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sacred space

As I finished my prayer and offering I glanced up and basked in the energy radiating from the boulders, trees and land. There was no doubt in my mind that I was standing on sacred ground and I was deeply grateful for the experience. It was my first time to The Whiteshell Provincial Park in eastern Manitoba. Most people I know when they think of The Whiteshell they have visions of good times at a cottage and frolicking in one of the many lakes, but I was more interested in the spiritual side of the park, and I had focused my first Whiteshell visit on the Bannock Point Petroforms.

Petroforms are boulders that have been arranged into shapes and diagrams, often taking on the shapes of animals such as snakes and turtles, and various patterns. They are usually arranged in remote locations such as forested areas with large rock beds near rivers and lakes. Many believe petrofroms began hundreds of years ago and were created by First Nations. They act as messages from important spirits and to serve as a sacred location for ceremonies. Many years later, petroforms continue to hold this special meaning, and are often used for teachings and spiritual guidance. Manitoba, and The Whiteshell Provincial Park, are home to some of the best petroforms in Canada. The Bannock Point Petroforms are one of the easiest petroforms sites to access, and because it is an easy day trip from Winnipeg, it is one that many people choose to visit.

The air was heavy and humid when we arrived at the Bannock Point Petroforms. The sky was a dark and dreary gray yet the rain magically held off. Perhaps the heavens knew we were there and were seeking a spiritual refuge. We made our way through the dirt path to the petroforms and that is when I first realized how big the Bannock Point Petroforms truly are. The petroforms are scattered on large sections of bedrock in the forest and the great rock ground serves as the floor for this religious sanctuary with various petroforms sprinkled over the landscape. As you make your way through the bedrock clearings you can stop to view and reflect on the various symbols and shapes. Many people choose to make offerings which is evident from the vast amount of prayer cloths, tobacco, coins and incense left near the rocks formations. We felt compelled to also make an offering and reached into our pockets for some coins. As we placed the coins on the rocks, we paused to take a private moment and to say a short prayer. It felt really nice, and calm, and special, and I immediately understood why so many people are drawn to petroforms for tranquility, guidance and ceremonies.

After an hour or so of wandering amongst the rocks and soaking up the energy, we left the Bannock Point Petroforms feeling very pleased with our first Whiteshell Provincial Park experience. As I climbed into our vehicle, I thought to myself this is definitely a Manitoba must see. Every Manitoban needs to experience this sacred space at least once.

For more information on the Bannock Point Petroforms in The Whiteshell Provincial Park please visit http://www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/parks/popular_parks/eastern/whiteshell_petro.html.


old pinawa dam

Approximately one hour's drive from Winnipeg, Manitoba and located on the edge of the Canadian Shield, lies a unique Manitoba provincial park. Back in the early 1900s Manitobans set out to create the first ever year round hydro electric dam on the Winnipeg River, now referred to as the Old Pinawa Dam. From 1906 until 1951 the power generated at the Old Pinawa Dam was supplied to Winnipeg and it helped Winnipeg grow to become the large city it is today. Even though the Old Pinawa Dam no longer produces power, it still provides enjoyment to many who visit the dam to hike amongst the ruins and to enjoy the stunning views.

When my husband and I arrived at Pinawa Dam Provincial Heritage Park we weren't really sure what to expect. We were greeted by a large parking lot, a picnic area, and a vast field on the edge of a river. My first thoughts were this would make a great spot for a family reunion. To the right we could see some concrete sticking up and a well worn dirt path leading down to a little outdoor museum area. We headed down the trail towards the outdoor museum and were greeted by some gigantic metal parts from the dam that really sent home the message how big and magnificent a hydro electric dam truly is. After viewing the displays we made our way along the path to see the highlight of the park - the gigantic and powerful Pinawa Dam. What a beautiful sight to behold! The combination of old concrete mixed in with greenery and gentle waterfalls flowing through the dam is pretty darn unique, and you can't help but stop and think about how many hours it must have taken to create this dam back in the early 1900s.

The hiking trail makes it's way along the front of the dam and is very well maintained. On one side of you is the dam, and the other a beautiful water view where fishing boats and kayaks seem to conjugate alongside the trickling water stemming from the dam and falls. I can't really blame them for hanging out in their boat right there below the dam, it seems like a perfect spot to cast a line or to float around and enjoy the view and we make a mental note to bring our canoe the next time we visit this park.

The hiking trail is dotted with informative interpretative signs that further explain how and why the Pinawa Dam was created and used and as you hike past the dam and up over the staircase you begin to realize this beautiful trail continues through waterfalls, big rocks and vegetation. It is the perfect spot to stop for photos or for a picnic. We even stumbled upon a small wedding and it certainly is an ideal romantic place to exchange vows and say “I do”.

There are some bridges to guide you over the river and big rocks and around the dam, but one of the best things about this hiking trail is that you can find little detours where you can climb the rocks, almost creating your own little viewing platform to see the dam ruins and the water. Because there are various little trails and rocks to climb, this hiking trail can be as short or as long as you want, and is easily adapted to suit your own specific needs and experience levels. We even saw some very adventurous people in their kayaks surveying the falls and river, plotting out their course of kayaking action. Although that looked like a lot of fun, it is a bit too risky for my taste but I must admit I did enjoy watching them tackle the challenge.

Hiking amongst the dam ruins, climbing the rocks and taking in the picture perfect views around every corner was the perfect way to spend a couple hours with my husband to reconnect with nature. We will defnitely return in the future for some more hiking and exploration. There is no doubt in my mind that Pinawa Dam Provincial Heritage Park is a great way to combine a picnic, hiking and a bit of history into a fun afternoon in rural Manitoba.

For more information on Pinawa Dam Provincial Heritage Park please visit http://www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/parks/popular_parks/eastern/pinawa.html.


a walk in the park

When most people think of romance they think of things like quiet candlelight dinners and love letters. But for my husband and I some of our most romantic moments have been simply together taking a walk in a park. There is something so wonderful about just walking together. With no distractions from technology, conversations flow easily and freely and it gives us an opportunity to reconnect and recharge as a couple in nature. Since moving to Manitoba we have walked in countless parks scattered all over the province, and we are always on the search for a new place to walk, talk and fall in love all over again.

Recently we found ourselves in Winnipeg with a few hours to spare. We had plans to meet up with a friend that evening for supper but we were looking to check out a new to us park to take a stroll for a couple hours in the afternoon. A few days prior I had picked up the Manitoba Parks 2014 Visitor’s Guide and stumbled upon the blurb about the Trappist Monastery Provincial Park in St Norbert. It sounded pretty interesting and a great way to spend a couple hours with my husband, so we decided to make our way to St Norbert to check it out.

What a gem of a place. Basically some Trappist Monks lived at this location for many years, but in the late 1970s as the City of Winnipeg expanded it started to encroach on their quiet peaceful land and they relocated their monastery to Holland, Manitoba. Then in the 1980s a fire damaged the abandoned monastery. Eventually the monastery was turned into a provincial park and you can now enjoy some time walking the monastery grounds and investigating the old monastery ruins. We were the only people there on this beautiful afternoon and it felt like the park belonged to us. After checking out the building we headed down to the edge of the property along the La Salle River. Absolutely gorgeous. Seriously gorgeous spot. I turned to my husband and exclaimed “What an amazing place. This would be a perfect location for a wedding!”. We have been married for five years this fall and were married at a gorgeous blueberry farm and restaurant in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, but I made a mental note that if we ever renew our vows this would make a fantastic spot.

As we walked around the property we noticed a path and a sign that read St Norbert Arts Centre. We decided to stroll on over and once again we were blown away with the beauty. A beautiful garden, cute sheds, an area with a sweat lodge and tipi, and a grand old building. We ran into one of the gardeners and she explained to us that the building used to be the guest house for the Trappist Monastery but nowadays it is home to artists, and spiritual practices such as meditation and sweat lodges. She motioned to an area down by the river and told us they were busy setting up for a wedding to be held on the property the next day. I looked at my husband and winked, sending him a little look that stated “I told you it would be a great place to say I do!”.

As we strolled back towards our vehicle in the parking lot I grabbed my husband’s hand and grinned. I was happy to have discovered this unique park with a very interesting history, and grateful for the opportunity to share another walk in the park with him here in Manitoba. It was the perfect mid-day pick-me-up. We will definitely return to the Trappist Monastery Provincial Park and the St Norbert Arts Centre in the future for another romantic stroll.

Do you have a favourite Manitoba spot for a walk in the park? I would love to hear your suggestions and experiences!

For more information on the Trappist Monastery Provincial Park visit http://www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/parks/popular_parks/central/trappist.html.

For more information on the St Norbert Arts Centre visit http://www.snac.mb.ca/.