Stars Stitched, Wolves Howled

Night sky viewing under full moon, riding mountain national park

When the full moon is up in February and you are out snowshoeing in Riding Mountain National Park, you do not need a headlamp or any kind of supplementary light. The blanket of snow acts as a big reflector illuminating your travel pathway. We had the opportunity to snowshoe under a full moon with a couple from Manitoba. With our head guide Buzz Crowston as our guide to the night sky using a special laser pointer, we headed to two off-trail locations. At the first one, as we shared stories of winter wolf ecology and behaviour, a pack of wolves (which the park has been monitoring) began howling. At the second location, we mused on the role of prescribed fire as we gazed on an eerie blackened landscape of spruce and jackpine spires thick like the back of an alarmed porcupine. The October prescribed burn in the Rolling River area quietly and expectantly waits for spring to release new growth into the landscape.

Our guests had a few things to share about this experience after they returned home…” Hi, we just came back from a walk this evening and the night sky is a brilliant as ever, the planets, the twins, the Big Dipper, the “M” for Michelle, we had to stop gazing and watch out for ice along our path. We just wanted to tell you again thank you so much for the evening, the pictures are great, and most of all the company and the stories was want made the evening a night to remember. Our family was very jeolous of the stories we came back with, especially our wolf loving son and story loving mom… Thanks again for sharing the evening with us, we have shared our story with so many people, we hope that one day, some may call you up for their own adventure.”

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.

Jenn Cassin and partner Joel sparkle about snowshoe experience

Now, here’s a testimonial we received today that we just had to share with you.  Jenn and Joel had escaped from Winnipeg for the weekend, to enjoy an Earth Rhythms’ Riding Mountain Infusions package offered through their partner Elkhorn Resort & Solstice Spa.  I asked Jenn if she would mind sharing her thoughts about the morning experience.  There is nothing more authentic than the words and emotions offered by those who have personally found delight in an experience that matches their interests and needs….

“Starting off on a beautifully still and frosty morning, with an enthusiastic, welcoming, and very informative guide, we made our way across the crunchy snow of a lake in Riding Mountain National Park.  The hoarfrost lay on the pines and tamaracks like fine lace, creating a beautiful monochromatic landscape.  The stillness belied the obvious presence of coyotes, wolves, and elk, and we didn’t have to search for long to find evidence of their activity.  

Wandering up a small ravine revealed the winter beauty of the Weeping Forest – the layers of ice created by the water seeping out of the hillside lay like multicoloured puddles of wax, building up atop one another and freezing in amazing shapes and tones.  It was a fantastic experience – connecting with Manitoba’s natural wonders with a small group allowed great conversation, a relaxed atmosphere, and the ability to enjoy the outdoors on a very personal basis.  

The pictures taken could only capture a single frame of the gorgeous panorama, but they’ll always lead to stories and memories. The wonderful homemade muffins and herbal tea only added to the personalized and welcoming outing!

How fortunate we are to be able to have the beauty of Riding Mountain National Park revealed to us by such a personable, intelligent, and ecologically-conscious entrepreneur!  And no matter how much you think you know about the outdoors, Riding Mountain always has something new to show you – don’t miss it!”
 
Cheers, and all the best!!
Jenn Cassin and Joel
 

Morning light on layers of ice in Riding Mountain National Park

Morning light on layers of ice in Riding Mountain National Park

Night adventure – wolves and elk

Guests learn about wolf feeding behaviour at Riding Mountain National Park.

Guests learn about wolf feeding behaviour at Riding Mountain National Park.

During the annual Christmas Bird Count a couple of years ago, everyone received notification by noon that wolves had just taken down a cow elk.  By 1:00 PM, we were observing an autopsy.

Diagnosis:  Lactacting cow elk; unlikely to have any TB lesions based on a cursory examination of in situ lymph glands; pregnant with calf; killed by wolves.  That was on December 22.

When we returned a few days later, the entire carcass had been consumed except for a the skin, ribs, muzzle, and a few other bits and pieces.  During that winter, we had the opportunity to guide many guests on a guided GPS adventure quest to discover the story of how wolves kill elk; find the site; try howling for wolves; and enjoy the night air.

This photo was taken with multiple light sources – an underexposed (-2 stops) flash on my camera, the headlamps on the snowshoers, as well as the red light from my own headlamp.  To take a photo like this, remember to take a ski or hiking pole that has a threaded camera mount in the top of the hiking staff.  These are available from Leki, as well as other sources.  Makes taking a photo which requires a fairly still moment for a slow exposure like night time quite possible.

Earth Rhythms provides guided night snowshoe outings.  

Call 1.204.848.4680 to plan your outing.