I find living in a snowy environment quite reassuring. Whether blizzard, sunlit morning, or soft snowfalls, it’s really quite magical if you pause and reflect on it for a moment. That is, a season of the year in which there are no bugs; we can walk on water; and we see the heavens at night filled with stars. Here are two images taken during the winter months: One is early morning on a very cold day (probably -20C or colder), in which we had a column of hoar frost crystals in front of our home. I am not sure what causes this kind of dazzling columnar effect, but it lasted long enough for me to have a cup of coffee and take the photo, before it dissipated. In the other photo, taken today (Dec. 4, 2013), a light snow-storm is brewing across Clear Lake in Riding Mountain National Park. Everything is muted. There is a stillness and it is cold and windy (-19C with windchill taking it down to -25C). The singular tones of this image setting are part of the great quiet and peace that I hope that we never take for granted in our national parks. Winter photography is fun. Just getting outdoors in winter is fun.
Onanole, Manitoba is the southern gateway to Riding Mountain National Park. It is becoming a cultural hotbed of artisans, restaurateurs, and innovative entrepreneurs who are creating new visitor experiences and services in four seasons. The national park ski trails are tracked and snowshoeing is already outstanding throughout the park. This weekend promises a lot of cool culture – A Christmas Show & Sale at Orion Studio at 216 Orion Drive (please see poster attached for hours) on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Saturday also features the annual Crawford Park Craft Sale just west of Onanole. Saturday, Dec. 7 is the annual Harvest Sun fund-raising Dinner & Concert, which will take place at the Onanole Community Centre. Advance tickets are required. Greg MacPherson & Leanne Zacharias will be performing. Harvest Sun Catering will be provide a “locally sourced” dinner. Finally, all of these activities will be anchored by some of the best cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in Manitoba. Snow conditions are fantastic – with over 15cm of fresh snow in the Wasagaming area, and 20+cm at Moon Lake. Trails are packed and many track set. This is a snowshoeing paradise!
One of my greatest joys living at Riding Mountain National Park is to head out for some “slow travel”, where I drive slowly to a random location, get out of my car and just slowly listen, walk, or snowshoe. Riding Mountain National Park is a large national park where things become so much clearer in the months between November and April. It may be that you get to see tracks in the snow from wolves, grouse, or lynx – tracks you would never notice at other times of the year. A bird on a branch. A raven calls. Things seem to be more intense, quiet, and there are less distractions. It is a wonderfully rejuvenative time of year. Yesterday, I had a quiet encounter with a spruce grouse. The male is colourful. It’s a bird that lives in boreal (coniferous forests). Notice that this one is on a jack pine branch. This bird, as described by Cornell University’s All About Birds site is the north-eastern species. “Two distinct subspecies of Spruce Grouse exist. “Franklin’s Grouse,” D. c. franklinii, found in the southwestern portion of the range, in the mountains from Alberta southward, has an all black tail with small white spots on the feathers overlying it. The northeastern subspecies, D. c. canadensis, has a rufous tip to the tail and lacks white spots above the tail.”
Join other Canadians and celebrate Occupy Winter - We ♥ Our Fourth Season all across Canada January 19 and 20, 2013. At Riding Mountain National Park, there will be events. PLEASE NOTE: You can CLICK on and download all of the posters on this post at larger size.
LEARN MORE: Interview with Celes Davar about Occupy Winter.
- January 19, 12:00 Noon all afternoon at Moon Lake in Riding Mountain National Park
- January 19, 7:00 PM (Wasagaming picnic shelter behind the Visitor Centre): A special potluck supper and night snowshoe out to Clear Lake to experience the night sky and stars of Riding Mountain’s dark skies with Buzz Crowston. SPECIAL TREAT: Grandview singer-songwriter and Home Routes performer/host Kayla Luky will be on hand to sing a new song dedicated to Occupy Winter.
- January 20, 10 AM – A snowshoe adventure at Mt. Agassiz. Meet at Agassiz Park Lodge, McCreary
- January 20, 11 AM - all afternoon. World Snow Day, Wasagaming (Clear Lake) at the Friends of Riding Mountain Learning Centre.
Over 4,000 Canadians have either joined or been invited to take part in Occupy Winter (Facebook Event), and more than 900 people have signed a national petition requesting Parks Canada’s CEO Alan Latourelle and the Minister of the Environment Peter Kent to please consult with Canadians and restore winter services in all national parks. Winter services (the four
th season) were eliminated from Parks Canada operations as a result of the last federal budget.
Occupy Winter is an opportunity to request Parks Canada to:
- Reverse the policy shift (2012) that created most national parks as three-season national parks, rather than four season.
- Consult Canadians about what we would like to see for winter services at each national park.
- Understand and recognize that winter is a distinct season and part of our national identity. We celebrate winter as community, families, and travelers. And, we do that in our national parks.
What can you do?
- Sign the national petition to Parks Canada CEO Alan Latourelle and Environment Minister Peter Kent – SIGN THE PETITION to Restore Winter Services and Four Seasons to all national parks.
- Ask your MP to represent a formal petition from your community to the House of Commons requesting Parks Canada to rescind the three seasons designation.
Radio Interview (CDKM, Dauphin) with Manitoba’s Celes Davar (who operates who explains what Occupy Winter is about and why Parks Canada’s decisions to shift national parks to three seasons affects us all. This is not good decision-making on the part of Parks Canada.
The following are important aspects of this policy shift that we are asking Parks Canada to specifically assess and take action on:
- Parks Canada has created a policy shift, without consultation with Canadians, that is not consistent with how Canadians use and value our national parks in winter. Recommendation: Reverse the decision to establish three season national parks. Establish a consultative process with Canadians across the country and with local stakeholders to determine how best to re-establish winter services in each national park.
- Canada is a country that is distinctly northern, has snow, and has a rich and long tradition of cross-country skiing, watching wildlife, snowshoeing, and various winter events and activities in our national parks throughout the winter months. Recommendation: That we use this distinct geographic and market positioning as part of how we promote the Fourth Season (winter) as a time for healthy exercise and lifestyle, winter tourism, appreciation of Canada’s nature and wildness in winter, and active community celebrations of our national parks in winter. The benefits will include new revenues, new marketing opportunities, and a sustainable educational program.
- Our national parks are iconic Canadian places for healthy outdoor activity including self-propelled forms of winter activity and recreation (skiing, snowshoeing, skijoring). Recommendation: Establish a core level of park staff and associated operating funds to create, deliver and market winter recreational services, education, interpretation, and winter science and environmental monitoring. Invite this core group of park staff to collaborate with local community tourism businesses and organizations to explore unique ways that each national park can partner to create and deliver these services with community partners. Empower each park manager to establish appropriate funding and staff for developing collaborative strategies with external partners.
- Our annual park admission fees include access to trails, facilities, and winter services that Parks Canada has been providing to us. Access to these winter services was included within the calculation of admission fees to each national park for which each park user pays. Recommendation: Continue to include the costs to provide winter services within park admission fees. Additional revenues in winter should be used to help offset budgetary deficits.
- It is very important to recognize that winter visitors are very different from summer park visitors. They are people who love winter sports, skiing, snowshoeing, or wildlife viewing. They are some of the strongest supporters of our national parks, and include urban enthusiasts, as well as many residents from surrounding communities next to national parks who frequent winter trails. They advocate for each national park. Winter visitors come in smaller numbers and they come for very different experiences than summer visitors. Recommendation: Because winter offers Parks Canada a different opportunity to market winter as a distinct season, collect revenues, acknowledge local supporters and advocates, and partner with local tourism businesses to offer “the quintessential winter experience in Canada”, include winter as a distinct season of programming and activities for all national parks.
We ask that the CEO for Parks Canada Alan Latourelle, each national park Superintendent, and the Minister of Environment respond to the above petition and the five actions we have identified in consultation with Canadians. We ask that this consultation and revised decision-making be conducted before June 1, 2013, and that Parks Canada communicate their decisions publicly.
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.
It’s always a treat when we find a new partner, who understands what travellers are looking for, and has a vision and exemplary approach to providing service, food, and brings fresh new ideas. Accommodation on a year-round basis is needed. While there is plenty of summer accommodation options, we have been needing a diversity of accommodation options for the Thanksgiving through winter and into spring. Stepping sweetly into this mix is Whirlpool Road Bed and Breakfast. Offering a unique rural experience and yet perched on the edge of Riding Mountain National Park, Karly McRae and her family offer a unique ranch style B&B with three new rooms. With a very adaptable conference space, great food, and plenty of wild Riding Mountain nature in her backyard, this is a getaway place for couples and small groups. We are working with Karly to offer new Riding Mountain experiences for small groups, international travellers, and couples. Please welcome Karly McRae and her family as we wish them success with their new venture.
When the full moon is up in February and you are out snowshoeing in Riding Mountain National Park, you do not need a headlamp or any kind of supplementary light. The blanket of snow acts as a big reflector illuminating your travel pathway. We had the opportunity to snowshoe under a full moon with a couple from Manitoba. With our head guide Buzz Crowston as our guide to the night sky using a special laser pointer, we headed to two off-trail locations. At the first one, as we shared stories of winter wolf ecology and behaviour, a pack of wolves (which the park has been monitoring) began howling. At the second location, we mused on the role of prescribed fire as we gazed on an eerie blackened landscape of spruce and jackpine spires thick like the back of an alarmed porcupine. The October prescribed burn in the Rolling River area quietly and expectantly waits for spring to release new growth into the landscape.
Our guests had a few things to share about this experience after they returned home…” Hi, we just came back from a walk this evening and the night sky is a brilliant as ever, the planets, the twins, the Big Dipper, the “M” for Michelle, we had to stop gazing and watch out for ice along our path. We just wanted to tell you again thank you so much for the evening, the pictures are great, and most of all the company and the stories was want made the evening a night to remember. Our family was very jeolous of the stories we came back with, especially our wolf loving son and story loving mom… Thanks again for sharing the evening with us, we have shared our story with so many people, we hope that one day, some may call you up for their own adventure.”
Recently, we had the pleasure of taking a mother and her daughter on a customized photo safari into Riding Mountain National Park. Late July and August is a beautiful time to experience wildflower blooms. The following is a slide show of some of the flowers and wildlife images of things that you may see at this time of year on the prairies. Rough fescue prairies are one of the most biologically diverse habitats anywhere in Canada. With rich Chernozemic soils undisturbed by any human activities, you will see an ecosystem that has over 30 plant species per square metre in some places. This is the land of wild grazers (herbivores) like bison, elk, and white-tailed deer. Occasionally, moose or wolves or coyotes may also be seen.
PHOTO TIP: Knowing how and when to go, the time of day, lighting conditions for optimal photography, and understanding the habitats and habits of each wildlife species is helpful in being able to photograph or view birds or mammals in the cycle of light and weather each day.
Riding Mountain Fescue Grasslands and Aspen Forests
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 email@example.com (Email) Facebook: Earth Rhythms Twitter: earthrhythms