Once per summer I like to get myself to Hecla Island.
At the very northern tip of the island is a cliff. It seems to be a power spot for me.
A 5m cliff face exposes a portion of the Precambrian Shield which shows the 400 million-year sequence of events that formed this eastern edge of sedimentary rocks that underlie the plains of southwestern Manitoba. (I sort of paraphrased that from the park brochure.)
It’s also one of the few places where I can find crinoids.
Crinoids are marine animals stem parts which are found in limestone, millions of years old. They sort of look like coral.
(Fossilized crinoid columnal segments extracted from limestone quarried on Lindisfarne, UK, or found washed up along the ocean, were threaded into necklaces or rosaries, and became known as St. Cuthbert’s beads.) Just so you know.
This year they added a new observation tower to the Hecla Island North Point.
Away in the distance is a lighthouse on the tip of the spit. The original Gull Harbour Lighthouse was built in 1898, the present one in 1926.
And wind, lots of wind. Especially at the tip. We always stand on the same rock and put our arms up in the wind. The wind is nice because it keeps you cool in the hot sun.
And that’s where the pelicans feed.
On either side of the spit are rocks. Lots of rocks. Pushed up by the ice.
And everyone who knows me, knows that I’m addicted to collecting rocks.
But not just any rocks. Hecla is known for a certain type of fossilized shells. Only found here.
This is my entire lifetime collection.
Wow, are they hard to find. I can only manage to find about one per year. I think that I have a good chance at harvesting because a new crop should certainly come up every summer because of the pushing of the ice.
The seeking is a challenge. They are so utterly illusive. Like a needle in a haystack. I just stare and stare, thinking that my next step will be the jackpot. Sometimes I just pretend not to be searching and just let the Creator place one right at my foot, which never happens. Sometimes I think that if I kick a few over there might be one hiding. Piles and piles of rocks, there’s gotta be one spiral somewhere!
If I find one I do my little happy dance.
And the rocks and waves inspire me to do stuff like this….
Hecla Island Provincial Park has never disappointed me. Bald eagles, beavers, snakes, foxes, I have seen all of these on different trips.
I can’t really put my finger on why Hecla works its magic on me. It’s just that when I get on my bicycle there, each metre I go, I feel a little penny going into my love bank. And I feel refueled.
Today I saw a snake. A lowly garter snake along a bike trail and I was so glad to see it because we were in the garter snake capital of the world. Yes, Narcisse, Manitoba can boast that.
At the Narcisse Snake Pits, 6 km north of Narcisse, thousands of red-sided garter snakes emerge from the limestone sinkholes and tangle in a mating ritual during late April and early May.
I’m never around that time of year to see the roiling and tangling.
We cycled about 20km of a trail which runs through Narcisse. The Interlake Pioneer Trail (IPT), formerly known as the Prime Meridian Trail, was once a rail line running through the Interlake region.
Now, it’s 106km of trail running from just outside of Winnipeg all the way to Fisher Branch. It’s mostly used for ATVers and snowmobilers. But we were wanting a little adventure on our bikes.
So we set out to get to Narcisse which was a half hour drive away. I didn’t notice on the map that over half that was a gravel road! So when we arrived in the hamlet, our bikes, located on the rear bike rack of the car, already had a thick layer of dust!
The trail’s name, Prime Meridian, comes from the fact that it is located near the geographical centre of Canada. And you guessed, being an old rail bed, it was flat and STRAIGHT!
Now I am a prairie girl, but there are parts of the Manitoba which really have little appeal for me. Get about 10 km west of Lake Winnipeg and I’m saying to myself, ‘how did the pioneers ever survive here.”
I guess you have to get out of the car and get slow.
I believe the website which touted this trail as “extremely fun” was, exaggerating just a wee bit. “See over 300 species of native flowers, 170 species of birds, 31 species of mammals, 4 species of amphibians and 3 species of reptiles and in a quiet and pristine landscape little changed for centuries.” Now that part was partly true. It was quiet! I did see one reptile. And I did see the rare Indian Paintbrush, which I had not seen since I was a child at summer camp.
The wildflowers are tiny yet plentiful. That was the unexpected part. Bluebells (harebell), coneflowers, black-eyed susans, meadow blazing star, cut leaved anemone.Can you go anywhere in Canada without seeing the federal government’s propaganda signs! Trail improvements! Really?
Funnily enough I ended up collecting stray rail ties, which could really do a number on a bike tire.
*Addendum…. someone in our family HAS touched snakes, and a lot of them. Our son worked in the Interlake for Manitoba Housing Corp one summer. One of his duties was to crawl under the apartment complex in Inwood and clean out the dead garter snakes. Ranks right up there as probably the worst summer job ever!
I have this addiction, some might say obsession, with collecting stones. These specimens are stones with naturally occurring holes found on the beaches of Lake Winnipeg around Gimli, Manitoba, Canada.
Some call them crinoids but they are more likely to be gastropods. These ‘lucky stones’, which we locals lovingly call them, are imprints and “negatives” of gastropods or snails.
I wanted to know more about these fascinating stones so I sent some samples to “Ask-a-Geologist”. I got an identification from Jean Dougherty, Geological Survey of Canada.
“The most prominent feature of the gastropod is the spiral-shaped shell. These can vary considerably in shape from a low whorl to a high whorl. Now imagine that these gastropods (snails) have died. Over time, the soft body of the snail would have rotted away leaving only the shell. Then imagine the shells having been buried in sediments at the bottom of some sea. Over millions of years, more sediment builds up overtop of them, and presses them into sedimentary rocks (this process is called ‘diagenesis’). The shell also undergoes a chemical transformation in which it is mineralized, becoming a rock. Depending on the rock type containing the fossil, either the fossil could be weathered away, leaving a hollow space where the fossil once was, or the rock could get worn away leaving the fossil, or some combination of these two. In the case of your samples, the third process happened. The fossil eventually dissolved and disappeared, leaving rock, but some of the rock was weathered away also. Depending on the degree to which the rock was worn away, you are still left with some amount of the fossil’s structure still visible. The spiral shell of the gastropod turns around a central hollow tube which gets narrower as you get to the point of the spiral. That is why, in some of your samples, the hole is wider on one side of the rock than on the other side of the rock – they are what remains of that narrowing tube.”
Stones that have natural holes have always been considered mystical and sacred, with special healing properties, windows into the soul and doorways to other dimensions. These stones are reported to have extremely powerful magical properties, the most important of which is protection.
In 2011 I received a wonderful email from a woman in the United States:
“I am a camp counselor/ trip guide at a wilderness canoe camp based in Ely, Minnesota, and will be leading a month long trip in Woodland Caribou Park and down the Bloodvein River into Lake Winnipeg beginning in late July. I have been searching far and wide for something special to give to my three 16-17 year old campers to commemorate our adventure together this summer, and your necklaces seem perfect: they are relevant to the place we will be traveling, they are simple and naturally elegant, and I love the idea that they offer protection, as this will be my camper’s first experience with whitewater paddling.”
I designed 5 matching necklaces for them.
Apparently they are especially lucky when given to someone.
One has to be lucky to find these stones. The trick is to look for the hole, not the rock.See this post for more lucky stone confligrations.
On a very windy day Lake Winnipeg kicks up a significant surf. I wanted to record this in the background while I sang my invented words or ‘vocables’.