Saturday, July 16, 2011

Steep Rock

Having recovered from a hectic weekend of back-to-back tours, I was back on the road once again on Thursday bound for Steep Rock.

First of all, where is Steep Rock, you ask. I hadn’t heard of it before booking the tour either, but here’s the routes we took going there and back.

Yes, it’s a long way to go.

We left bright and early and headed north on PTH 7 past Stony Mountain to PTH 67 to pick up Lynn, our second tour guide, who lives in Clandeboye and had a lot of good information on the Interlake that she shared with us.

With all passengers and crew loaded, we went west through Stonewall and arrived at PTH 6 south of Warren.

This is the junction of PTH 67 and PTH 6, showing the CN railway crossing used by the Prairie Dog Central that runs on weekends during the summer months between Inkster Junction and Grosse Isle and Warren. I’ve never been on the Prairie Dog Central, but I’m hoping to make it this summer.

Turning north on PTH 6, we proceeded around Warren and then to Woodlands.

Actually, this isn’t Woodlands, it’s “WOODLANDS”. Most signs in Manitoba announcing names of towns and cities are in mixed case, but along this route, they were almost all in upper case. When I saw this and all the other town signs that were in upper case, I couldn’t help but think of a former colleague who achieved infamy by writing all her e-mails IN UPPER CASE. Part of PTH 6 is designated as part of the Northern Woods and Water Route, but it should have been given a commemorative designation in honor of my former colleague. I won’t name her publicly, but some of you reading this know who I’m talking about.

Our first break came just south of St. Laurent, or more correctly, ST. LAURENT, at the M.T.T. Service Station. It was on the itinerary, yet no one seemed to know where it was, and we didn’t spot it until it was in the bus’s rear view mirror, forcing Peter, our bus driver, to put on the brakes and back up. PTH 6 is a narrow, two-lane cow trail that doesn’t have any room for manoeuvre for a large bus.

After the break, we continued north and reached Eriksdale.

As the signs say, “ERIKSDALE” Welcomes You.

Continuing north, we turned west at the northern junction of PTH 68 and headed for the Narrows and the Narrows West Lodge for lunch.

The route to the Narrows was probably the most scenic part of the drive.

As we neared Lake Manitoba, signs of flooding were everywhere as stone dikes lined the highway in two different places.

Having reached the Narrows, we disembarked and headed inside the Narrows West Lodge.

Before and after the meal, I got a number of pictures around the area.

If you ever wondered about the origin of the name “Manitoba”, there is a plaque near the bridge that gives the explanation.

A member of the “Icelandic Air Force” in flight. On our way, Lynn told us the pelicans carried that unofficial moniker in the Interlake.

This is supposed to be a beach, unfortunately swallowed by the flood waters and an earth dike.

The bridge over the narrows.

The remains of the campground on the north side of the highway.

After the break, it was back on the road and we took PR 325 to Ashern, one of the few towns that didn’t have its sign in upper case. Heading north, the upper case sign trend continued as we passed MOOSEHORN.

Soon after passing Grahamdale, we turned west on PR 239 to head for Steep Rock. The highway, however, was in horrible condition and Peter spent the entire 20 km route artfully dodging a number of large holes. Fortunately, traffic was light and crews were working on the highway.

After one of the many craters we had gone through, I made the remark to Peter that I thought Steep Rock was by the water, not in the middle of the highway.

Having reached our destination with all passengers and the bus in working order, we disembarked for an hour at Steep Rock, a small community nestled along Lake Manitoba and another of the towns whose sign was ALL IN UPPER CASE. No homes appeared to be threatened by the high water level, but as soon as we got off the bus, we saw what was supposed to be a boat dock.

On the way in, I saw a little park with a train engine, so I made a side trip back to the park before rejoining the group along the cliffs.

There was also a nice mural alongside a building.

The community even has its own church.

Along the water’s edge, the town’s major attraction is the scenic cliffs along the shoreline, and I got a number of pictures.

The cliffs were nice, but I was a little disappointed as I headed back towards the bus. After spending all that time to get out there, I was expecting a little more. If you’re in the area and want to visit, it’s something I would recommend, but I wouldn’t recommend making a special trip from Winnipeg.

The refreshment/kayak rental stand opened for us, though no one from the tour rented a boat to explore the cliffs in more detail. At right were the primitive washrooms that I used. I was thankful that I brought hand sanitizer along.

Having seen all of STEEP ROCK, it was time to get back on the bus and head back down the highway that was as rocky as any of the cliffs we saw. Again, Peter got us and the bus through the minefield of cracks and craters and back to PTH 6. From there, it was south to ERIKSDALE and east along PTH 68 towards Poplarfield.

This highway, in sharp contrast to some of the roads we were on, was smooth about 99% of the time with the exception of the large bumps when we reached a culvert. The person seated to my left was snoring and the thrill ride we experienced at these culverts woke her up each time.

We turned south on PTH 17 and passed by the entrance to the Narcisse Snake Dens on the way to our next stop, the Inwood Golf and Country Club. On the way, I noticed that this highway had received some much-needed attention. The last time I had been up that way, it was almost as bad as PR 239 on the way to Steep Rock.

The highlight of this stop for me was seeing a goalie stick on the wall signed by Joe Daley, the greatest goaltender in Jets history. There was little else there besides the opportunity to get out and stretch my legs and wait in line for the washroom. Choices for stops around this area are obviously in short supply.

After the stop, it was time to return home. We dropped Lynn off at PTH 67 and the rest of us proceeded south into Winnipeg. I got off the bus downtown and had a miserable experience on the final leg of my journey with a busload of intoxicated adolescent punks headed for Manitoba Taxpayers Stadium, the province’s largest saloon, to watch semi-professional football players consume our tax dollars.

The rest of the trip, despite expecting more from Steep Rock, was enjoyable and, as always, I collected several hundred photos that will be ending up on over the coming months.

My thanks to Peter, our bus driver, for getting us there and back safely, particularly with some of the bad highways we travelled on. It was my fourth trip with Peter and I was pleased to see him in a much sunnier disposition than the last time I had a trip with him. Thanks also to Lynn, who added value to the tour with her knowledge of the places we passed through and to Roswitha, our tour guide once again, whom I’ve travelled with for the sixth time and third time in less than a week.

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