Leaving the Cypress Hills area, I ventured further into Saskatchewan, stopping to wander through the original prairie and badlands of Grasslands National Park. From there I continued east into the Big Muddy badlands, then northward past the mostly still frozen lakes and snowy environs of Moose Mountain. Crossing into Manitoba, I ventured still further north east into the winter landscape of Riding Mountain National Park and the flooded fields (and sometimes roads) beyond the Lake Manitoba Narrows. At the Narcisse Snake Dens, I had hoped to catch the garter snakes emerging from hibernation in their dens and forming the massive mating balls for which they are famous, but the late winter snow storms that hit this part of Manitoba in April, followed by fast melting and flooding, have delayed this annual event. In any case the dens and even trails to them were inaccessible for anyone not wearing hip waders.
In general, between the lingering snow and flooding it wasn’t always easy to find places to hike. I did go for a relatively short hike through a still bare of leaves aspen forest just south of the snake pits. But the best hikes by far were once I reached the granite outcrops of the Canadian Shield at Whiteshell Provincial Park (in the far east of Manitoba), and a couple of days later in Pukaskwa National Park on the shores of Lake Superior.
I’ve had some amazing camping spots on this trip so far (many of them entirely to myself), but nothing to match the five star view I had at Hurkett Cove on Lake Superior, where I settled in for the night at a Fisheries and Ocean dock (complete with the hulks of several old boats). On the dirt access road I had the privilege of seeing a mama moose and calf. Then once at the cove I was surrounded by what felt essentially like a water bird sanctuary. The cove was home to white pelicans, herons, huge numbers of ducks and seagulls – some drifting by on ice flows – and at least one beaver (likely more).
Other memorable wildlife sightings were a bear crossing over the snow and road in front of me at Riding Mtn NP, and multiple moose browsing in the ditches along the Trans Canada Hwy between Pukaskwa NP and the town of White River. That many moose sightings so close to the highway in such a relatively short stretch of road was definitely unnerving, especially because their fur is kind of mangy and mottled at this time of year, making them hard to spot against the background.
Monday, May 2: ▲Gravel Dump along Hwy 18 northwest of the East Block of Grasslands NP (298km)
Tuesday, May 3: ▲Kennett’s Kitchen Rest stop near Wawota, Sask (527km)
Wednesday, May 4: ▲Eriksdale municipal park and campground (556km)
Thursday, May 5: ▲Whitemouth Lions Park and Campground (259km)
Friday, May 6: ▲small gravel pit off Rush Bay road (90km)
Saturday, May 7: ▲Hurkett Cove (on Lake Superior) (595km)
Sunday, May 8: ▲behind the White River info centre (338)