I built a quinzhee: Winter camping on NCC land
Winter can be a truly magical season if you get out and experience it — the stillness of a forest covered in snow, the thrill of finding and following moose tracks, the boom and groan of ice shifting on a lake. A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of going winter camping with my partner on a Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) property on which we have an easement. It was certainly a great way to stay active and explore a winter wonderland. Maybe that’s the proud Canadian in me; because who else would be excited to sleep in a quinzhee, in the middle of the coldest season, in Manitoba??
Of all of NCC Manitoba’s stunning properties and easements, Walter Loewen’s in the Whitemouth River Watershed remains one of my personal favourites. The area is a unique transitional zone between prairie and boreal forest, providing habitat for many notable species such as Carmine shiner, star-nosed mole and Dutchman’s breeches. To date, NCC has secured 2,578 acres (1,043 hectares) of this important habitat in the Whitemouth River Watershed Natural Area.
Walter was pleased with my request to visit his property for some winter camping, and has always been graciously enthusiastic about people going out to enjoy the beauty of the Whitemouth area.
Winter camping can be a fantastic and low-impact way to enjoy the wilderness, whether you bring a tent or build your own shelter. Quinzhees are a form of snow-shelter made from piling snow, letting it settle and hollowing out a sleeping space. When made properly, a quinzee is a fun and surprisingly warm place to spend the night while camping. As with many handmade shelters, there are certain precautions to follow and dangers to avoid, so make sure to study up before building one for the first time!
We spent the day building a quinzhee and exploring the land, and the night listening to wolves howl and trees creak under a full moon…A perfect winter adventure! The quietness of the snow-laden forest allowed for a peaceful escape from the city, and a chance to listen in on some of creatures and natural processes NCC works so hard to protect.
When we were ready to leave, we tore down the quinzhee to ensure no animals would get in and potentially become trapped if the structure weakened. We had an amazing weekend enjoying the stark winter beauty of an NCC-eased property, leaving only our footprints behind.