Swamp Slogging.

More than 360 people were in Falcon Lake last weekend to take on a rugged trek that involved paddling, biking, hiking, and a whole lot of navigating through the wilderness. This trek is also known as Swamp Donkey, North America’s largest adventure race. Last Saturday 121 teams of three spent a full day canoeing, cycling, and bush-whacking through the back woods of Falcon Lake and High Lake. Swamp Donkey participant Warren Blunt shares his story about slogging his way to the finish line:

IMG_7133 copyThe morning dawned clear and cold as racers began to show up to the Falcon Lake Community Centre at the wonderful hour of 6:00 a.m. Having not registered the night before, there was plenty of running around to do. I could see frost on the ground as the racers convened on the behind the Falcon Beach School for the roll-call, which always promises to feature funny (and sometimes even cheeky) team names.

This was the first time that the race started with the bike portion which got underway by 9:00 a.m. I couldn’t help but miss the ceremonial bagpipes to signify the start of the 2012 race, but I digress. Having never started off with the bike portion before, it presented some its own set of challenges. Solid traffic from over 360 cyclists made it difficult to get separation, especially when fear of crossing the dividing line of the road meant disqualification (admittedly, I pushed that rule as far as it would bend). Getting ahead on the narrow (but gorgeous) trail following the southern shore of Falcon lake was even more difficult.

IMG_7143 copyEventually we made it to the High Lake cabins, where we happened upon mass confusion in trying to find the first check-point, which was supposed to be located at one of the cabins. It turns out, the ‘cabin’ was a mere shack just off the main path, and was not one of the fancy eco-cabins. Several racers that I had talked to after the race had made that mistake, apparently to the ire of the tenants. All the more reason to be on our merry way down the Red-Green trail and to the Falcon Trails Resort, where our canoe was waiting for us.

Upon piling into our canoe, the lack of practice this year (new team compared to last year) almost proved our downfall, and we had to adjust on the fly to avoid going for a swim. Although despite the cold start, that idea was most appealing at this point. We reached the portage to High Lake, only to get into my first ever portage traffic jam. After what seemed ages, we finally launched our canoe into High Lake probably 25 minutes later. Our next destination was the north shore, where we struck out on foot looking for out next checkpoints. After some confusion, we made it back to the canoe in time to qualify for the next portion of the race , which took us to the  eastern end of High Lake, now well into Ontario. This was, without question in my mind, the most difficult part of the race. These check points were located in unbelievably thick brush that made for very slow and tiresome work. We were able to find check points five  and six before getting concerned about being able to get out of there on time. Rumour has it, however, that you had to go for a swim to get to the seventh check point, darn!

We returned to our canoe at 4:00 p.m., and set off to reach the portage on the opposite end of the lake. Struggling hard to keep up with the light, fiberglass racing canoes in our aluminum tub, we made the other end of the lake in just under an hour. After the portage we were heading back across Falcon Lake to the ski hill to get on our bikes and boot it back to the Community Centre before the 6:00 p.m. deadline. For the sake of time, we decided not to bother with the final two check points but we were able to (painfully) make it back to the townsite with about 10 minutes to spare, 55-kilometres later. The banner at the end of the race was a very welcome site to behold.

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Reeling In With Shield Outfitters

Fishing.

To some it’s a relaxing day in the outdoors, enjoying being on the water and experiencing nature. To others, it is a stringer of walleye and a shore lunch, or perhaps the family dinner that follows a successful day on the pond. Then again, to some it is the thrill of a rod bending, unseen giant stripping line off against a feebly resisting drag; the adrenaline spike from the first glimpse of a massive trophy fish. And finally, if the angler wins the battle, the high fives and loud enthusiasms of the victory that cannot be explained, only understood.

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Shield Outfitters caters to them all. And in royal fashion, for the Shield Outfitters guides have the great privilege to guide their clients to memorable catches on some of the most picturesque lakes found in North America – in Manitoba’s Whiteshell Provincial Park. Whether it’s slab crappies, elusive trophy walleye, tackle-busting monster northern pike, or the acrobatic smallmouth bass, Shield Outfitters can provide the experience any angler is looking for.

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As the seasons roll by, each species takes its turn at center stage. First the walleye action lights up after ice out, only distracted by the huge lake trout available on a consistent basis in the spring. Then it’s the crappie, followed by the smallmouth bass and northern pike in June, leading us into the summer patterns that offer all species on an equal footing. Late summer means walleye action is about to explode again, and look out for those giant northerns – September is the time!
dianerelease copyShield Outfitters has made many a trophy hunter’s dream come true. They have even guided to a provincial record, the crappie fly fishing mark was set on a Shield Outfitters excursion. Ian Young, AJ Gill, and Dave Abbott are the Shield Outfitters angling team that has years of combined success guiding clients to unforgettable catches, memorialized by great photos of their angling experiences in the Whiteshell.
BeaverDaysTrout copyFor those trophy hunters with Lake of the Woods muskie on their mind, giant walleyes through the ice on Lake Winnipeg, Red River catfish, or even the massive freshwater drum of Lake Manitoba, Shield Outfitters will trailer up and guide you to the action.

Ian_LOTWeye copyIn addition to trophy angling, Shield Outfitters also guides to family fishing experiences, wilderness tripping, and back country angling (for lake trout), as well as winter adventures, igloo building, and ice fishing. If your idea of fishing is more of a day on the water with friends and family complete with catching your own shore lunch, Shield Outfitters has got you’ve covered.

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Shield Outfitters. Manitoba’s Whiteshell Provincial Park. Catch the excitement!

For more information on Shield Outfitters, visit http://www.shieldoutfitters.com. To book a guided fishing trip call the Falcon Lake Marina at 1(204)-349-8923 and ask for Ian or e-mail ian.flmarina@gmail.com

Whiteshell Business: Faloma Beach Marina

Faloma is located about half way along the north shore of Falcon Lake on Highway 301. Besides a lovely sand beach, picnic areas, and a beach volleyball pitch, it is also the location of Penguin Resort and Faloma Beach Marina. The Faloma Beach Marina offers a variety of rental boats, dock spaces, a store, and boat service. Faloma Beach is a popular summer spot with the day trippers as well as the cottagers and campers at Penguin Resort.
Beach at Faloma According to Olive Zimmerman’s recently republished book, History and Folklore of the South Whiteshell, it was in the 1940s that Margorie and Eric Law spotted the perfect site to build what is now Faloma Beach Marina and Penguin Resort, and for many years the two businesses were one.

Maude and Gordon Hamilton were next to purchase Faloma after the Laws. And in 1990, then owners Bob and Judy Partridge and partners separated off the marina and store, and Faloma Beach Marina came into existence as a separate business.

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A memorable event happened during Christine and Ralph Savoy’s ownership that may have been due to someone blowing up a beaver dam upstream. An entire series of beaver dams on Partridge’s Creek and the ponds above collapsed one after the other, sending a roaring tsunami of debris and water downstream that washed out the road to the Faloma subdivisions and sent the boats and docks at Faloma out into the middle of Falcon Lake. Until Parks was able to construct a temporary bridge, residents and cottage owners east of Partridge’s creek were stranded. It was very lucky that no one was hurt when those dams blew! The debris extended up over 10 feet on each side of the creek where it crosses the pipeline, a popular hiking area. It also temporarily flooded the Artesian well that has served Penguin Camp and Faloma with pristine water for over 70 years.

Those beaver dams have long been rebuilt, and it is a charming walk up to one of them along Partridge’s Creek, starting from the pipeline.

hamilton creekYou can also walk into one of the beaver ponds from the South Whiteshell Trail, starting by the bench dedicated to Israel Asper by his family, just past the red pine plantation east of Faloma.

The red pines were planted by forestry in 1959 for the purpose of harvesting their cones. Since the South Whiteshell Trail was built (in about 1990 or so), it is one of the favourite parts of the trails. It is fascinating to see those big pine trees planted in rows like corn.

red pine rows There are actually two creeks that enter Falcon Lake at Faloma. The larger one, Hamilton Creek, drains Edgar Lake and Barren Lake and enter Falcon under PR 301. It is a spawning ground for walleye and northern pike. In fact, for many years the Whiteshell Fish Hatchery set up operations at the outflow of that creek at Faloma to catch and milk walleye for their eggs. Not surprisingly, the mouth of Hamilton Creek in front of Faloma is a favourite fishing spot on opening day. Pictured below is Cody Southam, one of the mechanics at Faloma with a master angler walleye.

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Again according to Olive Zimmerman’s book the name Faloma may come from the Cree word ‘potoma’, meaning ‘there you are’. Considering the good fishing here, Faloma must have often been a campsite for First Nations Peoples.

Faloma is also a nesting site for loons, although the foxes often get the babies. The photo below was taken at Faloma.

loonIf you walk up Hamilton creek in early spring, it is a wonder to behold the hundreds of thrashing spawning fish trying to get upstream. Sometimes they are working their way between and under ice that has not yet melted in the shade.

Across from Faloma is the Falcon Lake Yacht Club, in operation since 1963. This year was the 50th anniversary of the club. The Yacht Club offers a learn-to-sail program and this year also offered a learn-to-canoe program. It is a lovely sight to see colourful sails dotting Falcon Lake on a race day, and there is a grand lookout to view it at the clubhouse.

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Story and photos by Theresa Young, owner.

For more information on Faloma Beach Marina or to inquire on hours and services, call 1(204)-349-8922.

  

Tales From the Whiteshell

Question: What do you get when you put three talented musicians in a beautiful and inspiring place for a significant amount of time?

Answer: An album called Tales From the Whiteshell by Red Moon Road.

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Daniel Jordan, Sheena Rattai and Daniel Peloquin-Hopfner are the three musical geniuses behind Red Moon Road, and after spending much time in the Whiteshell, it was obvious that an album about the Whiteshell would soon be born.

“Daniel and I recorded some of RMR’s first songs out there (Whiteshell) and always thought of doing it officially in the future,” said Jordan. “When studio blues or frustrations rear their ugly heads, there is nothing like towering jack pines, blue water and soaring eagles to make everyone chill out.”

Tales From the Whiteshell was recorded at High Lake in the Falcon Trails Resort eco-cabins last March. The solitude of being tucked away peaceful in the High Lake cabins made it the perfect place for the band to produce a musical masterpiece.

“It provided a natural rhythm to the proceedings,” said Jordan.  “We woke up each morning, chopped wood to keep warm and heat the coffee.  Sheena got really good at chopping through the ice for water.  We would record all day until the solar power ran out shortly after dark, and then woke up bright and early each day to do it all again.  It’s great that no one’s cell phone really works out there, yet we were able to hook up enough Internet to send finished tracks to our producers in Winnipeg, and a fiddle player in Victoria.”

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The songs on Tales From the Whiteshell were all inspired by certain things from the lake. Halfway to Juniper is described as a sprawling instrumental about the journey out to ‘Juniper’, one of the cabins at High Lake (High Lake cabins are isolated and not accessible by road).

“Lots of ups and downs, dips followed by exhilarating crazy ascents on rocky cliffs, always weaving in and out of the towering pines, and sometimes, you even need a push or two,” described Jordan. “We feel the song truly captures the ever increasing excitement of the journey out to Juniper.”

Even some of the Whiteshell wildlife was an inspiration to Red Moon Road.

Mighty Glad You Came was something I heard from a little bird. Literally. Anyone who has ever been to the Whiteshell has heard the song of the white-throated sparrow,” said Jordan. “As this song is on constant repeat from about 6:30 a.m. till sunset during the summer.”

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One song on Tales From the Whiteshell is dedicated to a local business owner in the Whiteshell, who has provided great hospitality to the band.

“The song Craig’s Reel is even more tangibly tied to the region, being the romanticized biography of Craig Christie, the patriarch owner of Falcon Trails Resort,” said Jordan. “The Christie-Hamilton family (owners of Falcon Trails Resort) have been really kind to us, sharing their amazing way of life so generously, and Craig in particular seems completely at home in these woods and also happened to present a great song subject. The first verse goes like this:

The cold wind blows in the wintertime
The axe blade cuts a perfect line
The ski trail weaves through the towering pines
And the tall tales grow with the deepening snow

While Red Moon Road has travelled all over Canada, they still feel that no place compares to the Whiteshell Provincial Park.

“The country is full of beauty of 1,000 sorts,” said Jordan. “But there is something about wind scattering the sun on a pristine lake, blurring the reflections of the pine and carrying the scent of myriad of lake life that is pretty unbeatable.”

For more information on Red Moon Road, check them out here http://www.redmoonroad.com

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Day Tripper

Freelance videographer and Creative Communications advertising student Stefanie Cutrona shares why a few day trips to Falcon Lake this summer have her calling Falcon, ‘the happiest place in Manitoba’.

Story and photos by Stefanie Cutrona.

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Up until this summer, I could count on my fingers how many times I’d been to the lake. My family doesn’t have a cottage anywhere and I wasn’t friends with people who did either, so I never had a reason to go. But this summer, I visited Falcon Lake in the Whiteshell for the first time (and several times after) and it’s become one of my favourite places to spend my down time when it’s hot out.

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On a good day, it’s only an hour and a half drive, perfect for a day trip. You’re far enough away from the city to feel like you’ve actually gone somewhere, but you don’t feel obligated to stay the night because you haven’t spent half the day driving there. What I love about Falcon is, while it’s a lake, it’s also a town with stores and places to eat and you don’t feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. The beach is lovely: you can actually lay in the sand and go swimming without having to step on gravel and rocks. No offence to Gimli: your town is great, but your beach hurts my feet.

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Once you’ve decided you’ve gotten enough sun, you can head to one of the golf courses (regular and mini!) or grab a bite at one of the restaurants or food stands. Our go-to place for dinner is Popeye’s – they have the best thin crust pizza you’ll ever have. Last time my boyfriend and I went, we took our pizza to this little spot with picnic benches and ate our dinner right in front of the lake. It doesn’t get much better than that.

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Spending my days at Falcon Lake was definitely my favourite part of summer break. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend you go and check it out.

Stefanie Cutrona is an advertising major in the Creative Communications program at Red River College and the founder and videographer of Little Bird Films. Check her out here: http://stefspeaks.com/ or follow her on Twitter, @stefspeaks.

Hiking Hunt Lake

Milder temperatures and beautiful changing colours make fall one of the best times for hiking and exploring the scenic trails in the Whiteshell. The Hunt Lake Trail is definitely a ‘must-do’ in the Southeast Whiteshell.

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The Hunt Lake Trail is a 12.6-kilometre trail that heads north to Indian Bay along the shores of West Hawk Lake and Hunt Lake. The trail takes around three hours to reach the end, but is a great hike whether you’re out for a woodland workout or just want to find a quiet place to sit back and take it all in. The trail begins at the end of Highway 44, past the West Hawk townsite.

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The beautiful trail weaves along shorelines, through tall pine and cedar trees, low valleys and even to the top of a few of West Hawk’s tall rock cliffs with a beautiful view of the lake. This trail is usually great for sunset photos to boot.

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For more information on hiking the Hunt Lake Trail, be sure to stop by the West Hawk parks office or the Manitoba Information Centre on the Manitoba-Ontario border.

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– Photos by Marney Blunt

Wilflife of the Month: The Loon

There’s nothing that says lake living more than the lonely call of a loon on a glass calm evening. With summer nearing an end, there won’t be much longer that we will be able to hear that beautiful sound. Which is why we are featuring wildlife photographer Anne Klassen’s stunning loon images in our ‘Wildlife of the Month’ feature:

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