Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Winter is coming

... so get out and hike, bike or paddle while you still can

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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:

Hike

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.

Paddle

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.

Bike

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.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 16, 2013 C12

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About Bartley Kives

Bartley Kives wants you to know his last name rhymes with Beavis, as in Beavis and Butthead. He aspires to match the wit, grace and intelligence of the 1990s cartoon series.

Bartley joined the Free Press in 1998 as a music critic. He spent the ensuing 7.5 years interviewing the likes of Neil Young and David Bowie and trying to stay out of trouble at the Winnipeg Folk Festival before deciding it was far more exciting to sit through zoning-variance appeals at city hall.

In 2006, Bartley followed Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz from the music business into civic politics. He spent seven years covering city hall from a windowless basement office.

He is now reporter-at-large for the Free Press and also writes an outdoor-recreation column called Offroad for the Outdoors page.

A canoeist, backpacker and food geek, Bartley is fond of conventional and wilderness travel. He is the author of A Daytripper’s Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada’s Undiscovered Province, the only comprehensive travel guidebook for Manitoba – and a Canadian bestseller, to boot. He is also co-author of Stuck In The Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg, a collaboration with photographer Bryan Scott.

Bartley appears every second Wednesday on CityTV’s Breakfast Television. His work has also appeared on CBC Radio and in publications such as National Geographic Traveler, explore magazine and Western Living.

Born in Winnipeg, he has an arts degree from the University of Winnipeg and a master’s degree in journalism from Ottawa’s Carleton University. He is the proud owner of a blender.

On Twitter: @bkives
Email: bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

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