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Sunday, 9 August 2009

Unplugged in the Wilderness

As the train pulled out of Hawk Junction on its northern route towards its final destination of Hearst we were soon lulled into a hypnotic like trance by the gentle clickety clack rhythm of the steel wheels on the well worn rails. The view from our windows revealed an endless expanse of pine and birch trees periodically broken by the crystal clear pristine waters of one of the thousands of lakes spread throughout Northern Ontario. The roads soon ended. There were few towns and fewer people. The train came around once last bend a slowed to a stop at mile 206 on the Canadian Algoma Central Railway. We had arrived with much anticipation at the boat pier of Errington’s Wilderness Island lodge. The vast azure blue lake opening northward before us was Wabatongushi, covering over 10,000 acres of the 2 million acre Chapleau Game Preserve. We were soon met by a small pontoon boat at the dock captained by Al Errington, co-host of the Wilderness Island Resort. “Wilderness” is the certainly the correct name to use here as we later learned to our pleasure that we were about to spend the next few days in the world’s largest wildlife sanctuary. After a short fifteen minute boat ride across the cool waters of Wabatongushi we soon arrived at our final destination, a little secluded log cabin situated on the edge of one of the lake’s seventy-plus lush green islands.

We had chosen Erringtons for the solitude and the privacy, a short escape from the electronic webs created by our cell phones, Blackberries, computers and televisions that ensnared our time and attention. We were not disappointed. Over the next four days we traded in our SUV for a well weathered 18 foot cedar wood motor boat and explored the many islands, channels, bays, shorelines and tangled forests of Wabatongushi. While many visitors come for the generous walleye, pike and whitefish fishing the lake has to offer, we came for the wildlife viewing and photography. Again, we were not disappointed. Over the next few days I was able to focus my camera on moose, hawks, bald eagles, herons, black bear and loons.

One evening, without leaving the deck of our cabin, we were able to observe the playful antics of a mother loon and her newly born chicks. We watched for hours as the little fuzz balls fought for the best spot on their mother’s feathered back. Just yards from our dock, on the other side of our cabin, we watched one of nature’s condominiums rise from the waters of the wetlands as beavers constructed their lodge, a heron soon took occupancy with a nest on top. On another day excursion in our cedar strip boat, we headed to Long Time No See-Um Bay where we did see a moose cow. We spent the morning photographing her while she enjoyed her breakfast from the reedy floor of the bay as she submerged and rose from the cool waters like a furry brown island. A visit to Errington’s Wilderness Island Resort would not be complete without a black bear sighting. A light morning drizzle dampened our clothes but not our spirits as we boated in the direction of Dibben Bay heading towards Bear Point. With the help of our guide Larry, who helped us anchor in the tricky shallow waters off the point, we watched as the alpha bear of the clan chowed down on last night’s dinner remains, brought over each morning around 9 o’clock by someone from the lodge. Hawks and seagulls circled overhead anxiously waiting for their turn at the scraps. Some of these winged dinner companions were so anxious to join in the feast that they landed on the bear’s hunched back. Speaking of dinner, we ended each of our days, back at the main lodge with a delicious gourmet meal prepared by one of the chefs and Al’s wife Doris. It was a luxury to know that each evening we would be seated in the cozy lodge to enjoy an ample and enjoyable meal of cornish hen, pork cordon bleu and steak. Did we mention the desserts- apple pie, lemon meringue pie and chocolate cake? While we brought in our own breakfast and lunch foods, we loved the idea of not having to worry about dinner. We grew to anticipate the evening meal and good conversation provided by Lori, Al and other lodge dinner guests. To remind us that we were never too far from the teeming wildlife of Wabatongushi Lake, while we sat down to enjoy our last three course dinner at the lodge, outside our picture window, a mature bald eagle swooped down and plucked a walleye for his gourmet dinner from the waters, disappearing into the mass of pines and birch that framed the shoreline


Alan & Linda Ginsberg (Madison, WI, USA)

Guests on July 30-August 2, 2009

From Errington's Wilderness Island Resort www.WildernessIsland

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