Leaving Yorkton, Mean Machine purring like a hyper-caffeinated cougar, we head for Dauphin Manitoba. This is not a planned stop; the trip is a shoot-from-the-hip, dart-on-the-board type of adventure. Not a comforting thought for those who live life with electronic organizer at the ready.
When you think of Manitoba what comes to mind? The Dame’s perception is clouded by childhood memories of family outings in Shilo–Brother #1 screaming as a bloated bloodsucker is carefully removed from his foot by a lighted cigarette, and Brother #1 again (apparently a magnet for childhood drama) being rushed to a clinic to have a tick removed from his belly.
Manitoba is the province of lakes. Forget that “Friendly Manitoba” label. How can you guarantee that anyway? One surly guy at a convenience store can ruin the whole provincial image, calling your province “Mostly Friendly Manitoba” is probably a safer bet.
One thing you don’t expect to see in Manitoba is a mountain. When you live in B.C. you become blasé about mountains, they are just there blocking out the sun in early evening. We are startled when visitors from other countries gush, as if they just sprouted from the earth to become a photo backdrop.
Manitobans celebrate their mountain; the federal government even built a park around it; Riding Mountain National Park, just south of Dauphin. We set out to experience our own mountain moment.
Hmmm, okay, well… perhaps we’re jaded, maybe our definition of mountain and/or hill needs to be adjusted, tweaked a bit to include the broad spectrum of vertical rock formations that Canada has to offer.
The park looms above the waterlogged prairie, a giant bump on the horizon. No white-capped peaks; in fact, no peaks at all. Don’t get me wrong, the park is beautiful. Lakes shimmer and gleam around each corner, a bounty of hiking trails lead off in all directions.
Inexplicably, two red Adirondack chairs sit empty atop a bump on the bump. We hike up to discover an amazing prairie panorama. The Town of Clear Lake is a post card, complete with outdoor cafés, tourist shops and rangers walking around in park uniforms.
Riding Mountain is also a safe haven for moose. The mighty, comical Canadian icons apparently abound in the park. There are signs dotting the road warning unwary travelers that a moose might dash across the road at any time. The Dame is ecstatic, camera at the ready. A moose sighting in the wild, does it get any better? That bear, crouched in the bush at the side of the road… we can see those at home, in fact three strolled down our road last fall. I’m looking for the money shot,Bullwinkle in the flesh.
Here Moosey, Moosey, Moosey…