How many times in a week do you hear, “Winter is so long and brutal here in Saskatchewan! I can’t wait for summer!”
Saskatchewanians love to complain about winter. I get it – on paper winter sucks. You shovel driveways, put on a coat just to go outside, it gets dark at 5pm and the list goes on and on. But what if I were to tell you there is a place in Saskatchewan that takes everything you think is bad about winter, the cold and the snow, and flips it on its head?
You can probably guess by the title of this story that it is Prince Albert National Park.
Parks Canada and the Waskesiu Wilderness Region recently invited me to experience the park in all its winter glory. The park is open all four seasons, yet it sees little traffic in fall, winter and spring. I hope to help change that! What I found shouldn’t just be my secret. I want you to experience it too.
Saskatchewan people are lucky. Not everyone gets to experience the swishing sound of boots breaking trail after a fresh snowfall, the heavy silence of a winter slept forest, the seemingly purposeful perfection of boreal trees draped in snow or the opportunity to face extreme elements head on that most of world runs screaming from.
Prince Albert National Park is full of winter opportunity and offers something for anyone who is willing to step outside and take command of winter.
Remember, there is no such thing as too cold outside. (99% of the time….) This sentiment is often the hesitation I hear when suggesting to others to venture outside on those -25C and lower days. When you are working hard and enjoying the snow it is never a problem of being cold it is a problem of being too hot! You will be surprised how much heat you can create under a few small layers while cross-country skiing or hiking.
While exploring Prince Albert National Park I was lucky enough to get perfect winter weather of -15C. That may seem like frigid temperatures if you only experience it on your morning commute while sitting motionless in your car seat begging your seat warmers to save you from your violent shivers, but if you are on the move in the splendor of winter that temperature is so hot that you will be quickly shedding a layer, going barehanded and wishing you had more water in your thermos.
Prince Albert National Park is littered with easy to access cross-country ski and hiking trails, winter wildlife and thousands of unexpected surprises. Saskatchewan isn’t a place where you can easily look at a mountain and understand that the top of the peak is the thing you should be looking at and be impressed. We are a place of nuanced moments that only are discovered if you go out and find them.
During my weekend in Prince Albert National Park I was bombarded by these moments. You know when you experience something, and you just know it is going to be a story later? Well, that seemed to be a regular occurrence in my 48 hours in Prince Albert National Park.
Hanging Hearts Lake
Ingrained in my mind are vivid moments from my weekend exploring. I said hello to one of the biggest moose I have seen. I relaxed on the shores of the Waskesiu Lake and listened to the ice create an alluring, booming echo as the ice sheet struggled to make more room for itself. I was startled by a wolf pack that darted across the road. I made friends with a curious grey jay who sat on the roof of my vehicle asking me where we were headed next. I was soothed by the bubbling sounds of the Waskesiu River fighting to continue to flow in plummeting temperatures. I watched the sun fight away the clouds to briefly create a brilliant shimmer on the snow burdened trees around me. I heard the sound of my own throbbing heartbeat as the only noise in a completely silent world. I spent the night snuggled deeply into my sleeping bag inside a shack that quickly became my home on the edge of Kingsmere Lake.
Who knows what unexpected winter surprise you will find in Prince Albert National Park? The only way to find out is to come and visit.