There’s a point along the TransCanada Highway east of Winnipeg when the far-as-the-eye-can-see prairie suddenly gives way to the craggy Canadian Shield. Granite claws burst out of canola fields and silvery aspens are swallowed up by sky-high tamaracks. Soon you’ll set foot in Whiteshell Provincial Park, the granddaddy of parks in Manitoba, where it’s all about these great outdoors—blue-black lakes that plunge to spooky depths and ankle-challenging hiking trails that cut through silent white spruce clusters. Here in the Whiteshell, the barrier between nature and civilization is thin at best so take a deep breath. That’s natural aromatherapy, boreal forest style.
We hop into a Lund at Caddy Lake. “Water’s high, movin’ a little fast,” cautions resort owner Wayne Moody. Our destination is a tunnel, blasted out of Precambrian rock by the railway company to make travel easier. We feel our way through the 30-metre passage with bare hands pressed against dripping walls, in the darkness, until we are spat out into South Cross Lake. We pluck Northern Pike out of the calm bays and stare, transfixed, on two rare scarlet tanagers at the shoreline.
When the homemade split yellow pea soup is set in front of me at the Nite Hawk Café in West Hawk Lake, my first thought is, “Yep, my mom could have made this.” Before I know it, our red-checkered tablecloth is dotted with down-home goodness—juicy loaded burgers and whipped-cream topped hot chocolate in a fancy mug. I dip sweet potato fries into chipotle mayo.
The sun has dropped low in the sky and from our private-dock perch at the Falcon Trails Resort, we marvel at the perfect reflection while loons near and far offer a plaintive serenade. A low, flicking fire in the woodstove is filling our cabin with the comfort that only real wood can provide. On the screened-in deck, we slip into the oh-so-decadent hot tub. We still can’t tear our eyes off the lake.
A Beaver is Eating My Canoe sounds like perfect reading material at the lake. So does Mugged by a Moose. I find them both at The Laughing Loon gift shop in Falcon Lake’s town square. All done shopping? Grab a chai tea or cup of Eva’s Gelati from the upscale Falcon Lake Bakery Café and watch the action at the good-looking vintage miniature golf course across the road.
Keep it on the straight and narrow is the advice I got before teeing up at the lush and scenic Falcon Lake Golf Course. Finding your ball in the undergrowth of a jack pine bluff can be more of a challenge than the 16th hole.
There’s nothing quite as rhythmically calming as a pair of anglers fly fishing for rainbows. We see them on a stretch of the 2.8 km Whiteshell River Self-guiding Trail near the 1942 hatchery that stocks many a Manitoba lake. In our two-hour hike, we get the very best of the Whiteshell—a soaring eagle, a bounding whitetail deer, and Kodak moments stocked with blue skies, fresh green leaves, sparkling granite outcrops and gurgling streams.