Congratulations to Chloe Hunchak for winning our Trail Story Contest. She is the winner of a free STA t-shirt. Her entry can be seen below. Keep exploring trails and sharing your stories with us!
Submitted by Chloe Hunchak
It was my idea. I basically forced them all to do it. I said, “Come on guys, don’t you want to be immersed in the beauty of Mother Nature?” They just grumbled. I exclaimed, “It’s only summer for 2 and 1/2 months here, we must go out and frolick in the forest!(!!)” They only rolled their eyes.
Finally they gave in to my ceaseless begging, and all 6 of us piled into my mom’s 97 corolla wagon. We made an unlikely but lively hiking group and set off for a trail I had chosen, proclaiming it as the easiest one in the Prince Albert National Park.
But alas, nothing done right is going to be easy.
This mish mosh group of hikers was made up of me, my mom, her boyfriend, my mom’s two friends and one of their daughters who was also my friend. We had all stayed a few days in a large, newly renovated cabin that gave us prime lakeshore access to Christopher Lake, and I thought we should at least try and act like we were in nature when really what we were doing was even more removed from nature than “glamping”- the cabin was more like a comfortable home in the suburbs-so hiking it was.
Of course we had already done all the usual lakeshore cabin activities: me and my friend had taken bikini pics for the instagram on the dock; we had drifted out on the glassy placid lake on an 8 seater floaty; we ate too much spaghetti and had a lot of day naps…the usual.
So we set off with no bugspray and one water bottle, faintly intrigued for what was to come. We were all in the car, driving up the beautiful scenic route that leads to Waskesiu, everyone chattering and me in the very back with the map yelling up to the front the directions and other info my demanding group wanted, when all of a sudden one of us let out a bloodcurdling scream. The car screeched to a stop, and we were all silent as we watched a small but husky black bear mother lope across the highway directly in front of us with her cub galloping away in front of her. We had just been reading from a pamphlet about what to do if we came across a bear, and now we were within a few meters of one. We stared wide eyed and slack jawed from the protection of the car until all that was left of the two bears was the light rustling of the leaves they had brushed past. We continued on our way, visibly shaken but also struck with awe at seeing the revered beast we had just been talking about. After a bout of silence we all thanked the driver, my mom’s boyfriend, for his quick reflexes. This was only the beginning.
We missed the turn onto the teensy trail I had suggested we take at first that led to a lookout spot and would have made our hiking time a total of 15 mins. Snap boom done. Instead, we drove up a little bit farther and parked at the next trail on the way. Our hiking time ended up being about an hour in total, which doesn’t seem so long, but us being somewhat unprepared ninnies, it took a lot more energy out of us. We screamed at small garter snakes and recoiled from the tiny leeches hidden around the rocks in the clear lake that ran beside the trail as we walked like a large encouraging symbol of the nature we hd enmeshed ourselves in. We saw many different colored mushrooms like we’d never seen before, and helped move some kind of black slug resting lavishly in the middle of our path with a long stick out of the trail’s way. We tasted wild raspberries, nature’s natural candy, and complained loudly and longly about the insane amount of mosquitoes feasting on our sweet bare skin. At one point, the path was so overgrown that we could barely see our shoes under the lush green leaves tickling our ankles as we walked. But we trugded on, sometimes gaining momemtum then having to stop and wait for the stragglers in the group. We sang a bit as we walked, weary for bears, but grew so tired from walking uphill that we would have been toast if we’d been forced to run from a bear.
Finally, after much encouragement from all of us to finish the trail and get ice cream after, and even losing one member from the group for a while- my mom’s friend was completely done with the mosquitoes and ran up ahead-we were all overjoyed to finally reach the Height-of-Land lookout tower that reaches 15 meters up into the sky from the forest.
We huffed and puffed walking up the stairs, my mom too afraid to look down because of the height. When we finally reached the top, all the previous complaining and exhaustion was forgotten as we gazed upon the expansive view of where the waters to the north flow into the Churchill River and waters to the south flow into the Saskatchewan River (I had to look that up to make sure). We had to snap some pics, and behind our big smiles there was no trace of disgruntlement, only the pride and accomplishment one feels after completing a task they thought neverending. But pictures still didn’t do this beautiful view any justice, because they can’t relay the depth of how far the land goes until the sky and the ground blend together, or the topography of the trees and valleys and tiny blue lines that make up the rivers winding through it all.
The drive out of the national park was silent, as we were well exercised, very hungry and quietly reflective of the awe inspiring adventure we’d had just 2 1/2 hours outside of our home city, Saskatoon.
And that’s the story of how this modge podge group made up and down the Shady Lake Trail in the Prince Albert National Park.