Lac La Biche

Splitting cracks echo in the poplar woods around us, as John Ritchie and Winston and Christina Desjarlais break long sticks down to uniform size to begin the structural supports of a lean-to shelter. Using the sticks they form tripod supports, one on each end, to prop up the cross beam.

Ever eaten a fire ant? That’s the question Dragan Uzelac has posed to Maranda Cardinal and her friend Taissya Reutov. The two women pause, unsure if Uzelac is joking. He’s not.

It’s not every day that someone can paddle their way around history. But you can in Lac La Biche, home to one of Canada’s most unique provincial parks, Sir Winston Churchill Park, Alberta’s only campground that is on an island.

Frogs hop under fern leaves as trembling aspen whisper above. Sun filters through the high forest canopy as the breeze stirs the treetops, sight and sound combined bringing to mind a sense of shimmering.

“I think we can get a bit closer,” Jamie says, and we paddle as silently as we can towards a huge American pelican. Soon, we are just metres away from the giant bird, and he looks at us curiously wondering what we’re up to.

The pike’s tail thrashes, splashing the sides of the boat. It’s a strong 10-pounder and it’s putting up a fight. This is the eighth fish on our lines in less than an hour but it’s my first. Not just my first today; it’s my first ever.

As we cross the causeway to Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park’s Big Island, we stop to admire the view. Sunshine glints off the water and fishing boats, while cyclists cross the causeway. On the island road, the truck in front of us pulls over and waves us on.