Eager To Hike The Crow Wing Trail!

Why would I write about the Crow Wing Trail, when this is a Mennotoba blog? Well, this trail is literally linked with Mennonites, at the Mennonite Landing site. I noticed the sign there…and the enticing trail. (Which sadly, I have not yet embarked upon!) Then, the other day, Andrew and I were in St. Pierre…and there we noticed a trail, accompanied by one sign, and one cairn. Before heading down the trail, we quickly had a look:

“Crow Wing Trail The Crow Wing Trail crossed the area known as Saint-Pierre-Jolys. The oxcart trail connected the Red River Settlement to St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1844, additional segments of the trail were opened by Peter Garrtoch, making it an official supply route between St-Paul and the Red River Settlement. Known as the Crow Wing Trail, it was locally referred to as “Chemin Saint-Paul” or “La Route de L’Aile de Corbeau”. It played an important role in the development of Saint-Pierre-Jolys and the surrounding district between Saint-Paul, Minnesota, and the Red River Settlement. Le Musee de Saint-Pierre-Jolys Inc.”
“Crow Wing Trail The Trans Canada Trail takes advantage of remnants of the old historic Crow Wing Trail between Winnipeg and the international boundary. The TCT just north of town follows the old trail. Check the TCT guide map for other places the historic trail and the TCT overlap. Parts of Highway 59 also use the historic Crow Wing Trail. Trails were often called by their destination. This trail was named after the Crow Wing River far to the south, a tributary of the Mississippi River. The historic route ran south into Minnesota, eventually reaching St. Paul. In the south it was called the Woods Trail and the Metropolitan Trail. In this area it was known as le chemin Saint-Paul or la route de l’aile de corbeau. Today this section of the TCT — from the Red River Floodway to the American border between Highways 75 and 59 — is called the Crow Wing Trail or le chemin Saint-Paul. The local trail association that manages this section of the trail is the Crow Wing Trail Association.”

We were not actually prepared to go hiking…so a true hike will have to wait for another day. But we couldn’t resist heading down the trail for just a few minutes. The St. Pierre portion of the Crow Wing Trail begins at the St. Pierre Museum, and crosses the Joubert Creek.

I’ve been studying the map for this trail, and I have to admit, I’m mightily disappointed by how often the trail has to rely on government roads to connect the different parts of the genuine trail. Sometimes, yes, the public roads do follow the actual trail anyway…but often that is not the case. These historic trails should snake along rivers…the routes that people actually walked or drove their ox carts. Not following the boxy mile roads!

I think my expectations for what a trail could or should be have been shaped by our visit to the United Kingdom. In the UK, there are specific “freedom to roam” and “right of public access to wilderness” laws that allow their culture of walking (like, going for “walks” that last roughly 5 days…or more!) to flourish. This has fixated in my mind as being truly excellent. It saddens me that here, much of the land on which these historic routes rest is privately owned and therefore inaccessible, to the point that historic trails such as the Crow Wing Trail must often resort to mile roads.

I don’t mean to complain! I think the Trans Canada Trail and the Crow Wing Trail and trails like them are wonderful, and I have a deep appreciation for the people that maintain these trails.

I just can’t help but dream of more.