I don’t know if you know the motto that is displayed on the Manitoba license plates but I’ve driven behind several in the past few days, and it says “Friendly Manitoba.” I am here to confirm that the “Friendly Manitoba” holds true.
The folks that I ran into in Manitoba weren’t always from there, but the province’s motto must rub off on people that are on their turf, because every single person I encountered was beyond friendly.
Here’s how things went down for us in Manitoba…
For one, our Hundredth Meridian dance party was a smash! When we drove up to Riding Mountain National Park gate, I was relieved when they told us that they had sites available because we didn’t have anything reserved. We were given the choice of several sites. I drove around the park to check out what they had available and found that two of the sites were so severely overgrown that I would have a hard time putting the tent up, and we’d be bush whacking on our site. The other option had a serious incline to it, but we were grateful that they had anything at all, so we booked 2 nights.
The site wasn’t ideal, in that I would find the kids in a pile at the door of the tent, because they slid down through the night. However, we found the park to be spectacular, an obvious gem, with so many fun things to do.
When we parked the car, Ben made instant friends with kids at a site opposite to ours. Turns out, they also had a Ben, who was the same age. Of course the Bens hit it off. And though the family was from Saskatchewan, and I’m certain, friendly without having to be influenced by Manitoba, it was simply fitting that there we were in the Tobe!
The next day, we decided to go for a walk along the prairie marshes on the Ominnik trail. As I was getting us ready, it must have been obvious that I had my hands full, because two campers next to us came by to chat with me, and they kindly offered to bring milk or ice back from town if I didn’t want to mobilize my crew. Whaaaat? That’s right! More “Friendly Manitoba” going around. We got chatting and they offered me a local Manitoba beer from Neepawa. We chit chatted about other camping in Manitoba and in the Lake of the Woods area of Ontario, a spot that was on my radar (Thank you Basia and Kelly).
But seriously? Beer, campground tips, and offers to run into town for me!
We wrapped up our conversation and the kids and I headed out to do our walk and guess who we ran into?!
Our friends from across the way!
And what can possibly be more enjoyable than fishing leeches with your newest pal? Under different circumstances, the hike would’ve been much quicker, but I relished in the new found friendships. My kids didn’t have any nets but these friendly little ones shared what they had and were so very kind to include us on their family’s nature walk. Was it luck to have such great kids camped across the campground from us and then to also see them on the trail?!
Or was it…“Friendly Manitoba”?
After listening to the older girls squeal at the sight of the leeches and coaxing the Bens to release them, we managed to eventually get the troops off the boardwalk and onto the next thing. We parted ways with our friendly new pals and decided to van hike up to the Bison enclosure to see if we could spot some of the magnificent animals. It took awhile but eventually two showed up on the road ahead and we got to see the stunning animals before they made their way back into the bush.
As we headed back to our campsite, we found a picnic area without another soul around. A perfect place for dinner since Black Betty was packing everything we needed for dinner and swimming. It was a serene view of Clear Lake and we had it all to ourselves. Amazing.
We got back to our site late and tired from our fun filled day.
The next day we decided to pedal into town, explore the town’s little strip, go for lunch, and check out the visitor’s center. Just as we were gearing up, two young girls from a couple sites down, came over with an armload of wood. They dropped them by the fire pit and said, “We’re leaving today and we bought all this firewood and you look like you might have a fire. We also have bubbles if the kids want them.”
Holy moly, that was friendly. And still in Manitoba!
We were having such a wonderful time in this park, surrounded by so many nice people that I didn’t want to start thinking about packing up to leave the next day. So on our ride out of the campground, I stopped at the park gate to see about staying an extra night. Fortunately, “Friendly Manitoba” was working the gate and arranged for us to have the site for an added night.
The next day we explored the park further. We drove out to Brule Trail to do some Geocaching. The Geocaches were placed about 300m apart, which was perfect to keep the kids engaged. The trail was an easy trail without any marked elevation. The only problem was the non-stop swarming mosquitoes and the bug spray that was still in the car. I was on the trail by myself with the kids, frantically swiping at the little buggers, and looking for geocaches, when a couple caught up to us. They chatted with us and we both commented on the bugs. They wished me luck with the geocaches and started on their way. But a few meters down the trail, they turned around and offered us bug spray.
I mean, really?
How nice was that?
Now I’m fully convinced that this “Friendly Manitoba” thing is contagious. I doused the kids with the bug spray and our last few caches were so much more pleasant.
That’s not it. After geocaching we went to the wishing well and we met another couple that we had seen on the trail as well. They kindly offered to take pictures of the kids and I by the van, which I thought was extremely nice given that most of our shots are selfies.
And so, I am here to attest to the fact, that it is without a doubt, “Friendly Manitoba” comes by it honestly.
And watch out, it’s contagious!
FYI: I would love to include more of our great photos of the Riding Mountain National Park Area but access to service is very spotty and extremely slow to upload. I will have to compile some pictures when we get back to Calgary. If you follow my Instagram or Facebook Page, you will be able to get some extra pictures.
Stay Friendly Manitoba!