I have been mentally exhausted constantly and with gearing up to hopefully lead outdoor events again soon, I was also in need of professional development. What better way to get everything I need than to wander through the woods! Spending time in nature always helps me with refocusing. With a much longed for and needed experience, I went to Whiteshell Provincial Park a couple of weekends ago for a day of solo hiking.
I left home at 6 AM and picked up coffee at McDonalds for the almost two-hour drive to my first hiking spot, Top of the World and adjoining High Lake Trail. The trailhead shares a parking lot with Falcon Ridge Ski Slopes and with the increase in people spending time outside, Falcon Ridge has asked hikers to come outside of the peak hours. Knowing this, I arrived at 8 AM and planned to be finished by 10:30 AM.
It turned out that the whole parking lot was blocked off and on a handwritten sign, hikers were asked to park at a causeway. The only causeway in the area that I am familiar with is the one near Falcon townsite. It would have been a long hike on The Great Trail to Top of the World. A lot of trails are also converted into cross-country ski trails and with it being a high-dense cottage area, I went with the assumption that there are probably a lot of cross-country skiers.
I completely understand the dilemma that Falcon Ridge Ski Slopes has with not having enough parking spots for their customers. The handwritten sign also advised hikers not to park on the side of the highway due to it being a safety hazard. Parking on the side of a narrow highway is a whole other problem with the increase of people using the outdoors to blow off covid-steam. Pine Point Rapids on highway 307 is a disaster waiting to happen and Bear Lake / Hanson Creek on highway 44 is jam packed full of cars on the road too.
Feeling a little disappointed that I would not be able to experience Top of the World, I backtracked across the Trans-Canada Highway and popped into Falcon Creek Trail. It is a short and sweet 2 KM hike and offers lovely variety in the landscape. There are large rocks and gorgeous strolls through forested areas. The trail is really pretty and is an excellent spot for people to gain more confidence in solo hiking. I have now hiked this trail in summer and winter and I think I prefer winter. It is just so majestic!
After exploring Falcon Creek, I ventured towards West Hawk Lake and made a spur of the moment decision to hike on Mantario to at least the Whiteshell River. I sent my husband a text to let him know my change of plans.
Snowshoes would have been a good addition and I wished I had brought them with me. My original hiking plans for the day only included well-travelled and packed trails. There was only one other car in the parking lot and a few people snowmobiling on the old logging road leading up to the start of the trail. Based on the tracks on the trial, the other people on the trail were using snow shoes.
I felt the inactivity that has been my life lately and at the same time, I also realized that I had not eaten any food that morning and had only drank coffee. Knowing that I needed to fuel my body sooner rather than later, I stopped earlier than planned to eat lunch. I found a log on the edge of the trail and cleared the spot of snow to sit down.
I loved the solitude of the trail and not having anyone else around but I was not keen on continuing on without snowshoes. The intensity of the terrain was not what I was looking for while on my day of solo hiking. I finished enjoying my quiet lunch and made my way back towards the trailhead.
I was not at all ready to end my day of hiking so I headed over to McGillvary Falls, which is always a great hike! This trail is one of my favourites in the Whiteshell and I have hiked it a number of times in every season.
I should learn by now that in the winter, there are always a couple of spots that I end up slipping and sliding down. It is hard to tell in the photo what the incline is like, but my trekking pole always gets caught up in the bush at this spot when I slip and slide. It never fails. I should just intentionally slide down on my bottom from now on.
I always enjoy myself on McGillivray Falls and it was a great way to wrap up my day of solo hiking.
I noticed there is new signage and a new outhouse (at least since I was there last) at the trail head. It is great to see that Manitoba Parks has invested in it. I have a feeling that 2021 will continue to see people spend their holidays inside their home province. Manitoba currently has travelling restrictions for entering the province. Our parks will likely continue to see a lot of people continuing to visit and it is going to be so important that we all take care of the land that we are recreating on. I will leave you with one very simple request: please do not leave garbage on the trail and if the garbage can is full at the trailhead, please take your garbage with you and throw it away at home.
See you on the trails!