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North Knife Lake Lodge

June snowstorm, wolves, welcome new wind power installation at North Knife Lake Lodge

June 2014 Manitoba snowstorm at North Knife Lake Lodge.

Enjoying the June snowstorm at North Knife Lake Lodge.

by Doug Webber

June 4 started with a feeling of excitement. I was getting ready to fly to Thompson to pick up Danny, the man who was going to install the final pieces of equipment that would give us a major infusion of power into our existing solar power system at North Knife Lake Lodge.

The newly designed ultra-efficient 3,500 Watt wind generator is in its final stages of installation. The associated cabinetry and controllers are state of the art and in some cases, clearly innovative. The specially designed blades are environmentally friendly, as they are low rpm and have the exceptional capacity of negative bird strikes. During the three year trial run of the wind generator, not one bird was struck.

As I prepped the airplane for the flight, the matriarch of the resident wolf family poked her head out of the bush across the runway to see what I was up to. As I warmed up the engine, she scooted across the runway about 100 meters away, obviously intent on a mission that likely had something to do with food.

It was a clear beautiful day and the flight to Thompson was uneventful, so I was able to enjoy the gorgeous panorama of another Northern Manitoba spring as it unfolded around me. While waiting for Danny’s plane, I had time to run a few errands, pick up parts, groceries and fuel for the trip back. Danny arrived and we climbed aboard for the flight back to North Knife Lake.

As we came in for landing I noticed the momma wolf standing by the runway watching our progress. Despite the presence of a strong cross wind, I managed to pull off an acceptable landing and we coasted to a stop at the “terminal building” where the road leads to the Lodge just a quarter mile away. The wolf continued to watch us, and as long as we ignored her, she was content with our presence. Any attempt to approach her would see her melting into the forest.

A quick supper after Danny was settled in brought about the usual end-of-day tiredness. We checked the equipment we brought and crawled off to bed.

The expected cruddy weather arrived in the middle of the night. Flying back to Thompson for the additional bodies we required for tower erection was out of the question. There was a lot to do, with the mounting of the equipment and the hooking up the control charger. As the weather deteriorated over the next three days we got the Internet sorted out and set up for monitoring the equipment from the Lodge. From the office we could now see what was happening in the Battery Room, where all the solar and wind charging takes place.

During the storm, the wolf continued making her rounds near the Lodge. There were new tracks morning and evening through steadily increasing snow cover. We expected to see the pups make their first foray out into the world shortly after the storm had run its course and the snow had melted back into the ground.

New birds continued to show up on a daily basis. The loons, mergansers, mallards, pintails, Canada geese and bald eagles are all prepping their nests and getting ready to lay eggs. We also saw Pine and Evening grosbeaks, two or three species of warblers, Bank and Tree swallows, nighthawks, redpolls, robins, various gulls and peregrine falcons.

Some of the birds are residents and others are just passing through. Pine martins, mink and foxes are evident in the sand and occasional sightings confirm their presence. Beavers at the creek and south river are sending numerous bark-stripped branches downstream, indicating healthy numbers.

The continuing storm compromised the completion of the windmill project, as high winds were detrimental to the raising of the tower. As with many projects in the seasonal lodge business, a few weeks or months delay may be the outcome, but all will get done.

Danny’s unique skills in the alternate energy arena are necessary to make final adjustments once the windmill is producing power. As his departure day drew near and the storm continued, with eight inches of snow already on the ground, resignation of the inevitable began to take hold.

In time however, all this will be in the past and our carbon footprint at North Knife Lake Lodge will continue to shrink as we bring the wind generator on line. Stay tuned for the conclusion of Project Wind Power at some time in the near future!

June 7, 2014 Update: We put the blades on the windmill yesterday and with it resting on the barrel it was producing a couple of amps of power, which is going right into the batteries!

Magical time with wolves at North Knife Lake Lodge

by Doug Webber

It’s been a banner few months for the wolves of North Knife Lake!

Saw the big Momma, two of her offspring from last year and two pups about three months old, all at the runway in the evening last week. In total, we have seen seven different wolves so far this spring and summer!

All have typical timber wolf colouring with one having distinct reddish tinges on its side. Pups are sandy coloured and they look well fed, quite chubby actually. All the fish must be going to them. The adults did quite a bit of howling and one disappeared into the bush after doing the bark-bark-bark-howl bark-bark-bark. The wolf that stayed on the runway continued to bark-howl-bark until we left.

Josh went ahead with the 5-wheeler while we walked. A big wolf came out of the bush at the sand bowl and followed him until the turnoff to the equipment grounds. What an evening! About 30 trout caught at Hahn Hole and out in front of the Lodge. We kept a couple for eating and released the rest. Two were master anglers!

A few days later we had more wolf sightings down at the runway. We took some fish trimmings out to them, howled and waited. After about 10 minutes we noticed something moving at a hill to the south of a turnaround.

It was a small pup lying down in a bit of a washout. We got a few photos before it disappeared into the bush. We drove back to the Lodge and while I was cleaning pails the adults started to howl, so Norm and I drove back out to the runway.

We saw four pups, two with the momma, one black and one gray, and two off by themselves near the turnaround. Momma was on the south hill with the black and gray ones. So far we have seen Momma, papa, three smaller ones that we suspect are last year’s pups and four pups from this year.

One of the young adults is very brave and has come within five meters of us on the 4-wheeler. She shows up pretty much right away when we arrive at the runway with supper. Another one or two wolves generally happen along five to 10 minutes later.

The wolves have also been getting close to the Lodge a couple of times a day. We’ve only seen them outside the Lodge on three occasions, but we see their tracks at least once a day.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to have the wolf families back at North Knife Lake Lodge.

It’s a magical time… in a special place.

Honeymoon with a wolf at North Knife Lake

by Karli Friesen

Wolf at North Knife Lake

Our friend the wolf was always close during our honeymoon at North Knife Lake Lodge.

Our decision to honeymoon at North Knife Lake Lodge in northern Manitoba was made years ago before we were even dating.

“You can’t honeymoon there, I’m honeymooning there!” we said to each other.

Little did we know (though by that time we may have hoped) that three years later we’d be honeymooning there – together!

Karli and Riley at North Knife Lake Lodge

Sunny day at North Knife Lake Lodge!

North Knife Lake Lodge is the perfect honeymoon destination. That’s assuming you can stand 25 degrees C, sunny blue skies, no bugs, loons calling at night, long walks in the woods, canoeing and fishing on windless days and various animals providing endless photo opportunities. Every moment we felt like we were the ones being watched and studied, not the other way around.

Oh, and did we mention the wolf pups?

As the plane flew off into the distance, we stood on the runway watching, wondering, if our decision to be completely alone in the Canadian north for a week was a good one. We started the hike back to the Lodge, hoping to return with the four-wheeler for our gear before any wild animals got into the groceries.

As we rounded the first bend on the trail, 25 yards ahead of us a big timber wolf stopped and looked back over his shoulder toward us. We froze and everyone watched each other for a moment, before the wolf trotted off into the bush. That was our first sighting of him, and afterwards, we knew he was never very far away.

The next morning, I was excited to show my new husband the wolf den that my cousin and I had discovered a little less than 10 years earlier. We packed the essentials — food, matches, water, camera, flashlights and rain jackets — and headed off toward a lake known as Wrong Lake. As soon as we were on top of the first esker off the west side of the runway, we saw the wolf again, trotting through the trees below us, about 200 yards away.

Every so often he stopped to look back at us, but wasted no time posing for pictures before he was gone again. We continued on toward the wolf den. When we were within a couple hundred yards, though we couldn’t see it yet, we decided to circle down below the den in case it was active. Though I had been to the den every summer since we’d found it, it had never been active to my knowledge. Still, on the off chance it was, we gave the den – and whatever wolves were around – some space.

Karli Friesen

Karli by the creek. There’s fish in there!

We came up from the bottom of the esker about 50 yards from the den. As we approached the entrance, we could see that most of the grass around the entrance had been flattened, and that there were wolf tracks and caribou hair surrounding the entrance. Still, we weren’t sure.

I crouched down by the main entrance and looked down into one of the secondary entrances. Small tracks and some scat lay around the smaller entrance, but both looked too small to belong to a wolf. Maybe a fox though.

The trees at the den entrance groaned slightly as they swayed in the wind, and we chatted quietly, mulling over what we were looking at and wondered if the den was active. Until we realized that the groaning wasn’t the trees!

Suddenly, the groaning sound was joined by whimpers, grunts, snorts and whines, the sound a sleeping pile of puppies make when they all start to shift and jostle. I was beyond excited! As a young girl, I had always dreamed of finding an active wolf den and finally the day had arrived!

Since we knew the male wolf was around and now suspected that these puppies probably belonged to him, we left the den entrance and headed up over the top of the esker to make our way back to the Lodge. Sure enough, only 100 yards away, just on the other esker, that same wolf stood watching us. He was directly in our path but heading west, so we swung east to give him plenty of space to get back to the den.

That evening, we fished the creek north of the runway and brought a few fish home with us. We saved the guts and trimmings and decided that the next day we would take the fish remains out to the wolves to let them know we were friendly. The next morning, we set out early again, bucket of fish guts in tow.

When we arrived at the trail that would take us from the Wrong Lake esker to the den esker, we heard a bark behind us. We snapped our heads up and found ourselves looking at our wolf again, standing in the middle of a sand patch on the esker south of us. He barked again, and again, before letting out a long, low, howl, the kind that makes you pay attention. He seemed agitated and continued to bark and howl over and over.

We waited for a response from another wolf, but there was none. We guessed that he was trying to draw us away from the den or warn his mate of our presence. We decided not to go back to the den, but to leave the wolves as they were before we showed up, so we dumped the fish guts where we stood and started walking straight toward the wolf. He watched us coming towards him for a moment then disappeared over the edge of the esker.

We stopped on the same sand patch where the wolf had stood and had our lunch. Afterwards, we were making our way home and as we emerged from the trees, the wolf appeared on the edge of the runway. Again, we stopped to watch each other, before both parties crossed the runway and continued on our paths back to the Lodge. There is nothing quite like the feeling of knowing a wolf is escorting you back to your home and away from his.

Riley and I agreed that we wouldn’t return to the wolves’ esker after that, but still each day we saw the wolf. Nearly every time we crossed the runway we were guaranteed to see him there, a few hundred yards off, watching and waiting to see which way we would go. No matter where we went, we had a feeling that he was nearby, adding an element of mystery to all our hikes.

One day, we crossed the runway with the wolf and stopped on the east edge to watch him. He stopped as well and sat down, facing us. Suddenly, he threw back his head and howled, barked, then howled again. We watched and listened in awe for a few minutes, before deciding to try our own barks and howls. We were pathetic at first – we sounded more like scrapping cats than wolves – but as we got the hang of the low, deep, drawn out howls, our wolf started to respond to us.

We stayed there about 10 minutes, just us and the wolf, howling back and forth at each other.

Karli and Riley Friesen at North Knife Lake Lodge

Karli and Riley. Honeymoon in paradise)

Surely he understood everything he was trying to communicate and probably wondered what foreign dialect these strange creatures were speaking.

When our voices started getting weak, we made our way back to the Lodge, with our escort slipping in and out of the trees, unseen and unheard, but definitely felt.

Now the Lodge sits empty again, and I imagine a den of puppies somewhere grows bigger and stronger every day, practicing barks and howls, uninterrupted by worries or cares and enjoying the magical wilderness at North Knife Lake.

A special place we were lucky enough to be a part of for one fabulous honeymoon.

Big fish, delicious meals, zero stress, at North Knife Lake Lodge, say Piette and Bourque

Germain Bourque (right) with Lake Trout at North Knife Lake Lodge

Germain Bourque (right) with trophy Lake Trout at North Knife Lake Lodge

You know you’ve had a good fishing trip when you come home a few pounds heavier as a result of all the delicious meals you’ve had!

“We had such delicious meals and shore lunches,” said North Knife Lake Lodge guest Martin Piette after his trip. “I must have gained five pounds that week!”

Such is often the case when returning from a fishing trip at our North Knife Lake Lodge. Guests rave about the variety and tastiness of the meals our chefs prepare. Of course, the meals are just one of the great features in our all-inclusive packages. The fishing is second to none at North Knife. We had a whopping 65 Master Angler Lake Trout and Northern Pike come out of our lake this summer.

Martin and Germain Bourque (pictured) had a fabulous time. “We had an amazing trip at Webber’s Lodges,” said Martin. “We felt more than welcome. The people were absolutely charming.”

Martin went on to say that stress was nowhere to be found during his time at the Lodge, which is definitely how it should be when you’re on vacation!

Big fish, delicious meals, zero stress—that’s the North Knife Lake Lodge fishing experience in a nutshell.

Martin Piette (left) with trophy LakeTrout at North Knife Lake Lodge

Martin Piette (left) with trophy Lake Trout at North Knife Lake Lodge

Mother Daughter time at North Knife Lake Lodge

Guest Post by Nina Williams

The stress melted away as soon as we stepped off the plane and began the walk up the sandy path to beautiful North Knife Lake Lodge. My daughter Arielle and I had been here before, so we knew what to expect, and we were so looking forward to it.

Smiles all around for another Northern Pike!

Smiles all around for another Northern Pike!

We were heartily greeted by lodge owners Doug and Helen Webber, settled into our room and had a quick bite to eat before heading out for a gorgeous afternoon of fishing. On the first day my husband George was in the boat with us. We kicked him out of the boat after that. It wasn’t a mean thing, but there was another pro guide available for George, and besides, Arielle and I wanted to fish together. Our guide, Ryan, was perfect for us. We’re not elite fisherman, but we have our share of Master Angler Awards and we can hold our own. And, well…

It was such a great feeling to get back out on to North Knife Lake, a spectacularly pristine 30-mile long body of water deep in the wilderness 200 miles north of Thompson, Manitoba.

The thing I enjoyed most about the trip was giving our daughter Arielle the chance to do things that few children her age ever get to experience. Being on a float plane, exploring the wilderness, catching fish – and lots of them – in a lake with water so pure a clean you can drink from it. Many of Arielle’s friends take holidays, but not like this — far from civilization, in a true wilderness, yet with all the comforts of home, including a family-type atmosphere, which is something we especially enjoy. You just can’t help but rejuvenate and revitalize, it comes naturally with the surroundings.

Arielle learned how to cast on this trip, how to pick a target and land her lure on it. She didn’t really like trolling, so Ryan would let the boat drift along the shore and she would try to hit spots along the banks, underneath branches, over sandbars, just off rocky ledges. By the end of the trip she was quite the caster! And of course she loved catching the fish too!

The water was so clear you could see the fish swimming up to the boat. We caught a lot of fish everyday and I added another Master Angler Lake Trout to my collection. It’s all catch and release, except for the fish we kept for shore lunches that included delicious Baked Lake Trout, Sweet and Sour Pike and Fish Tacos.

Arielle loves to take pictures of anything and everything outdoors and she had a field day on this trip with photos of fish, bugs, flowers and even a bald eagle. She also especially enjoyed watching Head Guide Kent Michie and his hunting dogs do fetching exercises on the lake.

A few of the guests went swimming on the shore lunches, but we weren’t quite as brave. We swam in the lake near the lodge and Arielle and fellow guest Elliot, who was about the same age, even went tubing on one sunny afternoon. The water near the lodge was beautiful. It’s difficult to describe just how much of a stress reliever swimming in a lake in the middle of nowhere can be. Let’s just say it works!

Being at North Knife Lake Lodge is a complete change from everyday life. What we really like about it is the fact that we don’t have to do anything. There’s no everyday planning, no meetings to attend, no appointments to keep. We just show up to a wonderful breakfast at 7:30, walk down to the dock, get into the boat with our guide and off we go out on to the lake for what is always a fabulous day of fishing. After that we return to the lodge for cocktails and appetizers and a gourmet meal prepared by Helen Webber, who also happens to be the co-author of the Blueberries & Polar Bears Cookbook Series. We own all of the books in the series, and they are the best cookbooks we’ve ever owned.

Helen used many of the recipes from the cookbooks, but also tried some new creations that were equally as scrumptious. Her imaginative dishes were greatly appreciated by all the guests, including Gemini Incorporated founder Jim Weinel and his board members, who were also at the lodge when we were there.

The Gemini board members take a fishing trip every year and they have been to exclusive lodges all over the world. They said the food at North Knife Lake Lodge tied for first place with a lodge in Mexico and another in B.C.  We wholeheartedly agree! A fascinating group of very intelligent individuals with diversified backgrounds and impeccable manners, we really enjoyed the company of the Gemini board.

The people we have met at North Knife Lake Lodge over the years have always been exceptional, and that includes owners, guests and staff. The family-run lodge is comfortable, like home. We always feel so welcome. A sincere thank you to the Webber family for yet another fabulous fishing vacation at North Knife Lake Lodge! Stress free, first class…

and a great place to bond with my daughter.