21 June 2016

To ... Riding Mountain National Park

And ... a FIVE night stay
On previous drives along the Trans-Canada Highway, we've had a schedule to meet and always just passed through Manitoba as we headed west. This time, we have the opportunity and the interest, to investigate a part of this province we haven't seen before. 

Along the way ...
We passed several fields with small huts like these and couldn’t quite figure out what they were used for, but finally a Google search and a Wikipedia source revealed the following ...

Here and there across the Canadian countryside you’ll see shelters or huts (sometimes bright blue) placed in patterns in pastures. Their openings all face the same direction and their presence has a rather otherworldy feeling about it. Question: What are these things?

Answer: They are plastic shelters for alfalfa leaf-cutter bees, a native North American bee that has been domesticated. The blue dome is used in western Canada, and variations in other parts of the continent. The shelters, usually found in alfalfa pastures, are needed for their warming ability and as a place for the bees to build their nests out of alfalfa leaves. One shelter for every 4 to 5 acres contains about a dozen nests. 

To ... Riding Mountain National Park
We crossed the provincial boundary into Manitoba; past Falcon Lake, Whiteshell and Lake Du Bonnet. On to Selkirk and from there we headed north and drove along the western shoreline of Lake Winnipeg to Hnausa then west to the northeastern shoreline of Lake Manitoba and to Dauphin. Finally, south into Riding Mountain National Park ... and to where we camped! After leaving Wasagaming, we followed Highway 45 west until it intersected with the Yellowhead (Hwy. 16), near Marchwell, Saskatchewan.

The Park is focussed around the townsite of Wasagaming and the campground we are in is a short walk away. 

During our stay, we walked or hiked several of the paths and trails in the park, cycled some, had lunch out in town and attended the National Aboriginal Day festivities. 

 National Aboriginal Day Festivities
... June 21st is the official day that recognizes and celebrates the cultures and contributions of the First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples of Canada. 

This day was first celebrated in 1996, after it was proclaimed that year by then Governor General of Canada, Romeo LeBlanc, to be celebrated on 21 June annually. The day was chosen as the statutory holiday for many reasons; - including its cultural significance as the Summer Solstice, and the fact that it is a day on which many Aboriginal groups traditionally celebrate their heritage. The celebration is often planned early and carries over a few days. We attended for two.

At the festivities ... there were a few displays of local native handicrafts, an information area set up in one of the Tipis and several performers including; fiddle music, singers and featured Dallas Arcand ... Three-time World Champion Hoop Dancer. 

Dallas has a very high level of athleticism ... think gymnastics, dance, choreography, aerobics, cardio ... it was a pleasure to watch him perform! 

We posted a video earlier of this dance; watch it here

Check out his website here

The TNT Square Dancers performed ... they have fun!

Drummers introduce the traditional Pow Wow Dancers. Pow Wows are the Native American people's way of meeting together; to join in dancing, singing, visiting, renewing old friendships and makeing new ones ... some good voices here!

Cycling and Hiking
In town ... the municipality has established and maintains a very pleasant system of walking paths that focus on its' natural areas and the shoreline of nearby Clear Lake

Out of town ... The Lakeshore Bike Trail; about 10 km return, gentle grade, mostly paved, pleasant views, lunch spots near terminus. 

Given the expectations we have of 'bicycles that we are transporting in a truck camper', our Montague folding bikes continue to impress us; road bike dimensions, hybrid ride capabilities, easily folded, packed/unpacked for transport, comfortable to ride.

The Ominisk Marsh & South Lake hiking trails are a good warm-up to some of the moderate and longer trails in the park. At a combined distance of a little greater than 5 kms they are flat and easy, pass through marshy wetland, along the shoreline of Clear Lake and poplar forest. The Arrowhead Trail is accessed from Highway 19 about 1.5 kms east of the east end of Clear Lake. The trail doesn't have any outstanding features; it's a pleasant hike on a moderate trail through predominently Aspen/Poplar/Spruce forest. We spooked a spotted Fawn and saw a couple of Does, just outside the trailhead.

If You Go
We enjoyed our time in Riding Mountain National Park. It was good to get off the roads, give LOAF a bit of a break and step into a slower pace for a few days. 

The town of Wasagaming is the focal point of the park. The National Park Services are here, information kiosks, a few restaurants, some touristy shops, a nice small beach area on Clear Lake, small harbour for light craft and a whole bunch of quiet! 

The cycling and hiking trails near town are all easy to moderate in difficulty and most are less than 10 kms long. From Wasagaming CG in town, there is easy access to all these trails. Our longest bike ride to a hiking trailhead was about 7 kms. A slightly longer stay of 7-10 days would have allowed us to explore even more and drive to additional hiking and cycling trailheads a short distance from town. The out-of-town trails range in difficulty from easy to difficult, include shared mountain biking paths and some that are available to backpackers for even longer and more strenuous outings. 

Given an opportunity, we'd return ...

Next ... to Yorkton, Saskatchewan, LOAF took 'a hit' to the windshield, BIG crack, service scheduled.
Crusty ...

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TEAM: LOAF, Crumby, Wry & Crusty