On Wednesday, I set off with 50 other passengers and passengerettes, mostly the latter, on a tour of northeastern Manitoba that included stops at Lac du Bonnet, Pinawa Dam Provincial Heritage Park, Whitemouth, and, finally, Lockport.
Soon after we departed, our tour guide, Judy, introduced herself. I groaned when she told us that this would only be her second tour. I would groan louder when we got to Lac du Bonnet.
We took PTH 44 east around Garson and Tyndall before getting to Beausejour. At the junction of PR 302/215, we spotted a group of cyclists heading east.
As you can see, PTH 44 narrows to two lanes east of Beausejour and has no paved shoulders.
The cyclists were certainly well within their rights and did have reflective gear on, but I have to question their wisdom in choosing this route. The less-travelled PTH 15 through Anola would be a better option. Another better choice would be PTH 1, which has paved shoulders for much of the way between Winnipeg and Ontario and, furthermore, is twinned for most of the way.
I also noted what looked to be the old highway on the north side that could have been a safer alternative for them. While it’s probably not in great shape, it’s got to be better than taking your life in your hands going elbow to elbow with cars and trucks along this narrow, busy highway. Whoever thought that this was a good idea, to borrow a line from Rambo III, needs to go home and think it over again for a very, very long time.
After we passed the cyclists, we turned north at Seddons Corner and followed PR 214. For those not familiar with highway history, this was where PTH 44, originally known as PTH 10, ended back in 1925. The original PTH 11 followed the current PR 214 north from here and meandered its way north to Lac du Bonnet and beyond.
Just south of Lac du Bonnet, I spotted a misspelled sign for McArthur Avenue. I remain amazed as to how often I spot these signs. My collection has grown to the point that I have more than enough to fill at least one book.
We disembarked in front of the Lakeview Inn, where Judy neglected to tell us when we needed to be back on the bus. I caught up to her and asked. I shrieked when she told me “15 minutes.” This was a busload of mostly seniors who needed 15 minutes just to get on and off the bus. Still, she insisted on the 15 minute time frame, so I set off for a very accelerated tour of the community.
A new condominium development under construction.
Huffing and puffing, I made it back only to have Judy tell me that she misread the itinerary and that we had another 40 minutes.
Trying to catch my breath in the humid 35° heat, I tried to cover some of the rest of the town.
Apparently, it’s not Lac du Bonnet, it’s “LAC DU BONNET.” I know at least one reader who will appreciate this.
This sign doesn’t shout at you.
I did what I could with my remaining time there and, dripping with sweat, I returned to the bus.
Our next stop was the Pinawa Dam Provincial Heritage Park. It is the home of the ruins of the old Pinawa Dam that once provided electrical power to the trolley buses in Winnipeg.
Our driver, Reny (I hope I’m spelling it correctly) drove us across a grass-covered field down to the dam site.
From there, a local guide, Vivian Thompson, met us and gave us a guided tour of the site.
Old turbines on display.
The old dam.
One of the many walkways through the ruins. It’s not as bad as it looks, but if you’re planning a trip there, my advice would be to dress for agility, not for fashion. Leave your high-heeled shoes at the park entrance.
We ignored the sign and continued along our journey.
The rapids and rushing water in the midst of all the greenery you’d expect to find in the Canadian Shield makes this an absolute must-see destination.
Most of the people in our group went along for the journey, but some stayed behind.
Above is Judy, our tour guide.
In addition to taking in all the breathtaking scenery, there’s also quite a bit of ground to cover. On a day like this when it was so hot, I was glad that I had plenty of water with me.
I really didn’t know what to expect out of the dam site, but this stop alone already made the trip worthwhile. I hope to get back there again and I would recommend a visit to anyone who hasn’t been there.
For anyone planning to drive there directly from Winnipeg, please note that the dam site is actually closer to Lac du Bonnet than to Pinawa. I would recommend any one of a number of routes that can take you to Lac du Bonnet and then use PR 313 and PR 520, shown above, to access the park.
PR 520 is a low-grade gravel road and, upon your return, I would recommend returning north to PR 313 and a paved road rather than travelling south on PR 520 to PR 211.
Nonetheless, we did proceed south on PR 520 and crossed the Winnipeg River on PR 211, where they were working on the bridge.
Our next stop was Whitemouth for lunch.
Why Whitemouth, you ask?
I’m still asking the same question.
Before leaving us, Vivian said “you’ll be eating well,” when Judy mentioned our next destination.
I knew that was the kiss of death.
We got to Whitemouth in the early afternoon and pulled up to Woodsmoke Adventures, where Anita Geisel, the owner/operator, came out to meet us. We weren’t even sure we were in the right place, since there were no signs and neither Judy nor Reny seemed sure of the directions.
We disembarked and walked in past all the trees as someone across the street at the Whitemouth Regional Health Center watched us with a puzzled look on her face. I could just read that bubble caption over her head that read, “What the heck are these people doing here?”
For many of us, the first stop was the bathroom and there was a long line at the outhouse. They were rather primitive facilities, but at least there was soap and hand sanitizer available.
From there, we had one of two choices for seating arrangements. We could sit inside the greenhouse and baste in a human slow cooker or sit outside and fry like an egg while being eaten by mosquitoes. Apparently, air conditioning has not reached Whitemouth quite yet.
I chose the slow cooker. It was, however, nicely decorated.
Anita’s helper then put out the menu.
Again, I picked up more material for that future book on misspelled signs, but this was virtual write-off for me. As always on these tours, I came prepared and enjoyed my peanut butter sandwich while chugging down some of the ice water they provided.
During one the trips to refill my water cup, I noticed one of their business cards.
After getting home, I visited woodsmokeadventures.ca only to get a message from my browser saying the site was not found. Upon further investigation, I discovered that the domain name had not even been registered.
Personally, I would register a domain name beforegetting business cards printed quoting the address for a Web site. But maybe that’s just me.
Before leaving, I took a stroll through the bushes behind their property that lines the Whitemouth River.
After the meal, we returned to the highway and Judy gave us the opportunity to stop at the Hill Top Bakery and Tea Room, which had supplied the buns that most of the people ate.
Before disembarking, someone asked, “Is this the right bakery?”
I responded, “How many bakeries are there in Whitemouth?”
A few minutes later, we were back on the road headed for our last stop, the Half Moon in Lockport. It is a place that I’ve passed by so often on my bike trips, but yet I had never been inside before.
It’s decked out like a 50’s-style diner and seems well-maintained.
I couldn’t help but question the wisdom of this stop, however. This was hardly a long drive from Whitemouth and, especially after being pushed for time in Lac du Bonnet, we made a long stop like this only a ten-minute drive from the Perimeter.
In any event, we returned to Winnipeg safely, where I have more than 600 pictures to show for the day-long outing. I have to give top marks to Reny, who, unlike some of the drivers I’ve had lately, did not do any of the following while driving:
- read e-mail with his BlackBerry
- eat a full course meal balanced on the steering wheel
- pack his belongings in a duffel bag
- write the first couple of chapters of a novel
- reorganize his CD collection
I hope Judy will have gained some experience by the time I see her on a tour again. Most notably, I did thoroughly appreciate that she did not succumb to the urge to have a bingo game during the trip. It was one of the very few bingo-free bus trips that I’ve been on.