Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/11/2013 (956 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
At the risk of making another very, very bad prediction -- in June, I guessed the Bombers would improve this season -- today should be the final day of what southern Manitoba calls the fall.
On average, the first lasting snow cover tends to show up around Winnipeg during the second week of November. That means we're slightly behind what passes for a seasonal schedule on the Canadian prairies, home to one of the most variable climates on the planet.
Nonetheless, if you're not a fan of winter sports, today's forecast high of 4 C offers a good opportunity to take advantage of the ever-so-slightly-extended shoulder season. Here are four easy-to-access daytrips you could try out on the unofficial final day of fall:
Hunt Lake Trail
Why you should go: Generally speaking, there-and-back hiking trails are a bit of a drag. Since life is too short to see the same stuff twice in one day, circular trails tend to be way more fun to walk. But the Hunt Lake trail, a 6.3-kilometre route near the southeast corner of Whiteshell Provincial Park, has just enough up-and-down to get your heart going and plenty of exposed granite to serve as eye candy.
Keep your eyes open for wildlife, especially on the drive to the trailhead; anecdotally, wolf sightings are plentiful this fall in the Whiteshell.
Length: 12.6 kilometres (return)
Get there: From Winnipeg, drive the Trans-Canada Highway east to the Whiteshell and take the exit to West Hawk Lake. At the junction of Highway 44 at the townsite, turn right and drive about three kilometres east to the trailhead. The drive is about 90 minutes from the Perimeter.
The lower Assiniboine
Why you should go: There's something extremely liberating about being on the water long after you're supposed to be there, as ice usually encases the shallow Assiniboine by mid-November. Ice pans and frazil ice were present in Winnipeg earlier in the week, making paddling unsafe, but the lower stretch of the river was clear again on Friday, thanks to two days of well-above-normal temperatures.
If the river remains free of floating pans -- the only way to know is to go and look -- then you're in business today. A little bit of ice held fast to the riverbank does not pose a threat, especially if you have an aluminum or plastic boat.
Just remember to dress as if you plan to end up in the frigid water. A minor dump this time of year will result in hypothermia and death if you do not wear insulative clothing. That means putting on a wetsuit or drysuit, if you own such a garment, and donning multiple layers of fleece and wool if you do not. Insulated footwear and gloves are also compulsory.
Now, after that buzzkill of a warning, go out and have some fun.
Length: As long as you like. Just remember many stretches of the river are shallow right now, so you will spend more time pushing the boat - and walking in frigid water - than you would in August.
Put in: Start at the end of Woodbridge Road, near the mouth of Sturgeon Creek, for a swift, hour-long paddle to The Forks. To add another 20 minutes, put in at the south end of St. Charles Street.
Grand Beach trails
Why you should go: Sandy, hilly soil is the first to drain in the spring and remains pleasant to ride when it starts to freeze up. Grand Beach's trail system isn't the most exciting network for cyclists, but there are a few technical loops cut into the side of the esker on the east side of the park, home to a 30-kilometre network of trails.
The main townsite on the west side of the park is also sleepy right now, offering a pleasant ride in combination with the trails and sections of the Trans-Canada Trail. All the birds are gone right now, but so is most of the unpleasant beachwear.
Length: Give yourself two hours. Distance is up to you. You can download a trail map at http://www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/parks/pdf/maps/2013_campground_maps/grand_beach_activities.pdf.
Get there: From Winnipeg, take Highway 59 north and remain on the road when it becomes Highway 12, close to the park. The trailhead parking lot is accessible from the east beach entrance.