Ordinarily, I would recommend a walk down the frozen surface of Omand’s Creek, the perfect antidote for these COVID-19 days of uncertainty and social-distancing. At its mid-winter best, this is a walk with some risk—crawling on ice through a steel conduit, for example—but spring is closing in, temperatures are rising and water can already be seen flowing over deteriorating ice. A walk is all but impossible till next winter.
In its place, I offer a self-isolating, fireside-and-scotch alternative: my just-published On Omand’s Creek, the eighth in the Ways To Walk series of small softcover books.
Winnipeg is blessed with frigid winters. Its rivers and creeks freeze over every year, without fail, becoming seasonal sidewalks, opportunities to revisit the city from unique perspectives. Of all those frozen waterways, Omand’s Creek is arguably the most tortured, most compromised. Yet there is an aching beauty to be seen from its white banks. On Omand’s Creek is the story in words and pictures of my trek up this iced-over creek, from its mouth at the Assiniboine River and stretching north to Brookside Cemetery.
On Omand’s Creek and the other Ways To Walk books can be previewed (in full) and/or purchased at my Blurb Bookstore. Continue reading
Winter. It is ending.
Just yesterday, walking down the riverside walk, as it passes through the The Forks, I found this sad reminder that winter is passing its baton onto spring. Trapped in the exchange are these few remaining blocks of bluish ice set on a barely frozen Assiniboine River.
Just last week, I walked comfortably around these blocks, down a river-top path at the centre of the river. In February I likely sat on one of these blocks. Then, they were furniture set out at the centre of a winter palace. Continue reading
As seen while walking along Portage Avenue on a brisk winter day.
Waiting for Spring, Munson Park, Winnipeg.
I call it my Assiniboine Park Loop, a good 10-kilometre walk from my Wolseley neighbourhood home, down the river trails lining the south bank of Assiniboine River, through Assiniboine Park, its English and Leo Mol Sculpture Gardens and then back home on the north side of the river, following the quiet residential streets of St. James. Along that return loop, I pass by Bourkevale Community Centre with its leash-free dog park on the river side and outdoor ice rink on the other.
This is that rink, a sleek surface of manicured ice waiting for a game of hockey. Its sole occupant on this sunny afternoon is a lone, broken chair that somehow escaped from its home in the community centre hall and ended up here, in this improbable winter scene.
How many times have I walked this same loop over the seasons and years, seeing the same things every time? Yet there always seems to be a red chair waiting to be discovered, the gift of a good walk.
The ninth of a series of jaunts in the key of white. This week: the second half of a walk on Omand’s Creek from the Assiniboine River to Brookside Cemetery.
Passing through the concrete conduit beneath the Sargent Street bridge marks something of a transition point for the frozen Omand’s Creek. Behind me, the landscape has been commercial with big box stores, parking lots, hotels and busy roads lining the straight-jacket course of the creek as it makes its way south to the Assiniboine River. Ahead is all industrial. And my passage upstream this warmish winter afternoon all the more challenging. Continue reading
The eighth of a series of jaunts in the key of white. This week: the first half of a walk on Omand’s Creek from the Assiniboine River to Brookside Cemetery.
I stand at the mouth of Omand’s Creek. Behind me, the broad Assiniboine River surges by on its way to meet the Red River, just a few kilometres to the east. Ahead is the diminutive Omand’s Creek, my frozen path for the next six-plus kilometres.
It is late February and winter still holds a tight grip on the land. The waters of both the Assiniboine and Omand’s Creek are solid ice and walkable. A thin layer of snow blankets their flat surfaces and the surrounding landscape of bare tree limbs and dead bullrushes. It is a comfortably warm day under the clear prairie sky. The temperature hovers just below freezing. The sun warms the back of my dark parka. Perfect conditions for a walk along one of Winnipeg’s most under-appreciated waterways. Continue reading
The sixth of a series of jaunts in the key of white. This week: part two of a January 26, 2018 walk along Winnipeg’s Assiniboine and Red Rivers.
As I approach the Osborne Street Bridge, a form slowly reveals itself below the bridge’s concrete arches.
The first of the warming huts.
The warming huts are the latest iteration of our city’s on-again, off-again romance with our frozen rivers. In past, ski hills have thrust their avid adventurers from high above the river’s eroding banks down to the Assiniboine’s icy surface. So too have tobogganers been sent gleefully on near-death thrill rides from the heights of wood platforms down to the frozen Red River. Continue reading
The fifth of a series of jaunts in the key of white. This week: part one of a January 26, 2018 walk along Winnipeg’s Assiniboine and Red Rivers.
Is it a gift offered up by nature? Or is it nature conspiring against the city? These are questions that come and go from my mind as I make my way down nature’s highway, along the frozen surface of the Assiniboine River and, later in the day, the mighty Red. Continue reading