This is fall in the Riding Mountains. My short list of three things I love to do during the September, October season includes photography, listening to the elk rut, and listening to migrating waterfowl. But, this is also the season of harvest. The freezer is now almost full – tomatoes, fresh basil pesto, red pepper pesto, fresh locally raised organic Berkshire pork, fresh chickens and we are waiting for our annual delivery of local lamb. As this season takes on its colours and unique smells, it’s time to try out new things. We are trying out some new sit-on kayaks that are very stable and could easily be used for wildlife viewing. We like what we are learning. Stay tuned for some new water-based experiences in 2013.
We are honoured to be able to offer the Wild Serenity (#RMwild) itinerary (Manitoba’s only itinerary for GoMedia) for a group of Canadian and international travel writers from September 14 – 18, 2011. With the assistance of Travel Manitoba, our provincial tourism agency, we are looking forward to introducing a number of pre-qualified writers – writers who have chosen to come here – to the Riding Mountains. This is about “experiential travel” (where travellers learn by doing), in the fall, in Manitoba, Canada.
What is GoMedia? GoMedia Canada Is a Canadian marketplace where Canadian travel organizations get together to tell Canadian and international journalists about some of Canada’s best travel stories. And, just so you know, these stories are not always the ones that are in the news, or at the top of a mountain, or in a famous hotel.
So, what do we have planned? They will taste local foods (regional Riding Mountain cuisine), meet local folks who live here and are part of our local culture or arts scene, go for a walk in the woods, learn what “elk bugling” sounds like, provide opportunities for them to photograph the park and area. They will be off-the-beaten path on side roads, off-trail on animal trails, and perhaps doing some things that they have never done before.
We are pleased that many of our local partners will be providing them with unique experiences. The Elkhorn Resort and Solstice Spa is their base. Riding Mountain National Park is providing a number of unique experiences. Dauphin Tourism, Fort Dauphin and local partners will take us into the heart of local cultural traditions. Jeff Bettle at the Old Church Pottery & Gift in Minnedosa will introduce us to some of his unique pottery with a new experience called Fire & Earth. A signature fall meal will be provided by Siesta Cafe‘s Vaughn Barkman. Clear Lake Golf Course will take them on a behind-the-scenes insight what makes the golf course such a leader in green golf course management. Earth Rhythms will be the primary hosts here in Riding Mountain. We are a boutique tourism operator, creating customized itineraries for small groups year-round. We welcome these travel writers here!
As a boutique tourism operator, what do you say when a mother emails you and says, “We’d like to book one of your programs for myself and my daughter…it’s sort of a birthday present for each other. Both of us like taking pictures, but neither of us really know what we are doing.” I was honoured and immediately said yes. When anyone makes a date with their child, and decides to take them into nature on a photo safari, that tells me a lot about the commitment that they have in their relationship.
Customizing a photo safari
We put together a number of elements – a customized GPS adventure quest in which mom and daughter guided themselves to some of my favorite photographic spots; I shared a number of stories about wildlife, birds, and showed them some of my wildlife videos on my iPad; they practiced using some of the features of their Canon Powershot cameras that they had not known how to use previously; we snacked on local muffins, blue giant hyssop tea (a local prairie wild herb) that I had steeped the previous day. We photographed late blooming canola fields and got a great shot of the two of them hiding in the canola.
From outside the park, we traveled first of all to a real Geocache (check out Geocaching, if you would like to learn how to find treasures all over the world using your GPS receiver); then to the canola field; and then straight to some wild prairie meadows. Along the way, we were birding – that is, looking for birds on prairie potholes and in small creeks. I shared with them my observation from the previous day of having seen a turkey vulture dining on a snack in the middle of the road – a young yellow-shafted flicker.
“There is no excuse for not being there...” John Shaw, a well-known American nature photographer had once said at a photography seminar I attended in Edmonton, Alberta. Indeed. There we were, in the middle of the fescue meadows in the heart of Riding Mountain National Park, each photographing something slightly different. We heard a sudden bouncing movement. A spotted fawn white-tailed deer came to a crashing stop a mere 10 metres from us. Nobody knew quite what to do. A few seconds later, it bounded away into the sunlight, and the nearby forest. We all looked at each other, stunned. Nobody got the picture. But, we all took away the memory.
We finished off this adventure by quickly downloading mom and her daughter’s photos to iPhoto, and together they choose the photos to put into their own hardcover book to commemorate their adventure. We pushed SEND to order the book. Together, they were commemorating their relationship with each other. What do you suppose that they will do with that book?
How do you plan and book your own customized photo safari or wildlife watch at Riding Mountain National Park?
- Have a date in mind, that you would like to come and how long you would have available ( I would recommend about 6 hours including travel time, photography, walking, and having a bit of a picnic).
- Be prepared in your own mind that this could be a rain or shine event. If it is a rainy day, we’ll still have fun. We’ll organize things a little differently. Some of the best photos are made on a rainy day. You’ll see different things as well.
- Identify why you want to do this photo or wildlife safari. A couple of quick reasons will do.
- What kind of camera do you own? We’ll download a copy of the manual to our iPad and take that with us, in case we run into any technical difficulties.
- Leave us your phone number and email.
- We’ll call you back and start planning some of the details, give you a sense of the cost, and confirm if this is a go. The final price we quote you is dependent on how much we do to prepare, and how many are in your group.
- We create your outing including a small photo tips booklet, identify some new places that are ideal for photography, and provide hands-on instruction to use your camera to its maximum capability – macro, action, exposure compensation, telephoto, using tripods, photographing wildlife, landscapes, and many other details. If you are interested in video, we’ll help you to learn how to shoot video.
- We confirm final details by email and telephone. We take payment in advance by credit card.
Who are some friends or family members that you might wish to take on a customized photo or wildlife safari to Riding Mountain National Park? We’d love to hear from you.
Please Contact us:Celes Davar, President Earth Rhythms, Inc. 1.888.301.0030 Office firstname.lastname@example.org (Email) Facebook: Earth Rhythms Twitter: earthrhythms
This past weekend (March 5, 2011)…
we had the pleasure of taking a couple of guests out on our Earth Rhythms Stories in the Snow day adventure program. What’s involved – some driving to look for owls and signs of winter birds; looking for fresh tracks of wolves and elk; wildlife viewing and digital nature photography tips; and a snowshoe outing. We had a great day traveling by vehicle, walking and snowshoeing in and around Riding Mountain National Park.
In two separate locations, we found overnight wolf tracks that were superb, fresh, and we were able to track them over long distances. Fresh elk, coyote, and bison tracks all provided comparison size opportunities. While the main herd of bison were a distance away, we were able to watch them through our spotting scope. A short snowshoe outing took us off-trail into 1 metre deep snow. We were rewarded at the end of the day with a beautiful view of a red fox hunting. The slide gallery captures a few of the images from our day of exploring stories in the snow.
Here are a few images from our Stories in the Snow outing as well some other scenes that we may see on any given day that we head out on one of our Stories in the Snow outings.
I love snowshoeing. Because I can travel anywhere. I am not restricted to being in a ski track. I can follow wildlife tracks and trails. I can walk over frozen surfaces (with at least 6 – 8 inches of ice) to get to beaver ponds, and access places that would be much more difficult to get to in the summer and fall months.
Snowshoeing is easy to do. It offers good cardio-vascular activity, and it helps me to keep learning more about nature. Each time I go out snowshoeing, I am noticing and learning something new. Perhaps where a woodpecker has been active, or where wolves have made a kill of an elk, or where there is enough running water that has not frozen.
What I love most is the unexpected. Then, I really take notice. Like when the wind from a south breeze moves light crystals of snow on the frozen surface of a lake in Riding Mountain National Park. These crystals are moving along the ground in undulating waves. Take note of these golden waves of snow crystals behaving similar to northern lights, picking up the light intensity of the setting sun, moving in broad patterns with the wind, and moving in undulations that take your breath away. This is HD video. Make it full screen to get the full impact of it.
Being in the right place at the right time is an act of commitment. Going out daily to snowshoe is like a meditation. It helps me to be present.
Owls fascinate me. They are definitely a passion of mine from a photographic perspective. But, I think that what I love most about owls is their behaviour. We learn lots from just simply sitting and observing them. This is a time of year when there are three owls that I look for – great gray owls; northern hawk owls; and great horned owls. Great grays and hawk owls are both active during the day time. Because the the leaves are off the trees, they are easier to see. Northern hawk owls can be seen in Riding Mountain during the winter months.
How to watch for owls
What is involved in looking for owls? A good pair of eyes – knowing what to look for, and learning to look at the landscape to distinguish the shape of an owl; being out at the right time of day for nocturnal owls (great horned owls, or spring arrivals of saw-whet or boreal owls); having a pair of bright field binoculars and a spotting scope; a field guide – either book or electronic editions; and being warmly dressed. Often, you are standing outdoors for short periods of time. By being warmly dressed, you’ll be able to persist and watch.
Here is a photograph of a great gray owl I noticed, as I was driving along. It swooped low across the road and then up into a spruce tree. If I had not noticed its flight, I likely would not have noticed it in the tree. It is very well camouflaged.
Earth Rhythms creates small group photo safaris to learn how to use your digital camera in new ways. Along the way we spot birds, photograph tracks, and share stories about Riding Mountain wildlife. Bring your family or friends. Combine it with a stay at a local resort or a visit with friends in the area. Call us at 1.888.301.0030, or visit Earth Rhythms online. Happy owling!
This is a time of year I absolutely love. It is delightfully quiet. In the last 15 years, I have noticed that we have a much greater prevalence of moisture in the winter months. This is often deposited in the form of hoarfrost, which I had previously written about. Here is a short slideshow of some recent images taken in Riding Mountain National Park. Call us if you are interested in a short outing to learn how to use your digital point and shoot, or your digital SLR to catch winter at its best. 1.204.848.4680 Earth Rhythms.
It was a perfect fall morning. Still, temperature a -3C˚frosty chill – the kind that even with gloves on, goes right into your bones. But, it was sunny. Five bull elk were bugling around us. Tracks and scats of moose, elk, and coyotes were on the trail. Several side trails led to locations where elk had been active in their harems during the previous night. Their smell was pungent and present everywhere. I love mornings like this. I had primed myself at 5:30 AM on an espresso, a banana, and a peanut butter sandwich. Joining a friend from Wisconsin, who has been returning to Riding Mountain National Park for over five years (we had guided her on her first wildlife photography excursion in 2005), we were meandering – looking for wild nature to photograph and video.
Earlier this spring, we had the privilege of hosting a number of tour operators and travel writers from India, China, England, and Japan. One of them, Hiroko Yoshizawa, who loves Canada (has come to Canada over 80 times in the last 20 years), loved the way that we explored and engaged with the nature experiences we provided.
But, my take-away from their visit was Hiroko’s thoughtful comment and appreciative smile, as she shared that this was very enjoyable for her. She called it “slow travel”. She said that she would share her experiences with her Japanese audience and help them understand that Earth Rhythms provides “Slow Travel experiences”.
As my friend from Wisconsin and I finished off our day of photographing, I suggested that we head out to another location where I would share with her a creek location that I often enjoy stopping and looking for wildlife. We were in luck – a raccoon was fishing in the creek. With full sunshine, and that low angle of sunlight that accompanies the fall season, we were able to capture photographs and video of a curious and well-adapted mammal that spends a lot of time close to water. Enjoy this short video.
There is nothing I love more than a mother who wants to make sure all of her family members are taken care of, during a summer vacation. Particularly, moms who also enjoy exposing her children to the wonders of nature through requesting and arranging for programs, customized specifically for their family.
Today, I had the privilege of taking a family of five (mom and her husband and two kids, and mom’s sister) out on a very special trip that we (Earth Rhythms) have been guiding for over 15 years. Wheels to ’43 is a trip into the heart of the intriguing history of a Prisoner of War Camp (PoW) for German soldiers, that was located in the wilderness of Riding Mountain National Park from 1943 – 45.
This is a good summer physical activity – 11.2 km (7 miles) one way or 22.4 km return; it combines an all-day guided nature trip (identifying wildlife tracks; bird calls; animal scats), with a peek into a cultural and historical event that was very unique in Canada – German prisoner of war camp (PoW), and the opportunity for some unique photography. It helped that we were able to take advantage of the archaeological research that is ongoing in this location.
We use a variety of interactive tools to help turn this backcountry adventure trip into a memorable experience: Reading stories from historical documents, newspapers, and personal anecdotes from previous prisoners; locating the different buildings that existed onsite from photographs and digital elevation maps; being detectives in “20 questions” to figure out some unique treasures; and walking around the site to discover various archaeological middens, and old wooden canoes carved by the prisoners.
Everyone returned home, feeling the spirit of elk, prisoners of war, and carrying new insights about this unique backcountry historical site. 22 km by bike on a day that was in excess of 27C, and a high Humidex was a great achievement for all who took part in this adventure trip.
Earth Rhythms provides fall backcountry bicycle adventures for families and small groups to photograph wildlife, experience the wilderness, and look for evidence of moose, elk, coyotes and other wild species. Call us at 1.888.301.0030 to book your small group guided day trip into Riding Mountain’s wilderness and experience a fall wildlife immersion!
Fire in natural systems is a renewal agent. It’s like having a glass of fresh carrot, beet, ginger and spinach juice. Nutrients are released. The grasslands of Riding Mountain National Park are being carefully restored through the use of fire as an agent of renewal. One of the best places to experience this rejuvenation right now are the Lake Audy grasslands.
Yesterday, as I traveled through the Lake Audy grasslands, getting ready for a family group who will be biking with me next week, I took a few photos of the burst of bergamots, nodding wild onion, and brown-eyed susans that are the more brilliantly coloured representatives that have burst out from this spring’s prescribed burn.
I feel awed when in the presence of this “nature bloom”. It’s like being up in the Yukon where fireweed glows across hundreds of acres of burned lands. Or, perhaps in Namibia where spring rains bring out the wildflowers. While this bloom is on a smaller scale, it is nevertheless awe-inspring. Perhaps, not the least, because this beautiful shade of bergamot pink is one of my photographing colours. I have been photographing the Riding Mountain area for over 30 years. We provide photo safaris in 4-seasons for travelers to learn to use their digital “point and shoots”, or for seasoned photographers to discover unique locations to photograph nature and wildlife.
Call Celes at Earth Rhythms for a tailor made photo safari at 1.888.301.0030 or email him at celes.davar at earthrhythms.ca