Finding that peaceful, easy feeling in Lac La Biche
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Capturing the local sights and flavours with photographer Angus Cockney
Angus Cockney stalked the sunrise over the lake like a cougar tracking a deer in the forest, his strides long and quiet, his gaze intent. The dreamiest times for a photographer like Cockney are dawn and dusk. It's all about the glimmering light that plays on the landscape.
The Canmore-based, Inuit photographer brings both an artist’s and an athlete’s eye to his work, and he’s seen something he likes here in Lac La Biche. The region’s natural appeal, with its wide-open spaces, abundant lakes and quiet boreal forests, is one of the surprising discoveries for Cockney on his recent road trip for Zenseekers’ #TakeItToTheLake expedition. Though he’s travelled widely across the west, Lac La Biche is new territory for him.
Seasoned explorer though he is - in 1989, Cockney was the first Inuit person to ski to the North Pole - he still relies on local knowledge to get him into those picturesque places. That’s where someone like Norm Charest comes in.
Charest knows both the back and front country beauty of the Lac La Biche Region. Born and raised here, he owns and operates Off Road Rentals and Sales, and gets a kick out of introducing locals and out-of-towners to the hundreds of lakes and rivers in the region, and the countless forest trails.
Portaging their canoe to the lake that morning to fish, Cockney and Charest traded notes.
"We can individualize (any activity) for each person," Charest told him, whether it’s outfitting people for a day of fishing on their own or taking them out to find all the best fishing holes.
In the high summer season, demand is high for kayaks and canoes to paddle the Lakeland Provincial Park Canoe Circuit, Alberta's only backcountry canoe route, according to Alberta Parks. It takes about three days and you can camp on islands along the way.
Charest also rents ATVs and UTVs, a popular activity in the fall. For Cockney, the pathways looked like the perfect place for one of his favourite activities, trail running.
Come winter, people are clamoring for skidoos and ice-fishing gear. For a longer adventure, you can canoe, skidoo or drive your ATV out to where Charest has established a permanent site with outfitters’ tents (on raised platforms) near Elinor Lake Resort, on a beautiful, remote plot of land with prime fishing access.
Next to the natural appeal, Cockney was also intrigued by the local heritage. To capture the feel of the Plamondon Mini Parc, an outdoor museum with miniature replicas of the original settlement’s buildings, he had a couple walk barefoot through the grassy meadow with the wistful tiny houses as a backdrop. Plamondon is one of the only officially bilingual places in Alberta, and retains strong ties to its predominantly French origins.
When Cockney saw the Plamondon Whitesands Resort, he totally understood why the place was buzzing on a recent weekend. You have the choice of "glamping" in one of the adorable cabins, or bringing your RV or camper for a little more rustic experience in the group camping area.
But the big draw is the beach with white sand and the water for boating, paddle-boarding and swimming. It has the bonus of being so close to the hamlet of Plamondon but letting you feel like you're miles away. Ahhh.
There's no better way to end a day of adventures around the Lac La Biche region than at the Fat Unicorn Grill & Tap Room. It recently relocated from its location on the owner's ranch, just minutes from Plamondon, to the hamlet of Lac La Biche. You can take a tour of the craft brew operations and then sample the beers with a flight of tasters, have a pint or fill a growler to go.
Owner and master brewer Paul Reutov says the brewery doesn't aim to make a wide range of beers, but rather perfect just five or six.
Cockney loved the setting of the brewery, but also having the vibe of a lively pub, with a menu of burgers, steaks, salad and fries - perfect for pairing with a full-bodied IPA or a lighter lager.
WHEN YOU GO
Share what you find when you #TakeItToTheLake this summer, using the hashtag. You might find yourself featured on ZenSeekers and/or our partners' social media channels!
Book a stay here:
- Relax and stay at Plamondon Whitesands Resort, for camping or glamping in one of the lakeside cabins.
- Elinor Lake Resort, has lovely cabins where visitors truly wishing to unplug can fish, kayak and canoe.
- Book your backcountry adventure with OffRoad Rentals and Adventure.
Video produced by ZenSeekers and Edmonton's Viva Voce Group. Photos are by Indigenous photographer Angus Cockney, of Canmore.