The “Rules” of Rural Manitoba

Recently, I came across a terrific post by a Dauphin resident Tash Ryz. She was responding to an email she had received which provided information about a different set of “Rules” of rural Manitoba. I am not sure which version she received, but I did Google up Rules of Rural Manitoba, and found one edition. I can see why she did not agree, and wrote her own version for Dauphin, Manitoba based on her upbringing and personal experiences. These are so well-written, positive, and embrace the spirit of not only Dauphin, but much of rural Manitoba, that I wanted to re-post them here. This is about how to “experience” Manitoba, here in the Riding Mountains. I’d love to see us develop experiences that live and practice these 12 “rules” for both travellers and local folks alike. Well done Tash!

The “Rules” of Rural Manitoba

May 27, 2012 at 11:35am

I was recently forwarded an email about the “Rules” of Rural Manitoba.  I didn’t agree, so I wrote my own version of how I see Dauphin, Manitoba based on my upbringing and personal experiences.   Please add your own comments and awesomeness!

1. We wear what is most comfortable in the prairies. T-shirts and jeans for work? Absolutely.  Pajamas at the mall? Sure.  Rubberboots at the grocery store?  Why not? From ski-pants to hot pants, we wear what we want, when we want.  We encourage you to do the same!

2. We drive many different vehicles in the prairies. It is perfectly acceptable to drive a car, grain truck, tractor, snowmobile, dirt bike, golf cart or even a riding lawn mower to get around.  If you are walking somewhere, you will be offered a ride. If you are stuck, someone will stop to help you push.

3.  Our license plates say “Friendly Manitoba” for a reason. Expect strangers to wave and say hello, because we live by the slogan “a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met!”

4.  No plans for dinner?  No problem, we always make more food that we need, so please stop by for a visit.  We always have an extra place for a new friend!

5.  We like to eat meat and fish that we have hunted and processed ourselves-without added chemicals or preservatives.  The pickerel is delicate and lovely; the garlic deer sausage is spicy and ridiculously good.

6. Don’t eat meat? No problem.  Our backyard vegetable gardens are massive and the hot summer sun helps us to grow the best tomatoes and strawberries you can imagine! Furthermore, most of us have apples trees, raspberry bushes and other berries growing right in our backyard.  Please help yourself!

7. Expect to be put to work- either helping in the kitchen, shovelling snow, picking stones in the field, helping move a truck or lifting something heavy.  We all take care of each other and try to lessen the load when we can.  As a side effect, your body will feel good, your mind will be clear and the food will taste even better!

8. Please turn off your cell phone. Enjoy the open sky, smell the fresh air, listen to the stillness.  We enjoy face-to-face conversations and like to take things slow.  Please pay attention and listen to the person you are with.

9. You will get dirty- either dirt biking through the mud, running through a field or riding in the back of a pick-up truck.  But you will have so much fun that you won’t even care!

10. Our thunderstorms are fierce and energizing.  Enjoy the show, but watch out if your hair stands on end!

11. Our lakes are abundant and we take full advantage of them-  in the summer we swim, boat and fish.  In the winter, we drive our vehicles right on the ice, set up shack villages and then fish, drink, visit and go sledding with our friends.

12.  We love to laugh, to sing and do silly creative things.  We don’t take ourselves too seriously, so please join in and have some fun!

 traditional Ukrainian braided bread

Welcome message symbol – Ukrainian braided bread

In rural Manitoba, our hearts are a big as our open fields and our minds as expansive as the never-ending sky.  We welcome you to our land!


Travel writers to walk lightly in Riding Mountain

Dragonfly at sunset, Lake Audy, Riding Mountain National ParkWe are honoured to be able to offer the Wild Serenity (#RMwild) itinerary (Manitoba’s only itinerary for GoMedia) for a group of Canadian and international travel writers from September 14 – 18, 2011. With the assistance of Travel Manitoba, our provincial tourism agency, we are looking forward to introducing a number of pre-qualified writers – writers who have chosen to come here – to the Riding Mountains. This is about “experiential travel” (where travellers learn by doing), in the fall, in Manitoba, Canada.

What is GoMedia? GoMedia Canada Is a Canadian marketplace where  Canadian travel organizations get together to tell Canadian and international journalists about some of Canada’s best travel stories. And, just so you know, these stories are not always the ones that are in the news, or at the top of a mountain, or in a famous hotel.

So, what do we have planned? They will taste local foods (regional Riding Mountain cuisine), meet local folks who live here and are part of our local culture or arts scene, go for a walk in the woods, learn what “elk bugling” sounds like, provide opportunities for them to photograph the park and area. They will be off-the-beaten path on side roads, off-trail on animal trails, and perhaps doing some things that they have never done before.

We are pleased that many of our local partners will be providing them with unique experiences. The Elkhorn Resort and Solstice Spa is their base. Riding Mountain National Park is providing a number of unique experiences. Dauphin Tourism, Fort Dauphin and local partners will take us into the heart of local cultural traditions. Jeff Bettle at the Old Church Pottery & Gift in Minnedosa will introduce us to some of his unique pottery with a new experience called Fire & Earth. A signature fall meal will be provided by Siesta Cafe‘s Vaughn Barkman. Clear Lake Golf Course will take them on a behind-the-scenes insight what makes the golf course such a leader in green golf course management. Earth Rhythms will be the primary hosts here in Riding Mountain. We are a boutique tourism operator, creating customized itineraries for small groups year-round. We welcome these travel writers here!

Owl watching season

Owls fascinate me. They are definitely a passion of mine from a photographic perspective. But, I think that what I love most about owls is their behaviour. We learn lots from just simply sitting and observing them. This is a time of year when there are three owls that I look for – great gray owls; northern hawk owls; and great horned owls. Great grays and hawk owls are both active during the day time. Because the the leaves are off the trees, they are easier to see. Northern hawk owls can be seen in Riding Mountain during the winter months.

How to watch for owls

What is involved in looking for owls? A good pair of eyes – knowing what to look for, and learning to look at the landscape to distinguish the shape of an owl; being out at the right time of day for nocturnal owls (great horned owls, or spring arrivals of saw-whet or boreal owls); having a pair of bright field binoculars and a spotting scope; a field guide – either book or electronic editions; and being warmly dressed. Often, you are standing outdoors for short periods of time. By being warmly dressed, you’ll be able to persist and watch.

Great_gray_owl_Riding Mountain_©Celes Davar

Great gray owl in spruce

Here is a photograph of a great gray owl I noticed, as I was driving along. It swooped low across the road and then up into a spruce tree. If I had not noticed its flight, I likely would not have noticed it in the tree. It is very well camouflaged.

Earth Rhythms creates small group photo safaris to learn how to use your digital camera in new ways. Along the way we spot birds, photograph tracks, and share stories about Riding Mountain wildlife. Bring your family or friends. Combine it with a stay at a local resort or a visit with friends in the area. Call us at 1.888.301.0030, or visit Earth Rhythms online. Happy owling!

This colour is sensual

There are certain colours that absolutely turn me on! Magenta (like when we have the first light of day and we have that beautiful colour for only a few minutes as reflections in a still boreal lake) and lime green (as in fresh aspen leaves) are two of my favorites.

Aspen leaves_Riding Mountain National Park

Today, I was out checking logistics for a customized GPS Adventure Quest in the townsite of Wasagaming, as well as meeting Lydia Sarna from the Clear Lake Golf Course restaurant, as we all prepare to welcome and provide unique Riding Mountain experiences for one of Rendez-vous Canada’s pre-conference outings in Manitoba. The new experience we will be delivering is called Riding Mountain Natural Wonders & Prairie Roots.

As I was heading home from my sojourns, I noticed the beautiful and subtle colours of fresh aspen leaves just beginning to emerge. I love this colour – there is something poetic and lovely about them. The smell of fresh aspen sap is heady; and, the resilience of these young leaves in the face of the snow showers that were coming down, made me realize how hardy these young leaves are. It’s a bit of a metaphor for Canadians who welcome spring – heady, slightly under-stated, hardy, and ready for a new adventure. We are looking forward to welcoming the world to  Riding Mountain.

My Experience With Nature

Blue-winged teal Riding Mountain National Park

Blue-winged teal swims in marsh pothole

My name is Amanda Walker and I am from Minnedosa Collegiate in Manitoba (Canada) spending the day learning about Earth Rhythms for a Career Preparation course with my school. Today, I had the pleasure to view the nature  and wonderful sights of Riding Mountain National Park. I spent the day with Earth Rhythms president, Celes Davar. This afternoon Celes took me on a wild adventure as we toured the wonderful park, and on our way we were gifted by seeing many of Manitoba’s wildlife citizens. We saw many birds such as “Ring-necked ducks”, “Green-Winged Teals”, “Great Blue Herons”, and Canada Geese, a sight for everyone to enjoy.

Canada goose on nest_Riding Mountain National Park

Female Canada goose hides on nest

Our day made me understand a lot more about nature and appreciate all that beauty Manitoba has to offer. For example, we viewed many of the ponds that surround the park and took time to discover the wildlife among them. I realize that even on a cloudy day in April, Manitoba still has so much to show for itself and that shouldn’t be taken for-granted by anyone; especially those who are honored to live here.

I realized that you can return here many times, seeing wildlife in new places and under different lighting conditions. For example, the evening light on a white-tailed deer feeding in early spring is a site that is quite common within the park.

-By Amanda Walker, Minnedosa Collegiate

Waking up to a world of magic crystals

Hoarfrost sunrise backlit

This morning, I woke up to a Riding Mountain world that was magically transformed. The aspen trees were thick with hoarfrost, almost like “winter leaves”. Instead of being able to see through the forest at this time of the year, we were looking at a magical forest of snow crystals. A combination of weather conditions (In an earlier post, I explained the origin of hoarfrost).

There are several online sources that offer an explanation of Hoar Frost (or radiation frost). Hoarfrost refers to white ice crystals, loosely deposited on exposed objects or the ground, that form on cold, clear nights when heat losses (infrared radiation) into the open skies cause objects to cool to a temperature which is colder than the dewpoint of the air next to the surface. Frost is frozen water that has condensed from some of the water vapour contained in the air.

The birds at the feeder, the trees themselves and the entire landscape was transformed. I am going snowshoeing today into this forest of hoarfrost. It’s kind of like a real-world pocket of some part of Lord of The Rings.

Hoarfrost and blue sky Manitoba

First hoar frost of the season


Hoar Frost on Thistle, Riding Mountain National Park

Hoar Frost on Thistle with moon rise


We are always delighted with the onset of winter, a time of the year when we get the opportunity to experience some amazing effects of weather.  Hoar frost is one of those phenomena that makes winter on the prairies so magical.

There are several online sources that offer an explanation of Hoar Frost (or radiation frost).  Hoarfrost refers to white ice crystals, loosely deposited on exposed objects or the ground, that form on cold, clear nights when heat losses (infrared radiation) into the open skies cause objects to a temperature which is colder than the dewpoint of the air next to the surface. Frost is frozen water that has condensed from some of the water vapour contained in the air.

Hoarfrost in Riding Mountain National Park provides great photographic opportunities for hikers, snowshoers, or wildlife viewers.  It tastes wonderful on your tongue.  It brings to life the magic of nature.  What I love about this kind of natural phenomenon is that some of the best things in tourism are not “things”; they are discoveries of the ordinary in your backyard.  We take it for granted.  Our guests, however, are looking for just this kind of extra-ordinary discovery.

Hoar frost and rising moon, Riding Mountain National Park

Hoar frost and rising moon



I look forward to introducing our visitors over the next few months to more of the special ways to experience Riding Mountain – a season of hoarfrost, snowshoeing, night-sky “star stitching”, wolf howling, tracking animal “Stories in the Snow”, and many more snowy delights.


October photo safari yields wildlife gems

I’ve had a couple of really delightful days with guests from California – discussing the implications of climate change policies, legislation, and tourism.   These wonderful folks had spent a few days in Churchill, Manitoba viewing polar bears and decided to come down to Riding Mountain National Park for a couple of days of wildlife viewing and photography.

While we were skunked on moose in the more accessible locations of travel, we did have quite a photo session with a beautiful Great Gray Owl in the middle of a light snowfall.


As well, we spotted a fisher (infrequent sightings), and had a few minutes to observe and photograph a badger.  A highlight was photographing snowflakes in the middle of a very thick snowfall and discovering some optical illusions reflected in the surface of water that were best captured with video.  A morning sunlight session today with bison topped off a great couple of days.

One of the things that was wonderful about working with these guests is that they understood that wildlife are not predictable.  They enjoyed the “zen of just being out there”, experiencing the landscape, the falling snow, bison behaviour, and the remarkable moments with the great gray owl, the fisher, and the badger.

Bison at Riding Mountain ©Celes Davar

Bison in morning sunlight

Finding Manitoba gems – new experiential itineraries

I am currently helping Travel Manitoba to work with many different partners on the ground in several different locations throughout Manitoba to craft several new experiential itineraries that will be featured as part of the Rendezous Canada international buyers and sellers expo in May 2010.

Rendezvous Canada, organized by the Canadian Tourism Commission and partnered with the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) and  Travel Manitoba, is the premiere annual show that brings national and international travel buyers and industry representatives together to sell unique Canadian travel experiences.  May 8 – 12 is Rendezvous Canada in Winnipeg. Expect more than 800+ people to be present for this important travel industry event.  I am very excited by the gems that are being “un-earthed” as we craft several new experiences.  Several partners here in the Riding Mountain area are quite excited to be part of this unique opportunity.  Stay tuned for more news about what we are learning and crafting!

We are not an island

I was just invited to speak to the Morden area tourism and marketing group on May 7th.  The person who invited me was none other than “Blue” (Donna Moffat), who is the general manager of the Timbers Clubhouse at Lake Minnewasta Golf and Country Club.  Blue, as many of you know, used to live and work here at the Elkhorn Resort and was very active within the local chamber of commerce.  She is passionate about promoting her local community and  building tourism capacity within a  local community (which she was very active in doing while she was here).

I had never been to Morden before (think Corn and Apple Festival).  But, in a short activity before my presentation that Blue facilitated, everyone present (perhaps some 50 tourism business owners and operators and many others who are active in the community) introduced themselves.  I was flabbergasted at the richness of the Morden area – zip lines, world class fossil site, outstanding golf, and passionate people.  They have vision, entrepreneurial spirit, are articulate and have a will to make things happen. A great blend of traditions, and yet open to new opportunities!  

I had been invited, by Blue and the Morden area marketing group to provide an inspirational presentation about experiential tourism.  That’s a tall order by all accounts.  I dug into my well of experiences and what we have slowly been creating here in the Riding Mountains – a partnership of experience providers for niche markets, and slowly beginning to help shape and define “the Canadian experience in Riding Mountain“.  And, I shared some of these examples.  One of the people in the audience that night was Emily Goerz.  Her family lives in Morden.  Two years ago, she had brought her extended family here to the Elkhorn Reosrt to celebrate her husband’s 70th birthday – we had crafted a customized GPS adventure quest for the entire family.  

Emily was in the audience at Morden, her gentle smile always tilting back at me.  It was at that point, that it struck me that  Blue, Emily, and the various artists, musicians, the mayor, and the many talented people in Morden are all part of this beautiful fabric of Manitoba.  Our province offers the world cultural traditions, food and regional cuisine that is exceptional, and we are all tied together by the many champions like Blue and her community (it’s where she was born) who selflessly keep drawing others together.  Rather, the concept of sustainable tourism in Manitoba that comes to mind is that maybe we are like a living tree with immense possibilities – rooted in traditions, growing constantly, sustainable over time, and cyclical in how we take in energy, sift through possibilities and then make new energy to grow again.

As we contemplate Manitoba’s Homecoming in 2010, I realize that we have an opportunity – to shift from being islands of tourism regions, or islands of tourism destinations, or individual “tourism business” islands, to something new.  We are not an island.  We are the heart of the North American continent, living, loving, and pulsing with culture, arts, traditions, music, nature, and cuisine that is celebrated and practiced by authentic Manitobans.  

If we learn to tell our stories well, we will meet the needs of todays’ travellers who are looking for “the antidote to Disney” – the experiences of our heartland.  They begin searching for these experience, in their own homes all over the world, in their own unique ways using their individual keystrokes to give life to “travel dreams”.  Let’s be there for them when they hit “return” or “enter” on their keyboard.