Spirit Sands Snowshoe March 6
Nine members, and one guest, showed up for an adventurous day of snowshoeing on the Spirit Sands Trail in Spruce Woods Provincial Park. It was a beautiful morning, with a slight breeze out of the west, when we met at the trail head. We started the 6k trip on the lightly packed trail and an hour and a half later we climbed up a hill and entered the "Manitoba Desert". The wind picked up and the snow, that the weather office had been promising for twenty-four hours, started to fall. It snowed for the remainder of the trip with a significant accumulation by the time we were ready to ski off the dunes. Yes I said ski. Now just bend down, lean back, put your arms out for balance, hands on the snow and keep the tips of your snowshoes up. It went off without a hitch and the group can now say they can ski on snowshoes. Overall I think it was a great day.
Down Hill and Cross-country Ski March 12
Verne K. organized a Cross Country Ski. We met at South Gate Motel for a lunch and then skied into the warming hut on the Grey Owl Trail . From there we branched off to the Cowan Lake Trail. The Grey Owl Trail was groomed perfectly but the Cowan was groomed by we, the skiers. A beautiful day of skiing was wrapped up with a coffee at Stanleys’ cottage and then a most delicious pot luck supper at the Burridge Cottage. The Cross Country Skiers were Alf, Janis, Carol, Mike R, Verne and Norma. Bill S. was the support crew. We were joined for the pot luck supper by he down hill gang, Eldon, Chad, Wayne & Family, Ed , Donna and Aaron . Who had gone to Assessipi ski hill at Russell. Thanks to Janis and Alf, Ed and Linda for the use of their homes.
Hellman Ski Trails March 19
15 people skied the Hellman trails, southeast of Virden. Those doing the ski were; Alf and Janice Stanley, Sherry Gates, Di Ingram, Terje and Grace Hellebakke, Vern Kachkowski, Shannon Kent, Bob Mason, Donna Drake, Marg Nestor, Bill and Carol Stadnyk, Judy Bartel and Maureen Monroe. It was a sunny, blue sky day, 4 C and no wind.
We met at the trailed parking lot at 11:00. Sherry decided to head to Minot--OK-- she didn't make it to Bellview before she turned around and called Alf and found us. In future if Shannon says it is 4 miles off # 1 just divide by 2. Marg and Shannon led the 2 hour ski through rolling terrain, stands of aspen, oak and a couple of willow tangles. Much of the trail was scenic, along the pipeline trail we saw a deer carcass and many coyote tracks and 6 live deer crossing the trail as well as a grouse. The ridge trail was interesting then we came down and entered the bowl with the high cliffs. We ate lunch on the side of a sandhill that was free from snow. The oak trees in the area are a favorite sunning spot for porcupines. In the bowl at the top of the ridge another deer was spotted. We finished off at Shannon's with an unplanned potluck and drinks, thanks to everyone who thoughtfully contributed.The weather, the snow and the company were superb! A map of the Hellman Trails will be added to the map book shortly
Raptor Awareness Day at Windy Gates April 2
Eight Westman Wilderness Clubbers’ headed out to Morden to participate in Raptor Awareness Day and learn more about the spring migration of raptors through this very special area of the Pembina Valley. En route, and the closer we drew to our destination the more hawks we spotted in the air. Just building enthusiasm for the main event!
A very short side trip by road brought us to St. Leon and a close-up view of the first of several wind generators being erected in the area. Very interesting, very photogenic, and very impressive. For an environmentally conscious group, it was encouraging to see this huge undertaking in development of clean electricity.
Only through the keen abilities of those participating, using their most finely honed wilderness skills, we finally located the Morden Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion – the venue for Raptor Awareness Day. Here we were smitten with a Broad Winged Hawk and a Saw Whet Owl. The displays and information available from various groups was very informative and well put together. Even free coffee and mini-muffins!
Bus excursions to the viewing sight were being offered from the Legion, but we opted to take our own vehicles and be on our own schedule. Locating the actual sight at Windy Gates was quite easy, and once at the location it would be hard to miss the dozen or more folks, dressed for the weather, and hunkered down, cameras, spotting scopes and binoculars in hand. Within a matter of minutes we all bore witness to what a special place Windy Gates is, and what a treat we were in for. Perched a few hundred feet before a rising shale bluff we were immediately caught up in the excitement and enthusiasm of the dedicated birders on sight.
EAGLE! IMMATURE! 11 O’CLOCK!
RED TAIL! LIGHT PHASE! 2 O’CLOCK!
SHARPIE! TREE LEVEL! 10 O’CLOCK!
All eyes and binoculars tried to catch all the birds called out. As we grew a little more confident through the day we started calling out our own birds. After five or so hours of soaring with eagles we thanked all the helpful folks and headed out to travel with turkeys – wild turkeys that is, which are common in the area. We made our way, via the scenic route, to Café Bru for dinner. Good food, great atmosphere and a unique dining experience.
All in all, Raptor Awareness Day was a truly enlightening experience, and the significance of Windy Gates and its importance as a migration corridor cannot be overstated. Here is the total species count for that day. Our group saw close to half these birds. As numbers go, this was a slow day! Numbers of different species rise and drop in accordance with their migration times.
Bald Eagle........................... 81 Merlin ............................... 2
Northern Harrier ................... 9 American Kestril ................ 1
Northern Goshawk ................. 2 Canada Goose.................... 2
Sharp-Shinned Hawk ............ 42 Mallard........................... 144
Red-Tailed Hawk............... 1008 Pintail.............................. 53
Mud Hike Moon Lakes April 10
One week earlier we thought it would be impossible to hike the Moon Lake trail in RMNP because of the heavy winter snow. A week of warm weather makes a lot of difference. A group of 9 members met for breakfast before heading off on a day hike around the lake. Jim Wilkie, our capable leader, said it was the best conditions he had ever seen the trail at this time of the year. A bald eagle being harassed by some crows were sighted but no other wild life. Ice was still on the lake but looked like it was ready to disintegrate. Lunch was had at the half way mark, a spot with a million dollar view. After the hike coffee and snacks were had at the Stanley’s cottage.
Bike Ride April 16
Spring had "sprung" the first time on April 16th 2005 for the Annual Bike Ride Around Brandon. Approximately 20 Wilderness Club members including Katie & Kelsey-our junior members-made it around the fourteen mile circumference of Brandon. We had a different route this year in order to navigate above and around the spring flooding of the Riverbank. We decided to take it easy this year and order Pizza. Little Italy did it up right!! Munroe's look forward to the 3rd Annual next year
Day Hike April 30
On April 30th a group of 23 WWC members joined Alf for a hike into Cowan Lake. It was a cooler day but the sun did make an appearance for a short while. As we trod through the fresh snow we see tracks of deer and coyote. There was an area of burnt forest rejuvenating, be careful what you lean against Tjdia. Once at Cowan Lake we enjoyed our lunch and rested. It was quite cool so we didn’t linger too long. Here the group divided, not because they were mad but because the trip out to Grey Owl Trail sounded delightful. So The drivers returned to Whirlpool Lake while others went west to Grey Owl Trail. The women took the lead back to Whirlpool while the men Strolled behind. We saw a cow moose and heard lots of trees rubbing together. On the drive to Grey Owl Trail we saw deer walk across the road and wave to us as we went by. We arrived at Grey Owl Trail only minutes before the adventurous group came chatting out.
The lesson today was taught by Kathy McDougald: “Make sure your feet are on solid ground on the other side of the creek before you pass the balance rod, otherwise you fall in.”
Apple cider, coffee, and cake was enjoyed by all at Alf and Janis’ cabin after the hike. Upon request Roger was gracious to give a tour of his cabin to those who were new and which I enjoyed even the second time around. The quote that stuck with me today came from a new member: “You never know who’s going, it’s a different group every time!” Just a reminder of the diversity of the group and the social experiences that there is to be shared.
Bike and Camp - with Mike Rossier May 1415
There shouldn't have been 2 inches of snow that Saturday morning - but there was! When we had all finally arrived at the Bison Enclosure – Mike (Rossier) facing road closures due to snow, Marg (Nestor) taking a short cut (ha, ha!) - Di (Ingram), Mike (Klassen), Arthur (Au) and Tao, set off on the Strathclair trail towards our camp site about 8 Km away. Biking in 2 inches of snow was certainly different. Frozen brakes and gears - especially after our river crossing using Mike R's infamous 'rubber boots' - was all somewhat of a novelty at first. Having set up camp, we decided that a hike was probably easier! After supper we took another short bike ride to search for wildlife as the sun went down. On our return - rather cold and wet – we toasted Marshmallows around the fire, before spending a rather chilly night, -5, in our tents. By Sunday we were back in our shorts and T-shirts and there was virtually no sign of any snow. I am beginning to learn fast that the Manitoba weather really doesn't know what it's doing, from one minute to the next! After a leisurely bike ride back to the parking lot, Mike (R) and Di decided to make the most of the beautiful weather and biked up to Whitewater Lake, while everyone else headed for home. Thanks Mike for a great week-end!
Epinette Creek Trail Hike May 17
With the skies threatening, a small group headed into the wilds of the Epinette Creek Trails in Sprucewoods Provincial Park. It turned into an awesome day for a 15k day hike. We shared the trail with 16 young mountain bikers from around Winnipeg. Shannon K, Bob M, Marg N, Eldon, Web, and Ro (both dogs) took part.
Overnight Canoe Trip May 21, 22 & 23
On a very wet Saturday morning I was thinking, we are going no matter what. Al and Giles phoned from Gladstone, enroute from Winnipeg, with the question. Are we still going? Yes, I told them, I was just leaving the house and we would meet at the Minnedosa rest stop as planned. Aaron and Donna phoned next and then Verne. They all got the same answer. As it turned out it was not raining north of Minnedosa and the roads I thought would be all mud were dry and dusty.
I have always wanted to canoe the Little Saskatchewan River from its headwaters at Lake Audy to its confluence with the Assiniboine River just west of Brandon. With this in mind we put in north of Strathclair and canoed to highway 270 just north of Basswood.
Because of all the ferrying of cars, Saturday was short day on the river. We found an excellent campsite and settled in for an evening of conversing, playing games of chance (some had a little skill) and bird watching. There was a spring running through the camp. With all the rain the region had received in the previous days we had good sport trying to figure out all the different animal tracks along the banks of the river. The one set we all agreed upon, were of course, a black bear's. We could discern one adult and at least one cub. We sure kept a clean camp and hung our food a little higher to keep it safe. Other tracks, we recognized were, raccoons and herons.
Sunday brought a mostly sunny day with a bit of wind. Two hours after breaking camp we said goodbye to Aaron and Donna and carried on down the river. The Valley became quite a bit wider after we crossed Highway 250. We passed a farmhouse and an hour later we were just about back to it. Verne kept saying we should have portaged the canoes and it would have been a lot faster.
Our second night camp was much like the first one. A few rocks in the river made a nice trickling sound. To Giles' amazement a pair of Mountain Bluebirds were feeding as we set up camp. This was a new species for Giles.
The next morning we only had three hours of paddling to the bridge at Highway 270. We retrieved the van from the starting point and said our goodbyes to Al and Giles. Verne and I decided to eat our lunch by the river before heading home and the rancher/ farmer that lives right beside the river came out and we had quite the discussion about the state of our world. We decided it was moving along as it should and would try not to interfere to much.
Brandon Hills Evening Hike May 26
On a cool, cloudy and windy evening, eight members of the Wilderness Club meet at the Canadian Tire parking lot to start the journey for the Brandon Hill hike. We left the parking lot at about 6:25 and arrived at the base of the hill at about 6:50. Everybody made sure they were warm before climbing the hill. On the way, we were noticing all the spring flowers that were in bloom. The old trail up the first hill is becoming hard to see. I guess more people are taking other routes up the hill. Once we got up the hill, the trail was still there. The cool wind kept us moving along at a reasonable pace. The view is spectacular from up top of the hill. We hiked over to the ball park on the north side of the hill before we decided to return. On the way off the hill, we accidentally took the wrong path back to the cars. Somehow the path was getting wetter, until I notice we were headed for a sough. We quickly went north-westward until we came across the old farm site. Then it was a short walk to the cars. We were back to the cars just before nine. Everybody enjoyed the trip and the weather was starting to clear. After we got back to Brandon most of the hikers went to Tim Horton's and enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate with a doughnut.
Trans Canada Trail Bicycle Ride May 28
Parliament took the week off, but the weatherman picked up where Steven Harper left off ....huffing, puffing and threatening to rain on liberal thinking Judy Bartel and her Trans Canada Trail (TCT) bicycle ride. The weatherman's threats discouraged many of those who planned to make the ride from Spruce Woods to Cypress River on Saturday, May 28th, but the crew of four that decided to ride, rain or shine, were rewarded with a dry ride in comfortably cool temperatures, great trails and pleasant scenery.
Marg Nestor from Oak Lake, Ian Dubeck from Gilbert Plains and Bert Phillips from Winnipeg met at 10 AM Saturday at Judy's house in Brandon to plot and plan.
Four bikes and riders and three cars headed to Spruce Woods in drizzle. The bikes and Bert were unloaded in the drizzle at Spruce Woods. All three cars went to Cypress River where two cars were deposited and one car returned with all three drivers. All the while, Bert slept in the drizzle, testing his new rain gear and wondering why he had been left out in the rain, but afraid to ask.
As the three crew members returned from Cypress River, the drizzle stopped and the ride began. The first section of the TCT is a firm and easy to ride single track trail covered with fine limestone gravel. It meanders through prairie and woodlands on gently rolling hills. About two or three kilometers from our starting point, we enjoyed the view at the Steels Ferry lookout and all riders shed some clothing (but not enough to cause excitement). The single track, gravel covered trail continued to the equestrian campground about 9 km from our starting point. The crew took a lunch break here and checked out the kitchen shelter and washroom facilities. This is a very pretty site, with indoor plumbing and a shower.
After the equestrian campground, the trail turned into dirt track for a way. While the dirt track required more work, it was peaty and did not plug up the tires or gears. After three or four kilometers of rolling grass lands and wooded area we had a fast downhill rush past a wilderness campsite at the junction of several trails. Judy, Marg and Bert tried to figure out which trail would lead to Cyprus River. Bert confidently said "take the left trail", but Judy went back to the campsite and found a trail going to the
right with a sign that said "Cyprus River - 15 km". After a straw vote on which trail to follow, majority ruled and we followed Judy's trail.
A two-track trail continued through rolling woods with small, open grassy areas. The trail was mostly grass covered with some sandy areas which were rideable in a low gear and required substantial effort. After about 5 of 6 km of this type of terrain, the TCT jumped upon a gravel country road to Cypress River. As a rule, I avoid gravel roads because I think of them as dusty and boring. However, this one had no traffic so was not dusty and was quite scenic, rolling up and down through fields, pasture land and the Cyprus River valley. It may have been that the easy, fast peddling afforded by the hard packed surface was such a treat after the slow slogging through sand traps that it positively affected our perspective on the beauty of this section of the trail.
As we approached PTH #2, about a km east of Cypress River, Ian spotted three coyotes in a hay field along the highway. By the time Bert and Judy caught up with Ian and Marg, the wolves were in a bush. They then re-emerged from the woods and crossed the highway, possibly having picking up the scent of the cyclists, with the intent of dragging down a weak straggler.
About 4:30 PM we were in Cypress River rush hour traffic, loading up our bicycles and gear. Ian noted that it was interesting that the only notable wildlife seen on our wilderness tour was along a fairly busy highway near a town.
Tuesday Evening Canoe Trips
The Tuesday evening canoes on the Little Saskatchewan River started on April 12 this year and as of this date, June 18, we are still going strong. This is due to all the rain the region has received. I only had to cancel two times because of cold weather. So far this year we have had 11 new people come out for one or more evening trips. Most nights there were between 2 and 6 canoes participating. We have been fortunate the last two years to have been able to extend our canoes well into June. I look forward to next year and extend a welcome to everyone to come out and give white water canoeing a try.
Manitoba Escarpment Hike June 25
Super weather, super people, super hike. That pretty well describes the outing/hike led by Terje and Grace. The trailhead was Grace’s parents homestead on the eastern exposure of the escarpment of Riding Mountain National Park, south and west of the town of Riding Mountain.. Starting out at 11:20 AM, we (Grace, Terje, Alf, Aaron, Donna Crystal, Steve, Nancy, Bill and Bob (BillyBob?), proceeded to the south, arced west, then north along the hogsback and eventually coming back down the rise. We made a break for lunch on a scenic spot called the Devil’s Hole where we overlooked a deep valley of mixed trees, poplar, spruce, etc. and a distant view of the plains towards the Glenella area. It would be hard to pick a more picturesque spot to chow down!
Nearing the end of the hike, we followed a meandering creek which we had to cross 7 times adding to the excitement! Terje had his truck ready to pick us up and transport us back to the homestead. We met some ATV’rs at this point and riding their trusty (noisy) vehicles, they couldn't seem to fathom that people would actually HIKE the trail!! Overall hike distance was a bit over 5 miles (GPS measured). We also were able to meet with Grace’s mom Lorna who kept Janis company at the house--I’m sure Lorna could have accompanied us on the hike if she had wanted to. Following quick refreshments at the house, we then made our way to the little town of Riding Mountain and had an excellent meal along with more practice for Canadian/Wilderness idol courtesy of the owner, Ray, and his Karaoke setup. We’ll soon have our names in lights--a police lineup perhaps! Alf took us on a tour of McFadden Valley/Kerr’s Lake area which we enjoyed.
This Manitoba Escarpment trail is definitely a keeper and thanks to Grace and Terje for hosting it.
Bike Trip July 6
Bike trip organized by Shannon with assistance from Marg. Turnout was low, likely due to the weekday time slot. Three riders, Shannon, Marg and Bill, left Virden about 11 A.M. in good weather conditions, cloudy but quite warm. At beginning of ride there is a fast descent into the Assiniboine River valley and a SLOW ascent up the other side, but very scenic. We stopped for a quick lunch at the Lenore cemetery area and then did a quick tour of the town of Lenore, a vibrant community at one time but like a lot of small towns, slowly declining, but still interesting. We arrived at Kenton for lunch at about 2 PM after 24 miles/40km of pleasant, scenic riding on pavement, with little traffic.
Bill then hopped a ride back to Brandon with the pace car driven by Carol, and Shannon and Marg returned to Virden (round trip about 50 miles or 80 km). All in all a great trip and thanks to the organizers, look forward to the next one.