Summer always comes and goes in an flash, and knowing that we would be fairly busy with work and family events, we decided to plan an overnight trip to get one more adventure in before the seasons start to change.
We decided to hang up the hiking boots for a weekend a give paddling a try instead. Paddling to the Crean Kitchen backcountry campsite in Prince Albert National Park is the perfect adventure to begin building canoe trip experience. We opted to rent canoes from the Hanging Heart Lakes Marina, which made planning even easier as we didn’t have to worry about hauling our own paddle craft anywhere. Backcountry passes can not be reserved online and must be purchased at the visitor center, and we were lucky to snag the last one of the three Crean Kitchen sites.
The Crean Kitchen campsite is about 10kms from the Hanging Hearts Marina. I read other information online estimating the paddle to be approximately 5 hours each way, but we had perfect weather and found ourselves there in only a couple of hours.
I had been watching the weather forecast closely in the days leading up to our trip, and it wasn’t promising. It called for rain both days with some scattered storms thrown in here and there. Pat insisted that the weather was going to be great, ‘because it has to be’, and I assumed that he was optimistic to have some sunny days off of work. To be safe we packed extra rain gear and shoved as much as we could in dry bags.
June was the lucky dog who got to come along with us this time. Piper has more endurance when it comes to hiking and will join me on trips that may be too strenuous for June, but she doesn’t relax in a canoe, and spends her time trying to plot an escape. Instead of a weekend of playing Piper overboard, we decided to leave her to be spoiled by my parents.
Although the weather forecast called for rain, Pat was right and the day was perfect. The sun was shining and the water was like glass. The lack of wind made for easy paddling and June propped herself up on our bags to enjoy the views. The channel heading in to Crean Lake can be tricky for boats when the water is low because of a few big rocks that aren’t too kind to propellers, but it’s perfect to paddle through.
After what felt like no time because we were enjoying ourselves so much, we arrived at Crean Kitchen. The best part about taking a canoe instead of carrying a backpack is all of the good food and luxury items you can pack. We had chips, fresh fruit, chairs, pillows! Amazing!
After setting up we decided to walk down to the beach area to enjoy the rest of the beautiful day. June did some swimming while the guys skipped rocks, and Chantal had brought along a disposable camera to take some photos.
I sat in my chair, enjoying the view and the perfect day we were having. Little did I know it was about to get even better..
I asked Chantal to take a quick photo of Pat and I together before we made our way back to the campsite, and the next thing I know, he was down on one knee. June wiggled around us in excitement, nudging us both, thrilled to be in on it all. Of course, I said YES. I’m sure he said some other things to me but I think I blacked out a little.
Over the moon, and a little in shock still, we made our way back to the campsite for the champagne and cookies that Chantal had secretly packed to celebrate.
After dinner. We looked out on to the perfectly calm lake and decided to go out for another short paddle to appreciate the sunset. It’s as if Pat had planned the weather as well as the proposal, absolutely perfect.
We enjoyed the colorful cotton-candy sky. A nearby pair of eagles chirped by their nest while a couple pairs of loons called to each other across the lake.
As we made our way back in, the kind people who were staying in the campsite beside us snapped a picture of our three canoes together.
After a long day of lake fun, and not nearly as many napping hours as usual, June was exhausted. She snoozed under the picnic table and refused our offers to let her in to the tent, because she needed to be close in case any opportunity for treats arose.
Eventually, we all tucked in for the night. The temperature was perfect, even with two people and a dog crammed into a small backpacking tent. We slept wonderfully, until around 6am when the distance rumble of thunder had up up and packing up within minutes. At last the storms had arrived as promised.
We packed everything up and set out in the canoes in record time. Although we could hear the rumbling, and see the occasional flash of lightning in the distance, the water ahead of us was perfectly calm.
The storm slowly followed behind us as we paddled back to the marina and the wind only began to pick up towards the end. The sky was dark, except for the one small clearing ahead of us that seemed to sit right over the marina and our parked vehicles. We arrived, safe and sound, and unpacked our canoes. Within minutes of leaving the marina, the rain started, and it continued as we enjoyed a delicious warm breakfast at the Hawood Inn in Waskesiu. The timing of the day couldn’t have been better.
It was a perfect weekend and I am still smiling as I write about it. What an exciting year we have ahead of us, and many many more after that.
Happy adventuring! (and wedding planning!)