A Wilderness Getaway Like No Other: Lodges Along The Line

A slight breeze blows the 18-foot cedar strip boat past a rocky point that juts into the dark waters of Wabatongushi Lake. Virtually every cast towards the steeply sloping shoreline is answered with the sharp pull of walleye. Any worries about my wife Connie enjoying a wilderness holiday evaporate like the mist of this sun-draped Northern Ontario morning. That’s when I spot the moose; a mother and two calves feeding in the shallows amidst a clump of pencil reeds some200 yards away. Connie quietly reaches down for her camera while I drop the four-stroke outboard into gear and idle towards the ungainly animals. It isn’t until we’re a stone’s throw away that mother nudges her calves for theshore and the trio disappear into the spruce and cedar. ‘Wow’ is all my wife can say as she looks backwith wide-eyed amazement. 

James Smedley

With smiles as broad as the cloud-dappled sky, I point the boat towards an island where we’re to meet other guests for lunch. It’s only the first day of our remote wilderness vacation and already it’s exceeding expectations.
 
We’re up the Algoma Central Railway north of Sault Ste Marie, Ontario. The fishing back home is good, however, my wife and I were looking for real wilderness in a remote location. The Algoma Central Railway cuts almost 300 miles through a broad swath of Northern forest. There are about a dozenlodges along the rail line offering a remote wilderness setting comparable to fly-in destinations, though without the high price tag. We chose Errington’s Wilderness Island on giant Wabatongushi Lake mainly because of the promise of great fishing and, with Wabatongushi located entirely within theChapleau Game Preserve, the chance of seeing a lot of wildlife.

James Smedley

Once we board the train at The Algoma Central station in Sault Ste. Marie the pressures of the cityall seem to fade away as we sink into the comfortable seatsof the passenger car. The ribbon of steel snakes past rivers, lakes and wetlands cradled by the undulating landscape of the Canadian Shield. There’s no better example of the dramatic Shield country than where the tracks follow the rapid-strewn Agawa River in its descent into Agawa Canyon, where both tracks and river are funnelled between steep walls of granite.

Continuing north into the sweeping flat landscape of the boreal forest, I spot something dark moving along the shore of a small lake. As the train gets closer we see a large black bear peekingover his shoulder with calm curiosity as we rumble past eventually slowing to a stop at mile 206, called Wabatong. Owner Abby Errington is waiting for us with a small fleet of boats and followinga 15-minute boat ride, we arrive at the cluster of log structures at Errington’sWilderness Islands. Its late afternoon, so wehavejust enough time to get settled in our cabin before heading to the main lodge for a feast of Cornish hen and fresh vegetables. Even before darkness falls the stars seem brighter here. We stepdown onto the dock before turning in for the night. An alarmed beaver slaps the water with its tail setting off a chorus of loons as I quietly remark, “I think this is going to be a great place to spend a few days.”
 
Sault Tourism
 
The next morning, we get out on the water to catch the first of many pike and walleye we’ll catch during our stay and again spot the cow moose and two calves. Just before the noon hour, ourstomachs growling, we’re greeted by Errington’s staff at a designated island for itsfamous shore lunch. Themotto of ‘roughing it in velvet’ is never more apparentwhen eating fresh-caught walleye cooked over an open fire on a remote island.
 
After we eat (probably a little more than we should have), Connie decides to walk it off with a few of the other guests along the five kilometers of hiking trails on Timberwolf Island. I head out to explore more of the lake before meeting back at the lodge for a drink before dinner.
 
“There was a family of otters running the trail,” Connie says simply beaming, “And we saw a great blue heron.”
 
“I found some big pike in a weed bed and watched a bald eagle lift a fish up out of the shallows,” I counter.
 
Following a sumptuous prime rib dinner, Abby Errington tells us about a canoe stashed in a wetland at the north end of the lake. “There’s a really good chance of seeing moose up there,” he notes as hepointsto its location on the lake map on the wall. “Head up in the morning for a paddle then fish your way back for lunch.” I look at Connie, whose nodding. “Sounds good. And from what we’ve experienced so far I expect we won’t be disappointed,” I say matter-of-factly and we’re on our way.
 
Story by Jack Savage

 

Visit www.saulttourism.com for packages and more information on things to see and do in Sault Ste. Marie!

About Staff Writer Tourism SSM

Tourism Sault Ste. Marie (TSSM) was formed to bring the local tourism industry together to promote the city and assist in developing its economy.

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