For an inexpensive alternative to exploring abroad, Jon and I made our way to this beautiful Canadian national park. With a resort feeling similar to that of Banff, we were treated with a nice balance of relaxation and adventure.
The few stops we made included suggestions from National Geographic’s Drives of a Lifetime, my mom-in-law, her boyfriend, as well as some research I did on my own. Our route of choice started west of Winnipeg, up to the east gate of Riding Mountain National Park, south to Brandon and finally back east to the south perimeter of the city.
First up, Forte la Reine Museum. I rejoiced at the similarity to my name. One that does not involve setting me on fire, however short-lived it was as Jon was quick to point out that the Fort was actually set ablaze by the Cree. 🎤I set fire to Fort Lorraine🎤. Thanks Adele 😏. Anyway, this Portage la Prairie heritage site is filled with 28 historical buildings creating one heck of a charming village. It depicts an evolving prairie community which I found to be well worth the $10 entrance fee.
I made it a point to take pictures of the quirky welcome signs of the small towns we passed along the way. As Jon patiently waited for me to get a couple of snaps in, he would play Pokemon Go and noticed the correlation between the two – there was almost always a PokeStop or PokeGym at each welcome sign we arrived at. This led me to an idea of a photo series: Gotta Catch ’em All! Manitoba-Style. A collection of rural town signs coming soon.
Our next stop brought us to Aunt Muffy’s Hobby Farm and Petting Zoo. The website indicated the attraction to be open but could not find anyone (of the human-kind) on site when we arrived. Although, it didn’t stop me from taking a picture of this handsome fellow who greeted us at the gate.
Finally, we arrived at our Wasagaming campground and headed straight for the little town to check things out.
We tried our hand at car camping, or rather SUV camping, and absolutely loved it! Jon attached a mosquito net to the back which we left open for the night to let as much of Mother Nature in. With that, we were rewarded every morning with a chirping rendition of the Black Sails’ theme song.
The Bison Enclosure was one of the highlights of our trip. We knew the best time for a sighting was during the early morning or late evening. When we arrived at 10am, we were lucky enough to drive right through a herd so I rolled the back hatch window down and went to snappin’.
Probably one of our only disappointments was the Gorge Trail. Recommended to us by a staff member for a view of the escarpment, we headed down and was instantly weary of the hike. The lack of trail had us worrying about poison ivy among other things. Unfortunately, majority (of two) ruled and we turned back around before we could enjoy any inkling of a view. I gather we made it halfway before Jon’s impatience with the feasting mosquitoes and my trip down to a face full of mud pie led us to our surrender.
Of course, I had to get some Astro shots in before we left. My third attempt had me sitting in the middle of the road at 3am and scaring a couple of groggy tourists making their way to the bathroom. I’m happy with the improved sharpness of the stars and I’ve also taken a few extra shots to bracket together. More on that later.
On our way home, we grabbed breakfast in Onanole at Poor Michael’s Emporium, visited a couple of churches in Sandy Lake, and checked out a bison-kill area in Grand Valley Provincial Park before making our way to Spruce Woods Provincial Park.
Highly recommended by many, we drove down to the Spirit Sands and Devil’s Punch Bowl. It was a scorcher when we arrived and desperately wanted to take the wagon ride to these sites. However, lack of planning had us short on cash. Fast forward to amazing lookout points that we would have otherwise missed had we taken the more comfortable route, made me greatful for our oversight. Besides that, a huge cloud decided to make the majority of our hike more enjoyable.
Refreshingly enough, this trip has made it as one of my most memorable trips with Jon and right at our own backyard of Manitoba to boot; Rightfully giving rise to a whole new itch to explore more of our great province!