At the top of my Sister-in-Law’s bucket list has been hiking to Grey Owl’s cabin. It’s a 40 km round hike in Prince Albert National Park, an enormous federal park in northern Saskatchewan. You can look up all kinds of information about who Grey Owl was and what he was doing up on Ajawaan lake. This blog post will simply chronicle our journey and give suggestions and coordinates for future hikers.
Hiking advice is generally relative, depending on many factors from weather and gear to preparedness and individual athletic ability. However, this advice is absolute:
DON’T DO THIS HIKE IN SUMMER!Jason Schultz
Unless you like 70 trillion insects swarming and buzzing your face and body non-stop and you love sweating all the time. LOL. We did this trip at the end of June and our temperatures were an unbearable 36-38ºC with absolutely no breeze. Kingsmere lake was absolutely glass the whole time. The insects went from bad to worse with mosquitos, black flies, deer flies and horse flies each taking their turns attacking us non-stop. The greatest challenges this hike provided us would have been remedied by doing it in late September/early October.
That, and ultra-lite gear. We just used stuff we had on hand and that made for a bit of a challenge. Our gear was heavy and we had to camp at the far end of the hike, at Northend – which meant we had to carry the gear pretty much the entire hike. If we could have lessened that load, I predict it would have made the journey 17% more enjoyable.
This map is provided by Parks Canada but it doesn’t include GPS coordinates for the campgrounds. I find it so helpful to have these things marked so that you can tell how far the next stop is going to be. Here are my GPS coordinates for the camp stops and trail heads along the way:
1) Trail Start: N54° 01.565′ W106° 24.933′
2) Westwind: N54° 02.974′ W106° 24.419′
3) Chipewyan Portage: N54° 04.462′ W106° 23.778′
4) Sandy Beach: N54° 07.117′ W106° 24.604′
5) Northend: N54° 08.085′ W106° 27.391′
6) Grey Owl Hike Trailhead: N54° 08.043′ W106° 27.728′
7) Grey Owl Cabin: N54° 08.990′ W106° 27.808′
It truly is a gorgeous hike with lots of spectacular scenery. We had a good but challenging time! The most challenging section was Chipewyan Portage to Sandy Beach, mainly because it’s the most open part of the trail and it was unbelievably hot. We were able to get cooled off swimming at Sandy Beach thankfully. The registration process to hike the backcountry has to be the day you start the hike at 7AM. Then you have to drive the 35km to the trail head, so you don’t actually start hiking until around 8AM or so. It was already sweltering by that time. The park really needs to employ an online registration setup with night-before access so you can start earlier. We started our return trip before 6AM and didn’t regret it at all. Thankfully, we saw no bears either. Elk in the Waskesui campground was about as exotic as it got.
Hiking in to the Cabin June 30th – 24.6km, 10:15 hours total (including swimming stops).
Hiking out July 1st – 17.9km, 5:56 hours total.
All photos taken with Samsung S20.
2017 has been an amazing year of travel and travel photography opportunities! This last venture took us to Waskesiu to stay in Prince Albert National Park at the tail end of September. It’s Saskatchewan’s favourite park (read BUSIEST) and so it was great to go there and not have any crowds and enjoy minimal bugs! We stayed in an oTENTik – which was nice but severely overpriced. They wanted $120 a night for a tent with no bathroom or lights. A bit of a rip. But the location is worth the money. The fall colour peaked a few days before we arrived but it was still absolutely glorious! I brought along the big Nikon gear to sop it all up in the dynamic range of the D800. 24mm 1.8G lens & 85mm 1.8G are all I took. I was hoping to get some cool flash shots of the kids in the colour but it rained too much and put a kibosh on my off camera flash dreams.
The Elk rut was still on too which meant raspy bugles could be heard throughout the park. We managed to approach one bull and a harem of cows but they were hanging out on the golf course. It makes for pretty crappy wildlife photos to have them eating fairway grass! So we continued on our way and did a hike through the Boundary Bog. It was incredible! Tiny Tamarack trees were everywhere in a brilliant display of yellows and reds. I can only imagine how insane the mosquitos would be here during the summer months. Very glad to hit up the location in the fall!
We were able to do one more hike down by the Waskesiu River before the next big rain storm hit. It really hampered the photo opportunities but I was able to snag a few more shots along the boardwalk before having to head for the hills.
Our last night cleared off quite nicely and I was able to get some cool milky way shots through the trees in the campsite. That’s where the 1.8 lenses really shine. Prime Time baby! [cool]
We had a good time in Waskesiu, taking advantage of the Canada 150 no entrance fee perk. It was a great time to be in the north, dodging the crowds and the bugs. We could have probably stayed another couple of days which would have been great to maybe avoid the rain. But you get what you get and you don’t get upset! On to the next adventure!