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Fire and fishing failures

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Marchand Provincial Park
Woodridge Provincial Park
Birch Point Provincial Park
Moose Lake Provincial Park

I've always taken pride in my camping skills: pitching a tent in the rain - child's play; starting a campfire – no problem; barbequing the perfect steak, a cinch.

That was the case up to this weekend, when my friend and I had all sorts of problems getting a fire started. My pride was slightly dented.

After a successful camping trip to the Turtle Mountain area on the May long weekend, we headed to the southeast corner of the province last weekend, running away from the storm clouds that had engulfed Winnipeg.

The primary destination was Moose Lake Provincial Park, sandwiched between Lake of the Woods to the east and Minnesota to the south. The itinerary also included several smaller parks along the way: Marchand, Woodridge, and Birch Point.

Marchand Provincial Park is located on the edge of Sandilands Provincial Forest, 90 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg. It's not well marked and we almost missed it. The park consists of a dozen picnic tables and several fire pits shaded by a grove of jack pine and that's it. However, a signpost across the highway from the park indicates that Marchard serves as a staging point for the network of trails that radiate through Sandilands. Hiking, horseback riding, and off-road vehicle trails cut through the dense pine forest.

After the quick stop at Marchand, we continued southeast on Provincial Road 210 towards Woodbridge Provincial Park. I wasn't expecting much after reading that the park was one of the smallest in the province and basically only a highway rest stop. As we approached the town of Woodbridge, we were on the lookout for this microscopic park.

I had the park programmed into a GPS and as we approached the tiny indicator flag on the GPS screen, we were a little shocked. Woodridge is less a park and more of an overgrown field. Two derelict picnic tables sat in a field of grass and dandelions that was in serious need of a landscaper. An abandoned fire tower watched silently from the back of the park.

We took a few photos at Woodridge and then high-tailed it towards Moose Lake. The lake is 190 kilometres from Winnipeg and surrounded by thick deciduous forests and the only eastern white pine trees in the province. Moose Lake represents the extreme western range for this species in Canada. A small campground rings the southern shore of the lake.

Birch Point Provincial Park is just 10 kilometres down the road from Moose Lake and provides boat access to Lake of the Woods.

This past February, I travelled to the Northwest Angle of Minnesota, just down the road from Moose Lake, to gather information for a travel article I was writing. While I was enjoying a couple cold ones and playing pool at one of the local bars, I ran into some snowmobilers from Moose Lake. They raved about how beautiful the lake was and how the walleye and northern pike fishing was excellent.

With that in mind, this past weekend we rented a canoe from the Silver Birch Resort on Moose Lake and paddled out to do some serious fishing. The resort owner had pointed us in the direction of a "hole" in the lake, where he said anglers had been pulling out walleye with ease.

We reached the fishing spot and I cast my lure. An hour went by with no luck, not even a nibble. I reeled in my line and cast out my lure on last time, hoping for a lucky strike. As I began to reel it in, my rod began to arc. I had hooked something big.

Unfortunately, I had no such luck. All I had snagged was something on the bottom. In my struggle to free the lure, I only succeeded in breaking the rod in two. Thus ending a disappointing, but relaxing, afternoon of fishing.

That brings me back to my struggle with lighting a fire. When we came off the lake, we decided to get a fire going. After almost a half hour we were having no luck whatsoever. The wood was too wet.We found some dry wood, but it wouldn't catch either.

Ready to admit defeat and give up, the kindling finally caught and the fire roared to life. Pride was restored, with only a minor dent.

Week 2 of my adventure has come and gone: 7 parks down, 70 to go.

Drop me an e-mail at if you have any stories you want to share about Manitoba's provincial parks. 

Parks in this blog post:

View A(sessippi) to Z(ed Lake) in a larger map
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