Home on the water - Boating, barbecuing and ice cream in easygoing Athabasca
Grinning ear to ear and spraying a fan of water behind him, Josh Meredith skims past on a Sea-Doo. Nikki Hallows is close behind, cutting across his wake and goosing the engine to launch herself into the air. Engine hum fills the air as they rev around Baptiste Lake in Athabasca County, Alberta.
The couple obviously feel at home on the lake. For Hallows, it comes naturally. Growing up in Athabasca, she and her siblings had lots of room to explore.
“At the time, it sometimes felt like there’s nothing to do here... but now, I find it’s the exact opposite. There’s so much!” says Hallows. “Looking back on it, it was really nice to grow up out here because when you’re young, you’re spending a lot of time outside, you’re very active, you’re out finding things to do.”
“Living in the city [now], and travelling for work, it’s really nice to come home to the calmness of a small town, it’s just so clean, and natural, and people are so welcoming.”
For her partner, Josh Meredith, it’s a different story. Meredith grew up in the UK and met Hallows while in master’s studies at the University of Alberta. There was a bit of culture shock on his first visit, but he quickly adapted.
“I’ve been to places before where you get the feeling like everybody knows each other, but come to a place like this and it’s like ‘Oh, everybody really does know each other,’” Josh recalls.
With the Athabasca River, lakes in all directions, plenty of woodlands to explore and an easygoing vibe, it’s easy to see why they feel so at home here.
Today’s outing finds Meredith and Hallows enjoying the water on Sea-Doos and out with a luxury pontoon boat, courtesy of Athabasca Boat Rentals. With the pontoon as a water-borne HQ, Meredith and Hallows are making the best of a day on the water.
The couple heads out on the water early to toss the fishing lines into the water with hopes the fish were willing to bite. As the day gets hotter, the comfy benches on the pontoon boat make a great spot for Hallows to chill with a book, while Meredith preps lunch - barbecued salmon steaks (obviously not caught in the lake), fresh veggies and fruit, with a cheese platter, making for a sumptuous spread.
On the organizational side, one of the benefits of going with an outfitter like Athabasca Boat Rentals is the ease of use. Boats are delivered right to the water, meaning no trailer to haul or boat launch to navigate. It’s a great option for people who want to have a day or two (maybe even a long weekend?) of carefree lake fun, without the cost and commitment of owning a boat.
After a few more afternoon fly-bys on the Sea-Doos, it’s time for an ice cream run. Just a quick 30-minute drive from Athabasca, in the village of Boyle, Hallows and Meredith score monster servings at Momma C’s Ice Cream Shop. It’s the perfect ending to a day on the lake.
“We live in one of the largest countries in the world with so unbelievably much in our own backyard, that we often take for granted,” says Hallows, reflecting on the day in her old stomping grounds. “We need to encourage people to go and explore our province. The towns and small communities need our support. And, and it gives us all a different understanding of the world around us. It also makes us have a greater appreciation of where we come from.”
A day on the water, surrounded by the natural beauty of Athabasca, is enough to make anyone feel at home.
WHEN YOU GO
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Video produced by ZenSeekers and Edmonton's Viva Voce Group and all images produced by ZenSeekers and Indigenous photographer, Canmore based Angus Cockney.