Epinette Trail

Map of Epinette Trail
The Epinette Trail, Spruce Woods Provincial Park, Manitoba

Back in late October, inspired by an early snowfall, I called MB Parks to reserve the Jackfish Lake Cabin for an epic nordic skiing adventure. In the naivety of autumn I thought through the various obstacles we could face, including cold temperatures, physical conditioning, and supplies we’d neglect to pack. I never thought we’d be faced with the decision of whether there’d even be enough snow to ski in in Manitoba’s frosty February.

As the date of our trip approached, however, I refreshed the forecast constantly, praying for a hint of the white stuff on the horizon, but saw only the well-above-zero projected highs threatening to spoil our plans completely.

Forecast was not promising

On the afternoon before our departure I consulted with MB Parks. Given their gloomy trail report we decided to leave the skinny skis at home and hike the route instead.

I’d recently read Nick Offerman’s tale of his canoe voyage down the LA River, and his sentiment struck the perfect underlying chord as we drove out to have ourselves an adventure.

Quote by Nick Offerman
“When finally you are faced with the choice between the comfy living room and the unpredictable outdoor jaunt, there is but one clear answer: Do the goddamn thing.” – Nick Offerman

So we took his advice and did the goddamn thing. Which is this case was 41.7km of trail, with an overnight stop at a rustic cabin halfway through.

On foot.

Over the early kilometres our decision was affirmed as we watched the two lined ski tracks give way to the dirt and grasses beneath.

Halfway into our day, we started to find areas with deeper snow which might have made for great skiing had we truly been committed to the method. Instead we trudged on, the soft snow beside the ski tracks giving way in the warming temperatures.

As the muted light in the gray sky began to wane, we arrived at our home for the night, Jackfish Lake Cabin. Jasper and Gord had run ahead to light a fire the wood stove, leaving Chris and I to be greeted by the welcoming sight of smoke piping from the chimney as we arrived at the valley-bottom clearing.

In the simple cabin, which was outfitted with little more than the stove, as well as a table, loft, and some rough benches, we eased into the simplicities of warm food and candlelight.

Jackfish Lake Cabin temperature

In the morning, to the sound of melting snow dripping from the roof, we enjoyed a warm breakfast and coffee, then packed up and headed back, buoyed by lighter packs and pulled by the gravity of the homeward trail.

Taste of instant coffee

Driving home, we revelled in the joys of Type 2 Fun and rubbed our aching muscles, remembering again Offerman’s advice. Even when faced with sub-par conditions and changing expectations, it’s always better to do the thing.

Photo of our group
Intrepid off-ski adventurers: Myself, Jasper, Gord, Chris.

Related: Read about my previous adventure on this trail during the Oxbow trail race.