Travels Without Miranda, #6: Watching a Light Show in Manitoba

I can thank hurricane Katrina for my road trip around the Great Lakes in 2005. I had scheduled a tour of the southern US, including Savannah, Pensacola, and New Orleans, but two days before I was slated to depart, Katrina swept in and my plans for my first vacation in four years went down the toilet. Needless to say, I didn’t take it personally, but I could have acted like a petulant child and cancelled my vacation.

Instead, I took the few days I had to come up with another interesting road trip idea and off I went on a fantastic adventure that might not have been the one I’d planned and looked forward to, but which was special in its own way. I even managed to see in Minneapolis one thing that I had looked forward to seeing while I toured the south, the Mississippi River.

My tour around the Great Lakes was to be broken up with a several day stay in Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba. It was a city I had always wanted to visit, so ending up there instead of New Orleans wasn’t a huge disappointment even if some people proclaimed Winnipeg to be plan Q. I guess that I have a soft spot for the places that get a bum rap. 🙂

To stretch my budget, I decided to camp at Bird’s Hill provincial park, just north of the city and within easy commuting distance. When I arrived there, I had had quite a full day, waking up in Melrose, Minnesota, speeding through my first glimpse of the prairies in North Dakota, and then crossing over into Manitoba for the first time, bringing me further west in Canada than I had ever been.

sunrise at Birds Hill Provincial Park (photo by the government of Manitoba)

sunrise at Birds Hill Provincial Park (photo by the government of Manitoba)

My trip was winding down and even if I hadn’t seen anything as spectacular as Savannah’s historic district or New Orlean’s French Quarter, I was racking up a lot of memories and I was satisfied even if I hadn’t seen anything that particularly stuck out in my mind.

After dinner that night, I went for a walk on the prairie to wind down a bit and watch the sunset, then went to bed. I couldn’t sleep, so after some tossing and turning I got up and went back to the walking trail to watch the stars. Those plans changed when I found that the sky was alive with dancing green lights. It was the aurora borealis, the northern lights! I had never seen it before and it was even more beautiful than I would ever have imagined. Acid green swirled against ebony, shimmering and popping, and I could swear I heard all that energy crackling. The prairie sky is open and endless, so the dance seemed to stretch on forever, as far as I could see.

stock photo of the northern lights that quite accurate represents what I saw that night

stock photo of the northern lights that quite accurately represents what I saw that night

Had I gone south that fall, I would have missed this spectacular natural phenomenon. I believe that things happen, and plans change, for a reason. I’m not afraid of taking the unbeaten path or doing something that at first glance seems illogical. Sometimes being flexible in your travel plans pays off in big ways. This is what was going through my mind last summer when I decided on a whim to push on to Dawson City instead of settling in Whitehorse.

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