Tag Archives: spirit sands

First Spirit Sands Hike 2014

yellow hoary puccoons and mauve avens

Reid Dickie

The humidity drove the temperature above 30 degrees today which proved perfect weather for a sauna-like hike on the Spirit Sands in Spruce Woods Park. As I arrived the horse-drawn covered wagon ride was just ending for a group of enthusiastic elementary school kids from the Cartwright/Mather area.

Because of our late spring all the wildflowers along the trail are a month behind. Usually in bloom by late April, the hoary puccoon and three-fingered avens (bright yellow puccoons and pale mauve avens in pic above) are just now coming into blossom. Lots of colour among the emerging grass from field and shade violets, anemone  and white velvets, colloquial names for lovely little blooms. Out on the dunes the odd sand dock offered its shy colours. The trees were full of birdsong tempered by the occasional welcome breeze to cool the skin. As usual, today the sands were at least 5 degrees hotter than the lowland around them.

The last few days, as I tweak a screenplay to complete its second draft, I’ve had the nagging feeling I should be doing something I’m not. Not something in the future, but right now. The drive to Spruce Woods and the hike to the sands cured that feeling. I found my antidote yet again along the sandy trail among the old spruce and on the hot sand.

There is talk of plowing up the overgrowth on the sand dunes to give them more of a WOW factor. Today I got the idea to create a video of the areas that could be de-forested, so to speak, to return the sands to a pre-growth condition. I’ll shot it on my next visit.

Thank you Great Spirit for another perfect day.

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Autumn Music at Spirit Sands


Reid Dickie

Shirtless in the 20+ degree C afternoon I sat at the top of one of the park’s highest dunes yesterday and the scene above spread out before me. The bright yellows of the poplar and aspen glowed against the ever-elegant evergreens beyond accompanied by the subtle music of autumn on the prairies.

Overhead, late for the sky, Vs of migrating geese sang their urgent pleas harmonizing with the gentle clatter of changing leaves in the afternoon breeze. Atwitter with lively applause during their green days, aspens and poplars intoned a more sombre tune against the wind sighing through conifer boughs. Though most birds have flown south, blue jays squawked and an occasional chickadee punctuated the sunshine with its familiar song as crickets counted down the days til winter’s sleep.


In fall it’s striking how overgrown with various vegetation the dunes have become as you can see in the picture above. The shot below shows a new dune created by the prevailing northwesterlies.


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Filed under Birds, Day Tripping, Earth Phenomena, Natural Places, Parks, Sacred Places, spirit sands

Spirit Sands Hike September 2013


Reid Dickie

I love the Canadian prairies. Here’s a few more of the thousands of reasons why.

A brisk south wind blew in warm temperatures about 25 degrees C. The clear sky beckoned me westward along Hwy #2, past the parade of little towns I’ve come to know so well. When I arrived in the parking lot of Spirit Sands, I was alone, the only vehicle. Two hours later there were a dozen cars and half tons lined up, people grabbing onto a hot day in September for the rarity it is.

SPIRIT SANDS SEPTEMBER 2013 031Stripped down to cap, shorts and hiking boots, I headed out on the trail. Through the mixed forest at the start of my hike, the flora was beginning to take on fall colours. The greens are paler, less convincing. Some of the trees are fading to yellow. Scattered everywhere and the most colourful thing in the park today are the arrays of yellow-red-orange poison ivy.

Shy against the sand, the glossySPIRIT SANDS SEPTEMBER 2013 025 red hips of wild roses gleam out, the eerie white berries of creeping juniper and the bright red fruit against the shiny green leaves of bearberry add small blasts of colour.

Overhead goose music filled the sky several times, most other birds now gone. A few murmurations of blackbirds propelled across the sky on the drive out.

The dunes in autumn are at their lushest, a growing concern for some people as the open dunes succumb to ground cover, mainly big bluestem, which is drought hardy, and wolf willow, the silvery shrub. Assorted sedge, SPIRIT SANDS SEPTEMBER 2013 023cinquefoil and such have found purchase on the open sand, too. Though less abundant this year, horsetail abounds in damper areas like the oasis.

The problem, as seen by some in the tourist industry with stakes in the state of the dunes, is that the open dunes need to be freed of the growth, plowing it up and taking it away. This would restore the open sand, the wind would continue to move the dunes forward toward the forest and the unique tourist attraction of a desert in the middle of the prairie would be reinstated.

SPIRIT SANDS SEPTEMBER 2013 016There are several “Wow it’s a desert” places to enter the dunes: at the top of the two log ladders from the eastern trails and out of the mixed forest trail on the south side. This area is where the covered wagon rides first approach the dunes. In the last five years the first dune face the tourists see from the wagon has become almost completely overgrown, diminishing the effect of the open sand. The same holds for the log ladder entrances. Vistas of the dunes now include large overgrown swaths, especially noticeable on the three rows of dune faces. It isn’t anything like a desert anymore.

Traditionally, since Duff Roblin established the system, provincial parks have been sacrosanct places where interference with natural forces is taboo. Apparently, and ironically, Shilo, the military base which uses the dunes just north of the park, rousts out the flora with its training exercises enough to have more open sand than the park.

So, what are the options? Leave it as it is and let Nature do the do. Sounds fine with me. Plow up the overgrown areas (tricky on some of those steep faces), clear-cut the place basically and let the wind do its do renewing the desert. Sounds fine, too. It really doesn’t matter what we little humans do in our hurry and scurry, using our big brains to try to control everything. Nature bats last. Always has, always will.


I suppose the next step is in the hands of the provincial government. Heaven help us! This bunch of past-their-due-date burn-outs are spinning, clueless and unruddered, in one spot where their banality is  surpassed only by their irrelevance. Unfortunately if the NDP are the whoopee cushion, the PCs are the exploding cigar. The usual choice!

However, now that the “problem” at Spirit Sands has been identified, the “solution” must be studied and studied to make sure lots of money gets into the hands of the correct consulting agency. What better way to end a rant than with a truth for every day of our lives: “We are governed by the least among us.” – Terence McKenna.

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Turn My Face to the Highway

Reid Dickie

Just over 12,000 kms, all in Manitoba, and counting for me and the mighty Avenger in the summer of 2013. Here are a dozen pictures of things that turned up along the road.

Metal dome of abandoned Catholic church next to Hwy #10 between Pine River and Sclater built 1921


Front to back: Finnegan, Hawkeye and Rebel on my cousin Vonda’s farm on the edge of Riding Mountain National Park


The mighty Avenger rests beneath mature cottonwoods at Marsh Lake, Spruce Woods Park. I call the colour Carpathian copper; Enterprise calls it brown.


A strange fork made of a ram’s horn and a necktie made of feathers in Carberry Gingerbread House



Grill and fin of a vintage Buick at St. Malo Provincial Park



The biffies behind Ste. Elizabeth Parish Church


It served long and well – tumbledown log house off Hwy #10 near Garland close to Duck Mountain Provincial Park 


Wood sculpture of elk in cottage yard at Victoria Beach


Large crucifix with beads and chains next to alien head and votive candles on floor of old bank in Carberry


Window of house in Ethelbert where a double homicide occurred last winter


Spruce tree roots on trail to Spirit Sands, Spruce Woods Provincial Park


Sun setting between metal graneries, near Dauphin

DAUPHIN MAY 2013 093

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Filed under Carberry, Churches, Day Tripping, Heritage Buildings, Natural Places, Pioneers

Spruce Woods Park July 2013

Reid Dickie


I spent the last day of July hiking to Spirit Sands at Spruce Woods Park. Dog day harvests flies (similar to cicadas) were sawing the air, dragonflies danced on the updrafts and the prairie grasses were dotted with magenta and purple flowers. Plenty of rain has furred the dunes with vegetation this year.

Since the devastating flood of 2011, Spruce Woods has rebounded extremely well. Though virtually wiped out by the Assiniboine River two years ago, the lower campground is now partially restored and open for camping. The park office which stood next to the campground was destroyed by the flood. Today the park office is still in a trailer in the upper campground. All the park’s trails are open and accessible.

One of the park’s best features are the horse-drawn covered wagon rides to the dunes and the punch bowl. Operating daily at 10:00, noon and 2:00 during July and August, they offer an easy way to transport the whole family to the park’s most interesting phenomena with minimal hassle and maximum interest. The wagon, pulled by two Belgian heavy horses, stops at the base of the dunes. You can JULY 004climb the dunes, get sand between your toes and witness the spectacular views of the dunes. Back on the covered wagon to the punch bowl, an intriguing pool of blue-green water, you can explore the site then ride back to the trail head. The horses travel at a leisurely pace and cowboy Larry Robinson, who has been operating the rides for about 20 years, provides rich commentary on the history of the park and its denizens during the 90-minute ride. It’s a memorable family experience. Tickets – $14 for adults, $8 for youth – are available at the wagon office and can be reserved at 204-526-7727.

I noticed a sundance going on this weekend in the park. Sundance, a no alcohol, no drugs event, is open to the public. Access is off the Epinette Creek trail head. Watch for signs.

Twenty minutes north of the park is one of Manitoba’s heritage gems – Carberry. The first annual Carberry Heritage Festival takes place August 9 and 10 with lots of things to do and see. Check out the details here.

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First Spirit Sands Hike of the Year


Reid Dickie

This year’s model of mighty Avenger and I ventured out to Spruce Woods Park for my first hike to the Spirit Sands for 2013. Perfection in every direction.

Along the trail the rich yellow hoary puccoon is in full bloom. That’s a picture of it above. Delicate avens are starting to lift their furry magenta heads. Anemones and poison ivy abound in the shade. The trees are alive with birdsong as the young spruce already sport plenty of  bright green new growth at the tips of the branches. Winter was unkind to the low growing creeping juniper. A lot of it is brown from winter kill.

Because of our late cold spring everything is about a month behind so today several flocks of geese arrived, flying northward.

The areas of the park severely flooded in 2011 have rebounded well this year. Work still continues on lower campground but upper campground and yurts are open for the season. Most of the hiking paths in the park have been restored after the flood damage. I noticed several are indicated by fresh white gravel.

One of the many uses of Spruce Woods Park is for aboriginal sundances. The first of the summer will occur June 6 to 9 on a dancing ground near the trailhead for Epinette Creek Trail. The event is open to the public, aboriginal and non-aboriginal. watch for signs near the trail entrance. This website gives you some details on the planned events.

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Curiosity and Gratitude – 2012 Year-End Review

Reid Dickie

If I had to choose two words that describe my year, curiosity and gratitude come to mind. Regular readers of this blog know I have an insatiable curiosity that lures me to out-of-the-way, little-known places on the prairies and causes me to investigate and report on what I find there. Whatever form the journey takes and whatever I find at its end, expected and unexpected, are always causes for gratitude.

The Road

Once again I rented an Avenger from Enterprise Car Rental and followed my summer wanderlust, all 23,000 kms of it. My friend Troy and I ventured into Saskatchewan for a couple of days exploring sacred sites. The rest of my travel was done in Manitoba, mostly Blooming pincushion cactus at Spirit Sandschasing my heritage geekness, rooting out heritage sites and doing documentation. Southeastern Manitoba and north of Dauphin, two areas of the province I wasn’t familiar with, supplied a wealth of new heritage sites. This is my picture of a pincushion cactus in bloom on the trail to Spirit Sands.

I was more prepared than ever for my heritage tours, doing thorough pre-travel research, planning itineraries and making arrangements for access and interviews at various spots along the way. I documented about ninety heritage sites this year, wrote and produced videos about many of them and still have a backlog of new ones for posting and uploading in 2013.

For a 49 second video clip of the map of Manitoba with my 2012 roads marked, click the pic.

When my heritage list was cleared, I hiked to Spirit Sands in Spruce Woods Park about 30 times this year. I was able to introduce friends, both new and old, to the marvels of the park, especially Spirit Sands. ISpruce near trailhead yurted at Spruce Woods Park in June and August, both enjoyable experiences and ones I’d recommend for the almost-camper. Easy, inexpensive (take some friends) and fun. During my June stay at the yurt, I hiked into Spirit Sands just at sundown on the full moon. My post about the hike is called Gathering Moonlight at Spruce Woods Park.

Another hang-out of mine this year was the Criddle Vane Homestead which I have documented in several different ways including my 11:30 video tour of the site. Coming in 2013 another video and a post about this heritage site and the people who lived there.

Best Heritage Experiences

Two sites stood out this year, providing unique and very dissimilar experiences. Carberry, a little town just off the TCH east of Brandon, is a Manitoba heritage gem! Two blocks of Carberry’s Main Street have been officially deemed a heritage district, the only one in Manitoba. The concentration of well-preserved brick buildings constructed before and after 1900 earned the street the designation. I documented the street thoroughly and posted reports on all the individual heritageEast side of Carberry's Main Street buildings on the west side of the street, sixteen in all. The east side of Main Street is in the works for 2013 along with a video of the street. This picture shows some of the east side brick buildings which will be featured on my blog in the coming months.

The other enthralling heritage site is Negrych Pioneer Homestead, north of Gilbert Plains between Riding and Duck Mountains. Ten original log buildings from the 1890s and the equipment the family used, all of it fashioned from materials available on their farm, make this the best preserved Ukrainian pioneer homestead in North America! Lovingly preserved and maintained, the
site provides summer student guides who are knowledgeable and very empathetic to the Negrych family and their lives in the bush. The
Bunkhouse plus on Negrych homestead remoteness of the location, the complexity of the site and the attention to detail created a deep understanding of the hardships and the glories of early pioneer life. This bunkhouse with long shingle Carpathian roof is an iconic image from the Negrych farm. I am working on a video and feature article about the homestead.

Best Online Heritage Experience

The website for the Manitoba Historical Society is the best online resource I have found for referencing anything about Manitoba’s past. There is nothing that compares to it for its wealth of current details about heritage sites of all kinds, in-depth background on our history and people, and overall accuracy of the information. I have referred to it hundreds of times in my research. A major aspect to the website and a gargantuan project is an interactive map with over 4,000 Manitoba historic sites just a click away! Yes, 4,000 sites! I have a few hundred heritage sites on this blog and feel I’m getting things done. The 4,000 is the work of the MHS webmaster Gordon Goldsborough, a fellow heritage seeker who also likes heading out for a few days and gleaning every piece of heritage he can find, taking pictures, gathering information and GPS co-ordinates, all of which wind up on the website. Gord is much more successful at this than I am. Secretly, I get a little thrill on the very rare occasions when I discover a heritage site that Gord hasn’t already visited and posted on the MHS map! At all other times, I am in total awe of his work. Thank you Gord, for your integrity and determination. Links: MHS website and historic sites map.


I added 55 new videos to my YouTube channel this year, many of them with some kind of heritage angle, all of them original, bringing the total to over 170 videos. Heritage churches accounted for 13 new videos, heritage houses for 6, trains going by (I’m a train fan!) for 6, the rest on sundry topics. This month I exceeded 61,000 hits on the channel in the two years of its existence. I am humbled and grateful. Thank you for watching.

Here is a new video from my summer travels. Come on Along the Road with Reid and visit 12 Manitoba places in 5 minutes.


Two books, both loaned to me by dear friends, offered explanations for some deep and old mysteries this year. The Old Way The Old Way of Seeingof Seeing: How Architecture Lost Its Magic (And How To Get It Back) by architect Jonathan Hale clarified why some buildings appeal and seem to sing while others are disharmonious and ordinary. The secret is the Golden Section, the system most architects working before 1840 used to create human spaces, spaces that resonated with our bodies and spirits. I started to use Hale’s schematics on heritage buildings of all kinds to determine if the Golden Section was employed or not and discovered subtle and essential qualities that empathetic places all have. Published in 1994, the book is still available. Thank you Vonda.

The other book, Falling Into Grace: Insights on the End of Suffering by Adyashanti suggests another old way of seeing…with the spirit. If you are openly looking with love in your heart, other Old Souls joinadyashanti you on your journey and you on theirs. Within minutes of reading the opening pages of this book, I knew I was in the presence of not just an Old Soul, but someone who is reincarnated by choice, a man with a spiritual mission. He knows stuff we all can benefit from knowing. The initial simple idea of “They are only thoughts” led to recognizing the illusion of having any kind of control over anything to finally following Spirit’s invitation. Very often our paths crossed, the words are different but the experiences described flow from one source only. A book that tells the truth. Thank you Garcea.


It is just over three years since I lost Linda, my soul mate, to cancer. I now feel more accepting of her death due, in part, to the time that has
passed but also because of dear and loving friends. Adyashanti’s book helped me take large strides towards acceptance, giving me
Linda at IF in 1980sperspective on my suffering and offering simple methods to get out of my own way and help myself, to “fall into grace.” Thoughtful phone calls, chance encounters and many long coffees with friends have given me healing opportunities for which I am enormously grateful. Linda’s message to me is still “be happy.” This picture of smiling Linda was taken in the 1980s at our vintage clothing store called IF you have to get dressed in the morning…

Ezra Reid Scholl

Regular readers of my blog will recognize the name of my longtime friend Chris Scholl. For over a dozen years Chris and I have helped each other through many difficult life changes and we’ve celebrated our successes, too. We have traveled the prairie together, visited sacred places and made pacts with Nature together. We’ve become family. Chris and his beautiful partner Megan had a full moon baby boy in October. To my complete amazement, they named the boy after me – Ezra Reid Scholl! (just the Reid part.) For an intentionally-childless guy like me, I was, and still am, overwhelmed knowing I Ezra at 6 weekshave a namesake in the world. More than a metaphor, the first image that came to me was Ezra is “a tunnel into the future.” I explore so many tunnels into the past that having one going in the other direction flummoxed me for awhile but I am starting to find language for him now. He is six weeks old in this picture. I am so grateful to Megan and Chris for their loving gesture, for adding a fresh and unexpected dimension to my life resulting in a brand new kind of joy for me.  As only an innocent new-born can, Ezra helped me bear my grief at its most intense. The Christmas season was more real to me this year. I am humbled and happy to express my gratitude to a little child.

Wouldn’t you know, Ezra already comes with philosophy! Now just over two moons old, Ezra has grown and changed so much. When I think of the changes ahead of him, I smile. All those changes can be viewed on Ken Wilber’s Map of the Evolution of our Consciousness. Read from bottom up. Ezra is lolling in the primary matrix right now, undifferentiated from the world around him but just itching to climb as far up the ladder as he can. Soon he’ll start differentiating himself from the world. Such as? Noticing the difference between biting the blanket and biting his thumb or – in grandly-hewn Wilberese – “the hatching of the physical self.”

Ken Wilber's map

The Lonesomes: Sixteen Prairie Stories

Strange births and strange deaths and the lives lived in between on the Canadian prairies. Stirred by the forsaken tumbledown farmhouses and barns, rusting farm equipment and lonely places they abandoned to the prairie wind, the voices of the pioneers and their descendants tell their poignant tales. Farm folk recall their struggles against the elements. Town folk recount interpersonal conflicts and complexities. There is no music but for the lonesome prairie wind. A beautiful dance of sadness and joy ensues.

When you drive down a country road and see a lonesome old farmhouse, sun-baked and tumbling down, or a broken-down rusty half ton on a rise or an abandoned red barn, don’t you wonder what happened in those places, to those things? Maybe you even start making up stories about them. That’s what I did. I found sixteen such places on the prairies and let their stories arise in my imagination. The Lonesomes is the result!

A forty-seven minute docudrama eighteen months in the making, The Lonesomes is a creative extension of my interest in heritage. The sixteen original stories, ranging in length from one to Image from The Lonesomesfive minutes, span more than a century of history, roughly 1890 to 2005, from pioneers opening the harsh prairie and early railroading to second and third generations living complex lives in small towns and villages. The stories tell of the desperate births of people, towns and ideas, mysterious barns, trickery, magical windmills, memories of machinery, revenge and bizarre deaths.

The Lonesomes is a place where rusty old farm equipment suddenly spouts poetry, where the blue vastness of the prairie sky frightens a woman to death, where an innocent red barn is revealed as the scene of an old mystery, where a defeated small-town mayor sheepishly tellsBarn from The Lonesomes his odorous story, where two retired telephone operators have a chance encounter with life-changing results and where a pair of long-abandoned grain elevators have a wonderful dream.

I hired professional actors to voice the roles and recorded them at state-of-the-art Video Pool Studios. The sound quality is exceptional thanks to Michel Germain, an extraordinary audio engineer. The actors brought their best game to The Lonesomes. I’m thrilled to have my characters brought to life so thoroughly, so convincingly.

I shot all the images in HD digital myself. Visually The Lonesomes ranges from subtly changing still life to montage to live action always suggesting the location where the story occurs. The images are simple; the raw, explicit stories blow through them like the restless prairie wind.

This is much bigger than my YouTube stuff. Since I have a financial investment in it, I’ll explore the commercial potential of the piece. My plan is to market The Lonesomes in several ways. The options are many: from apps to E-books, on-demand TV to film festivals. I will keep you apprised. It’s a little too early for a preview but stay tuned to a blog near you.

Particular Posts

Another year of posts done, about 180 in all, covering the length and breadth of my interests. These are some of my best posts of the year with links to the original articles.


Early in the year I started my reporting on Carberry and its unique heritage position in Manitoba. An example is this incredible
Canadian government postergingerbread house built by James White. Starting in the late 1800s, the Canadian government advertised free land in the west to fill up the newly acquired North West Territories  I created the TV commercial for their ad campaign. If you think Winnipeg’s current mayor is a sleazebag, he’s carrying on a well-established tradition begun by our first mayor, Francis Cornish. Find out what I mean.


I reported on another bit of Carberry heritage – their vintage Louis Riel statueoctagonal agricultural display building. A rarity in Manitoba. On the 20th, Louis Riel Day,  I celebrated the day with two posts about the two Louis Riel statues that have had prominent places in Winnipeg. First statue, second statue. I ended our leap year with the first of several posts about Manitoba Heritage Under Duress, showing a couple of examples of damaged and disappeared sites.


Early in the month I posted a piece I had written a few months after my double-bypass heart surgery in 2002. The palpable power of an online prayer circle that formed around me for the surgery aiding the success of the procedure and speeding my healing afterwards is recounted in Nothing Virtual About It. On the 15th, in a grateful post called Lucky, Very Lucky, I wrote about the pattern of luck that has shaped my life. Last winter I watched a series of documentaries from the library and reported on four excellent ones – Gasland, Buck, Exit Through the Gift Shop and Catfish. I recommend them all highly. I Bruce's first albuminadvertently created one of the most popular posts when I wrote about Bruce Springsteen’s first two albums. Included with my thoughts on his music was a highly revealing photograph of a young, mostly naked Bruce taken by Lynn Goldsmith. Now when anyone searches springsteen naked, which happens surprisingly often, they find my post. I’ll bet one or two have even read the article. The post is called Forcing a Light, one of my best titles.To end the month, in case you missed memo, I posted a short video on why it’s called a combine.


The month began with a report on my beloved Spruce Woods Park Kevin Richardson kissing a lionand its state after the snow. This is the first of many park reports over the summer. It is love. That’s the only explanation for this amazing relationship between a man and 38 lions, a video I reposted from the internet. It will make your day. I posted about another great documentary called Waste Land – turning garbage into art. The Manitoba Escarpment, a geological step upward as you proceed west across the prairies, offers some spectacular views of the old lake bed below. One is at newly created Alexander Ridge Park near Miami, MB.  On the 15th, I posted Convergence – 35 Years Ago Today.  It commemorated the day Linda and I moved into a little house on Lorette Avenue – our first home together. We stayed there a couple of years. The house is gone now but not the Super 8 I shot out its front window.


Reports from the road started in earnest this month as my summer travels got underway  The Fort La Reine Museum on the east side of Portage la Prairie is a terrific museum. I hiked the Spirit Sands in Spruce Woods Park about 30 times last summer and Hoary puccoon along the trail to Spirit Sandsdid two reports this month: the first about the park’s recovery from the floods of 2011, and the second post on my hikes so far. We’ll take any excuse for a long weekend in Canada and Victoria Day is a prime example. I explain why we celebrate the day. I suppose it’s because of its general outrageousness, but this Email from an Old Friend draws views for all kinds of reasons.


I started my posts about one of Manitoba’s heritage gems, Carberry One fine Carberry buildingand the turn-of-the-century buildings lining its main drag. The first three buildings on the street are here, here and here. In an early report from along the road, I covered a drive I took up to Dauphin and beyond. I did a report on an alluvial fan which has garnered a surprising number of views. People wanna know! I ended the month with something for armchair engineers – chug chug chug.


I kicked off the month with another report from the road, this time
Trinity of light in aisle of a churchfrom a tour through southwestern Manitoba including Spirit Sands and Brandon. In July I reported on six more of the fine old buildings along Carberry’s Main Street. The best way to access all my reports is to choose Carberry in the categories. A provocative title about what happens after death caught some views thanks to Dr. Kenneth Ring.


Two trains and two trestle bridges provided some excellent video as did my exploration of two bridges, one trestle, one swinging, over the Structural support for swinging bridge over RoseauRoseau River. Another road report from southern Manitoba including Miniota, Hartney and Spruce Woods Park. The dog days of summer found me reporting from southeast of Winnipeg. A veteran thrift store haunter, I celebrated the 40th anniversary of MCCs (Mennonite Central Committee) thrift stores. Based on years of seeking out and exploring often remote heritage sites, I make some observations in a post called Sex and the Solitary Heritage Site.


My reports from Carberry continued this month and I also wrote about heritage sites that have been lost for various reasons. I repostedThe staircase that killed Percy Criddle my Map of Dying from the Tibetan Book of the Dead followed by two more road reports. The first offers interesting pictures from here and there; the second has a dozen pictures from around the province with my short write-ups. Language always fascinates me and the hobo code, a series of symbols that transients in the first half of the 20th century created, resulted in a popular video. I explored a spooky old house inside and out, resulting in another original video.


The appeal of ruins along the road was expressed in several original Wooden statue of Katerivideos including one called Portals to the Past, which combines live images with harrowing sounds. My curiosity about language found me exploring Diner Slang, food to the nth degree. I wrote about two more buildings in Carberry’s heritage district this month. Things to do along the road included Reid’s Roadside Junk, which meant filling a small box with highly miscellaneous items and leaving it somewhere out there, all documented on video, of course. On the 20th, I wrote about the impending canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha in the context of Leonard Cohen’s second novelBeautiful Losers, in which she is a central character.


I elaborated on a post I found online about Friendship, adding a few items gathered from my life. Desperate for free stuff to fill the ever-increasing white space between their ads, the Winnipeg Free Press ran the Friendship post in their Sunday edition as blog of the week. Later in the month I posted a piece about digital executors and new forms of memorializing yourself after death called Log Off in Peace – Cyber Wills and the Virtual Beyond.


In a repost from the internet, which I called Mayo = Life, a succinct explanation of our basic empty awareness ensues. I celebrated the second anniversary of this blog on the 11th. As the year ends, the blog’s view count is more than 182,000 in just over two years. Thank you one and all! The tradition of the 12 Days of Christmas began in the 14th, this year heritage churches and houses alternated daily until Christmas.

The Future

The immediate future will see 31 short absurd videos – one a day, every day, like a pill, throughout January. The series called Sorry Notes to the Future starts January 1st. I plan to kick back in January, let the blog ride with Sorry Notes and focus on some other projects I’ve been putting off. Thereafter, expect more heritage reports from this year’s travels and loads more of the other guff you’ve come to expect from RRR.

I wish you only happiness in 2013 and may you awaken each day with this kind of determination in your spirit.


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Filed under Heritage Buildings, Linda, Manitoba Heritage, Year-end Review 2012

This Week Along the Road

Reid Dickie

In just over two months, the mighty Avenger and I achieved our first 10,000 kms together this week. A pleasant Spirit Sands visit on Sunday with friends Liz and Kenn resulted in pictures of the latest flora along the trail. This is a beautiful wood lily. They dot the green landscape with vibrant orange and black, a favourite of butterflies.

Manitoba has two cacti: prickly pear and pincushion. In the transition zone between the mixed forest and the sand dunes, pincushion cacti are just coming into bloom, their scarlet buds a mere taste of their bright open blooms. The blossom will be replaced by a brown nut that tumbles off the round cactus, landing next to it and germinating there. Frequently, clusters of pincushions form as a result, some with dozens of individual cacti. Pincushions are delicate and usually die if stepped on.

Spirit Sands can always be relied upon to offer up at least one breath-taking cloudscape during every hike.

2011 Flood Update: Souris Will Swing Again! Many areas of Manitoba continue to recover from last summer’s floods. One result of the raging Assiniboine River was the strategic cutting of the historic Swinging Bridge in Souris, MB. The Town of Souris announced this week that the bridge will be replaced and work restoring one of the town’s major attractions is expected to be completed by the summer of 2013. The new bridge spanning the Assiniboine, to be built by Stantec, will be 184 metres in length. This is an artist’s rendering of the new swinging bridge.

During my 1960s youth, one of the highlights was seeing rock bands at the Brandon Summer Fair, the biggest attraction in southwestern Manitoba. Buddies and me drove the hour to see Witness Inc. (Kenny Shields) sing their first hit Harlem Lady in 1968, watch the grandstand show with an assortment of up-and-comers and down-and-outers performing.

Brandon fairgrounds had three large display buildings: Buildings 1 and 2 and the long building. Building 1 is gone but Building 2 remains, though much worse for the wear. It’s four distinctive gleaming domes dominate the grounds. A cherished federal and provincial heritage building, the old place is getting a complete restoration. Significant for numerous reasons – you can find out much more about the building’s history and restoration project at  http://www.brandonfairs.com/Display_Building/index.php?pageid=477 it’s heartening to see the grand old place reclaiming its former glory. And good on Brandon for its stewardship and recognition of heritage as an important contributor to their quality of life. I find it rather ironic but hopeful that Brandon, a city with runaway, out-of-control residential and commercial development, maintains a healthy connection with its past and finds value there.

My most vivid memory of the building is walking in the wide front doors and smelling lavender which was sold fresh in sachets by a vendor next to the entrance every year. Display Building #2 will be restored for the 2013 fair, a hundred years after it first opened for the 1913 Dominion Fair.

One of the oldest and most enigmatic headstones in Wawanesa Cemetery.

There’ll always be a Ninja, no, that’s Ninga.

Thrift shop find-of-the-week was at the MCC in Brandon which turned up a set of four 1950s glass tumblers with multi-coloured tulips on them in mint shape for 75 cents apiece.

This week I am Criddling and Vaning, hiking the moonlit sands and day tripping with an old friend so will have much to report next weekend. Happy trails, every mile a safe mile.

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Filed under Day Tripping, Earth Phenomena, Flood, Heritage Buildings, Manitoba Heritage, Natural Places, Parks, spirit sands, Uncategorized

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

Spruce Woods Park Rebounds, Open This Weekend

Reid Dickie

In this post a year ago the flooding Assiniboine River had a destructive hold on Spruce Woods Park. Hwy #5 was washed away through the park, campgrounds and buildings were covered with eight feet of water and the summer looked bleak.

Today I had my fourth hike to the Spirit Sands in the last two weeks and have great news to report. As I arrived today, a work crew was taking down the detour sign to the upper campground. That was exciting and promising! The low road to the campground, the one that had about two hundred yards of it washed away by the surging waters last year at this time, has been rebuilt with tons of fill and finished with gravel for now. The badly-damaged lower campground is still off-limits but the park staff are to be commended for their efforts to rejuvenate the rest of the park.

Most of the debris strewn helter skelter about the park by the river has been cleared away, signage has been restored, trails opened, the river-broken trees have been cleaned up and guaranteed there will be no shortage of firewood this summer in the park.

It was evident today that the day use area with beach, Pine Fort, picnic and displays will be open for the long weekend. They have resanded the beach on the oxbow. See how murky the water is before you swim in it. Use caution. Remember the swimming area is largely river water washed in last year containing everything it picked up along the way and it has sat stagnant.

There are plenty of things to do in the park. The trail system, including Spirit Sands, Punchbowl, Marsh Lake, Epinette Creek etc are all open. The covered wagon rides to the dunes and punchbowl are back this year but I’m not sure if they will be available for the long weekend. The upper campground is virtually sold out for the weekend, the yurts are booked solid all weekend.

I was heartened to see many western painted turtles sunning themselves on downed trees today along the edge of Marsh Lake. The turtles were disturbed by the sudden flood but have bounced back, even though the waters of Marsh Lake are still cloudy with mud. The floating bridge at the apex of Marsh Lake Trail has been replaced though the little island it accesses was devastated by the flood leaving mostly broken trees. Painted turtles can also be seen around the punchbowl.

Go for a hike. There are several different terrains and habitats to choose from. The trail on the way to Spirit Sands offers some lovely blossoms these days. The bearberry is turning from red to glossy green. Hoary puccoon (above) speckle the grass with its bright deep yellow flowers. Three-flowered aven (right), their hairy heads drooping sadly, add touches of mauve and rust to the speckle. I saw all kinds of butterflies on my hike today and the air was alive with the buzz of insects and sweet tweets from the trees. Abundant as ever in the shady areas and along the stairs is poison ivy. Barefoot hikers take heed.  The other danger is wood ticks and I recommend a thorough tick check of your whole body after a hike.

The weekend will be hot and hotter on the dunes by up to 10 degrees. Carry water, wear a hat and don’t wear stupid shoes. Maybe the cool evening suits you better. Take a sunset hike and hear a choir of coyotes echoing over the dunes as you watch the sand redden into black and the fireflies sparkle around you.

Remember: no more free parks this year. The three-year moratorium on park fees is over. Buy an annual pass for $30, save a lot of time and cash and relax. Canadian Tire and fishing/hunting stores sell the passes.

When you see the park staff, let them know they’ve done a great job getting Spruce Woods back on its feet so quickly. I look forward to my next twelve visits to it this summer.

Watch my video of a hike I took to Spirit Sands last year. Check out more Manitoba day trips on my Day Tripper page at the top. Have a wonderful weekend. Every mile a safe mile.


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

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

Between Shark’s Teeth and Stardust – Full Moon Hike on Spirit Sands

Reid Dickie 

“Rock medicine is an act of touching the roots of the system of time and history in which we existed and from which our lives have meaning.” – Richard Grossinger

Sand is the last remnant of extinct lakes and rivers that have run themselves to exhaustion. Caught somewhere between shark’s teeth and stardust, the prairie sands exert their individuality and share the lessons they have learned. They teach us the connections between the earth body and our bodies, the cellular shifting that is the main work of all bodies. Every grain of sand holds some memory, some long-dusted-away footprint of its ancestors – the boulder, the rock, the gravel – former shapes with which wind and water have had their way. Each grain possesses faith in its masters – the shape of the dune and the curl of the breeze.

At the summit of the log ladder, Spirit Sands opens into a marvelous vista. Sweeping away in all directions are clean muscular dunes, windbuilt in high rows, furred here and there with wolf willow. The setting sun reddens the sand, shadows deepen as the long twilight slowly dismantled details of the landscape. A small bank of purple clouds builds in from the west as the reds and oranges fade. This close to the solstice it never gets completely dark.

It is easy to see why, for thousands of years, people used this place as a vision quest site. The silence, the expanse of sand and sky, the positive energy, the solitude all helped those seeking their vision.

Stars twinkle overhead as I shuck my boots and socks and feel the cool sand between my toes at the top of the highest dune. A coyote’s plaintive wail echoes across the indifferent sand; another answers. I howl my gnarled city howl, more of a strangled yelp. The sound makes me laugh. I yelp again, more like a howl. Another yelp, better, freer. A real howl tending toward wild sails from my mouth over the dunes. The response: dead silence or was that the snicker of a coyote?

A warm light breeze lifts a shiver of sand off the dune, giving it a small, barely audible voice before sending it sailing down the dune face. A red moon, two days shy of full, bulges above the horizon. Naked, I perform my shaman tai chi, dancing to coyote and sand music as my moonshadow darkens. Tendrils of aurora borealis, breath of the Great Spirit, sweep twisting across the deep blue dome.

I lie down on the cool surface of the sand, which sticks to the moist parts of my body then peels away as it dries. I nestle into the sand. Two inches below the surface, the sand is warm, the hot memory of another day’s intense baking. The wind blows a steady force of vaguely ticklish sand against my back. I fall asleep.

When I awaken, the breeze has cooled. After a short cavort I dress and, barefoot, slide down the double duneface to the trail. There is no need for a flashlight. The engorged moon lights my way.

In the forest, fireflies blink like sparks from invisible fires. The skunky odour of spruce hangs in the humid air. Reindeer moss glows eerily from shadows in the silver moonlight, which transforms a stand of wolf willow into shimmering spirit figures.

I pass through the Valley of Reptilian Deadfall, a low meadow where, years ago, a powerful storm left a swath of blown down spruce. During the day, and even more so by moonlight, the prone trees resemble glowing skeletons of bleached, multi-legged lizards.

When I reach the parking lot, empty but for my car, the sun is a hint on the eastern sky. After a few minutes of tai chi I feel ready for the two-hour drive to Winnipeg. An older van pulls in. A young couple from New Brunswick have come to hike Spirit Sands at dawn. They have heard the Sands are beautiful at sunrise. Indeed, they are.

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Filed under Earth Phenomena, Natural Places, Parks, PRAIRIES, Sacred Places, shaman, shamanism, Soul Building, spirit sands

Spirit Sands Hike October 24

Reid Dickie

Another warm sunny day with temperature climbing to 12 C. This required one more hike on Spirit Sands. Couldn’t have been more perfect out there today. I was the only one on the Sands when I arrived with just one other car in the parking lot when I returned from the hike. I like that density: one person or less per square mile. Now that the chatty aspens and poplars have lost all their leaves, the silence is enormous! The occasional caw of a crow and the soft sigh of the breeze through tall brown grass were the only sounds to disturb the stillness of the serene landscape. I start the pictures with two shots of the bare poplars and aspens ghostly white against rich evergreens. Click on pics to enlarge


The next two shots are from the top of the dune overlooking an area of open prairie. In the second picture the round “mounds” are, in fact, juniper bushes that grow in circular shapes low to the ground. By this time of year they have turned a chocolately brown and stand out in the landscape.

The juniper berries have turned bright blue and the bearberry has gone from glossy Christmas green into a tawny red as you can see in the first picture. Ditches in the park still hold some water and in the final picture sunshine twinkles off Marsh Lake.

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Filed under Day Tripping, Linda, Love, Natural Places, Parks, spirit sands

Spirit Sands Today

Reid Dickie

Though I hadn’t planned on a day trip today, the morning broke so lovely and promising my wanderlust kicked in. Warm and sunny, the drive out Hwy #2 was pleasant and fast. One other car waited in the parking lot at Spirit Sands trailhead. It was a perfect day for a hike.

We’ve had a bit of rain in last day or so and the sand was a little wet but drying quickly in the sunshine. Along the trail I saw this poplar leaf bejewelled with dew gems. (Click on any pic for HD view)

From the observation deck this year, you can see an interesting phenomenon. Due to the prevailing northwesterlies, the dunes at Spirit Sands are always moving, literally. The sand blows up and over the edge, down the duneface, building the dune forward. On the right side of this picture you can see a clean new dune that is active and quickly moving unlike the other dunes which have some vegetation and are thus more stable and slower moving. I seldom see such a clear example of a fully active dune.

With most of the leaves gone from the deciduous trees, the evergreens are in their glory. Also more evident are the rampikes and deadfall. Today the rampikes, leaning away from the wind, stood out against the deep blue autumn sky.

I have been told that the length of a tree’s life is also the length of its death, meaning the number of years a tree grew is how many years it will take to turn into earth. That beautiful, balanced definition of the pace of Nature is as good as any I’ve found.

The hike to the dunes through the mixed forest offers numerous opportunities to see the aftermath of windstorms, spruce bud worm and the parasitic dwarf mistletoe, all have had their way with the trees in the park at one time or another. This tree trunk lay split, gaping and dying well along the trail, its meat and bones humbled by time and the elements.

Out on the dunes, where seven-eights of the world is sky, the wind drew its crazy calligraphy in the sand using plants as brushes. Can you decipher the wild wind’s subtle message?

As I arrived at the information kiosk returning from my hike, a swarm of bright red ladybugs danced in a sunny spot, several of them landing on me. There is a soul connection between Linda and ladybugs and I always know she is nearby when her bugs turn up. We walked this trail so often together, I frequently turn and think Linda is walking right along with me. She was today, every step of the way.

By the time I came off the trail, about two and a half hours later, the day was over 20 degrees C with light winds and a fine cloudscape to entertain me on the way home.

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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, BEAUTY, Earth Phenomena, Linda, Natural Places, Sacred Places, shaman, spirit sands

Spirit Sands Hike

Reid Dickie

Today’s hike on Spirit Sands was perfect: warm, windy and sunny all day. Spruce Woods Park is going through its fall changes with the tamarack needles turning yellow along the highway and the final blaze of poison ivy as the predominant plant on the forest floor, obvious now in its yellow, red and orange stages. Leaves everywhere are in transition. The south wind today tossed the sand around in its own design.

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Filed under Parks, Spirit

Equinox Journey

Reid Dickie

The mighty Avenger and I are just back from welcoming in the fall season with an 800 km loop around Manitoba. The weather is way above normal and sunny, perfect days. On Friday morning I headed north out of Winnipeg up Hwy #6 along the east side of Lake Manitoba, Dauphin my destination for the night. The leaves on the trees in the early part of the journey were just beginning to turn but the further north I got the brighter and more spectacular the display became. My first stop was at Percy Moggey’s cabin north of Eriksdale to do a video report. Percy was one of Manitoba’s most notorious boogeymen. My report is coming soon to a blog near you.

I turned onto Hwy #68, one of the better highways in central Manitoba, and headed towards the Lake Manitoba Narrows. High dykes still protect the areas at and around the Narrows. For the first time this year I stopped at the Thunderbird Nest, just a few kms west of the Narrows, wondering if the peninsula it sits on had been flooded. No flooding was apparent, just a wonderful feeling of happiness which struck me as soon as I stepped out of the car and persisted the whole time I was at Thunderbird Nest. The site was peaceful and calming with unrelenting happiness. It was different from Linda’s Be Happy but just as effective. I felt blissful the whole time I was there. When I returned to the car, suddenly I received the story behind the happiness I felt.

I relay it: Not that long ago her family brought Old Mother, an elder on the nearby nation, to the Thunderbird Nest. She was so excited because she hadn’t been back to it since she was a girl and something very important had happened on that visit. Even though her family had to wheel her in her chair across the rough and rocky trail to the place, Old Mother stayed happy and full of laughter the whole time. As we passed a certain tree, she tied a gift to the branch of a tree, something she had made with her old and gnarled fingers. It was a piece of jute string tied around a stone she found with a striped feather floating at the bottom. When we got to the Thunderbird Nest she held her breath and when she let it out, it was full of laughter. The trees echoed her happiness back to her and birds began to call. She prayed and sang, tears of joy flowing from her old but keen eyes.

She told us why this place was special to her. When she was a girl she received her power animal here: it was flicker, a large woodpecker. They still frequent the bur oak forest in the area. She said the bird loudest in the forest was the flicker. We listened and sure enough a large flicker came flying through the trees and landed on a branch above Old Mother. She smiled and sang a little song to the bird. As they wheeled her back down the trail she said she had never felt more peaceful in her life and was ready to die. Three days later she died with a smile on her face. Old Mother was 93. I thanked Great Spirit for bringing me safely to this place and for the happiness message. I have recounted another experience at Thunderbird Nest here.

Though the quality of Hwy 68 deteriorates somewhat on both sides of the Narrows, mostly it’s smooth with wide shoulders, a pleasure. This time of year though it got a little gruesome with the number of dead garter snakes on the road. They are heading to their underground caves below the frost line for the winter, lots of them on the move. This was especially noticeable west of the Thunderbird Nest. Even writing about it makes me a little sickish, driving it was grim. By the time I got to Ste Rose du Lac, the snakes were much less frequent; skunks were the other unluckiest roadkill.

I stayed at the Super 8 in Dauphin (excellent steam room!) and wined and dined with two lovely and attractive women: my cousin Vonda and our delightful friend, Cheryl. A perfect sunset promised another hot day. After a leisurely breakfast at The Bully (Boulevard Hotel) with Vonda, I drove through Riding Mountain National Park. The north face offered a garish array of fall colours from the red and brown understory through to the lush electric yellow of cottonwoods, poplar and birch all broad stroked against the solid stoic evergreens. The south face was a few days less colourful. Best time to drive through RMNP for the fall colours is likely mid to late this week and next week (Sept. 28 to Oct. 8). Not many leaves falling yet but a frost or two will hasten that, along with a few windy days.

Mountain Road (PR 357) always has majestic Manitoba vistas, today dabbed with autumn hues. The view of the lakebed misted with dust and chaff was breathtaking and the chute to the bottom always a thrill. The harvest is proceeding well with fields of late crops now dotted with combines and trucks. I passed through Neepawa, Tim Horton’s in hand, and went south to Carberry where I did some visual heritage recon and gleaned great shots of two old historic sites near Carberry. I will have full reports on both sites but here is a picture of each.

The hike on Spirit Sands today was perfect at 25 degrees C, sunny, slight breeze I wished was a little more frequent once I got to the dunes and the fulfilling effervescence of Spirit that percolates through me. Boots off, feet bare, the sand is hot today, cool an inch below. At our special place I sit and commune, Linda reaffirms a recent message: “I’ve only been gone a minute, Reid.” Her wonderous experience of eternity and her attempt to tell me what it’s like sends me into new realms of bliss. I laugh and roll on the sand. Linda died 21 months ago.

Since it opened for the first time this year in early August I have visited Spruce Woods Park several times. Sinkholes have appeared by the side of the highway, another aftermath of the flood. Some have sunk due to residual river water and have small fish gasping for oxygen swimming in them. Others appear to be more recent and their water has a slight emerald tinge to it not unlike the punchbowl.

On my return to Winnipeg along Hwy 2, I saw several massive flocks of blackbirds, thousands of birds moving as one across the blue sky. It went on for about a mile with birds arising from the trees along the road to join the throng.

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Filed under Carberry, Earth Phenomena, Flood, Manitoba Heritage, Natural Places, Parks, shaman

Acorn Days

Reid Dickie

These are the acorn days of summer! The spring was wet and unpredictable, the summer hot and dry, which is the recipe for great acorns as the red squirrel that chastised me this morning at Marsh Lake for tossing a few acorns into the lake emphasized. Sitting under some old oaks, every breeze sent a few more acorns plopping into the grass. At the Cartwright Buffalo Jump on Thursday I sat under another old oak that did the same thing, occasionally dropping one on my head to keep me in the present moment. It’s been hot all week, around 30 degrees Celcius (about 85 degree F) every day, the heat’s last blast for this summer. It was a great time to travel so I covered about 800 kms of south-western Manitoba prairie in three days, visiting some new sites, shooting more video, working on several projects at once and hopefully getting some of them right! I’ll have several reports about the past few days in words and images on this blog soon.

As I sat at Marsh Lake this morning with smoke from my little fire drifting into shafts of morning sunlight filtered through oak branches, I said to myself: ‘I am doing exactly what I want to be doing at this moment. What an incredibly lucky man I am!’ I thanked Spirit for the moment and the awareness of the moment. This is a familiar occurrence as I can always find ways to be grateful, a search that becomes easier with practise.

The cool flush of change ranges in the summer prairie air tonight. The wings of geese, the chilly wind that makes my nipples stand up and my skin feel like cold paper, grandmother Nokomis rises waxing from her secret nest and Spirit waits, tapping its foot impatiently at Spirit Sands for us to return. We have returned! Time and again, alone and with friends, each visit has rejuvenated me, spurred me to dwell peacefully within myself.

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Filed under Day Tripping, Natural Places, spirit sands

Yurt #4 Spruce Woods Park

I’m just back from a couple of days yurting at Spruce Woods Park. Hot, hot weather – my kind of summer – and cool nights made for a pleasant and relaxing stay. Few neighbours, no sirens and a friendly firepit added to the enjoyment. As well, I hiked the nearby Spirit Sands several times. Watch my video of the accommodations at Yurt #4.


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Filed under Accommodations, Linda, Natural Places, Parks, spirit sands

Take a Hike on Spirit Sands

This is the video of my hike on Spirit Sands yesterday.

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Filed under BEAUTY, Day Tripping, Flood, Local History, Manitoba Heritage, Natural Places, Sacred Places