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Fall/Winter 2006-2007

November 12 - Spirit Sands Hike (Spruce Woods Provincial Park)
James, Moses, Linda, Judy and Bert ride-shared from Brandon to the Carberry Motor Inn for breakfast then on to the Spirit Sands trailhead.  En-route, deep philosophical issues related to dog names were explored.  Why is Moses (James’s dog) called Moses?  Why did all Judy’s dogs have names starting with P (Pluto, Pooch, Phillips).  At the trailhead, they were joined by Grace, Di, Eric, Mya and Kelly.  The day was overcast, minus 4 C with a brisk wind (20 to 25 kph).  Heat exhaustion was not a concern.

Spirit Sands has many faces which change with the weather, the sky and the sun.  On a bright, sunny fall day, the colors can be brilliant; on a hot summer day, it can be bleached out and oppressive; on this hike, while the colors were subdued and the climate cool, the company, as always on Westman activities, was warm and pleasant.  The hikers visited all noted points of interest in the park (oasis, dunes, Devil’s Punch Bowl, the boat landing).  James’s mini GPS indicated that a 9.5 km walk brought us back to the trailhead.   Canadian football was discussed on the hike…. someone asked who was playing but when the group could not name with certainty the four teams playing that day in the Eastern and Western Canada CFL playoffs, it was apparent why these particular people were on a wilderness hike. 

The notice for the hike included an invite to an après hike weenie roast.  Mya had a term paper to write, Eric had miles to go before he could sleep and Kelly was riding with them.  They debated duty and desire before (regrettably) making the responsible decision and heading for home before the picnic.  The remaining six went to the warm-up shack on Seton Trail and after about ten minutes had built a roaring fire which warmed the shack, the hikers and then their food.  The menu included bison smokies, jalapeno smokies and dried sausages for the carnivores and spicy Italian veggie sausages for the herbivores.  Judy made hot chocolate for those that she deemed worthy.  Bert was only allowed to drink water.  

Over hot chocolate (or water) and sausages in buns, the group discussed past events, planned events and unplanned events.  The fire died down, the crew cleaned up the shack, packed up their cars and headed out into the night.  

Although my photos of the day were less than dazzling, it was a memorable hike.  Thanks to those that made it so.  

Bert Phillips

November 17 - Hike to Jack Fish Lake, RMNP
It was a snowy day starting out in the morning. In fact, only Mike and I showed up for the hike, initially.  We found the animal trail just off the west side of highway # 10 and started out on a moderate paced 2-hour trek to the west, toward Jackfish Lake. The trail was snow-covered, but not deep. (Mike was anticipating a back-country ski there the following weekend.....I think he did it, too). The sky cleared, so we were able to take a lunch break in the sunshine, overlooking a marshy area. We were heading back, in deep conversation (political) and Robert startled me, walking out of the forest coming toward us!  After a few snapshots amid the beauty surrounding us, we three made our way back to the vehicles. Robert continued on to ski the Grey Owl trail, while Mike and I joined some other club members at the Onanole Fowl Supper. Thanks for the great day, Mike!


December 10   Ski, Sauna and Snow Surfing!
       A season opener ski around the Rec Centre in Brandon, for many of us, followed by a "standing room only" sauna and a surf in the snow to cool down, turned out to be an all day party on the North Hill.  Some were mellowing out by the fire with a hot chocolate and munchies after the ski, while others on the wild and crazy side were even rolling down the hill in the snow between intervals of  sauna and bubblies.  I wasn't too sure what one new attendee, Pat, thought of all this but she later told me it was lots of fun and she was convinced to join our club!

     Kelly, Michelle and Kelsey, Shannon and Shannon, Eldon, Norma, Grace, Pat, Brent and Mo skied about an hour around the Rec Centre, while Bert and Judy were at the Brandon Hills kicking off Bert's birthday???!!!!  Judy brought over one of the best Turtle Cheesecakes I've ever tasted -- sure was nice it was your birthday, Bert!  Verne joined us by the fire (and if I forgot anyone, sorry).

     If you had fun, come again. If you didn't make it, hope you do next year - maybe we'll tube down the hill!


New Year's Eve & Day - Cairn's cabin Ski Trip, RMNP
New Year's at Cairn's Cabin proved to be the best skiing conditions yet for this year. For those Westman Wilderness Club members who missed this event, you missed the best ski conditions I have ever experienced on the Intermediate level Ochre River trail. Jackie, Fred, Bert, Judy and Tim and Lisa Haverman (possible new members) met at Elkhorn Resort on Sunday for breakfast and later we met Mike at the trailhead. After a few introductions and waxing of skis, we headed out at 11:55 A.M. We were all pleasantly surprised by the fresh snow, which in alpine terms was "excellent powder", plus the warm temperature hovering between -1 to -5 degrees. We all enjoyed the hills and non-icy conditions. Fred especially enjoyed doing most of the hills twice (a "show-off, but a cute one"). Tim and Lisa had not done much skiing in the park and Tim mentioned he was a beginner skier. We admired their motivation to try such an intermediate trail and with packs to boot. They are military members, and we know they are tough, but we were all impressed with their ability. We arrived at Cairn's Cabin around 3:00 PM, and had a few snacks as we warmed up around the stove. We found the cabin in good shape with only one mouse in the trap. There were mouse droppings in a few spots, so remember to pack some diluted bleach if you plan to head out to the cabin. Glen Gatin joined us at 5:00, so that made eight people. Glen proceeded to make us a great bonfire. Coupled with a full moon and great temperatures, we all took turns enjoying his fire. The evening festivities included some Yahtzee and card games, along with Mike's Sudu puzzles. Tim and Lisa are great card players, and they love to play Yahtzee, so I think they will have no problem fitting into the club's recreational habits in the outdoors. We all proceeded to stay up to just after midnight to toast the New Year. Glen slept outside under the stars and he said he had a comfortable sleep. The cabin loft was warm to start off with, but it cooled down, sometime in the early morning hours. Mike slept on the main floor with the mice. I do not recall anyone having to stock the fire in the night, so that was a bonus. We left the Cabin around 11:00 AM and proceeded to enjoy a late lunch at the resort.

I would like to thank Mike, Glen, Bert, Judy, Lisa, Tim and of course Fred for helping me bring in another special New Year, especially when I had the stomach flu. I hate to miss our special trips into wilderness cabins at New Years. Thanks for the company and great food (what I did eat). I agree with Tim; "it is nice to not be at a New Year's drunk and feel it all New Year's day!"  Hope to see you all again next year!


New Year's Day - Grey Owl Trail Ski, RMNP
On Jan. 1, 2007,  Di, Grace, Janis and myself Alf  met at Onanole and proceeded on to the Grey Owl ski trail parking lot in Riding Mountain national park for an impromptu ski trip. The parking lot was empty on our arrival but because of the great conditions and weather it did not stay that way for long. Many skiers were met on the trail and the parking lot was full on our arrival back. Conditions were so good that it took 2.5 hours including stops at the warm up hut and Grey Owl's cabin to make the return trip. After the trip we all enjoyed hot chocolate and snacks in front of the blazing fire at our cottage .

January 6 & 7 - Overnight Ski to James Lake, Turtle Mountain Provincial Park
James Lake cabin was filled with friendship and warmth on January 5 as all the sweaty bodies arrived after our 6 km ski, except for 'speed demon' Fred who was  feeling a bit under the weather yet was still able to ski the large loop to arrive at the cabin only 10 minutes after the rest of us!  Donna and Aaron had arrived earlier so the heat was on and a Crib game was under way. Upon arrival, Maureen, Shannon K, Eldon, Bert, Judy and myself continued with the usual unpacking. Fred then arrived and proceeded to snack and sleep, while some of us played Crib and some of us learned how to play Crib. Watch your money, folks, if there is a Crib board in the presence of Maureen and Shannon.  Maureen and Shannon were only visiting for the day ski so they left in the afternoon. The folks that remained went for another ski, except for Bert and Judy who opted for a walk. Donna and Aaron had a hill we had to try, so away we went; Donna and I went all right, right down on our you know what! After our 'downhill adventure' Fred decide to go on another loop and again we barely beat him back to cabin. The evening activity was two card games of Wizard, of which I think Donna won both. After a few retired for the night,  Eldon, Donna, Aaron and myself remained to play Crib. Eldon and Aaron were partners and Donna and I gave them a run for their money but they beat us 3 of 5 games. We had them sweating with a double skunk on the first game. Thank you Bert for your great sense of humor that kept us all laughing and wondering what really does happen when you turn 50.Thanks to Fred for getting up and lighting the fire in the morning. And most of all thanks to everyone, cause I didn't know that I snore!

For Maureen: "Capitulate: to surrender on terms; to give in"   I like Bert's definition better: "a form of copulation" See you on the trails,

Written by Wayne, Eldon's brother and #1 Whiffy Maker

January16-19 - White Shell Cross-Country Ski Adventure
A pleasant few days were spent cross-country skiing and relaxing near Pinawa in the Whiteshell area January 16-19th.  Attending were Grace, Olwen, James, Janis, Alf, Carol and Bill.  Shortly after arrival on Tuesday at Grace's accommodation, we headed out and skied the golf course area at Pinawa (approx. 5k).  Wednesday we ventured out on the Blue Trail for 4.5 K  followed by the Red Trail of 7K.  Both were excellent trails; the Blue involved a fair amount of climbing and was not tracked as well as the Red.  All agreed the Red trail was exceptional.  On Thursday, prior to departure, we skied 5 K on the Red trail plus some skied the 2.5k trail under partly sunny skies and very agreeable temperatures.  The Après Ski Tuesday and Wednesday and gourmet Wilderness Club Pot Luck put the gilt on the gingerbread!  Thanks, Grace, for your efforts and arrangements. These trails are groomed by the White Shell Ski Club. Check out their trail system on the their web site

Carol & Bill

January 21 - Snowshoe near RMNP
The participants were:  Kim, Sherri, Linda, Janis, Alf, Eldon, Donna, Aaron, Patsy and guests Laura and Bruce, Judy, Bert, Norma, Vern, Jerry and Brenda.  Brenda and Jerry led the group on a hike down a snowshoe trail they made from starting at their cabin.  As the group meandered through the beautiful wooded area that headed north to the Park cut line, we soon hit some open space with lots of untouched snow and that’s where we turned Bert loose to break us a new trail.  The weather was great; the group was enthusiastic and their babbling could be heard from far off in distance.  Some of us even found peace at Lake Katherine. Upon returning to the cabin the vast "herd" came from all directions and gathered around the fire pit where they proceeded to graze upon hot dogs, smokies and toasted donuts.  As the fire slowly burned down to a bed of embers, the herd moved off in quiet content.

It was a very enjoyable day!  Thanks to all who participated. 

January 27-28 - Cross country/downhill ski weekend.

The weather looked scary for the weekend ski trip at Asessippi ski hill in Russell on Friday evening as the wind was howling and roads were closed. Saturday morning, however, the wind had died and the sun was shining. Eleven members and two guests took part in the weekend activities. They were Eldon, Donna, Aaron, Mike R, Janis, Verne,  Norma, Linda B, Grace, Colin, Verne's grandson and his buddy and me (Alf). Sherry also took part in the skiing but did not stay overnight at the Asessippi bunk house. Our accommodations at the bunkhouse were great with 10 bedrooms and room for 40! (Thanks, Eldon, for booking the bunkhouse) The cost per person was only $23. On Saturday, Grace, Linda and Janis went to Rivendell to cross country ski ( Thanks, Fred,  for scouting out Rivendell for us) while the rest of us spent a grand day downhill skiing. The skiing was great with very few line-ups. The sugar shack on the hill was a great place to warm up and sip hot chocolate or a stronger drink (if desired) and the main chalet lounge was even better. After a full day of skiing it was back to the bunkhouse for potluck supper. The menu was several appetizers, Greek salad and lasagna, followed by Norma's delicious rhubarb pudding. Of course we all ate too much! The evening was spent playing cards (pennies), backgammon and listening to old time rock and roll. The younger folk, Verne's grandson and his buddy, made a fort in their room out of extra mattresses; I think to cut out the noise of their elders.

Sunday four of us joined by Sherri skied Moose Lake ski trail in the west part of Riding Mountain National Park; some had to go home and the rest went for another day on the hill. It was an excellent weekend and we will have to do it again next year.


February 3rd - Brandon Hills Day Ski
I arrived in the Brandon Hills at 10:20 am to ward off any skiers who thought we might actually go. However an empty parking lot was all I found. The minus 44 C wind-chill weather must have scared off any skiers who thought they might join me. After waiting about 15 minutes, I decided to attempt a few kilometres of trail and brave the elements. The ski conditions were surprisingly good. A few trail sections were wind blown but other than that it was a pretty decent ski. I never fell down once---and nobody was there to see it. I lasted approximately an hour on the trails. My right pinkie toe was the only thing that really got cold. A good 'base-layer', continuous movement and the confidence that my car would start at the end were all I needed to finish. There was one other person on the trail but she was far too fast for me to ask for a name or ask what the hell she was doing out on the trail today. I hope everyone stayed warm that day. Maybe next time.
Mike Klassen

February 11 -  Day Ski,  Yellowquill Trails, Spruce Woods Provincial Park
The weather cooperated, giving us a cool, but beautifully sunny day for a ski in the rolling hills of Spruce Woods' Yellowquill trail system.   Fred and Jackie, Alf and Janis, James and Olwen, Grace and Di joined Bert and Judy for the 10 km ski, which took us through the Cree and Assiniboine Trails.  This is a great trail for all levels of skiers--it's continuously up and down--lots of downhills that are steep enough to give a good run (sometimes most of the way up the next hill), but never with treacherous turns and hazards. The only challenge for many of us on this particular day appeared to be finding the right wax to give us a good kick on the slightly crusty trails.

An added benefit is the little warming hut just 1 km from the parking lot.  Bert snowshoed in early to get the fire started, so it was toasty warm and inviting when we finished the loop.  We finished up with a snack of hot chocolate, a variety of sausages, and buns.


February 17 -Hellman Hills Ski
Five attendees were at a terrific X Country Ski outing in Hellman Hills, located approximately 5 miles SE of Virden, Manitoba. Shannon, Janis, Alf, Carol and Bill skied the trails of this scenic and picturesque area.  The groomed trails offered easy skiing intermixed with some challenges to keep us on (or off) our toes.  Temperatures and snow conditions were ideal.  Following 2 1/2 hours of skiing, the group retired to Shannon's home for  hors-d'oeuvres  and refreshments, followed by savory potluck treats.  Thanks again, Shannon, for arranging the outing and being our dauntless Trail Boss on these excellent trails.  We look forward to the next ski or hike in this unique area.


February 17 & 18 -  Backcountry Ski Trip, Ochre River Trail, RMNP
Mild winter temperatures, a fresh, light snowfall, postcard perfect scenery,  and excellent company combined to make this overnight ski  to Cairns Cabin a memorable trip, certain to be repeated in the future.  Four members - Linda, Fred, Tricia, and Mike met Alf and Janis for breakfast at the Southgate at Onanole.  After seeing Alf and Janis off to their day ski to the Hellman trail at Virden, the intrepid four headed out to the the trail head to begin a challenging and quick 2.5 hour ski into the cabin which as it turned out,  had been occupied since Thursday. We kept running into members from the party of eight skiers and four dogs on their way out.

The snow under our skis was fresh and made snowplowing those steep hills seem easy, even on the long steep hill just before the first campsite.  After warming up for a few hours, Tricia, Fred and myself carried on for  a relaxing day ski east along the Ochre River trail to be rewarded with fantastic views of the Ochre River and some moose. We gingerly made our way down the steep hill to the Horse camp, where we followed a mysterious snowmobile trail by foot, leading away north of the camp.  We returned to the cabin before dark, where Linda informed us of the mice that kept her company while we were out.  Tricia, our newest member present on this trip, recounted some of the interesting ski trips she was on  with the Manitoba Naturalist Society in the Whiteshell area.   After some shared appetizers, munchies, a nice meal, and a few games of Crib and Wizard, the evening quickly passed. The weather cleared up overnight, allowing absolutely gorgeous views of Orion, Aurgia, and all four stars of the bowl of the Little Dipper which were sparkling away in the dark winter sky.  The next morning greeted us with blustery weather, though we were mostly sheltered from its effects.  A short 3-hour ski saw us back to our vehicles, and then members departed for a safe trip back home.  Thanks to all who came, and may the last weekend in February  see us back at Cairns for years to come.

Mike Rossier

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