Monday, February 07, 2011

Top 10 Places: Northern Saskatchewan lakes

So far, all my top 10 places have been cities. I’m not a particularly an urban girl, so it seems odd to me that I’ve chosen only urban centres. And so, to end this series I’m not choosing a place that can be so clearly pinpointed on a map. I’m going off road – on to the water.

I first discovered northern Saskatchewan lakes as a kid when our parents sent my sister and me to camp. We did the usual summer camp things, like sit around bonfires and learn to canoe. I fell in love with being on and in the water, so different from a pool or the salty, tumultuous ocean.

Over the years, I would return to northern lakes as camper and counsellor. I not only learned how to canoe, roll a kayak and drop a ski, I also learned how to scare away bears that roamed into camp. I once told my young campers that bears don’t swim, only to have a big brown bear paddling around by our cabin the very next morning.

Later I became a certified canoe instructor and taught lessons to various groups, including a bunch of Thai exchange students who, as it became clear once they were on the water, understood little of what I had said. For a few summers I was part of a team that took Saskatoon street youth up north to canoe and camp. We paddled the rivers, built shelters, sat around campfires and gave the kids a break from their daily struggles on the street.

I was also once one of the leaders on a canoe expedition in northern Saskatchewan that nearly ended in disaster as we faced hypothermia, broken bones, lightening strikes - as well as running out of food rations.

For each of these trips I could tell endless stories – and those who know me have probably heard a few of them. But it’s more than all that. It’s the beauty of the northern lights, the pristine clear waters, the rich silence of the forest, the call of the loon. It’s night-swimming in the path of moonlight dancing on the lake’s surface. This is the magic of northern Saskatchewan lakes.

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