Tag Archives: spruce woods provincial park

Spruce Woods Provincial Park Flooding – Tuesday, May 24

Reid Dickie

It appears my favourite provincial park won’t be hosting many visitors in the near future as the Assiniboine is having its way with the little place. According to Manitoba Highways, Highway #5, which passes through Spruce Woods Provincial Park and provides its major access route, is still closed between Carberry and Glenboro. Though the bridge is holding, the road north and south of it has been washed out. The department is hoping the bridge holds and will be safe for use after the river subsides. Regardless, the section of Hwy #5 through the valley will have to be resurfaced.

Manitoba Conservation in Carberry told me today there is currently very limited use of Spruce Woods Park with just the upper campground and the yurts accessible and available. Six of the thirteen yurts were in use over the long weekend. Access to upper campground and yurts is from Hwy #2 using Steel’s Ferry Road. See the map.

There isn’t much to do in the park because all but a short section of one trail, Spirit Sands, Punchbowl, Marsh Lake and lower campgrounds are closed due to flooding. The park office is still flooded with water almost to the eaves. Re-opening the park depends on when the water subsides, the amount of damage the flooding caused and how long it takes to complete repairs to roads, buildings and sites. Most of the park will be closed until July 28 when the situation will be reevaluated. Reservations are being taken for yurts and the upper campground at the provincial parks call centre: 1-888-482-2267 or 948-3333 in Winnipeg. Good luck.

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Filed under Accommodations, Flood, Natural Places, Parks, Sacred Places

Manitoba Flood Update – Monday May 23

Reid Dickie

The heavy rains that fell Saturday are making their way through the river system causing some concern and slowing the water’s decline in most places along the Assiniboine. The major concern is about inflow from the Souris and Qu’ Appelle Rivers and how it will affect dikes and drainage downstream. In Brandon, where river levels have been dropping about 6 inches a day, the decrease was minimal yesterday and today due to the rains.

Since the water diverted north from the Assiniboine into Lake Manitoba has to go somewhere, it is causing major flooding around the shores of the lake and residents are still scrambling to protect or evacuate their properties. Today many of the best cattle producers in Manitoba, six First Nations and dozens of cottages around Lake Manitoba are flooded due to dumping more water than the lake can accommodate. Lake Manitoba’s outflow at Fairford is totally unable to handle the inflow from the Diversion thus producing scenes like this.

Some Manitobans are accusing the provincial government of reckless abandon for mismanaging the flood situation then off-loading blame onto bureaucrats and generally acting like clueless idiots. The government even took out half-page newspaper ads last week to shuffle blame away from themselves. The Black Rod wrote a fine piece this week about Premier Selinger that sums up his self-inflicted and well-deserved dilemma. Read it here.

The provincial state of emergency has been extended until June 5 “to support continued flood responses around the Portage la Prairie area” as stated yesterday by Manitoba Water Stewardship. It’s the newly flooded properties around Lake Manitoba that need sandbags and the troops right now. It was reported last week that today would be the last day the military would be involved with the flood fight, just when they are needed most around the lake! Whether that is actually the case remains unknown at this time.

The provincial government will announce its compensation package for flood victims tomorrow. Also tomorrow I will have a new update on the flooding at Spruce Woods Provincial Park and the prospects for opening the park this year.

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Today is Yurt Day

           You may remember from my year-end review that I stayed in a yurt for the first time last fall at Spruce Woods Provincial Park. Though rainy and cool, it was a fine experience giving me the idea for this summer’s yurting.

             Kiche Manitou Campground, where the yurts are located, is near the Spirit Sands. Back in the 1990s, I used to hike the Sands at night during the full moon, spending the whole night atop the dunes, dancing naked and free then hiking back at dawn. No flashlight necessary. Fireflies flashed everywhere, the silver wolf willow glowed in the moonlight and a beautiful moon rose so close you could reach out and touch it. I was always exhausted by morning and wanted to rest but had the 2-hour drive home ahead. My yurt plan solves that dilemma.

Yurt #4 round like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel.

             I wanted to book a yurt for the full moons in May, June, July and August then I could crash there after the all-nighters on the dunes. This morning at 7:30, Manitoba Provincial Parks opened up their reservation system to book yurts for the season. They have a call centre and an online booking system. I had my username and password all ready, opened the system and five minutes later I had booked all eight nights exactly as I wanted online! Paid with MasterCard and had my reservation confirmations by email five minutes later. It worked like a charm!

             Last year I stayed in Yurt #4, which had several features. It was above the Assiniboine River so you can see the river below. Plus it has a broad view of the night sky from the deck, great for star gazing. I got #4 for every one of my nights. You have to book two nights in a row with yurts but it’s a bargain at $54 a night, all in. The parks reservation system is easy to navigate. The yurts are very roomy so I will bring a friend this year.

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Filed under Day Tripping, Parks, Sacred Places, spirit sands

12 SACRED PLACES

12 SACRED PLACES

DAY THREE

BUFFALO BUTTE CEREMONIAL SITE

August 31, 2010

“Excited to get inside”

            Val Marie, SK is a small village with a large history situated at the western end of Grasslands National Park (GNP) and offers the Park office. During my first visit to Val Marie in August 1999, I saw the archeological surveys of the park done in the mid 1980s. The woman at the office mentioned a site had been “discovered” nearby but outside the park. Robert Ducan of The Convent Country Inn can tell me more about it, she says. I introduce myself to Robert, we hit it off and 20 minutes later, we are heading to the site in his half-ton.

            Another wild desolate location! The swoop of the land south and northward away from the site is dramatic. Off down the distance, gently rolling hills spill away in all directions. To the east 70 Mile Butte, a steel-grey monolith in GNP, dominates the landscape. Ragged as a meteor, 70 Mile Butte rises against the sky with subservient hills all around bowing in homage. The site lies south of the continental divide.

Buffalo Butte Ceremonial Site. Cinderblock hut and tower are obvious. Less so, the circles in the grass in the foreground. You can see a bit of an arc left of centre. At the extreme left, the geodetic survey marker is visible.

              Buffalo Butte Ceremonial Site, a long high ridge, is dominated by two huge concentric stone circles, one 120 feet across, the other 90 feet across. The circles lie in a slight indentation two feet lower than the hilltop. It has a wonderfully enclosed feeling though the indentation is slight. This area was at one time on the hilltop but the land sank. Inside the circles are a birthing arc opening east, where mothers came to give birth, and a dying arc opening west, where elders came to die. These are extremely rare in North America, somewhat more common in Europe.

            The ridge displays evidence of long usage, tracing the history of the region. To the west of the circles is an area that felt like the location of several burial platforms, reused for decades, perhaps longer.  At the top of the hill next to the circle is a small oblong enclosure of stones that is a vision quest site. It opens to the south, the heat, the visions, the hope.

            There are several tumbledown cairns, two of them, I sensed, signified water and were visible from different directions. A snake effigy seemed to materialize but I will have to recheck this. It may have been state-specific. I’m certain of the geodetic survey marker from the late 1800s though.

            Southeast of the large circle is an odd rectangular shape of stones with what appears to be letters inside, maybe ME or MB, WE or BW., possibly graffiti left behind by some bored survey crewmember, North West Mounted Police officer or wandering wrangler.

            A hut made of cinder blocks next to a tall red and white tower sit at the top of the ridge. An electrical line runs over the pasture to the hut but I have been unable to discover its exact usage. Three guy wires hold the tower in place. A deer had scuffed off its antlers by rubbing on the wires, its four-prongers lay on the ground. The tower doesn’t interfere with the ambience much and serves as a too-handy landmark to locate the site. The land is rented Crown land with roaming cattle and cow plop everywhere, though I see no cattle today. The day is warming quickly.

             During the hike over two-miles of rolling pasture, I watch for rattlesnakes and notice how my mood has improved vastly from my sad morning drive. Tipi rings litter the hills. I check downwind often to make sure I am still at the top of the food chain. Up the final hill, I’m tingly with holiness, welcomed and exhilarated. I am excited to get inside.

            In a light trance, I recognize the long-time ritual use of the place as much as 9,000 years before present. The arcs are a very old aspect of the site. They are also rare. They come from the imaginal realm in my dreaming. My feeling is that the people who used them are, as a race, now extinct; lost shards of human action, their world gone, even their mythologies now mute except for these stones.

 

My rough hand drawn map of the site made after my first visit. I hadn’t added the inside circle yet. Suggests the numerous uses of the place. Click to enlarge.

                 The required presence of mind one needs at this place is intense and sharp. There is very serious and powerful intent at work here, not to be toyed with but to be respected and honored. The illusions of time and death dissolve into the present here, a perfect Witnessing place.

            “Balancing change” broadly describes the emotional temperature of the place.  All manner of flux and mutability occurred here, some easy and organic, some difficult and deadly. Transformation and transcendence are soaked into the earth under my feet. A Overhead a red-tailed hawk cries, “Every moment sacred.”

            Standing in the birthing arc I hear a vague turtle shell rattle, its dry brittle sound complements the landscape. During my 2 ½ hour stay I often hear voices traveling on the wind. Sometimes they are conversations, often a bit of shy laughter. No agony, no pain on the wind today – only the bliss of place and life. Voices often come out of the earth. I walk past a richly lichened rock and a crackle of communication arises from it, the groan of the stone. Attracted by one such voice I realized I am looking at a disturbed turtle effigy.

            Spiritually, the site provides easy access to soul via the present and benevolent spirits alive to the needs of those seekers who come here. There was a time when this place was used almost exclusively by shamans who created special conditions so people could move in and out of life in a place and fashion they knew. Shamans were born and died here, heyoka arose out of contracted consciousness to live their duality here, women who would be matriarchs were born here only to return and give birth themselves.

            Tucked between two stones in the centre of the dying arc are signs of recent medicine making: a brown and white hawk feather and a small bundle of sage bound with grass. Beautiful! 

            Though not used ritually by any present day aboriginals the place is visited by tourists, many of a spiritual nature who stay at The Convent Country Inn. Robert and Mette often speak of the power of this site to their guests. Access is now limited to hiking in, no vehicles allowed. More shamans than archeologists have visited here. Apparently, no archeologist has ever visited the site, leaving it virtually unstudied.

Prairie Rock Graffiti. Stone rectangle with initials inside. 

                I find this spot fascinating not just for its active and helpful local spirits, but for its long and varied usage. A power place re-interpreted often over the millennia, this is a list of uses from the present back:                         

                                            Cow pasture

                                            Transmitting/receiving tower?

                                            Geodetic Survey Marker

                                            Graffiti in rocks

                                            Campsite

                                            Platform burial site

                                            Turtle effigy and cairn site

                                            Vision quest site

                                            Rites of passage initiated/celebrated

                                            Rituals performed

                                            Birthing and dying arcs

                                            Big stone ceremonial circle

                                            Animal trail

            On my little digital recorder as I am leaving Buffalo Butte, my voice is quavery and hushed. “I’m alive! I’m alive! Here, there and everywhere. Linda is alive! Here, there and everywhere. Wherever there is beauty, that is where Linda lives.”

DAY TRIPPING

KICHE MANITOU  CAMPGROUND YURT #4

September 24, 2010

             My first yurt experience proved to be damp, cold, warm, fuzzy and not without many magical moments.  It rained most of the afternoon as soon as I arrived. The park gives you two keys: one for the yurt and the other for your little red wagon! Chained up to a railing at the parking lot are ten oversized red metal wagons with inflated tires that you use to haul your crap to the yurt since you can’t drive right up to it. An excellent idea! 

            Yurt #4 (of ten, three more added for 2011) at Kiche Manitou Campground in Spruce Woods Provincial Park, just a hoot and a holler from the high dunes of the Spirit Sands, is a fine little affair. Sixteen feet across with hardwood floor raised on a short foundation, the yurt has ample room, both floor and headspace, that even three adults wouldn’t feel crowded. It opens into a large dome that lets light and tree laughter in. The proportion and angle of the ceiling gives the room airiness.

            Furnished in rough hewn natural wood, heavily shellacked, the yurt has a comfy futon (my bed for the night), a lamp, a round table with four chairs, each weighing fifty pounds, a coat rack, the curtain rods, a bureau and bunk beds, double on  bottom, single on top. The beds have the hardest mattresses I’ve ever laid on. The room has a small wall heater, which ran all night and barely kept the dropping temp at bay. The yurt has a roofed wooden porch/deck with cooking area and electrical plugs. The view from the porch is spectacular with the yellowing oak leaves and the Assiniboine River flowing by below.

            The strangest part of the yurt was the diamond-shaped lattice that covered every interior wall space, even the windows. The lattice is used in the basic structure of the place but exposed 340 degrees around you (the door isn’t covered), sometimes the room would start to spin. In my peripheral vision, it would move but stop when I looked that way. Somewhat disconcerting at first but an easily-won tolerance to tacky design.

 

             When I first arrived at the yurt, I heard a sighing sound coming from under one of the three windows. After a few times, I named it Debbie as it had a definite human resignation to it. I suspect it was some communal scrapping of nature and yurt but Debbie offered her small sounds many times during the night, changing from startling to reassuring.

            Coyotes gave several insane choir recitals in the night, making me laugh every time. It was the full moon and I was sorry I wouldn’t see it for the rain. About 5 o’clock I got up for a pee and the clouds parted and the full moon shone heavy and gorgeous, illuminating the area around my yurt with a mix of shadows and sensation. A little smile from Linda. Beautiful!

            Yurts are for non-campers who still don’t mind smelling of wood smoke for a few days. The accommodation for the price – $54 all in – was more than fair, for a family, very economical. It would be most enjoyable on warm summer days and nights. The view of the stars off the porch would be grand.

             To make moonlight hikes on the Spirit Sands much easier with a place to come home to, I thought I would try to book a yurt there every full moon next summer. This can be done online starting in February. From Mongolia to Manitoba, yurts are funky!

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Filed under Accommodations, Sacred Places, Saskatchewan, shaman, shamanism