Raccoon fishing in creek

Raccoon fishes in creek ©Celes DavarIt was a perfect fall morning.  Still, temperature a -3C˚frosty chill – the kind that even with gloves on, goes right into your bones. But, it was sunny. Five bull elk were bugling around us. Tracks and scats of moose, elk, and coyotes were on the trail. Several side trails led to locations where elk had been active in their harems during the previous night. Their smell was pungent and present everywhere. I love mornings like this. I had primed myself at 5:30 AM on an espresso, a banana, and a peanut butter sandwich. Joining a friend from Wisconsin, who has been returning to Riding Mountain National Park for over five years (we had guided her on her first wildlife photography excursion in 2005), we were meandering – looking for wild nature to photograph and video.

Earlier this spring, we had the privilege of hosting a number of tour operators and travel writers from India, China, England, and Japan. One of them, Hiroko Yoshizawa, who loves Canada (has come to Canada over 80 times in the last 20 years), loved the way that we explored and engaged with the nature experiences we provided.

As leaders in experiential travel, we want our guests to truly immerse themselves in Riding Mountain’s wild nature. We had rain, snow (8 inches of it), and sun and everyone loved it.Travel writer in Riding Mountain_©Celes Davar

But, my take-away from their visit was Hiroko’s thoughtful comment and appreciative smile, as she shared that this was very enjoyable for her. She called it “slow travel”. She said that she would share her experiences with her Japanese audience and help them understand that Earth Rhythms provides “Slow Travel experiences”.

As my friend from Wisconsin and I finished off our day of photographing, I suggested that we head out to another location where I would share with her a creek location that I often enjoy stopping and looking for wildlife. We were in luck – a raccoon was fishing in the creek. With full sunshine, and that low angle of sunlight that accompanies the fall season, we were able to capture photographs and video of a curious and well-adapted mammal that spends a lot of time close to water. Enjoy this short video.

Young bull moose in testy mood

I remember the sage advice of John Shaw, a very good American photographer, from many years ago when a group of us attended a workshop about the business of nature photography. He was talking about the time investment that it takes to get good images.Young bull moose ©Celes Davar, Riding Mountain National Park “There is no use in not being there,” he reflected. Basically, he was encouraging us to be out there, following thunderstorms, walking, hiking, and being present. And, he cautioned us not to go out in search of specific shots, but to be present, and shoot the things that emerged by being present. It often makes for better photography. It was good advice, and continues to be good advice.

Yesterday, while hiking with travel writers from Germany, we witnessed an event that probably takes place all over the park in various locations each fall. But, rarely do we become witnesses to it.

A young bull moose eyed a small national park garbage container. Deliberately and repeatedly, this youngster attacked the container, waiting for a response. The whole sequence was interesting, funny, and informative. In viewing it a few times, I see how this young bull moose was testing its strength, learning the head motions with its antlers, testing its stance and how to leverage its strength, and getting used to what the appendages on its head were capable of doing. His behaviour was curious, exploratory, and demonstrated learning through repetition. Some things are quite universal in nature. Enjoy!

Chipmunk harvests seeds

Canada thistles ©Celes DavarOn a beautiful autumn day in Riding Mountain National Park, Monika and Rainer Hamberger and I walked on and off trail, discovering wildlife and unique fall nature events that were taking place. Monika and Rainer, with the support of Travel Manitoba are traveling through Manitoba on a 15-day itinerary collecting experiences, photographs, and insights from which they will write and publish articles for magazines and online media within Germany. We are grateful for their interest and love of “Canadian experiences in Manitoba”.

It was a warm and sunny day. Fall activities in the national park were in full swing. By that, I mean that wolves were howling early in the morning. Bull elk were bugling to keep their harems protected from other suitors. We spotted four bull moose. Wandering along elk trails, we discovered plenty of evidence of the previous night’s skirmishes and group activities.

On the return trip, a western chipmunk was stuffing its cheeks with Canada thistle seeds from a recent prescribed burn in the park.

Colors and contrasts

Fall in Riding Mountain National Park is a time of colors and contrasts. And, I don’t mean just visual. Contrasts of scents – highbush cranberry, elk urine, fresh rainfall, or the scent of changing aspen leaves. The colors are very understated and muted. It’s the sky that adds contrast of hue and tone. I was out cycling in the backcountry today.

A fresh scat from coyotes, a mark from a wagon train wheel (a group of horse-riders returning after spending a week backcountry camping and horse-back riding), a quick moving gray jay, and a floating red-tailed hawk were some of the things I observed.

But, what I loved most was the way that the clouds were scudding by, with a shaded neutral tone covering the landscape for a while, and if you just waited a couple of minutes, it would be sparkling in sunlight. Radiant, in fact.

Riding Mountain in the fall is a time to smell, photograph, hike, walk, and enjoy a season that is full of scents that will definitely remind you that this is a season to experience. Today, I hiked off-trail, cycled, photographed, and smelled. A great Sunday!

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