Sprucewoods Provincial Park, southwest of Portage la Prairie, presents a quiet, unassuming face to the casual visitor. Unlike most of the landscape along the Trans-Canada highway, the land around Sprucewoods park is gently rolling. Not as dramatic as the Pembina Hills, but definitely not the perfect flat view a little further north. But the magic is not in the hills, but in the diversity.
I stayed, for the second year, in a yurt, with two long-time friends. We all like the quiet of the wilderness, hiking and great food. Staying in a yurt and a little imagination makes great food easy. It helps that we are all good cooks, though we don’t love it equally. We are equal in our love of food, however, and isn’t camping all about food in the end?
But it’s not the food that makes Sprucewood stand out. That falls to the diversity of the landscape within the park borders. The Spirit Sands trail is a must-do, though we sincerely regretted spending so long gabbing over breakfast. We ended up on the trail at the hottest part of a hot day, and that is not recommended. The trail is not especially long, at about 6km, but there is plenty of up and down, and the sand is hard to walk on in places.
However, the relentless heat that can reflect off the dunes makes it a challenge. A warning if you are out with a dog: I have done plenty of hiking with Kenna, and some of that walking has been in hot weather. But I have never had her in soft sand on a hot day, and having her while we walked in those conditions turned out to be a serious mistake. We were about halfway when Kenna started refusing to go on. One of my friends thought maybe her feet were hot, and poured water on her paws. Sure enough, she would walk a bit further. Trouble was, we were right in the middle of the sand, and there was no shade.
I have great friends. We came to a shelter, and Kenna and I stayed put, while the other two went ahead to a water pump to replenish our supply. That let us keep her feet cooled enough to get off the sand. Actually, we didn’t need to get off the sand completely, just the soft sand, which we would understand later.
We made it back to the cars without further incident, but back in camp, we discovered that Kenna’s feet were burned. Not the pads, which we had been checking, but the part that would be the palm of a person’s hand. It was red, and hot and swollen on both front paws. Kenna is not the bravest of creatures, but she has a good reason for not wanting to walk.
Both of my friends are good with natural remedies, and one had gathered some plantain along the trail. That made a great poultice for Kenna’s feet. It must have felt good, because she did not try to remove the socks we used to protect her paws. The next day, her paws were looking almost normal. We rinsed her feet with plantain tea a few times the next day. Luckily, she was back to normal, with no harm done. Lesson learned though. If we are going to be in hot sand, I will carry her little boots with me.
The sands trail was open sand dunes. Another day, we were on a trail that was almost completely covered with trees. Also up and down, but hard-packed path, this trail led to gorgeous overlooks. One of my friends carries a tin whistle with her, and we were treated to a couple of tunes at the top of the trail. It’s hard to explain how special that sounds in a wilderness setting.
The wildflowers were amazing on all of the trails. We’ve had a steady, and mostly moderate amount of water this year. That may explain the quality and quantity of the flowers.
We were in the park for nearly a week. I will have another installment from a walk I did in a nearby town. Fascinating area.