Spring Traditions

Photo Series by Andy Goodson

  *Whip crack*

*Whip crack*

A few days after my trip to Prince Albert National Park some friends and I made our way to Duck Mountain for our annual get-together-and-plan-all-the-trips meeting, which usually devolves into Tetris competitions and drunken rambling about sociopolitical hoopla. This year was no different, but we did manage to go on a day trip to Little Boggy Creek to check out the spring thaw.

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View from the Valley

Our seasonal tradition now includes a hike to one salient ridge on the edge of Little Boggy Creek Valley, across from the Duck Mountain ski area.

There are no hiking trails to this spot. Rather, one must bushwhack from the base of the valley and navigate dense poplar woods.

  "Smokey" woods — the grey canopy of nude trembling aspen (poplar) trees

"Smokey" woods — the grey canopy of nude trembling aspen (poplar) trees

Ostrich fern fronds among snow

Green-bean water

  "Help me I'm in fractal Hell"

"Help me I'm in fractal Hell"

Wireboxes

Melted

After the meeting, I was alone for a few days until Teisha came out to visit. We then took a trip to the Manitoba-side of the Duck Mountains to check out some of the trails.

We started at the Copernicus Hill trail loop, which culminated rather quickly at a picnic site with a lookout tower. The view from the hill was mostly obstructed by trees so we decided to continue hiking on a path away from the loop, just to see where it would take us.

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Copernicus Hill Trail to Glad Lake, Manitoba

A day-hike at Duck Mountain Prov. Park, Manitoba in springtime was quiet, secluded and magnificently insect-free. Take it in, folks. 

  Taking a break at Glad Lake

Taking a break at Glad Lake

The path crossed a road and led us to Glad Lake, where fallen trees made the hike a more familiar challenge. But the cool temperature and peacefulness at the park was all we could ask for. Besides, I needed some exercise. 

  "'Cause they're soft, like a kitty."

"'Cause they're soft, like a kitty."

Unfrozen: Prince Albert National Park

Photo Series by Andy Goodson

kingsmere river spring

Spring at the Kingsmere River

After a few outdoor stints last winter, I decided to stay inside and wait out the rest of the season. Winter scenery had become repetitive and I was more than happy to spend time reading, ruminating and becoming a typical basement goblin. But this too, got old.

Teisha and I decided to break the monotony and go on a roadtrip and see some authentic daylight. From our home in Saskatoon, we drove to Saskatchewan's favourite playground: Prince Albert National Park. 

  Ice break-up on the Kingsmere River, Prince Albert National Park

Ice break-up on the Kingsmere River, Prince Albert National Park

  Standing on the (expensive-looking) walkway across the river

Standing on the (expensive-looking) walkway across the river

  Probably the most "national park" photo I've taken

Probably the most "national park" photo I've taken

  Butterfly boils

Butterfly boils

With such beautiful weather, the park was not half as busy as I thought it would be. We visited the Kingsmere River Trail and found some familiar sights we've only seen in brochures. Of course, photos rarely do justice compared to witnessing scenery in person, and I found myself conflicted over the assumptions I've made about popular national parks.

We also checked out the Height-of-Land Lookout Tower, which offered a view of the dividing point between two major watersheds: the Saskatchewan River system to the south and the Churchill River system to the north.

  View of Beartrap Creek from the Height-of-Land Lookout Tower in early spring, Prince Albert National Park. This marks a boundary where all south-flowing waters enter the Saskatchewan River, and all north-flowing waters enter the Churchill River.

View of Beartrap Creek from the Height-of-Land Lookout Tower in early spring, Prince Albert National Park. This marks a boundary where all south-flowing waters enter the Saskatchewan River, and all north-flowing waters enter the Churchill River.

With paved roads (mostly), an abundance of hiking trails, backcountry campsites and gorgeous aqua-blue rivers and lakes, I started to understand why Prince Albert National Park deserved its fame. It keeps an incredible section of boreal splendor accessible to people of all stripes and skill-levels. While I enjoy climbing over fallen spruce trees, scratching ankles on rose bushes and being hundreds of kilometres out-of-reach of emergency services, there's something to be said about well-maintained public infrastructure, dangit.

C'mon, Winter at the Ducks

Photo Series by Andy Goodson

  Little Boggy Creek Valley in Duck Mountain Prov. Park, Saskatchewan

Little Boggy Creek Valley in Duck Mountain Prov. Park, Saskatchewan

I never spend more than a few nights at Duck Mountain during the winter. But early this year I found myself with no obligations and unprecedented free time, so I took three weeks to record music at the family cabin. Naturally, having set a creative goal for myself, I went to great lengths to distract myself with other hobbies, namely photography. 

  Valley Walls from the Fen Trail at Little Boggy Creek

Valley Walls from the Fen Trail at Little Boggy Creek

  Frozen creek

Frozen creek

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  Black spruce, tamarack and a whole lot of white space

Black spruce, tamarack and a whole lot of white space

I took an afternoon off from recording and visited Little Boggy Creek, near the ski hill south of Madge Lake. My adventure-mobile did not have worthy tires and, when trying to leave the valley, I got stuck in a ditch. I walked to the top of the valley to see if I could get cell reception, but no luck.

By the time I was able to contact help, there was only an hour of sunlight left. I was poorly dressed and was still several kilometres short of reaching the nearest highway. Knowing Sean was coming out to help was a relief beyond words. The forest, which had taken on a cold, malevolent character, reverted immediately to its typical winter splendor.

  Hiking through snow at Duck Mountain

Hiking through snow at Duck Mountain

  Windswept concentric circles

Windswept concentric circles

A couple days after getting towed out by Sean (and losing my sideview mirror to the hedge along his driveway), I decided to retire the adventure-mobile and grab cross-country skis instead. The temperature was a balmy -6°C. The forest was covered in hoarfrost—something I've rarely experienced in such pleasant weather.

   Black-capped chickadees  do not migrate south for the winter. They rely on high-fat seeds and the ability to conserve energy by lowering body temperature ( torpor ) to tolerate winter conditions. 

Black-capped chickadees do not migrate south for the winter. They rely on high-fat seeds and the ability to conserve energy by lowering body temperature (torpor) to tolerate winter conditions. 

  Cross-country skiing to Moose Lake shelter

Cross-country skiing to Moose Lake shelter

  Cross-country skiiing through Winter Wonderland

Cross-country skiiing through Winter Wonderland

  "What're you lookin' at?" —  Grey Owl

"What're you lookin' at?" — Grey Owl

Winter at the Duck Mountains was as beautiful as I expected—I was even able to finish recording a handful of songs. But after making dozens of trips to a frozen outhouse, boiling snow for dish-water and sustaining on Brazil nuts and Chester Fried Chicken, I could only wait patiently for the thaw.