Pilgrimage to Grey Owl's Cabin
With the forecast calling for sunny skies the last weekend of September, James and I packed up the vehicle and strapped on the canoe for one last paddle of the year. A visit to Grey Owl's Cabin has been on both of our bucket lists for years and with Canada 150 coming to a close we drove across beautiful Treaty 6 Land to Prince Albert National Park.
The leaves were in their full fall colour glory as we drove through the boreal forest, feasting our eyes on bouquets of yellows, oranges, and reds. We took the scenic route to the town of Waskesiu where we registered at the visitor centre for our backcountry camping permit. Next we drove to the parking lot and day camping area between Waskesiu Lake and the south end of Kingsmere Lake. There is a small stream connecting the two bodies of water where we launched our canoe and started on our way. We paddled up river for less than a kilometre before reaching a rail cart portage to bypass the shallow waters.
After the kilometre long portage and a quick break for lunch we got back onto the water and exited the channel into Kingsmere Lake. We paddled about 2 hours in wavy water along the east shore to our campsite at Sandy Beach, located just over 12km from the trailhead. The campground was extraordinarily maintained for a backcountry site, complete with picnic tables, fire pits, firewood, a bear cache with a ladder, and a relatively clean outhouse. We set up our tent and cooked dinner over the fire before enjoying a meal on the (not-so-sandy) beach as the sun set. The temperature dropped significantly after darkness set in so it wasn't long before we were snug in our sleeping bags to rest up for our hike the next day.
After a pancake breakfast we started our 8km hike to Grey Owl's Cabin. The trail was a beautiful mix of towering evergreens and colourful deciduous trees with their leaves falling in the wind. It is well maintained and simple terrain, winding through the forest often just metres from shore. Though we didn't see much for wild life, the sounds of birds chirping, waves lapping on the shore, and the odd babbling brook kept our senses entertained. We arrived at Northend, another immaculate campground, after about an hour of walking. There the trail moved onto the shore for a few hundred metres to join up with the portage to Ajawaan Lake where the cabin is located. From that point we walked another 3 km before arriving at Grey Owl's home on the northwest shore of the small lake.
On such a gorgeous Saturday afternoon we weren't surprised to be joined by a number of other visitors. Some had arrived by motor boat and canoe, others by walking or trail running, and a large group of nearly 20 had biked. All were out enjoying the wonderful gift of nature, the exact thing Grey Owl had spent his life advocating for.
After our return hike we laid out on the beach enjoying the afternoon sun and a quick dip in the lake. The winds died as the sun set and we treated ourselves to a delicious meal of chilli and bannock. Sunday morning we woke early to beat the approaching rainy weather and paddled across the glass waters. It was the perfect way to finish a perfect weekend.
Here are a few photos from our journey. Some of them were taken by me and some were taken by James, who I'm slowly training to be my assistant (he just doesn't know that yet).