As we travelled the world we met some wonderful people. The dialogue was usually the same: Them: “We’ve always wanted to come to Canada” Us: “Well, now you can come and stay with us!” “We’ll show you around”. The thing is – what would we show them? What does little, old Manitoba have to offer the people from countries that have castles, pyramids, mountains, cathedrals and temples? As it turns out, we have so much to see! Because we look at it every day, it does not seem so special to us. But, look at it from a tourists’ eyes and the views are spectacular!!
Take Birds Hill Park, for instance. This park has been our temporary home for the last couple of months. We walk the trails and ride our bikes without really seeing. However, as my dog loped in and out of the swaying grasses, I took off my jaded glasses and put on my traveller ones. What a fantastic place! The trees are teeming with bird calls as the wind whispers secrets across the plains. The flowers are exploding in colors of yellow, purple and orange. The wide open spaces and the huge, blue sky envelope the landscape. As we walk out of the bush, through the campground, we hear sounds of people starting their day, smell the campfires and the coffee, and silently nod and wave to others taking their morning stroll. There are many kilometers of paved bike, horseback and hiking trails, a recently expanded beach, the campground, of course as well as many day use areas. It is home to the world famous Winnipeg Folk Festival in July. During this four day festival, the park explodes with campers and music lovers. This delightful oasis is just a few kilometers from Winnipeg and is only one of many that dot the Manitoba prairie.
My hometown of Russell has always been just that – my hometown. Nothing spectacular at all. However, with my new glasses, I start to see past the humdrum. The bright yellow canola fields, and the soon to be harvested wheat and barley fields all waving in the distance. The trees along the roadways loaded with Saskatoon berries, soon to be picked and made into pie or frozen for a delightful treat during the long winter. The green hills rising above the Assiniboine River as it snakes its way through the valley. The absolutely amazing hiking and biking Trans Canada Trail that runs through Russell and beyond, joining small towns like its predecessor, The Great Canadian Railway.
From Russell, my Mom and I drive a few miles north of Roblin to take part in the Keystone Pioneer Museum Show Day. My family has been involved with the KPM for many years and in fact own one of the many buildings on this 10 acre lot. The Museum embraces all things pioneer from antique tractors and farm equipment, to a general store and a one room school house display. Our family has one of the oldest (and largest) tractors on display – A 1916 Minneapolis Moline – bought by my grandfather many years ago. Most of the tractors still run and later in the afternoon, after threshing displays, kiddie rides in the old school van and wood sawing demonstrations, there is a tractor parade where everyone shows off their oldest machine. It is a cacophony of sound that vibrates across the grounds and spectators place their lawn chairs at the optimum spots while the rest of us that have been recruited to drive make a couple of circles around the buildings, each of us hoping that we actually remember the quick instructions of brake, clutch and gear. The museum is open during the summer on Monday to Thursday 1 – 5 PM. It’s well worth the trip.
On your way to Roblin, don’t forget to stop and check out the Inglis Grain Elevators. These five wooden prairie giants will take you back to the golden years of the Canadian Grain Trade. They are open for self guided tours everyday from noon until 6 from May to September.
The Asessippi Ski Resort Area and Resort is the largest ski area in Manitoba. For the past 20 years, it has been developed into a first class resort. Not only are the hills covered with skiers, snowboarders and tubers in the winter, it is now the home of a number of cross country bike trails for the summer months. There is always an adventure at the Ski Hill – just ask Jon Montgomery or Mark McMorris!
Back in Winnipeg, I also begin to see a city that is teeming with history and culture. Though I travelled here everyday for work for almost 40 years, it was always just a city. A place to see a movie, go to Costco, Walmart and the mall and complain about the traffic. Though I still complain about the traffic, I now see a city with the St. Boniface Cathedral and the legend of Louis Riel, the world renown Human Rights Museum, Assiniboine Park – home to the Winnipeg Zoo, the polar bear exhibit, the famous Botanical Gardens and Ballet in the Park, Folklorama and the Fringe Festival, the trendy Forks and Corydon Avenue, sports home to the Jets, the Bombers and the Goldeyes. So much to see and do in the Peg.
Every year we head to Spruce Woods Provincial Park on the August Long Weekend to ride our horses and reconnect with friends. Though we no longer have horses, I am still lucky enough to have friends that are willing to let me take a spin on one of theirs for a day or two. A few leisurely hours spent riding through the hills, having lunch along the trail with an evening of sing song in front of a campfire to finish the day is definitely one of my favorite things.
Camping, swimming and boating on any one of 100,000 lakes along with weekend festivals and rodeos can keep any person busy for the entire summer. An evening on our friend’s pontoon boat, cruising the Winnipeg and Bear Rivers, rounds out an already perfect weekend spent in Pine Falls with friends and family. There really is no shortage of things to do in this beautiful province of Manitoba. So, for all our new friends from around the globe – Come on over!! We have lots to show you!!
Trans Canada Trail at Russell
Keystone Pioneer Museum – Roblin
St. Boniface Cathedral – Winnipeg
Louis Riel Memorial – Winnipeg
Hogsback at Spruce Woods Provincial Park