Riding Mountain National Park         

For the second year running, we were lucky to have Linda and Bill Smith drop in for a visit. Last year we did a bike trip around Lac St. Jean in Quebec which was excellent. This year we tried for Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba and while we knew it wouldn't be as spectacular as last year's trip it was where we were when Linda and Bill could free up four days.

I don't think any of us knew exactly what we were in for. Riding Mountain is a park in the loosest sense of the word. It is more of a family resort complete with a town, cottages, hotels with bad swimming pools and a lot of ice cream parlors. The park section is there but seems secondary to the town; the hiking, biking and canoeing it offers are all O.K. but nothing spectacular. Linda and Bill had booked a cabin which ended up being located on the main street while Carol and I stayed in the campground which ended up being full of long-weekend teenagers, cars and stereos. Things worked out though. Bill and Linda's cabin provided excellent main-street people watching (from two really comfortable Muskoka chairs) and the long-weekend revelers left allowing for peace and quiet at the campground (albeit with lots of garbage floating around). The whole experience left us scratching our heads wondering what made this half town/half park work (as it does work). Carol put it the best when she described it as a cross between Algonquin Park and Wasaga Beach (both in Ontario). It was interesting to watch for four days but I don't know that any of us would return.

The cottage section of the park was particularly interesting. Growing up in Ontario leads one to develop a certain philosophy towards cottages which isn't necessarily shared by the rest of the country. I don't know if it is greed or access to a huge number of lakes, but by definition, a cottage in Ontario is not a cottage unless you have lake front property. The cottage area of Riding Mountain National Park (as well as other areas in Manitoba such as Winnipeg Beach) offers another approach that is a for-the-public-good approach. Instead of individuals buying lake front land, building a huge monstrosity of a cottage/home and denying the public access to the land, people in Manitoba leave the lake front as public access and build several rows of very modest cottages well back from the waters edge. There are thus many cottages in a place that would hold only one in Ontario. It is kind of cute and a lot more social.

Linda and Bill are always a lot of fun so in the end we really enjoyed ourselves. Carol and I had been waking, packing, driving, touring, un-packing and setting up camp day-after-day for so many days that we really appreciated the break. The following is a sampling of our days and, as you can see... it was not too stressful!

     We went hiking.

     We went canoeing in muddy lakes (look behind each of Bill's paddle strokes)
and traversed muddy beaver dams.

     We ate lunch in our canoes (because there was no shore) and relaxed afterwards.

     We went on buffalo spotting expeditions and on shopping expeditions for appropriate buffalo spotting hats.

     We hung out at the beach for a little bit (on Carol and Stephen's last day) and
watched the sail boats go by.

     We relaxed at Linda and Bill's main street cabin and watched the world go by.

     We ate excellent B.B.Q dinners...

     ...and then went for evening walks...        ...when we weren't horse back riding!

Additional Photos from Riding Mountain

Inside the cabin

A gift

Snack time

Carol's horse

A quiet day at the beach

A beaver house

Linda at the cabin

Peaceful paddle

Still getting flowers


Buffalo spotting

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