Bringing in the New Year 2003 By Bruce Noton
New Year’s Ski Party in the Porcupine Forest
On December 30, 2002, my wife, Hilda and I joined six others on a unique 3-day trip. The trip was organized by Cliff Speer, program director of CanoeSki Discovery Company of Saskatoon. Our destination was Sawyer Lake Lodge, located about 50 km northeast of Preeceville, where we would spend the next 2 days and bring in the New Year. The lodge is situated where the grid roads end, on the edge of the Porcupine Provincial Forest.
Sylvia and David Weiman own and operate the lodge, do some farming, and – have a horse logging operation on their land. The lodge built entirely with timber cut and milled by Dave, is attractive with a spacious living area where guests can enjoy socializing.
We arrived at the lodge mid-afternoon and immediately almost everyone went cross-country skiing. Thirty centimetres of fresh snow had just fallen, and the forest trails were trackless and beautiful. We were ready for the tasty supper Cliff prepared for us. The evening was spent around the fireplace getting acquainted and swapping stories.
New Year’s Eve morning, Cliff conducted a mini-clinic on appropriate ski wax to use and proper application, and then we were off skiing again. Some stayed back to try skijoring – skiing at the end of a rope pulled by a galloping horse. The snow was no longer trackless; several deer, a moose and coyotes had been around during the night, but they kept out of our sight. It was silent in the forest; the sound of a motor was not to be heard anywhere!
Dave has nine well-trained sled dogs, which he hitched up to take people for sled rides.
The dogs were keen and took off full tilt, however, when they returned to the lodge after a run in the fresh snow, they had slowed to a trot with tongues lolling out.
After lunch, Dave gave us a demonstration of horse logging. Some skied out to the landing area and others went by horse drawn sleigh. The landing is where the cut logs are piled and later sawed into lumber. Here the horses were unhooked and one was taken into the bush to bring out logs.
There was mature white spruce here. Dave selected one, and with help from one of us, made a partial slanted cut with a crosscut saw on the side where the tree was to fall into an opening. The other side was cut through toppling the tree over, but it missed the opening and hung up against a big aspen. The horse now came into play. With a logging chain around the tree butt, the horse yanked the tree around and down it came.
The log was then cut into sixteen foot lengths, the chain hooked up and the horse pulled them out to the landing. This well trained horse was amazing. It “geed” and “hawed”, stepped over logs, between logs, between trees, and never stumbled or missed a step. Unlike clear cutting, in this woodlot, young trees are left to mature thus ensuring a continuous supply of wood.
New Year’s Eve supper was potluck to which everyone contributed including the Weimans. It was ample, varied and delicious. Everyone brought some kind of activity to occupy the group as we settled comfortably around the fire for the evening. At midnight we toasted the New Year and brought the day to an end with Auld Lang Syne.
New Year’s morning there was more skiing and dog sled rides. After lunch people packed up and started for home. It had been the most unique New Year’s Eve holiday Hilda and I had ever experienced and one of the most enjoyable.
Note: The New Year’s Eve in the Porcupine Forest program ended when Sawyer Lake Adventures closed their ecolodge operation in 2009.