We entered Manitoba at Swan Lake. The Super 8 was the biggest and newest motel, and people wondered if we were heading north or south. Considering the absence of any town to the north that looked like it might have a motel at all, we headed south.
The Swan River valley is interesting in its own way: it is flat farm land, flat ranch land and flat swamp land.
At the southern end, we seemed to be climbing a low mountain ridge through Riding Mountain National Park. In fact, we were climbing up to a high plateau that was the rest of Manitoba. On the way up, we took a walk through the former Kippan’s Mill logging camp site. It was just a walk in a meadow in a forest, all that is left of what was a thriving community in the 1930s and 1940s that supplied lumber to the local area and also to much of Canada during the war. It was a different sort of ghost town. The most visible remaining site was a grassy mound: the manure pile behind the stable where the horses that dragged the logs from the forest were kept.
Passing through Gladstone, we were amused at the town mascot, a “happy rock.”
I can’t say we gave Winnipeg a fair chance. We drove through the town but did not stop. We passed the Canadian Museum of Human Rights which had a sign saying it would open September 14. Not knowing what it was at the time, we guessed it might be a concert hall. I don’t how successful it will be as a museum, but the architecture will certainly attract attention.
The Forks District, where the Red River and Assinboine River join, has been a meeting place over the millennia for people from the first nations, fur traders, merchants, immigrants and railroaders. Today it is a Winnipeg meeting place for those seeking recreation, shopping and dining.
Seeking a more rural place, we moved on. And just before Falcon Lake near the Ontario border, we were rewarded as two timber wolves loped across the road in front of us.
Leaving the flat Manitoba plains, we moved into a region of forests, hills, rocks and lakes. Falcon Lake was a resort community like many others, but we enjoyed lunch there, and I had my first taste of the original Canadian fast food, poutine – French fries with gravy and cheese curds. It was filling but would not be my first choice.
Kenora, once called Rat Portage, is near the northern most part of Lake of the Woods, a huge lake bounded by Manitoba, Ontario and Minnesota. Lake of the Woods is the sixth largest freshwater lake in North America after the Great Lakes.
The “Rat” refers to the muskrat region once sought by fur traders. Now, while Kenora has a large Weyerhaeuser plant, it is primarily a boating destination represented by a statute of a large muskellunge.
We found a large lakefront room at a surprisingly modest price and enjoyed an excellent meal at another Canadian chain restaurant, Casey’s.
The next day, we ducked down across the border to International Falls to see if we could get our phone working (AT&T’s tech support could not get our Canadian service to work) and to make a couple calls. While there, we stopped by the visitors’ center at Voyageurs National Park. Established in 1975, there are more than five hundred islands and 655 miles of shoreline to be explored – by boat.
Everywhere we have been, there has been much to see. But there would be much more for us to do were we much younger and more physically fit. The U.S.-Canada border is a great place for outdoor sports: for camping, boating, hiking, and fishing in the summer, skiing, snowshoeing, and ice fishing in the winter. But we are happy to have seen it.