that is my life as it flows seamlessly day-to-day, evolving quickly now, slowing sensibly then quickening again.

Being given the three stone tools at Pine Cree Park, which became tools for me to use in my re-enchantment of the world (part of my current job description), was a significant turning point in this life, in my being. The process of the stones’ passage through my life was pure and well-defined and my purpose intensified. The stones told me to tell you the story of how I got them and what I did with them. I am a messenger. I suppose I’ve always been a messenger of one sort or another: on radio and television, through art, writing and blogging. I’ve been well-trained for my current role. I don’t have a beat-you-over-the-head message. I have a here’s-what-happened-to-me message. Finding the three stones at Pine Cree Park is another chapter in my story of shining a light into hidden places, seeing what’s there then showing and telling you what happened, of bringing home the mystery and the ecstasy.

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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, Natural Places, Parks, Prairie People, Sacred Places, shaman, Spirit

Spruce Woods Park Update – August 12

Reid Dickie

Friday, August 12, 2011

Manitoba Hwy 5 is now open through Spruce Woods Park but there is limited access to park facilities and trails. When I drove through the newly-opened highway today I was horrified by the damage the little park suffered from the raging Assiniboine River. The shape and tenure of the park has been changed by the waters, the ongoing unknowable script of Nature writ new and large on a familiar landscape.

Marsh Lake access has been restored, the area mowed but the trail is flooded and closed; the picnic area is covered in grey flood goo. It feels under repair. The entrance to Spirit Sands trailhead is still washed out but there are piles of materials to rebuild the entrance and give access to the sacred place again…a miracle waiting to happen. The lower Kiche Manitou campground is still flooded and the access road is closed due to a major washout. The upper campground and yurt area is accessible by a detour route. I feel more hopeful for the park than I did on my last visit in mid July. It is very encouraging to see the highway is now open. I shot this video of the area today.

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Filed under Day Tripping, Earth Phenomena, Flood, Natural Places, Sacred Places, Spirit, spirit sands

Deleau School Wayside Park

Reid Dickie

This delightful remnant of old school days pops up on the south side of Hwy #2 just east of Deleau, MB. The Deleau/Sifton Centennial Park is the size of four baseball diamonds and once served as school yard for Deleau School. Surrounded by a double row of mature spruce planted over 80 years ago to act as windbreak during the cold times of year, the park offers a wide open space for the kids to run around in, primitive restrooms, small picnic area and the sheltering trees. Yes, the sheltering trees. Listen for the wind as it sieves through the engorged needles of summer. The school house and stable for mules and ponies kids rode to school are gone. A plaque on a rock remembers the school.

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Filed under 1950s, Day Tripping, Manitoba Heritage, Pioneers, Prairie People, Rest Stops

Pictures of Spruce Woods Park Flooding

Reid Dickie

These are from July 14 to 16, 2011. This is the low road to the campground, flooded with washouts.

Access along the low road flooded out.

Here in the bottom of the valley the Assiniboine River is almost two miles wide.

Super sandbags couldn’t hold back the mighty Assiniboine.

At a bend in the river, the low road is completely gone.

This is the temporary park office set up to handle the sparse customers for the yurts and high campground.

These are shots of Hwy 5 on the north side of the park. Boulders and gravel piled down the middle of the highway above Marsh Lake.

Destruction caused by the surging river water.

At the entrance to Marsh Lake, the highway lies in ruins. Just past the bend on the right in the distance was where the entrance to Spirit Sands used to be. The road is gone now.

Marsh Lake – overgrown and reverting back to the wild.

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Filed under Day Tripping, Flood, Local History, Natural Places, Parks, Sacred Places, Spirit, spirit sands

Spruce Woods Park Flood – Video Update

Reid Dickie 

I just spent two days in Yurt #4 at Spruce Woods Provincial Park and brought back three video reports of the damage the little park sustained. It’s sad!

The main access road – Hwy #5 – is a broken highway with washouts fifteen feet deep and spanning hundreds of yards. The bridge over the Assiniboine held but serious washouts occurred on both sides of it. The prospects for doing anything other than camping or yurting at the park this year are dim. One park attendant told me there is a slim possibility Spirit Sands may be accessible before the year is out but I’m not counting on it, judging by the condition of the highway, access roads and the continuing high water levels. Although full moon night was clear and warm and would have been perfect for a midnight hike on the sands, alas I was only able to watch the moon rise and listen to the surging river from the porch of my yurt.

My first report shows the Assiniboine’s damaging effect on the park road which leads off Hwy #5 to the lower and upper campgrounds and yurt area. The road is washed out as you can see in this short video report.

The second report shows Hwy #5, closed and barricaded, and the some of the damage it sustained. This is a long shot looking from the south taken on a hot prairie morning. You can see the heat waves rising from the asphalt.

The third report shows in detail the extensive damage and washouts along Hwy #5 near Marsh Lake in Spruce Woods Park.

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Filed under Accommodations, Flood, Local History, Natural Places, Parks, Prairie People, spirit sands

Another Manitoba Sinkhole

Reid Dickie

Our engorged rivers are reshaping the Canadian landscape to the extreme this year. Water, in its eternal compulsion to conform to gravity, etches its slow-hewn language through valleys and onto flatlands. Now a new sinkhole has opened up along the Souris River in an undisclosed location near the town of Souris, Manitoba.

Similar in features to the Dauphin sinkhole, it appears calling either of these a sinkhole is a misnomer. Landslide appears to be the official explanation of the phenomena at both sites. The adjacent rivers and their abundant flows this year have eaten away enough of the banks for masses of earth to slide into the valleys. At the Dauphin site, the Vermillion River takes a sharp deep turn just below the landslide. At the Souris site, the valley wall appears to have collapsed and slid toward the river.


Filed under Earth Phenomena, Flood, Local History, Natural Places

Spruce Woods Provincial Park Manitoba Flood Update – Friday May 13, 2011

Reid Dickie

The Assiniboine River runs through Spruce Woods Provincial Park and not only has its flooding closed the park indefinitely, Highway #5 which runs through the park is closed between Glenboro and Carberry. Water is over the road and some of the highway is washed out. The lower areas of the Spirit Sands and Marsh Lake are water covered and there is more on the way.

The lower campground at Kiche Manitou campground in Spruce Woods Park is under several feet of water and all buildings have been severely damaged. Yurts are on high ground and unaffected by flooding. Manitoba Conservation is hoping to re-open the park to camping in the lower campground by the end of July! That’s right, the end of July! Some aspects of the park are expected to open in mid-June but there is an enormous amount of water to move first. Many provincial parks are affected by flooding. Check here for updates on campground closures and delayed openings.

In Brandon, the dikes are under heavy maintenance, another foot is being added to most of the dikes as water flows are expected to increase. Saskatchewan has had heavy rains and the Qu’Appelle River, which drains into the Assiniboine at St. Lazare, MB, is swollen. Everything downstream from there is under flood watch. The final stores have closed in the Corral Centre and Paddock. The last evacuees are expected to be gone by this evening and the city waits. The crest, once thought imminent, is now predicted for the middle of next week. The Saskatchewan rains and subsequent surges are making crest predictions extremely difficult. One certainty from Manitoba Water Stewardship is to expect higher than predicted crest levels along the Assiniboine. This announcement resulted in the new endeavours to raise Brandon`s dikes by at least a foot.

At Portage the military is working to raise the Portage Diversion to move more river water into Lake Manitoba to the north. Tonight there is more water in the Portage Diversion than in the Red River Floodway around Winnipeg! The Trans Canada Highway remains open today through Grand Valley west of Brandon where the ditches are being re-enforced with stones. Structurally the two bridges that span the river at Grand Valley are sound and uncompromised by the rising river.

The proposed “controlled” breach at Hoop and Holler Bend has been delayed again, now scheduled for early Saturday. There are 122 provincial roads affected by flooding, 73 closed. There are approximately 750 municipal roads closed. Though Brandon is predicted to get a little wet snow tonight, the forecast for the Assiniboine region including its headwaters in Saskatchewan is for clear sunny days ahead with no precipitation for a week. That would help immensely!


Filed under Flood, Local History, Natural Places, Parks, Prairie People