A 16-year old student from Regina, Sarah is enrolled in the Duke of Edinburgh Award, a youth achievement challenge program. She has chosen outdoor adventure as her challenge, which is how she ended up coming on the Grey Owl canoe trip in northern Saskatchewan. She met the challenge head on, learned several new wilderness skills and came back with an enthusiastic tale of adventure! Read on…
My Canoe Trip to Grey Owl’s Cabin in Prince Albert National Park
By Sarah Keeping
I have always enjoyed the outdoors and the serenity of the Canadian wilderness. While living in the provinces of New Brunswick and Newfoundland, I became familiar with kayaking and camping. Now living in Regina, I was eager to learn more about Northern Saskatchewan’s history and nature. I was excited when my dad told me that we would be going on a three-day canoe trip on Kingsmere Lake to visit the famous Grey Owl cabin in Prince Albert National Park!
On the first day of our trip, we met up with our guide Cliff, and Jane, another fellow canoeist in Saskatoon and drove to the resort town of Waskesiu where we enjoyed lunch together, and discussed our canoe trip. After lunch, we drove to the Kingsmere River launching area where we learned how to pack a canoe efficiently and safely. It was amazing how compact everything was; the tents and camping equipment and how every thing fit perfectly in the canoes in the water-tight packs that Cliff’s CanoeSki Company had supplied.
Canoeing is a very different experience from kayaking. Before we launched the canoes, we were given some helpful lessons and pointers on the different strokes that would help maneuver the canoes in the best way possible through the tight turns in the river. This was very helpful for my Dad and me, since we had not canoed before. After the brief lessons, we paddled the canoes up Kingsmere River towards the portage railway track.
The portage was one of the most exciting parts of the trip. We had to plan the weight distribution in the canoes, and from there we manually pushed the canoes in a rail cart along the track to where we eventually met the stream again, launched the canoes and paddled the remaining short distance along the river to Kingsmere Lake.
After canoeing for about two hours on Kingsmere Lake, we set up camp that night at a site called Pease Point. In the evening and as the sun was setting, the four of us shared a delicious meal of bison stew while enjoying the peacefulness of the forest.
On the second day we packed up, canoed toward the end of the lake and set up camp at a site called Blade Bone. After setting up, Jane stayed in camp to relax while the rest of us decided to pile into Cliff’s canoe and head over to Grey Owl’s cabin. Cliff fashioned a comfortable centre seat for me out of one of our packs and away we went, paddling across the top of the lake. We landed the canoe on a sandy beach and then hiked three kilometers into the forest to Grey Owl’s cabin – an interesting historic site.
Grey Owl was at one with nature and wildlife. He built his cabin on the edge of the lake to allow the beavers to enter and exit at their own liking. We took lots of pictures and read about Grey Owl and his history. It was interesting to learn about how outside factors can shape one’s identity. It is fascinating how a person from England could adapt so completely to the Canadian wilderness. We hiked back out the trail from the cabin to the beach at the north end of Kingsmere and paddled back to Blade Bone, making good time.
Bladebone is situated in a small, peaceful cove. On the night we were there, the water was extremely calm, and the sunset and sunrise at the camp were absolutely breathtaking. The trees reflected a perfect mirror image off the still waters.
On the third day, we packed up our things and began the journey home. It was mid-September and I remember waking up freezing each morning, but then realizing I had no other commitment but to enjoy the camping experience. The paddle down Kingsmere Lake took about three hours on fairly calm waters.
I thought about everything we had done in the past two days. Touring the Grey Owl historic site, a quick lesson on compass reading, taking lovely photos, learning how to pack and unpack efficiently, helping Cliff with meal preparation, and listening to the quiet sounds of nature made me think how much I had missed the outdoors, as I had been carried away with busy city life.
The Grey Owl canoe trip is now a definite favorite of mine. Canoeing to Grey Owl’s cabin on Kingsmere Lake was an original and rewarding experience. There were breathtaking sunsets, brisk cool mornings, bear caches, and the interesting experience of a rail portage. Even though it was only three days, time seemed to stand still while floating out on the lake. I returned to Regina with many good memories and tales to share. I can’t wait until the next camping trip!
To read other fascinating stories on CanoeSki trips go here: Canoeing Tales of Discovery
For more info or to book this trip go here: Quest for Grey Owl