Spirit Sands

23 May 2010

Have you ever been to a place where you are told to take water with you? Nowadays, if you fly, you cannot even take more than a sip with you (at least not more than 100ml). When you think of Canada and more of Manitoba specifically, you don’t think there are places where you need water and cannot get it. There is a place in a park (!) where this is the case.

Water unfit for immediate consumption Water unfit for immediate consumption

The only available water at the entrance of the park is this… Not recommended for immediate consumption. Welcome to the Spirit Sands in Sprucewoods Provincial Park, Manitoba. The only place that would qualify for the name of desert in Canada.

So, we went there, without water. After all it was a rather cloudy day, this May Long Weekend Saturday. No problems, we thought. I guess we were lucky. I cannot imagine the way we would have looked or perhaps survived this place on a normal (+34C) day here without water.

The park is located about 30km from Carberry, MB. There are washroom facilities and shelters. But no water. Sprucewoods Provincial Park has many “sub-parks”. The Spirit Sands is one of them. It is also a place of Aboriginal Worship and Reverence. The aboriginals that came to this place stood at its border contemplating it a long time before entering. I wonder(ed) why.

At first you are welcomed by lush green trees (at least in summer) and heavy scents from the flowers.

Green all over Green all over

The shrubs and trees all love the sandy ground. The trail provided is only for pedestrians, no way to get there by bike or on horseback. Both of them would be disastrous for this ecosystem.

Heavy scented shrubs and trees. Heavy scented shrubs and trees.

As you can see, the sky was overcast, no shadows here. The scents are somewhat “magical” for people who are used to living in a city. Of course if you live in a forest you may be used to that. The smell reminded me of forests in the north of Holland, when I was a boy.

More green More green

Colours here are natural, not cranked up in Photoshop. Also you may notice the wet sand, it had been raining before we arrived.

So, after having walked for about 20 minutes, we started to think about what we were supposed to encounter here. I had no idea. Spirit Sands is supposed to be arid and void, nothing like the environment we were in. I started to think we were in the wrong place, or perhaps, hadn’t read the description of the area well enough. Who knows, I’m only a foreigner…

Little by little the landscape changes Little by little the landscape changes

Then, little by little the vegetation changes and we get a more open view of the area. Indeed, it looks dry and sandy. Was this what we had come for? Until now I didn’t see the need of taking water with me.

New shoots New shoots, can you spot the water drops?

As long as the vegetation can show itself as green as this, there is no need to worry, water enough, right? Wrong.

The next bend in the trail presented us with a little ladder. We were strongly invited (Forbidden to do otherwise) to use it.

Little ladder Little ladder

Ok, a little stairway, and there we go. I just forgot that today was a heavily overcast day, no sunshine, but a nice 22C anyway. Going up stairs like these I always look back to see the landscape I am just leaving. So, with my back to what was coming I just snapped this picture.

Still green Still green

Next, a few more stairs, I will spare you the details. But on top of these stairs… What is there to see, I was not prepared for it.

The environment changes from lush green to arid and sandy.

Sandy Sandy, yes

Ok, not that arid, the Sahara will be worse I suppose. We are in Canada after all, if there were a big desert here, I would have been taught in school, about a thousand years ago.

Walking down the stairs on the other side of this sand hill, we came through the last of the trees, no more to be seen later.

The last of the trees for a while The last of the trees for a while

From here on, the landscape really changes. Ok, we have walked only for about 2km out of 6 total…

So, what is next?

To be continued