A Winter Woodland Expedition

During the brutal cold snap we had around New Years, there was one day that was a balmy -15C. A perfect day to go camping in the woods.

The quinzee on Caribou Lake.

The quinzee on Caribou Lake.

I have never gone winter camping before, in fact I have barely gone summer camping before. Having a grown up with a cottage on Star Lake, I never really thought to go camping. Holidays and vacation time were spent hanging out on the dock and the boathouse.

So this winter camping trip to Caribou Lake was a great new adventure for me. Caribou Lake is an isolated little lake, just northeast of Caddy Lake. It has no cottages on it and is not accessible by road, so we took the snowmobiles through the woods to get there.

Hollowing out the quinzee.

Hollowing out the quinzee.

Firewood had been previously chopped and snow had already been piled up for the quinzee. You want to do this in advance so you don’t work up a sweat before sleeping in the quinzee. We got there around two in the afternoon. About six of us had sledded in, but only two of us were going to spend the night.

We started off the day with ice fishing for walleyes. The walleye on this lake aren’t huge, but they are a perfect eater size. What is really interesting about the walleye on Caribou Lake is that they have blue fins! According to the fishing experts and zoologists I was with, this is most likely because of the water colour in the lake. Fish can vary in colour from lake-to-lake as the water colour varies. However I was told that apparently there is a certain type of blue walleye, but not found in these areas.

A very blue tail on a walleye from Caribou Lake.

A very blue tail on a walleye from Caribou Lake.

After landing about five or six fish, we hollowed our the quinzee. The previous cold snap and massive amounts of snow had made it quite firm.

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A large cliff with a little nook in it made the perfect natural spot for a fire as the rock cliff reflected heat back quite nicely. This was the perfect place to sit and keep warm throughout the evening, and it also was the perfect place to cook dinner. My boyfriend had brought a deer roast – An entire hind leg wrapped in tin foil. Low and behold, there was a little ledge in the side of the cliff right above the fire; a perfect place to cook the deer roast over the fire. It was a true caveman style dinner… Except we had injected our roast with garlic-infused olive oil. The deer roast cooked for over the fire for about five hours. To be honest, I wasn’t overly confident in the idea of cooking an entire roast on a rock by the fire, but it turned out to be the best deer meat I have ever had!

The deer roast cooking over the fire.

The deer roast cooking over the fire.

Sitting beside the fire.

Sitting beside the fire.

After dinner my boyfriend took the rest of the crew home on the snowmobile, giving me some time to myself in the woods. They took the remainders of the deer roast with them – And thank goodness. While I know wolves are highly, highly unlikely to approach a human, when you’re alone in the woods in the dark your mind can have a tendency to run away on you. The last thing I wanted was to be sitting there alone with a delicious garlic-infused deer roast! However I enjoyed the fire for awhile while the others were gone, and no wolves were seen.

The candlelit quinzee.

The candlelit quinzee.

When it was the end of the evening, we rolled the snow door over the quinzee for a long winter’s nap. Well, it wasn’t that long. The quinzee was candlelit and actually created a lovely atmosphere, but our only mistake was that we should have layed down a tarp inside the quinzee to provide a bit more of a barrier between us and the ice. However the temperature outside was around -20C and the inside of the quinzee stayed at about zero degrees so we had a decent temperature to sleep in.

This was a great experience and a true outdoor adventure. I would recommend anyone to give winter camping a try. If you come equipped properly it is an amazing experience and an awesome thing to check off the ol’ bucket list.

Written by Marney Blunt.

Whiteshell Business: Falcon Trails Resort

Written by Emily Christie & Caleigh Christie.

960047_559212490834233_1781299275_nFalcon Trails is a family-run resort located at the southeast end of Falcon Lake which welcomes guests year round to enjoy private lake-front cabins with hot tubs, magnificent views, friendly people, and the beauty of the Boreal Forest and Precambrian Shield. It is a perfect mix of wilderness and rustic luxury. Owners and operators Barb Hamilton and Craig Christie first started building the resort in 1996 after teaming up with two other couples; Mike & Yuki Valasman and Rich & Lois Pettit, who worked together to dream up a business proposal of a year round resort which would provide a crutch to the struggling local ski hill. The resort accommodation would allow for visiting skiers to have a place to stay and thus make the ski hill operation a more viable business. Today, the ski hill and the resort operate in tandem and are run solely by Barb, Craig, their three daughters Emily, Caleigh, Brooke, and an amazing host of staff who contribute what has become a vibrant micro-community workplace.

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The resort embraces a progressive environmental ethic by striving to reduce their ecological footprint wherever possible. Some of the sustainable initiatives include:

  • All Natural Cleaning Products: we use non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning products to maintain all our Falcon Trails and High Lake cabins.
  • Well-insulated cabin design to save heating energy.
  • Passive solar lighting utilizing large windows on the southern wall.
  • Cold-water washing with phosphate-free detergent for all laundry.
  • Composting and recycling program to minimize household waste.
  • Naturally focused landscaping embracing the local habitat.
  • Native plant garden.
  • Inspiring a love for the environment by getting people outdoors and in the woods!
High Lake Eco-Cabin.

High Lake Eco-Cabin.

One initiative that the resort is particularly proud of is the High Lake off-the-grid Eco Cabins which were the winners of the Tourism Manitoba Eco Tourism award in 2003. These four cabins which are located on High Lake, 2.5km from the rest of the resort boast incredible luxury in a very remote and private setting.

373911_176271789128307_1968856398_nThe cabin’s shared features include:

  • Built using largely reclaimed or local materials.
  • ‘Remote Access’ to avoid habitat destruction and to promote sustainable transport alternatives (walking, running, biking, cross country skiing).
  • Solar-powered electricity.
  • Gravity-fed water supply.
  • State-of-the art indoor composting toilets.
Whiskey Jack, the straw bale eco-cabin on High Lake.

Whiskey Jack, the straw bale eco-cabin on High Lake.

The latest two additions to the Eco Cabin rental fleet include a log and straw bale cabin. The log cabin which was built with the help of local swiss log builder Walter Keller is a beautiful, rustic cabin made for couples with a fantastic lookout over the lake, right from the master bed. The straw bale cabin, with an interior timber frame design, is a beautiful example of how an unconventional yet extremely smart and environmentally friendly building technique can also be luxurious and comfortable. Falcon Trails pursues these efforts to respect and sustain the environment for ourselves and future generations to live, work, and play.

395515_499700016749672_496207185_nIn recent years, the resort has become akin to Manitoba’s vibrant music scene.  As an intimate live music venue, playing host to many concerts from artists such as Jim Bryson and the Weakerthans, The Crooked Brothers, Red Moon Road, Fish and Bird, Ridley Bent, Scott Nolan, Oh My Darling, the F-Holes, and many more. In addition to this, the resort and its cozy little cabins have acted as recording studios for a handful of albums. To offset the lack of weekend music festivals in the winter Falcon Ridge Ski Hill has recently started hosting the “Snow Dance Music Festival” where people can come out, go skiing for the day and enjoy music workshops all the day through in the comfort of the warm chalet, with a cup of hot chocolate of course!

1470207_559211180834364_1889254026_nClearly Falcon Trails is about more than just cabin rentals.  It’s participation in music, outdoor recreation, community, environmental ethic, and hospitality makes for an excellent opportunity for folks to get out and explore, participate and really experience what the Whiteshell has to offer.

Photos by Emily Christie.

Day Tripper

Freelance videographer and Creative Communications advertising student Stefanie Cutrona shares why a few day trips to Falcon Lake this summer have her calling Falcon, ‘the happiest place in Manitoba’.

Story and photos by Stefanie Cutrona.

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Up until this summer, I could count on my fingers how many times I’d been to the lake. My family doesn’t have a cottage anywhere and I wasn’t friends with people who did either, so I never had a reason to go. But this summer, I visited Falcon Lake in the Whiteshell for the first time (and several times after) and it’s become one of my favourite places to spend my down time when it’s hot out.

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On a good day, it’s only an hour and a half drive, perfect for a day trip. You’re far enough away from the city to feel like you’ve actually gone somewhere, but you don’t feel obligated to stay the night because you haven’t spent half the day driving there. What I love about Falcon is, while it’s a lake, it’s also a town with stores and places to eat and you don’t feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. The beach is lovely: you can actually lay in the sand and go swimming without having to step on gravel and rocks. No offence to Gimli: your town is great, but your beach hurts my feet.

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Once you’ve decided you’ve gotten enough sun, you can head to one of the golf courses (regular and mini!) or grab a bite at one of the restaurants or food stands. Our go-to place for dinner is Popeye’s – they have the best thin crust pizza you’ll ever have. Last time my boyfriend and I went, we took our pizza to this little spot with picnic benches and ate our dinner right in front of the lake. It doesn’t get much better than that.

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Spending my days at Falcon Lake was definitely my favourite part of summer break. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend you go and check it out.

Stefanie Cutrona is an advertising major in the Creative Communications program at Red River College and the founder and videographer of Little Bird Films. Check her out here: http://stefspeaks.com/ or follow her on Twitter, @stefspeaks.