We enjoyed a light breakfast at the excellent restaurant at Grand Rapids’ only gas station, then drove North towards Thompson. About 300 km separates Grand Rapids from Thompson on highway 6, and this stretch of highway is only slightly less boring than the previous 300 km. However, with only that distance to cover, on highway that had consistently been good enough for extended 120 km/h cruising, we knew we were in no rush, and in fact we arrived in Thompson more than an hour before earliest check-in time at our hotel.
Along the way to Thompson is Pisew Falls provincial park, less than 2 km from the highway. Most of the trees that grow within sight of the road are relatively small, perhaps 10 to 15 m tall. Near the falls are many trees of sizes I am more used to seeing in forests in Southern Ontario, and quite lush undergrowth. The falls themselves were quite spectacular, and provided a pleasant break in the otherwise monotonous driving.
Pisew Falls, in North-central Manitoba. There is also a 12-hour-round-trip hiking trail (and backpacking campground at the far end) that loops around these falls to another set of falls that are rumoured to be at least as impressive.
As I mentioned above, we arrived in Thompson quite early, so we had to kill some time before check-in at the hotel. Lunch and refuelling were not long in duration, and some of my companions had wanted to visit the Thompson zoo but been denied on previous visits. The zoo is advertised as the second-largest in the province; this doesn’t mean it is large by international zoo standards, but it is impressive in its own way. The Thompson zoo concentrates on rehabilitating local wildlife, and attempts to educate the public about Manitoba’s natural heritage. Admission is free, though of course we donated a little money.
The wolves at the zoo looked reasonably healthy, though one of the pair was pacing rapidly in a rough figure-eight pattern inside the enclosure. I understand this behaviour is a symptom of stress in many species of captive wildlife.
I’m not certain that Great Snowy Owls are particularly local to Thompson, which lies just South of the historic permafrost line in Manitoba. I thought this species was more of a tundra specialist.
One of my companions, Nick, feeding a White-Tail Deer at the Thompson zoo. Grain can be purchased inside one of the buildings, for feeding to either the deer or the goats, horses, and mules also present. The horses and mules seemed uninterested in us, probably because they were happily employed mowing the grass around the weather station also on zoo grounds.
Dinner was somewhat disappointing. Grapes Bar and Grill, just across the street from our hotel, had fairly poor service and rather bland and overpriced food. The unlimited soup bar was interesting (and the 4 different soups on offer were excellent), but I don’t think I’ll be eating there again any time soon. Perhaps the bar section is better?
Tomorrow we are scheduled to board Via Rail’s Hudson Bay at about 9:30 am, for the 21 hour run to Churchill.