A sudden jolt of adrenaline kicks in as I look at the tangle of animal tracks. As the snow drifts gently down, all is silent and serene. Yet, there’s a story in these tracks, a drama being played out in the dark frosty forest that surrounds us.
We are in Prince Albert National Park in Northern Saskatchewan and driving the quiet road back to our cabin after a day of snowshoeing. All day we have seen the tracks of animals large and small, from snowshoe hare to elk. So, what about these tracks has us shining our car headlights into the bush and trying to decipher what is taking place? We are watching the natural drama of a healthy forest take place … we observe three sets of wolf tracks and one set of deer tracks. They have passed through very recently and are moving quickly. In other words, a hunt is in the works.
As we discover during our time here, Prince Albert National Park is indeed a special place that is alive not only with the spirits of the animals who call it home, but also with the passion of many humans who care about the land and wildlife. My husband Jack and I feel privileged to spend a bit of time here exploring on our snowshoes.
As we drive north from Saskatoon towards the Park, we watch flat snow-covered farmland gradually give way to picturesque black-speckled stands of trembling aspens. Farther yet the terrain becomes rolling, and coniferous trees start to dominate the landscape. This was a perfect introduction to Prince Albert National Park, which protects a transition zone between the aspen-dominated parkland of the south and the northern boreal forest.
We are staying in the Park at Lost Creek Resort, a collection of cabins that sit in a clearing in the forest. Our cabin is warm and comfortable with a fireplace and shared outdoor hot tub. As we eat breakfast on our first morning, a pair of elk promenades through the falling snow in front of the cabin. Breakfast is quickly forgotten as Jack runs for his camera.
With elk photos and breakfast looked after, we can’t wait to grab our snowshoes and head out. At Lost Creek Resort, you can step out your door and just start snowshoeing. It’s as easy as that. We decide to point our snowshoes in the direction of the small town of Waskesiu, which sits on the shore of Waskesiu Lake. We follow the lakeshore, enjoying the broad expanse of frozen lake and above that, the big prairie sky that has fascinated us since we landed in Saskatchewan. It is becoming clear to us why Saskatchewan is referred to as the Land of Living Skies, as the snow clouds shift back and forth to reveal patches of bright blue sky. We snowshoe along one tunnel-like trail with overhanging snowy trees and bushes. Suddenly a deer steps onto the path and we look briefly at one another before it bounds off, its white tail echoing the white of the fresh snow. Once again we are reminded that we are mere visitors and the land here truly belongs to the animal inhabitants.
Snowshoe destinations in the Park are essentially limitless. You can select from several suggested routes, or just head out almost anywhere you wish in Prince Albert National Park’s 3,875 square kilometres. One cold morning we decide on the historic Freight Trail, formerly used by Canada’s iconic Hudson’s Bay Company to transport goods between area outposts. The wide trail is wonderful for snowshoeing, frost glistens on branches and the trees snap and crackle in the frigid air. Under dazzling sunshine, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect winter day.
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