Go West, Day 7 – Portage La Prairie, MB

Author: Larry St Aubin

Today’s morning activities have been postponed due to Greta’s eye condition. Instead we are going to a vet in Winnipeg, then head to Portage La Prairie. Maybe we can do them on the way back.

Portage la Prairie is located on Treaty No. 1, the original lands and waters of Anishinaabe, Ininiwak, Anishininiwak, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Red River Métis Nation.

Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park. “Here on the prairie, there’s a place where stories of sunken ships and magical islands are told, where the water and fishing is a way of life. This place is called Hecla / Grindstone Provincial Park, and it is a series of islands between the east and west shores of Lake Winnipeg. With names like Black Island and Drumming Point, this park is cloaked in mystery from the ways of the Anishinabe (Ojibwe) medicine men. Hecla Island was named after one of the most famous landmarks in Iceland, the volcano Mount Hekla.”

Lakeview Hecla Resort. I didn’t get much sleep because I was worried about Greta. I’ve been treating her corneal ulcer as we’ve gone along the trip. I was up at 4 am, ready to go. The pet rooms were located at the very end of the hotel. This is so we could use the back door to the grassy area for them to do their business.

There was a luggage cart just outside our room so I put her majesty’s bed on it and she travelled to the check out desk in style. Like Cleopatra on her barge, She enjoyed the ride through the halls

I asked the check out clerk if I could take the cart out to the car. He told me there had been a bear outside a couple of hours ago rooting through the garbage. He suggested I bring the car to the door. Yes, indeed. I made noise as I walked but no bear sighting.

We arrive in Winnipeg early so head to the Don Gerrie park alongside the Red River. It is a quiet morning and I watch the river flow by.

Eve spots a dog up on the trail. Small activities begin to cross our path.

Greta is in a boisterous mood this morning. She is up and walking around, chewing grass and extending her boundaries. The Manitoba Canoe and Kayak Centre is located here. It would be nice to come back and rent a canoe for the river.

Some people are on the dock getting a boat ready. Turns out to be the Water Rescue crew.

A family of geese come up from the bank near us.

They start to head in front of us.

Eve has learned from past trips to keep a warning eye on them.

Time for our appointment at Pembina Veterinary Hospital. This was the only one I was able to get an appointment with. The others I called in different cities were not taking new patients. Although my vet said if I showed up, they could not refuse me as an emergency.

The stain shows that the ulcer has reduced. There is some dead skin cells on the surface which he took off with a swab much to Greta’s chagrin. He cleaned her ears and checked her heart and palpated her joints. I told him of the poor condition of her joints.

He wanted to make a serum from her blood to use the antibodies to help heal the eye. It took about 30 minutes while we waited in the lobby. You can see the ulcer from the stain. I also picked up some Optixcare eye lube which I was getting low on.

We will do another check next week when we are in Vancouver.

Portage La Prairie. I have 2 memories of this city. The first is with my grandfather which I describe below. The second is when I was around 10 or 11. I came to live here with my brother and stayed with my aunt and uncle. My parents were going through a trial separation. Neither could look after us at the time so we were sent to Portage.

My aunt noticed how much I liked to read. She took me to the Portage Mental Hospital to get my IQ tested. I didn’t know what an IQ was but I remember my aunt was impressed and bragged to my uncle.

I was bullied at the local school. Other than that I remember the winter and it was like nothing I had experience before. I prayed I would not have to stay in Portage. Come the summer, we went back to Ontario on the train.

Island Park Formed by an oxbow lake that was once part of the Assiniboine River, the almost island forms a ‘P’ and gives this park its name. This picturesque recreation area features tennis courts, a disc golf course, a playground, and outdoor bandstand. The park also offers sheltered and open picnic areas and public art, along with miles of walking and bike trails to explore.

Island Park, Portage La Prairie, MB

There is a commercial end with a splash pad and other entertainment. We drive around looking at different aspects of the park. I end up on a private road that belongs to Maitland Farms. Turn around and head back.

I meet a woman walking her bulldog. I tell her about the road trip Toronto. Her husband is from Tillsonburg and they travel there sometimes to visit relatives. We have a nice chat. She starts to pet Eve and I warn her but Eve allows her to pet. I give Eve a treat for being cooperative and the big bulldog head comes up to my hand so I give her a treat. She agrees to take my photo.

We walk around some more and that is when I become aware of all the noise. There are two sitting lawn mowers and 3 weed whackers going on. It makes for a lack of tranquility. Maybe I just picked the wrong day.

A duck pond with a sign indicating the species that live here. At this point the noise is so intrusive I need to leave.

Heritage Park and CPR Railway Station. “The CPR Station reflects the true past history of our city of Portage la Prairie. It now stands as a monument to the arrival of our early settlers and their goods to the development of western Canada and the Portage Plains. This was the real gateway to the west.”

By maternal grandpa, Emil George Michaels, emigrated from the Ukraine in the 20s and worked for the CPR. I have a childhood memory of him bringing me to this station. He told me to put my ear to the track and listen for a vibration. When I heard it, he then put a penny on the track. We stepped back and waited for the train to pass. He retrieved the flattened, shiny copper piece and gave it to me. I was about 5 or 6 so was greatly impressed. Spot the pugs

“The CPR Station was designed by Edward Colonna (1862-1948) of Montreal, and built by Tompkins Construction of Vancouver. The design of the station was influenced by the Romanesque Revival style, popularized by the American architect H.H. Richardson. The style was characterized by symmetrical facades, squat columns, massive round-headed arches, and heavily textured and polychromatic surfaces. The station, with its unique heavy, rusticated base and massive, round-headed arched entrances is a handsome subdivided illustration of it’s style.”

Courtesy of the Manitoba Historical Society

“The most prominent features of the ground floor are the large round-headed openings with radiating stone heads and keystones. On both north (track) and south facades, these arched openings originally held door and arched windows and are a distinct reflection of architectural designs not in vogue present day.”

“In 1889, the weekly paper “Manitoba Liberal” described the first Canadian Pacific Railway Depot in Portage la Prairie as a “dingy little combination of country tavern and freight shed”. The paper continued to criticize the CPR’s lack of service to a community with a population of nearly 1,500. Although the man who fulfilled the terms of confederation by building the rail line to the west coast in record time announced plans for the construction of a new depot for Portage la Prairie in 1891, it was not until 1893 that the new facility was constructed using imported sandstone and local brick. The association of this building’s construction with Van Horne himself, who recognized the potential growth of this (then) aggressive community reflects the heritage of the pioneers of the day who saw worthy fortunes for their future generations.”

Greta is ready to head west.

As I was getting ready to leave, I heard the familiar CLANG, CLANG of the rail guard warning bell. The guard came down as I waited. Sure enough the locomotive engine and its cars cross in front, moving at a slow pace. I’m transported back in time to that moment as a kid, with my grandpa, watching the train go by.

Microtel Inn By Wyndham. Another booking with Airmiles. It is was not in the downtown core but it was by the river. There is a sculpture nearby that I will visit on tomorrow’s morning walk. The hotel is very nice, decorated with Indigenous art. And the Wifi is very fast. The Long Plain First Nation have a community established beside it. They have a trading post which seems to be quite busy. If I had time I would like to explore it. The hotel has the Long Plain feather logo on the building

Om Indian Cuisine. After getting the pugs fed and tucked in I headed downtown for dinner. I had asked the front desk and they recommended the buffet at Om. There was a good selection and I loaded up on vegetables and Channa Masala.


  1. Greta is a beautiful model. She sure seems to be enjoying this trip. Hopefully the serum will help to quickly clear up the ulcer. So many pugs in my past have had these darn ulcers and my experience with the serum is always positive.

    Happy Trails!

  2. Thank you again for the in-depth descriptions of the places you visit along the route. Greta and Eve must be enjoying the travel and all the attention they get. Let’s hope Greta’s eye heals nicely.

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