How taking a trip to Wine Lake this summer can make you a better person

There's nothing more humbling than the realization that you're part of something much larger than yourself. 

I live in a small city located deep in the northern forest of Ontario. There's an unmeasurable amount of woodland bordering all directions of my house and I live literally 30 seconds away from a beautiful lake. I, like many northerners, enjoy the outdoors. I love fishing, camping, and simply being out amongst nature. All of these things are accessible to me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year - however, no matter how hard I try I can never seem to make enough time to get out and enjoy nature's bounty.

I'm a busy person; we're all busy. Despite our distance from major cities, we still live in a world where our preoccupation with being busy seems to take precedence over almost everything. Admittedly, it can be difficult to make time to get out and enjoy the world. We've become so engulfed in busying ourselves with monotonous tasks and so focused in our everyday rituals that we are missing life and not taking the opportunity to slow down and really let our surroundings sink in.

Wine Lake Camp is an exceptionally unique place and offers so much in the way of getting back to your roots. When I was asked to visit the camp a few weeks ago I had no idea what was in store. All I knew is that it was located about 3 hours away and that it was only accessible by boat. I thought that it would be a good opportunity for me to get out of the office as well as to experience the camp first hand. What I didn't realize upon my arrival at the boat launch that foggy Thursday morning was that I was about to embark on one of the best lake-life experiences I've had in a long time. I have since come to realize that a trip to Wine Lake Camp encompasses essentially all of what Sunset Country represents. I also found that, even though my excursion only lasted a day, that after my trip was over I immediately felt a sense of long awaited mental and physical rejuvenation. Here are some of the reasons why I believe taking a trip to Wine Lake this year will not only benefit you now, but also for a lifetime:

1. It's an adventure in itself just to get there.

There are a lot of camps that offer a great outdoor feel that are just a hop, skip and a jump off a beaten path down the highway. For a lot of these places you're able to drive up in the comfort of your own vehicle and unload your luggage just a few feet from the front door. Don't get me wrong, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that and I myself enjoy going to drive up camps for a quick getaway. This is not the case, however, for Wine Lake. Sure you have to drive for a few hours down paved highway, but when you arrive at the landing you'll soon find that your seemingly standard trip becomes a lot more than just ordinary. Once you've reached the landing you're required to travel by boat for about 25 minutes or so to a highly remote location. That's only to the half way point. Pulling up to a small jetty beside a waterfall where Wabaskang Lake flows into Wine Lake, you'll then be greeted by the Wine Lake staff who will more than happily help portage your boat over a custom built ramp with rollers over the waterfall and into Wine Lake. It's truly an amazing sight and you'll immediately feel the true sense of cooperation and community that Wine Lake Camp represents.


2. A day trip will feel like you've been gone for a week.

When I went to Wine Lake Camp on a day trip a few weeks ago I was only expecting to go up, shoot some video and pictures, enjoy the sights and that would be all; another successful day travelling through Ontario's wilderness. Of course I did all that, but the time frame in which I felt I accomplished all of those things was vastly extended and almost felt surreal to the point where, by the time I had arrived back home, it felt like I was had just taken a week's vacation. The combination of open water mixed with the quaint and charming location of the camp left me with a full bodied tiredness and relaxation that I wasn't even aware that I'd needed.

3. The quantity of amazing sights to see is only outmatched by its quality.

I grew up in Northwestern Ontario. That being said I'm very much accustomed to all sorts of wildlife in my back yard. But I have to be honest, I could not believe the amount of animals that we saw at Wine Lake. On our way to the camp, we saw birds of all sorts perched high in the trees as well as many decent sized fish swimming along side our boat in crystal-clear waters. Later that afternoon, on our way back to mainland, Herb spotted two bald eagles casually sitting a top a beaver dam; it was truly incredible. The sights you'll see will leave you with a sense of awe and bewilderment unlike anything else.


4. The style of living embraced by the camp will bring you back to your human roots.

The uniqueness and charm of the camp will become evident immediately upon your arrival on shore. The main cabin is the original that was built almost a hundred years ago and all of the additional guest houses were custom build to fit the theme. In order to build the cabins, all of the logs needed to be individually portaged across the frozen lake during the winter months. I believe this speaks volumes to the ethic of the owners, Herb Pugmire and Ann Sherman, in that it truly brings you back to a time when survival was a means of living and all of these qualities are emulated ten fold at Wine Lake. Although all of the cabins have considerable amenities i.e., propane stoves and fridges as well as solar powered lights, that's about as far as the modernization goes. What was really incredible is how they managed to cut tens of thousands of pounds of solid ice from the lake and keep it cool in an insulated ice-house year-round for their guests to use for drinks and food. The process to move one of these blocks is a feat in of itself and it will humble you to know that they do this every single winter.

5. There's no wifi, cell service, or cable television.

I know, I know. It's a scary thought for anyone who frequently uses their cellphones to text or check emails to think about going even one second without their devices. I myself am guilty of constantly checking my phone for missed messages as well as to see what people doing on social media. But really, once you've gotten over the initial shock of not having your phone attached to your hand you won't even miss it. Not even once. There's an abundance of things to occupy your time and within a hour of being there I guarantee you'll be so enthralled with whatever activity you're doing, fishing, swimming, sightseeing, that you'll begin to ask yourself "Why don't I do this more often?" I think at some point I spent an hour just chasing a snake through the underbrush of a spruce tree just to get a picture of it's face. I couldn't have been more content rolling around in the dirt trying not to spook this incorporeal critter. Since my trip  I've noticed a decrease in my phone usage and have started to pay attention to things beyond the glass of my screen, instead of through it. Spending the day at Wine Lake Camp really opened my eyes to the world that was literally right in from of me, and it can do the same for you. 

6. There's an overwhelming sense of community.

There's no two ways about it - Wine Lake Camp is about family and community; you'll feel right at home when you stay there. Herb and Ann are both incredibly knowledgeable with an deep passion for nature and life. They pride themselves in having generations of returning customers that come and spend their summer months out at the lake. I met a man who's been going to the lake for over 50 years. He originally came with his grandfather and, so many years later, still feels a strong connection to Wine Lake. Every year he and his wife make the journey in the very same wood and tin boat that he and his grandfather used to travel in when he was a child. His story was incredibly moving. I think it speaks to the nature of Wine Lake as well it's rich cultural history, originating from the humble beginnings of a native man raising his young family in the very same log cabin over a hundred years ago, that the essence of family living still resonates through the camp with it's unique charm and inviting community.


7. The remoteness of the camp will allow you to be alone with your thoughts.

Really the best about Wine Lake is its ability to bring you to a place in your mind that will enable you to really ingest and digest the all things that are happening around you. It's all too often that something incredible happens right before our eyes yet we're so focused on something else that we barely even acknowledge it. When we first landed at the camp, I was taking pictures left, right and centre to try to capture everything that was going on. Before long Herb quickly called me over to come check out the massive pike that regularly hung out by the dock. Of course my instinct was to take as many pictures as possible and try to get the best angle. But as I carried on taking photos the stillness and generally passive disposition of the fish really spoke to me. I mean, this is a fish, and it's just floating there undaunted by whats happening around it. It really got me thinking about how taking a moment to step back from it all and simply observe things and appreciate them as they're happening can really bring a new view on how you see the world. It was a fantastic revelation and I have Wine Lake to thank in part for my new perspective.

The reality of living in a post-modern world is that we've evolved to taking pictures first and ask questions later. Wine Lake Camp challenges us to slow down, ask questions and wade in the moment instead instead of trying to fight the current. Life is not about the destination, it's about the journey and when we take the time to really absorb our surroundings, we'll quickly discover just how rich and beautiful our little world really is. Wine Lake is the perfect place to get away from it all and be apart of something genuinely exciting. You'll gain new friends and unique stories to share with your friends and, when they ask you to see pictures, you'll tell them that they'll just have to go and see for themselves.

So get out there and experience lake living the way that it was intended. You'll be glad you did.

Member Spotlight Banner Wine Lake

Contact Information:

Wine Lake Camp
Herb Pugmire & Ann Sherman

Phone: Summer 807-222-3500 Winter 303-642-0875

About Travis Heath

Travis Heath is a graduate of the Film Production Program in Thunder Bay. He worked as a Writing Intern providing content for Ontario's Sunset Country in Kenora.

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