July 31 2004, Riding Mountain National Park:
Riding Mountain was not we had expected. We pictured the riding part as horses and low-lying scrubby range country. We pictured the mountain part as rolling hills (we knew it wasn't BC) as far as the eye could see. Instead, we got a cross between Algonquin Park and Wasaga Beach on a long weekend. In fact, it was a long weekend, so of course the affects were amplified in that we were surrounded by teenagers, beer and cars going boom-boom. I am getting old. But, it was a strange parks with hotels, swimming pools, an over crowded beach, cottages everywhere and enough cars to supply a small third world country. Like many provincial parks in central Canada, this one is part town, part over-run park. Yuck.
August 1 - August 6 2004, Riding Mountain National Park:
We had such a great time biking around Lac St. Jean, PQ with Linda and Bill in 2003 that we decided to do something together in 2004. We managed to make our paths cross again at Riding Mountain National Park and, although it was O.K., this year's adventure didn't prove to be as unique as last years. That said though, Linda and Bill are always a lot of fun so we managed to have a good time anyway and spent our days hiking, canoeing, buffalo spotting, avoiding bear cubs and horse back riding. See the Riding Mountain National Park link for more photos.
August 8 - August 9 2004, Winnipeg:
We spent a lot of time in our tent during these two days. It was wet, wet, wet, outside. It had been overcast for a day and a half and it had finally let loose. We are camped in a funny sort of suburban campsite with more Winnipeg tent residents than campers/travelers. The place was soaked and the roadway tire grooves had filled in creating two large (and sometimes joining) parallel puddles. Winnipeg was O.K. though not a very attractive city. Still, it was a good place to be holed up in the rain as there were things to do. We went to a movie, visited the Canadian Mint (really neat), visited a Komatsu service manager I used to work with, went to the historic house of Louis Riel and participated in the great Kitty Cat rescue (see below).
August 8 - August 9 2004, Winnipeg - The Great Kitty Cat Rescue:
Shortly after our arrival at the campsite, Carol went out of her way to meet a gray mom cat with three gray kittens and a black mom cat with two black kittens. We initially thought they belonged to someone as they looked in good shape and were very friendly. It soon became apparent, however, that they had been dropped off and left. When Carol began the process of naming them and feeding them, I knew we were in a bind. This was confirmed the next day when the temperature dropped, the rains came and three of the kittens showed up soaking wet, shivering and starving. Carol's campground production went to zero as all she focused all her efforts on warming up and worrying about the kittens. She was even checking on them during the night! The next day was spent calling the SPCA (where Carol's pleas fell on sensitive ears) and driving from one end of the city (to pick up a cage) to the other end (to deliver the cats and kittens to the friendly SPCA). The staff certainly seemed appreciative of our efforts and also taken with the friendly cats. Carol then became lonely (guess that means we'll have to look at rescuing a kitty cat for ourselves once we are settled).
August 10 2004, Hecla and Grindstone Provincial Park:
The weather was still uncharacteristically cold. We put the tent away wet and headed north up Highway #9 along the west shore of Lake Winnipeg (through Grimli and Winnipeg Beach) arriving in Grindstone Provincial Park. This is a nice park with large, clean and private spots. Although there is not much hiking, etc. in the area, it does have a neat escarpment with big rock shelves you can poke around. As with most parks in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, it does have a decidedly urban feel with a little village and a small cottage industry. Nearby is the quaint, historic village of Hecla. It was settled back in 1876 by a group of Icelanders and then progressively over-fished and over-forested before finally becoming a part of the park.
August 11 2004, The Pas and Clearwater Provincial Park:
It was another cloudy day but at least the rain had stopped and the tent became drier. The scenery had changed from farm fields to a landscape of trees. We passed through the northern community of The Pas which is a rather rough looking (and smelly) pulp town - not very pretty at all. We were further disappointed upon our arrival at Clearwater Provincial Park. Saskatchewan and Manitoba Parks seem to strive for an urban feeling to their parks and have little towns in every park. Clearwater, though, was ridiculous. There were more cottages than campsites and we got the feeling that we were sleeping in someone's backyard. The parks we visited in these two provinces have an identity issue: are they parks or are they towns? In our opinion they are doing neither well.
August 13 2004, Grass River Provincial Park:
We were still working our way north under predominately cloudy/rainy skies towards a rendezvous with friends for a Churchill River trip in Saskatchewan. We arrived at Grass River Provincial Park, stayed for a couple of nights and felt our faith in Manitoba's parks had been somewhat restored. There was no power at this park and I don't know if that made a difference but it was a quiet, warm and friendly park without a bloody town in the middle! Unlike other parks in the province we did get the sense that we were camping in the bush (the bear scat in the middle of the campground helped with that feeling) rather than in a town. It rained again all night so we slept in before canoeing out to Louck's Falls and playing in the rapids. It was a straightforward three-parter but we didn't run the middle due to low water and I ran the last part solo for the same reason. Our campsite neighbour was there fishing and gave us four awesome pickerel later that night. Yummmm!!!
August 14 2004, Grass River Provincial Park:
Grass River Provincial Park made Carol and I realize how much we miss the Canadian Shield. Underneath the park's rivers and lakes, the shield dives below the sedimentary rock formations to the south. As a result, the south shores of the lakes are sedimentary type rock while north shores (or even the first island to the north) are the hard granite of the shield. It is a neat effect. Anyhow, we both miss the shield a lot... smooth round hard granite, non-canyon rivers with straightforward portages (albeit muddy, rocky and rough), warm water, marshes teaming with wildlife and hundreds of interconnected lakes and rivers. Grass River Provincial Park and the Grass River itself is a place we would like to return to.
From here we looped back into northern Saskatchewan. If you are following chronologically you might wish to link to the second half of the Saskatchewan page.