We started off 2020 just right, January winter camping in Prince Albert National Park. Then Covid-19 happened sometime in March closing most campgrounds.
We spent early May and throughout the month travelling to check out some local regional parks and nearby provincial parks we never visit, mostly day trips. With our home in the back of our truck this was enjoyable as we had our own washroom and kitchen with us and felt safer for that.
The Trip North Part 1
A friend who owns land near Wapawekka Lake, east of LaRonge, offered us an opportunity to camp there and was only a short distance to the lake. This fit into our plans of distancing and spending some quiet time in the north. So in mid- June we set out. We found a couple of places north of Prince Albert we could boondock as the parks were not open, but opening plans were in the works.
The weather forecast did not look good further to the north, and we were unsure of the side roads we would have to take to get to Wapawekka so we were not in any hurry to head out. This trip as we were unsure of the roads and where we would be spending our evenings, we decided not to take our small pull-behind trailer with the canoe. Instead we decided on taking only our inflatable Sea Eagle, a 16-foot, very tough and stable kayak packed in the rear seat of the truck. We were traveling light with only extra fuel, propane and generator. The generator is always with us, but is used only in emergencies, as we do not like the noise and feel few others do as well even though it is very quiet for a gen set.
We spent a night at my cousin’s place camping on her spare lot next to her store, Northside Antiques, then boondocked a few days in a northern area. After a few days we decided to head north to LaRonge where we would overnight, fuel up and head to Wapawekka. The Nut Point campground in the Provincial Park at LaRonge was open, a very nice campground on LaRonge Lake. We had approximately 100 kms of unknown grid to travel for our next overnight on our friend’s land. The beauty of a truck camper and 4×4 is we felt very secure heading out even though it had been raining previously.
I am not including directions for a good reason. There is no public camping where we are heading, only a couple of bear camps so extra traffic would not be appreciated by those who own and lease the land. Our directions said the camp was at the end of the road. After about 100 kms we did pass a sign that said Wapawekka but it appeared the road continued….they said to the end of the road so the end of the road it would be. They said we could not miss it.
Well that road turned into a cow trail. Knowing our friend and his love for the wilderness I figured that he just might have a camp on this road or trail. If it rains I’m not sure we will get out…but that’s okay we are loaded with food and supplies for several weeks and could wait until it dries up. Spotting a red flag hanging in one of the trees just before a curve in the road common sense kicked in and I decided to stop and get out to check out this trail. Well I was so glad someone other than me was watching out as that old trail turned into a bog that you could not get through with any 4×4 let alone one with a camper on it.
Well I guess we would just have to tell our friend we could not make it and head back, but first lunch so reversing into an open area on the trail we stopped. While having lunch a couple of quads approached. It turned out it was one of the bear outfitters heading out to check his bear baits. We know in the north there are bears, we expect that, but we were informed that this season, with no hunters over the last few seasons, bears were everywhere…good to know. He also laughed and told us the sign we passed back at the trail head was where we should have turned and helped us with directions. He was the only one, along with hunters that used that trail. I watched as the two quads fought their way through waist high water and mud to continue on the trail…yep lucky I stopped, as once around the bend there was little way out. Yes we should have turned at the sign and yes we did find our friend’s place just as he said and it was even better than we expected. We set up camp for the night and would explore in the morning.
Part 2 – Wapawekka
Camping at Wapawekka we woke up to drizzle, we moved the camper to several different areas on the land before backing into a nice opening in the trees where camp would be…for how long, we never know, no plans, no time to check out, only when we get the urge to move on. We travel with a screen tent, small camp kitchen table, camp stove and portable kitchen box. We never did set up the screen tent even though at times the mosquitos were horrible; we used coils and lotion to survive. We set up the kitchen under our rear awning as the side awning had no room in the trees. This worked as we wanted camp as simple as possible, we would need to put in the rear awning and take our home to the lake if we wanted to have the kayak with us. No fire pits, no tables and no facilities worked out great as our camper has everything including hot shower, stove, oven, TV and a huge fridge and freezer.
When I was on a cattle drive down in Mankota, Saskatchewan near the American border, we lived out of an old fashioned chuckwagon pulled by mules. Every night we would have a small fire as wood was very scarce to cook our meals and make coffee in the morning. That’s when our cowboy host showed us how to make a fire pit that would not destroy the area. We dug out the sod in a circle very carefully placing it aside. Picked up stones to ring the fire pit to keep the fire from spreading into the grassland, this worked great and next morning before leaving we randomly threw the stones around the site, poured water into the coals and replaced the sods. We were told if you could tell we were there it was not good enough. I will never forget that and that is how all campgrounds should be left….just like you were not there.
I made a fire pit similar to that and it worked well and yes when we left you would not know where it was. I went back to take a photo and had to look for it….a pat on the back for me. In between rain showers we hiked the area that day and discovered the lake was within walking distance, but too far to haul our inflatable kayak so we would still have to move the camper….no big deal. Wapawekka Lake is huge with several islands scattered throughout it. On some of the islands, the local native residents have cabins. We were told as well it was commercially fished in winter.
The next day cleared and the sun shone so we inflated the kayak and headed out on the lake, it did not disappoint. Beautiful bays and small islands to discover and just the silence and natural untouched beauty of nature the way God intended it to be. We would be doing this again the next day, as well as some hiking and exploring; we needed to find some dried firewood. As always in bear country we carry bear spray and have been very close to several but never had to use it, just a precaution that gives one a little more confidence to wander. I may sound wimpish but the way I got it figured if the cowboys could strap on a six gun then I for sure can carry a can of bear spray. We must remember when in the parks and the wilderness we are in the animal’s territory, no matter what animal, we must respect their right to be there as we are the trespasser. If we respect that, keep our campgrounds free of food and garbage, they have no reason for a visit and would rather stay away. In all my many years of camping the only bad experiences I have had happened is not in the wilderness but organized campgrounds and they had two legs.
We also invested in a Spot X satellite phone which works anywhere in the world. As we try to camp in areas with little or no coverage this phone could be a life saver and we can let our loved ones know we are okay. When we leave home we usually only have a direction with no set plans or time to be anywhere and no set day or time of return so are hard to keep track of, and that’s just the way we like it, our kids not so much.
We enjoyed the rest of our stay at Wapawekka, even with the bugs and the rain showers off and on, the silence was beautiful. Except one night we heard a good old Saturday night party going on at the bear camp down the way….that was okay it was their camp and we were the visitors in the area.
Eventually we felt the need to move on and headed back to our cabin. We overnighted in Nut Point in La Ronge and as luck would have it the campground at the Narrows in Prince Albert National Park has just opened. We were the first ones in and stayed for a few days then back home to Pike Lake.
The virus is still spreading and getting worse. Usually we have an undisclosed spot we head to in July and August in northern Manitoba but Manitoba did not want us to visit this year…and that’s okay. The area in Manitoba has no long sand beach, no services, no power, no cell service, just a small beautiful campground enjoyed by folks like ourselves that are there for the fishing and nature. We find these spots are great as many cannot do without power and cell coverage for very long. So when other campgrounds are over-crowded we just stay away. This year we spent those months at our cabin and did some fixing there…when the crowds are gone we will venture out again.
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