Thursday, June 8 to Friday, June 23, 2017 - Brandon to Winnipeg (MB)
Under the heat, we left Turtle Crossing Campground and Brandon in the middle of the morning. It was so hot that day that our sweat dripped off of the tip of our noses. We even had to take out Jasmine's two refreshing blankets (these blankets work well for her and keep her cool despite the heat).
The town of Brandon has built several access points to the river to invite people to paddle and enjoy the water. We noticed the concern to make the paddling pleasing to the eyes by decorating the bridge’s concrete pillars with sheaves of wheat. As we headed towards the city limits on the east end, we had to line the canoe in a rapid because of the lack of water. Rocks were showing on the surface and we did not want to take chances on damaging the canoe. Subsequently, we crossed several lines of rocks in the river, but then we did not need to walk, there was enough water. We noticed when we left the campground that the water level had dropped at least 8 inches since we had arrived in Brandon. Because there was a good vertical drop, there was a current and it was a pleasant paddle. We saw several deers, eagles and hawks during the day. To our delight, we found an island of gravel and grass at the end of the day and we set up camp.
The next day, there were strong thunderstorms in the afternoon. It started to rain at 12:30 and rained the rest of the day, the evening and even at night. We continued to paddle. It was hot, and since we were already wet, why not keep on paddling. Turned out to be a good move. We covered a long distance. However, we had to bail several times.
Landscapes changed as we progressed. We moved from a relatively flat and wooded land to cliffs of sand, clay and mud in ocher, brown, rust and grey colours. The water flowed all over the walls, just at the line between the sand and the clay. We saw spruce that quickly started dominating the forest. A whole change. With the rain, the smell of the spruce forest filled the air. It smelled really good and fresh.
We stopped for the night in Spruce Woods Provincial Park. We managed to pitch the tent between two rain showers before seeking refuge inside the tent and settling for the night. The park has a variety of animals and birds (elk, deer, eagles, hawks, owls, muskrats, beavers ...).
The section between Treesbank Ferry and the bridge of Route 34 was the most beautiful part, I think. The colours, the smells, the trees, the animals, the cliffs, the landslides and impressive ground collapses ... everything was there to make the journey enjoyable for all of our senses. About three kilometres after crossing the bridge, we found an island to stop for the night. The next morning, as Pierre came out of the tent, he saw eight elk at the end of the island. During breakfast, we saw another one. Later, we did not see so many animals. Jasmine even allowed herself to sleep on the canoe (it is extremely rare that she sleeps during the day), as there was not enough action for her. The spruce trees disappeared gradually, as we returned to the plains.
On June 12, we portaged around the Portage La Prairie dam. The name of Portage La Prairie comes from the time of the fur trade. A portage had to be made from the Assiniboine River to Lake Manitoba over "the prairies". As we approached the dam, we saw several Canadian Armed Forces training planes passing over our heads (there is a base in Portage La Prairie).
We stopped in the late afternoon under the bridge of the Trans-Canada Highway (# 1). We emptied the canoe and carried our equipment next to the shoulder of the highway. We put the wheels under the canoe and walked to the Creekside RV Park & Campground. There were two days of intense rain expected, so we paid for two nights upon arrival.
The next day there was a 90% chance of rain for the whole day and 10-20 mm of rain expected. Well…….we did not receive any, though the sky remained grey. But, we had a nice visit. Stella, whom we met last year in Grand Rapids (located at the junction of the North Saskatchewan River and Lake Winnipeg), and her sister Ellen, arrived in the afternoon. They spent a few hours with us and we discussed, among other things, the issues the First Nations are facing. Ellen and Stella are still very active in the Cree community. They teach their language, in order to transmit their knowledge. Teachers by profession, they are still animated by this flame and the passion of teaching.
It was only in the night that the rain finally began. It did not stop raining until the end of the morning the next day. We decided to stay another night and this one was free thanks to the owners of the campground. We met Gordon and Shelly. Gordon proclaims himself to be the proudest Métis in Manitoba. It was a great encounter! We talked a lot about Métis culture (much stronger in Manitoba and western Canada) and learned a lot about it. Métis culture is rich and several Métis meetings and gathering are held in Manitoba. Here is a link for the Canadian Encyclopedia. The page about the Métis is very interesting reading: http://thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/metis/
On Thursday, June 15, we left Portage La Prairie after seeing Gordon and Shelly (who spoiled us a lot). We put the canoe back in the water under the second bridge on the Trans-Canada Highway.
We made good progress that day. The current was nice, but sandbanks and places to stop were rather rare. Around 5:30 pm, we found a sandbank where we decided to stop. On the other side of the river there was a farm and we were facing the silos. We were in St. Francis Xavier.
Friday, we traveled a long distance. Longer than expected, as we wanted to stop at a campground…… that no longer exists. There was no place to stop (we were near Winnipeg and in an urban area). So Pierre phoned our friend Caroline to see if we could get to her home on Friday night rather than Saturday afternoon. It was at 7:05 pm we arrived at The Forks in Winnipeg (where the Assiniboine and Red Rivers meet). Caroline picked us up by car. Once at her home, we saw Nevada, Caroline's daughter. Nevada is a real little character. She has a beautiful positive spirit and she is soooo funny.
We spent the weekend with Caroline and Nevada. We also did some errands in Caroline and David’s car. On Monday morning, we had an interview with Global Winnipeg. Caroline dropped us off at Global before she went to work. At the end of the day, we had the chance to meet her parents and watch Nevada play Softball.
The next day, an interview was scheduled on CBC Radio (French). At the end of the day, David arrived back home after spending time in the north of the country for his work. Did you know that it is partly because of David that we are on this adventure?
In 2010, we met David in Florida. We had spent the holidays canoeing into the Everglades, and we met David at the end of our trip at the motel. David worked for the North West Company. We talked about the fur trade and the history of the company for which he worked and the history of Canada. David subsequently sent us books and we kept in touch. We discovered in ourselves a passion for our history and the fur trade. In 2012, we took a two-month canoe trip from Grand Portage (MN) to Repentigny (QC). This trip based on the voyageurs and the fur trade route opened our horizons. We had so many nice encounters with people, it was surreal! We also managed to get back to basics and the essentials of life. On our return, we were no longer the same, and…….from there began the NorAm Odyssey.
On Wednesday, we had two more interviews. One with CBC Winnipeg (French TV) and the other with FM 93 radio station (Quebec). On Thursday, Pierre went to play golf with David. David already had this activity scheduled and Pierre accompanied him. Caroline and I enjoyed a relaxing time at Thermëa.
Today, Friday, we are running errands and getting ready for our departure. We were invited to participate in 150 Canoes on the Rouge event that will take place tomorrow (Saturday) on the Red River. However, we will be camping tonight with the group in St. Norbert. Here is the link for more information about this event: http://www.riverswest.ca/main.php?p=12. This activity is part of the Canada's 150th anniversary activities. It is organized in collaboration with the Red River Brigade (http://www.labrigade.ca/).
We had an unbelievable week with our friends, and it was a great joy to spend time with Nevada. Thank you all for your great welcome, your generosity and your sharing. Thank you Caroline, David and Nevada!