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Tales of Misadventure - Grey Owl's Cabin - Part 1

Updated: Feb 18


I know most leaders wish to showcase their expertise in order to gain trust from their followers. I am taking a different approach and hope to convey the message that I am human and have tried and true experience that I can say I have humbly learned from. This story recounts my embarrassing first attempt to do the 42 km out and back hike to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park. What started as an adventurous quest turned into a comedy of errors. So grab some popcorn, sit back, and let me take you on this journey of epic failure!

Chapter 1: Overpacked and Underprepared

The day of the hike arrived, and my hiking partner and I thought we were ready for anything. We had prepared in an advance for this hike, and done our research online.  We had familiarized ourselves with Grey Owl's famous history. We had even watched the movie, Grey Owl! (Attenborough. (Director).(1999). Grey Owl. Alliance Films.   Picture this - a stunning panorama of sparkling lakes, lush forests, and trails begging to be explored. The breath taking views on the way to the reward at the end: The real life cabin that Grey Owl lived in! We looked forward to the sheer sense of accomplishment that would surely come with conquering this expedition.

Little did we know that our enthusiasm had blinded us to crucial details like bug forecasts, packing correctly, or assessing our own fitness levels and limitations. Armed with excessive amounts of gear, we set off on this ill-fated adventure. (Sign up for out info night here with Warriors of the Wild and Fresh Air Experience Regina where you can learn how to pack the right way for a hike and avoid the problems we had)

Chapter 2: Enemies in the Wild

Immediately after setting out on our trek, we realized we were not alone. There were swarms of tiny, blood-thirsty creatures with wings: Millions of mosquitos.

Prepared for everything nature could throw our way, our bug spray boasted impressive claims of a mosquito-repellent forcefield. The netting over our heads and bodies resembled a scene from a sci-fi movie. We were like warriors (pun intended), ready to face any insect-infested challenge head-on.

We confidently and promptly activated our bug spray. With one swift motion, we covered ourselves in a misty cloud of protection. This was it, the ultimate shield against the enemy! Oh, how wrong we were.

Upon the first spray, the mosquitos seemed momentarily confused. They hesitated, as if testing the resilience of our defense. But alas, it was as if we'd given them a newfound motivation. They quickly regrouped, launching an all-out assault on our vulnerable flesh. It was a battle we were destined to lose.

We shook our heads in disbelief, swatting at the air, performing a synchronized dance of flailing limbs. It seemed that no amount of bug spray could deter these relentless critters. Amidst the swarm of buzzing wings and darting stingers, we managed to find some humor in our predicament and eventually, we surrendered to the inevitable. We accepted our fate as unwilling blood donors to these insatiable insects. We soldiered on, driven by a stubborn determination to enjoy the natural beauty around us.

Chapter 3: Poop Panic and the Terrifying Tree Rustle

After walking for what seemed like hours, we stumbled upon something that grabbed our attention — bear scat lying right in the middle of the trail! Our excitement peaked, and we couldn't resist examining it closer. Afterall, we were prepared with our bear spray.

As we were busy discussing the finer details of bear scat, a twig snapped in the nearby bushes. Panic ensued! We quickly realized that our exploration of bear scat had taken a detour into the realm of irrational fear. We froze, our eyes wide as saucers, and our minds ran wild with thoughts of ferocious bears lurking in the trees.

The rustling in the trees grew louder, intensifying our fears. Our brains conjured images of giant bears performing acrobatics in the branches above us. Our hearts raced as if trying to outrun our imagination. Unable to contain ourselves any longer, we let out a collective scream and scrambled for cover behind the nearest tree.

As we clung to the tree and each other like scared cats, our once furry foe revealed itself. Lo and behold, it was a squirrel — a clueless, bushy-tailed creature, oblivious to the chaos it had caused. Our tension quickly transformed into fits of laughter, realizing just how unfounded our fears had been. We couldn't help but chuckle at our own over-the-top reaction.

Eager to continue our hike with our newfound humor, we dusted ourselves off, picked our pride up off the ground, and carried on. Along the way, we learned a valuable lesson about the power of our imaginations. Sometimes our minds can create monsters out of twigs and squirrels. It's important to stay calm, rational, and embrace the unexpected complexities of nature.

Chapter 4: The Sizzling Sweatfest

It was a scorching summer late July day, with the blazing sun high up in the sky, as we continued on our trek. Our clothes clung to our bodies, and sweat was pouring down our faces as if we'd spent too long in a sauna. Each step felt like a monumental task, and the weight of our overpacked bags only added insult to injury.

Red-faced and wheezing, we attempted to navigate the trails while simultaneously questioning the life choices that led us there. It was a sight to behold, as we stumbled over tree roots and rocks, barely managing to maintain our balance.

To make matters worse, our backpacks, already heavy burdens, started to feel like torture devices strapped to our backs. We cursed the excess weight we had chosen to bring along — the dozen cans of beans that seemed like a great idea at the time, the extra water that we were too afraid to leave behind, and the ridiculous assortment of double and just-in-case items that proved their complete uselessness.

We found ourselves panting like dogs, crying like babies, gasping for air and swallowing our pride. In a state of sheer desperation, 3 kilometers into our 40 kilometer trip, we ripped off our clothes and resorted to skinny dipping as we plunged into the cool Kingsmere waters.

Skinny Dipping Location

As we ascended a particularly steep section of the trail, we reached the peak of our collective exhaustion. Our muscles screamed in protest, but amidst the pain and discomfort, a strange sense of camaraderie took hold. We laughed, marveling at the absurdity of our situation, realizing that this unforgettable experience would undoubtedly provide us with endless stories to tell. We had reached our first check point and it was time to set up our camp.

Chapter 5: The Morning After

With the chirping of birds as our alarm clock, and the sun rays caressing us through the canvas, we awoke inside the cozy confines of our tent. We were in the heart of the wonderous woodland. The weary remnants of yesterday's arduous hike permeated our every muscle, leaving us feeling like immovable boulders with a severe case of rigidity. Oh, the sweet irony of it all! We had bravely conquered nature's trails, only to be reduced to a moaning pile of soreness the next morning.

As we attempted to peel ourselves off the sleeping bags, our bodies protested. Every movement elicited a chorus of cracks and creaks, as if our joints, too, were mocking our feeble attempts.

Our first attempt at standing was nothing short of a comedy routine gone awry. Picture newborn fawns attempting their wobbly first steps, and you'll have an accurate representation.

Finally, we managed to crawl out of the tent, determined to greet the day. A symphony of grunts and groans accompanied our valiant efforts, acting as background music to the sylvan ambience. The birds, no doubt perplexed by our comical display, chirped louder, as if joining in the merriment.

The forest itself seemed to cast a knowing gaze upon our predicament. The towering trees, wise old figures that they were, whispered secret laughter to one another.

Chapter 6: Retreat and Redemption

After the previous day of mishaps and misfortunes, the bleeding blisters on our feet, and the fact that we could hardly move, we finally decided to cut our losses and accept defeat. We simply could not go on. With our tails between our legs, we retreated from the trail, knowing that seeing Grey Owl's Cabin would have to remain an elusive dream for now. And by "retreated", I mean, we asked a person who was happily whistling along while hiking passed us, to kindly send a rescue team to us when he got back to the Park Office. You see, one of us had unfortunately sustained an ankle injury. Yes, you are correct; we did the unthinkable, and went against all of our better moral judgements and decided to fake an injury. (Please do NOT ever do this, as it can take away valuable resources from people in real emergencies. We know and do better now) We were too proud to admit our true reasons for defeat. We rock-paper-scissored it and my partner ended up being the chosen one with the "injury".

After waiting for several hours on the banks of the shore, we finally saw in the distance, a boat approaching us. News of our predicament had apparently reached the rescue team. Acting the part to perfection, my partner dramatically fell to the ground, clutching their ankle in pain.

Waiting to be rescued

As the boat docked, several fit young men hopped off and approached us with concern. We realized an unexpected twist of fate had brought a medical student along! Eager to showcase his skills, he examined my friend's ankle with great earnestness. He prodded and poked their foot while they let out some, "Oohs", and "Ows". I wanted to sink into the sand, or float away on a leaf, feeling the sheer shame of the situation and the realization that we were all very aware of the 'elephant in the room'.

 Arm in arm, the team helped my friend on to the boat and sped us back to the portage at the head of the lake. As my partner was seated securely and comfortably inside the small boat that was loaded on the trolly, they got pushed by the 5 strong men, for the kilometer on the track back to the trail head. I however, was not granted the opportunity to blissfully board the boat again, and had to run behind them at full speed. I huffed and puffed and cursed my life (and my hiking partner) but was forced to endure my punishment.


While failing to hike to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park wasn't the outcome we had hoped for, it turned into an adventure filled with laughter, lessons, and plenty of humbling moments. So, remember that it's not always about reaching the destination—it's about the journey, no matter how comically disastrous it may be. It's about trying again (and again) armed with newfound and self-discovered wisdom. Let nature humble you, let it test your resolve, and let it awaken your sense of mirth. Embrace the uncertainty that unfolds when you confront your own limitations. After all, even the most hilarious misadventures can become treasured memories that you'll carry with you forever.

"Remember you belong to Nature, not it to you"

-Grey Owl

(Ain't that the truth!)

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