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Sports & Travel Administration Centre seemed very happy that we were out. Secondly, there are no snow machines allowed, no motors to rip into the sounds the woods make when you stop and listen for awhile. And, finally, the trail into Crean Kitchen, a campsite just past the Heart Lakes, is a fairly flat ten-kilometer stretch, groomed for skate-skiing and classic crosscountry. We weren’t climbing mountains and skirting patches of thin ice. It was a low-risk,

A

fter moving to Prince Albert, I found one of the greatest things about living there is the proximity to the lakes. I use the term ‘lakes’ generally because there’s no real way to be specific about them. We have lakes near here. If you ask around, you’ll hear a lot about them in all their seasonal glories. Personally, I’m a fan of those lakes that allow for less motorized action and more serenity. Recently, I joined the Saskatoon Snowshoe Club on a trek to Crean Lake, the biggest body of water in Prince Albert National Park. I’m not used to winter camping. My wife thinks it’s crazy, so it’s not something we do a lot. However, the crew that was going was excited, experienced, and prepared. I felt quite comfy with my borrowed sled and my rope harness. For me, the Park has always been a welcoming, adventurous place. The first, and biggest, advantage to winter camping in the Park is that someone knows you’re there. In fact, as we registered for camping, the woman at the Park’s

out. We were worried about rain, but all we got was a light sprinkling of snow. It was otherwise hovering around -1 degree and that was actually too warm. After all, we weren’t wearing T-shirts! We arrived at the Crean warden’s cabin in just over three hours, sooner than I’d expected. The pleasant conversation along the way smoothed the more difficult parts of the hike into something less onerous. We stepped out of the trees and onto

to wolves call each other from opposite ends of the lake, while the water boom-cracked like a heartbeat less than forty feet from our door. It was wondrous indeed. As we headed out late the next morning, the skies had cleared and a bright sun flooded the lake with light. It had cooled right down. The trees sparkled, the air was filled with ice crystals. Back on the trail, I found myself a little ahead of the others and stopped for a rest.

I’d never lain in a dark tent

The need for

at some unknown hour of the

winter camping

morning, listening to wolves call each other from opposite ends of the lake.

by Mike Bowden

high-fun venture that ended on big frozen water, a kitchen shelter belching smoke upon our arrival. And it was beautiful. The skies had been gray during our hike

one of the biggest expanses of frozen water I’ve ever seen. The lake stretched out into the distance, huge and flat and frozen, the mist curling from its far edges obscuring the horizon. We unloaded our gear, dried off in the shelter, and then got to the business of setting up our tent. This trip held a lot of new experiences for me: I’d never set up a hot tent (that is, a canvas tent with a wood stove in it, something we’d hauled all the way there). I’d never chopped a hole in the ice with a short-handled axe, never snow-shoed in the dark, hoping for the stars to come out. I’d never lain in a dark tent at some unknown hour of the morning, listening

And that’s where I remembered it. The big IT, the reason why I had missed this kind of experience so much. There was no noise around me, no noise within me. There were only the woods and my breathing. Heading off again, I felt euphoric. I knew the feeling wouldn’t last, couldn’t last, and that thought made the feeling all the sweeter. Anything lay within my abilities, and it was enough to move on down the trail. It’s the kind of memory I’ll call on when things aren’t peaceful or quiet, the kind of memory that reminds me of what is most essential: breathing, listening, and looking around me in wonder.

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