Snowshoe hiking in the Riding Mountain National Park

Snowshoe hiking in the Riding Mountain National Park

Here we go, I finally have something to report about again. After a long waiting period, that I mostly spent working, cooking, reading, bore myself and waiting for better weather, at last, I managed to plan something out in nature again. Not that work would not be interesting or I was suffering here, but the change from being in nature almost 24/7 and now being out there almost no time at all was just a bit too much. Therefore, I was pretty excited during the 40-kilometer drive to the park entrance of the Riding Mountain National Park, where I would spend the entire day.

I wasn’t quite sure in the beginning which landscape I would find myself into, only I knew there would be a lot of forest and wildlife. So I got even more excited as the landscape started to get hillier. What a great variety to the flat farmland. As I arrived in the park I parked my car at the trailhead, put on the warmest clothes I had and strapped my snowshoes on.

Perfectly prepared for the Canadian Winter. This wasn’t taken in the park, but I didn’t want to leave out showing you how thick I was dressed.

A clear, sunny day with temperatures only a couple degrees below zero was waiting for me. I didn’t set me any destination as a goal for the day, also because there wasn’t much of a choice on where to go in this part of the park. So I just started walking the trail in front of me, that split up after about 300 meters. I decided to go walk the trail towards the Tillson Lake, that would pass a couple of lakes and a creek. To the Tillson Lake it would be eight kilometers (16 with return), that seemed to me, facing the snow, the hour of the day (it was already 10 am, at 4:30 PM the sun would set again) and the fact that I must be really out of shape after such a long break, to be too much for this day. So I just tramped on and set myself the small creek as a goal. A couple of people seemed to have walked this trail before me, indicated by some human tracks in the snow already. In addition to those, there were plenty of other foot, paw, and hoof prints from a variety of animals. But no animals itself. So I trudged on an was surprised from time to time by the steep slopes the trail went over. Also, I was very satisfied with the surrounding coniferous forest, because where I lived and worked there were almost no coniferous trees at all. After a while I got to a first viewpoint on an elevated part of the trail, from where I could catch a glimpse of the endless forest, covering the rolling hills.

Almost unbelievable that there was undisturbed wilderness as far as I could see. I haven’t had this in a long time.

Only slightly later the other tracks on the trail ended. I was now the first person to walk this trail after the heavy snowfalls.

Only me and nature. Nobody has set a foot here before me on that day.

Again, a bit later, I then had to detour a fallen tree, that didn’t survive last weeks snow storm. It went on like that for a while. Up, down, through the forest. No animal, not the slightest peep, only the crunching of the snow under my feet. Then, finally, the trail winded its way down again and in the end I arrived at the valley that I had set as a target. A wide swath through the forest beard itself in front of me, gentle hills rising on both sides of it.

I made it, the first goal of the day was reached. The vast plain of the Tillson Creek, which ran somewhere beneath the snow.

Here and there I recognized some more tracks of animals, but even though I had a vast view, the animals themselves stayed put.  Carefully I sometimes stepped off the trail to enter the plain of the valley, always having in mind to not break through the snow cover into some hidden holes or the creek.

Those tracks were sometimes really misleading. I’m sure I would’ve broken in at this point.

As the trail followed the Tillson creek for another while I decided to follow it a bit further.

Why not walk a bit longer through this winter-wonderland?

And when the trail left the valley again, I still had enough motivation to go on. I would make it to the Tillson Lake after all.  Again, the trail winded through gentle hills, between which some wetlands covered the depressions.

I’m sure that in summer there must be a lot of life in those wetlands.

And another time a great tree blocked my way, this time even harder to detour.

There was no way over or through this barrier. I had to find a detour through the surrounding wetlands.

And still, I went on. Through the snow, alone. In the end, at a quarter to 1 PM, I arrived at the Tillson Lake, on which shore laid a small backcountry campground, that offered picnic tables, fire pits and an outhouse.

The mystic atmosphere at the shore of the Tillson Lake.

Pleased, I wiped the dry snow from one of the picnic tables and packed out my lunch. Some good traditional fare. Wholegrain crips bread with cream cheese, a deer sausage, which we made on our own the previous week on the farm from a deer, my coworker has shot, an apple and tea. And absolute silence around me. Fascinating!

Definitely a picnic of its own kind.

However, without any movement at all, I got cold pretty fast and had to start my way back soon in order to get back to my car in time. So I stomped back the whole way, detoured the fallen trees once more an arrived, somehow earlier than expected, at my car. Except from a couple of birds and a squirrel, I haven’t seen a single animal in the park, what frustrated me a bit.

Couldn’t there be at least one beaver posing a bit for the camera? Anyways, when I think about it, I would probably have thought about going out at these temperatures twice as well.

But on the other hand, I was just too exhausted to really bother. And altogether it was still a very successful day. I even got a bit of a tan on my face. In the end, there was only the way back home that I still had to drive. So I turned on some good music and stopped from time to time to enjoy the vast views of the somehow still beautiful farm land.

By the time I passed several of those remnants from the time when the Canadian Prairies got settled.

At home, I then took a hot shower, reheated myself some pumpkin soup and made myself comfortable with my book in my room to end this awesome day in nature.

And in the end, another beautiful grain elevator in the evening sun.

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