– Submitted to CBC’s Search for the 7 Wonders of Canada

There’s a rise of land in southwest Manitoba that embodies the understated greatness of Canada. We can take back-roads lined by 100 year-old oaks up to Lake William – watching for moose, elk and white-tailed deer along the way. Curving around a carefully tended park we come to the trail’s head where we’re invited to hike, ski or ride up to the Turtle’s Back. A look-out tower steps us over the tree line at the apex and even we who live here are struck by the grandeur of the Prairie from this vantage point.

Metis and Dakota hunters once spotted herds of bison from this perch. Remnants of their settlements, ceremonies and enduring spirit remain in this place. This was the first land to appear on the Canadian prairies after the last ice age and has for 10,000 years provided protection and food.

Looking south and west, to the US border, the International Peace Garden towers rise above the woodland canopy. To the north we point out grain elevators in Ninga, Boissevain, and Minto – small places with big personality. For a glorious two weeks in summer our eyes brush over a patchwork of blue flax, yellow canola, golden winter wheat, cut through here and there by green-bluffed ravines. British, Mennonite, and Belgian settlers have added their layers of colour to life and land. We bow in thankfulness, resolving to elevate these hills and this country as a refuge for all its children. Gentle, persistent hope in action, like a prairie breeze, makes us, each of us, great.

Shedding all distraction we take in the magnificence of a tea-cup blue sky. Our timing is perfect as spreading fans of setting light on one hand cause a rising, golden harvest moon on the other – while loons yodel from misty ponds below. How sweet to be on paths less traveled and how ‘cool to be hick’ in the Turtle Mountains – one of the seven wonders of Canada.

Note. ‘Cool to be Hick’ is a quote from a local high school student who was explaining the ‘settledness’ he feels in this.