Sunday, July 21, 2013

Trans Canada Trail, Winnipeg-Part 7-The Forks to St Boniface to Esplanade

Distance: 9.7 km

The Forks, St Boniface, Esplanade
This walk started where we left off last week - at the Forks. We did our usual going to the end point at McDermot Avenue and Rorie Street and driving back to the Forks. That was a short ride today.

We started off at the atrium at the Forks and made our way over the footbridge to the Norwood Bridge which we crossed to St Boniface. St Boniface has the largest French speaking community in Canada outside of Quebec. It used to be a city on its own until it amalgamated with Winnipeg in 1971.

We walked North along the trail behind the St Boniface Hospital to Tache Avenue which runs right in front of the St Boniface Cathedral, the Cathedral Cemetery, The St Boniface Museum. This is a highly significant historic area of Winnipeg which I have visited a few times. I always love to look at the cathedral. We passed the College Universitaire de St. Boniface where one of two statues of Louis Riel stands. The other statue of Louis Riel is located on the grounds of the Legislative Building. The university is the oldest in Western Canada and still remains as the only French speaking one in Western Canada.

We walked past École Provencher where Sharm used to teach. It's over 100 years old and I recall when they were celebrating the 100th anniversary, I went and helped to construct a quilt for the occasion. One alumni is Gabrielle Roy who is a famous French Canadian author who used to teach at the school in 1936. We walked along to Rue Des Meurons and south to Rue Deschambault where we passed the Gabrielle Roy Museum. We walked to the end of the street and joined the Seine River Greenway which runs right alongside the Seine River.  The path here is a bit tricky because it goes along a chain link fence and then you have to go down a few steps to join the trail which runs under a small train bridge crossing the Seine. The path is a bit secluded so you may want to use some caution when walking alone.

The path connects to Provencher Blvd so we made a pit stop at the donut shop. Then it was East to Rue Nadeau then cross the street to head to the trail which is immediately left as you cross. This is the part that got complicated. This trail as with most of the others is not clearly marked so the natural progression is to go onto Notre Dame Street and keep heading north. NOT SO! We did that and ended up on in some very tall grass which was really a trail turned into a foot path before we realized that we may have missed a turn somewhere. We decided to backtrack but since we didn't know how far back we had made the wrong turn, we pulled out my map and Sharm's GPS to check.  Her GPS showed a trail on the south side of the railway tracks but from my map, we should have been on the North side of the railway track. We were on the south side.

We started walking back and saw a trail heading north that we decided to take but that soon turned to nothing. We kept backtracking South until we came to another trail heading North so we decided to try that one. Luck! The trail led to a 20 foot high escarpment for the railway tracks which we decided to climb, figuring that if a path led to the top of the railway tracks, there must be one going down the other side. We up we climbed on very loose soil. Not a great climb for two non-experts at climbing. Hurrah! We made to the top ... only to discover that there was no path leading down to the other side from there. We could clearly see the trail we should have been on but it was about 30 feet higher below us.

So making the best of a bad situation, we decided to head East along the railway tracks hoping to find a trail on the north side of the escarpment. We were laughing as we tried to figure out where we may have missed the path. Sharm said she was having a Déjà vu moment straight out of the movie Stand By Me when the teenagers were walking along the railway tracks and a train came descending on them. I was walking ahead of her as she was standing on the tracks checking her GPS. I turned around to hear what she was saying and said" Sharm a train is coming" She stood checking her GPS, hearing what I said but not really listening. I repeated: Sharm there is a train coming." Still no response. I then shouted" SHARM, A TRAIN IS COMING!" She turned around and shouted" OH MY GOD! A TRAIN IS COMING! and then proceeded to boot it off the tracks. She thought I was joking. I thought she was crazy.

Fortunately there were two tracks and we moved to the other one out of the way of the train. Sharm said that it was only a small train but I am not sure if it would make any difference if a train with 10 carriages hit you versus a train with 100 carriages. Anyway we had a good laugh and continued walking east, checking the map and the GPS. We got to a bridge and low and behold, there was a track going down the north side but unless we planned to rappel down the almost vertical drop of the escarpment clinging to tree roots, that was not going to work. We crossed the bridge over the trial we needed to get to and realized that we were now on the east side of the Seine River which is not where we wanted to be.

So we backtracked a few metres and I looked over the south side of the bridge and there was a trial right along the south side of the bridge, hugging the bridge structure. It was a bit steep but I thought if we were careful, we'd be able to use it to get down below. So off we went climbing over the railing and got to the path. It was indeed steep and slightly overgrown but that was a good thing because the tree branches gave us something to hold onto as we went down - VERY carefully!. We made it half way down to the part with loose gravel and slightly more steep. I held on to a branch and used my pole to stabilize me. Sharm found a good sized stick - the original walking pole I suppose - and we got down safely to the gravel trail. A welcome relief for both of us. We started laughing at our jungle moves of practically swinging from the trees. It was an experience. The lesson? We could have turned back and found the missed turn off but what would I have to write about?

We made it back to Whittier park and to Fort Gibraltar and over Esplanade Riel to Waterfront Drive and back to McDermot Avenue. We only walk through part of the French Quarter which is really French and not in name only but there are some wonderful restaurants and historical sites in the area. This walk was one of the most historical ones we have done so far and it makes me appreciate the hidden beauty of Winnipeg.

All in all, an excellent day and my Sunday adventure.


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