People passionate about nature

Grey Hares Virtual Scrapbook

A history and memories for NM's 100th Anniversary

In honour of Nature Manitoba's 100th Anniversary in 2020, members of our Grey Hares group have been asked to submit some of their fondest memories from their years as a member. Nature Manitoba is pleased to share these memories, along with a little history of this group. Enjoy!

Grey Hares Origins

Submitted by John Gray & Francy Wheadon with input from Elfrida Penner

The Grey Hares was started in the 1980’s by 4 members of Nature Manitoba (then called the Manitoba Naturalists Society).

At that time, NM held their outings on the weekends, so this group of 4 decided to have outings during the week so they could enjoy their respective cottages on the weekends. They tried different week days before settling on Wednesday as their day to enjoy the outdoors.

The 4 founding members were Betty Ann Caldwell, Frank and Elfreda Penner and Ida Toews.  At this time the group was nameless.

One day they were interviewed by CBC. While on air, the interviewer asked “The young people learning cross country skiing are the Jack Rabbits, what are you the Grey Hares?”.  The name stuck! 

Shortly afterwards, the original group decided they needed a Grey Hare mascot.. not an easy task! They eventually discovered a figurine to adopt as their mascot…. a 6” statue of a white “Grey Hare”.

Above: the Grey Hares mascot taking in the view of the Seine River

The group has grown tremendously from the original 4 members to approx. 200 strong today! Each Wednesday, many members enjoy activities such as cycling, paddling, camping, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, and a variety of “shoulder season” outings…tours, museums, etc. In 2019, the average attendance at outings was 17 members.

Mantario reunion at the new cabin 2007

Submitted by Pat Gray

Tom Walker helped arrange for Nature Manitoba to lease the original Mantario cabin back in 1973 (read the history of the Mantario cabin here).

The cabin was rebuilt after a fire in 1999. We arranged a group of Grey Hares to take Tom Walker back to Mantario to see the new cabin. We started at Tom and Gail’s cottage on Florence Lake south of Mantario to paddle the shorter route in but half of the distance turned out to be portage as the marsh has filled in and cannot be paddled.

Above: left to right John Gray, Les MCann, Bob Hamlin, Pat Gray, Gail Walker, Tom Walker (standing), Jerry Zaste.

Pat’s memories of Mantario:

The Grey Hares planned a trip into Mantario and John signed us up. I had heard all the horror stories of how long and hard a trip it was to get in there and I felt it was more than I could do…but I went anyhow. It was beautiful, challenging in places but manageable. We got to Mantario and it was just gorgeous. After a wonderful week we enthusiastically signed up for a week of the summer program. Than I panicked again…these were young people, I could never keep up, but we went. They took two hours longer to get in! Way to go Grey Hares.

Interesting Grey Hares Activities

Submitted by June Thomson and Don Wilson

Above: You just never know what you might end up doing on a Grey Hares Trip at Thomson’s Turrett- from moving an outhouse to rescuing an overturned sailing canoe! Aug 11th 2009.

Above: Vermillion Lakes canoe camping trip, Aug. 2011- taking care of the food ...always important on any GH trip!

Above: Meeting up with Lucette, Paul Bunyan’s sweetheart at Hackensack, Minnesota- September 2014.

Above: Enjoying the brand new Yurts at Tulabi Falls, Bird Lake on an Autumn canoe camping trip- September 9th 2018.

Fond Grey Hares Memories

Submitted by Keith Sutton

Above: March 18th, 2015, beside the John Bruce park bridge in St. Vital, where we launched on my very first paddling trip. John Gray paired me up with Jerry Zaste, who was a patient and relaxing teacher. That trip started me on five + years of paddling adventures.

Above: March 18th, 2020, at our snowshoeing trip along the Bird River, north east of Pinawa. Fabulous scenery, perfect time to be there. It was also our last trip before the pandemic blew our normal worlds apart.  Thankfully we've recovered somewhat. Abnormal feels normal now.

Camping With the Grey Hares

Submitted by Charles Begley

Lying in bed in the middle of winter I dream of the haunting cry of the loon while out camping by a lake with the Grey Hares.

If it wasn't for the GHs I would not have had the opportunity or pleasure of camping in some of the most beautiful places in Manitoba and N.W. Ontario.

Over the years we have had so much fun, starting off with planning the trip: Where to go, how many camp sites needed, booking the sites, how many people to include. Who and what meal is everybody going to cook for breakfast, supper, appetizers, main dish and of course dessert (no nuts please)!! We had some wonderful and memorable meals.

The fun would start with arriving at the site, choosing where to put your tent, setting up the kitchen tent and getting settled in followed with a paddle, hike or bike ride. Then over the next three or four days enjoying the camaraderie and tall stories around the camp fire, or if someone brought a guitar (thank you Ed, Billy or Tom), singing songs. Then later settling into a comfortable sleeping bag to listen to the cry of the loons before going to sleep, safely knowing that others are also listening for the bears!  Jerry was good at scaring them off early in the morning while I went further into my sleeping bag!

Everybody was good about washing up, which was quite a procedure in itself. You never had to ask for any help. Volunteers would be eager to help. We would get the water boiling, and set up three white tubs: #1 hot water for rinsing, #2 hot with soap for washing, #3 cold with Javex (Jerry Zaste always checked that we sanitized everything.) Then all the dishes and cutlery would be gathered into mesh bags to air dry on a tree. There was always a core group of GHs that came on these trips so we got into a pretty good routine. Normally about 12 people attended, expanding to 18 at Rushing River with 3 or 4 campsites.

We would spend most of the day exploring the area, usually paddling around lakes and up rivers, always looking out for animals, birds and plants. Keeping to the edge of the lake to see nature. First to spot an Eagle would get a beer! It was usually June. Later in the day we would go hiking or cycling. Considering we spent so much time in each other’s company, we all got on remarkably well. I had never camped before coming to Canada in the 1980's.

I learned so much from the GHs, particularly from John and Pat Gray, Jerry Zaste, Uta Martin, June Thomson & Don Wilson and others. They taught me all I know about leading and enjoying a camping trip. Betty Ann Caldwell taught me that the first priority of a leader was to get the group back early enough in the afternoon to enjoy a long Happy Hour! She was quite right and we always followed this rule. 

Many of the GH's would never have gone camping if it was not for the Grey Hares. We all enjoyed the outdoors. We were very lucky to have so many volunteers leading all the Wednesday outings. Special thanks should go to John Gray and Francy Wheadon, our two leaders. Both doing a fantastic job. Very much appreciated by us all.

Memories of Grey Hares Trips

Submitted by Julia Schoen

Above: One of many wonderful memories from time spent at "Thomson's Turret" - June Thomson's cabin at War Eagle Lake. (photo by Julia Schoen)

Above: The Grey Hares go birding at Windygates in 2010 (photo by Julia Schoen)

Above: On this 2016 trip to the Brokenhead Wetland Interpretive Trail, people were REALLY KEEN to find orchids! (photo by Julia Schoen)

Above:The temperature for the 2008 Grey Hare ski trip to Riding Mountain National Park remained at 25 below for three days running (photo by Sheri McDermott)

Above: Nonetheless, the Grey Hares still enjoyed the Great Outdoors and then in the evening, the warmth and coziness of their comfortable lodgings in Onanole.

Above: The July 2016 Grey Hare cycling trip included an unusual stop - the delightful surprise of a garden consisting of exactly one plant - a Giant Pumpkin grown by Milan Lukes.   Milan is passionate about growing these massive pumpkins and has won the Biggest  Pumpkin Award several times running at the Roland Pumpkin Festival.  In the first  photo, Milan shows the group his 100-pound pumpkin in mid-July and in the second, he proudly shows off his 1369.5-pound winner in October. (photos by Julia Schoen)

Above: The Grey Hares go birding at Rat River in 2010 (photo by Julia Schoen)

Above: The Grey Hares learn all about recycling

Above: The Grey Hares being playful as they gear up for three days of fun at Hecla in 2011 (photo by Julia Schoen)

Above: The Grey Hares have played themselves right out after a few days of biking and hiking the Hecla trails! (photo by Julia Schoen)

Above: A large group of Grey Hares tour the South Osborne Community Co-op in 2016 (photo by Juila Schoen)

Above: The Grey Hares gather at the leader's house before setting off on their cycling trip in 2018 (photo by Les McCann)

My Grey Hare Experience

Submitted by Daniela Rempel

At my very first outing we were to meet at Humpty’s near Oak Bluff and after arriving late and not knowing what anyone looked like I noticed a silver hair man getting into his car. Thinking that everyone was leaving I rushed up to him and asked if he was a Grey Hare. This elicited an incredulous look instantly telegraphing “Wrong Person” after which I entered the restaurant and joined the correct group.  From time to time the thought still makes me chuckle!

Our Grey Hare outings opened up a sphere of experiences I would not have been comfortable to forge on my own. From cycling trails in Minnesota and Wisconsin to canoeing, camping at beautiful lakes, rivers and parks, skiing and hiking in Scenic Manitoba and beyond. This deepened my appreciation of nature and love of self-propelled outdoor pursuits while enhancing my outdoor skills and well being.

Having joined many years ago I was fortunate to play with early Grey Hare members like John Gray, Betty Ann Caldwell, Jerry Zaste and others who generously shared their time and expertise and ideas.  As a Grey Hare member it is always inspiring to be out with and meeting like minded members participating in nature, loving fun activities and exercise while learning new things and expanding my comfort zone.

Click on images below to see Daniela's Grey Hares photo album!