Since writing the below article about the new Lost Lake Outpost at Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge in Manitoba, I had the chance to visit the one-of-a-kind cabin for myself. I got a chance to see first-hand just how unique this cabin truly is––and how it is in fact defining a new genre of "luxury outposts."
For starters, I can't say I've ever been inside an outpost cabin with granite countertops before. IIt's surprising that such exquisite detail and worksmanship can be found in such a wonderfully remote region. You have to fly through Manitoba's unspoiled Atikaki Wilderness Provincial Park to reach Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge. From the base camp, Pit Turenne's crew zips you across Aikens Lake to this beautiful cabin that sits––as if posing for a postcard––with Aikens Lake in the foreground and Lost Lake in the background.
The fireplace is magnificent, and the woodwork is amazing, but it's the porch that steals the show.
Of course, one can't forget about the fishing, so my dad and I quit drooling over the cabin and headed out on the mile-and-a-half lake that's produced a 33-inch walleye in the limited hours it's been fished (the full story below reveals this outpost just opened mid-2013).
In the couple hours we pitched jigs tipped with frozen minnows, we caught pike and abundant walleye. The walleyes' unique, dark gold coloring was fascinating.
My favorite photo from our afternoon on Lost Lake is below, with my dad and I enjoying the day on the beautiful lake with the remarkable cabin.
Below is the full story on Lost Lake. Check it out to see how this previously un-tapped gem is creating a new genre of fly-in outpost camps.
Lost Outpost Creates New Genre of Fly-Ins
A dream that began two decades ago, on a hidden walleye gem aptly named Lost Lake, will come to fruition this month and break open a new genre of fly-in outpost camps. Today, only the final, finishing touches remain on Lost Lake Outpost––a remote outpost at Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge that presents an unusual proposition to its future guests: an isolated experience in Manitoba’s Atikaki Wilderness Provincial Park on an lake that’s been virtually un-fished, while housed in one of the finest, luxury cabins imaginable.
“I don’t know if the term ‘luxury outpost’ exists,” said Aikens co-owner and manager Pit Turenne. “But I think we are creating a new genre here.”
The 1,320-square-foot cabin, intended for groups of four to eight, features four bedrooms, two bathrooms, two showers, a dining room, full kitchen, and the largest screened-in porch in Atikaki Park. All this, on a moss-covered peninsula with a dock on one side out to Aikens Lake and a dock on the other side to the previously buried Lost Lake.
“This isn’t your typical 30- to 40-year old plywood A-frame construction, this is high-quality craftsmanship” said Aikens sales manager Patrick Trudel. “We didn’t just put up a building and try to do it as cheap as possible, we invested for the future of this business and the Lost Lake Outpost is going to be a very unique luxury option in this industry.”
It’s also going to be the last cabin ever built in Atikaki Provincial Park. A moratorium went into effect August 1 halting any expansion inside of the park, as the region is applying to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Turenne’s parents, the previous owners of Aikens, brainstormed the idea for the outpost in the ’90s and applied for the original permit in 2001. At the time, Park management was fine-tuning its plan for the beautiful boreal forest, so approval was postponed.
Finally, in 2008, the provincial government finished their plan and gave the four lodges in the park the opportunity to expand their operations by 8 beds. “We had a 5-year window to apply for, get permission, and ultimately build the cabin,” said Turenne, noting that his wife, Julie, was responsible for geting government sign-off and worked tirelessly during the arduous and long approval process. “It took 3 years of red tape before the plan was approved late last summer.”
Last fall, the guides and crew cleared the area to prepare for construction. With winch, chain, shovels, picks and hoes, they muscled over 50 trees out of the ground––stump, roots, and all. Not surprisingly, the fishing guides actually prefer catching walleyes to ripping trees out of the ground, hauling them away and chopping them into firewood, but nonetheless they all chipped in and the clearing got done to pave the wave for spring construction.
Only problem is, spring didn’t come to Aikens this May. Instead, more snow did. A historically late ice-out delayed Turenne and company by over two weeks, but eventually the crew was able to fly into camp and get to work. Building in a remote location presents a host of logistical complications.
“Earlier this year we were short four bags of insulation and it took eight different people in total to communicate to the mainland, buy it, get it to the float base quickly, and finally fly it up here to us to then use,” Turenne said. “Timing is also a tough thing because you need to get your subtrades in at the right times for roughing in the electrical or plumbing, and it always has to fit on in-bound flights we already have scheduled, otherwise it becomes the most expensive cabin in the world to build!”
Despite a busy summer with guests at Aikens’ existing accommodations, the crew buckled down and Turenne said they’ll be 100 percent ready for their first Lost Lake Outpost guest on August 19.
Previous Aikens guests include Vice President Dan Quayle, actor Rick Schroeder, countless professional athletes including NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason, and In-Fisherman’s Doug Stange. In fact, Stange, called Aikens “still the finest all-around fly-in experience I’ve ever had.” But the first guest at the new outpost will be a “regular,” not a celebrity, and any angler wishing to book the new cabin can do so simply by picking up the phone and giving Aikens a call at 800.565.2595.
“It’s a wide open slate for 2014 so groups that want to slide into a preferred timeslot can be the first to claim it,” Turenne said. Those who do will be claiming a distinctly different experience than staying at the lodge, which is famous for its 5-star service and for having more staff on-hand to take care of guests than actual guests––a rarity in the fishing lodge world.
“What excites me the most is the fact that now we can offer the full range of options at Aikens Lake,” Turenne said, with contagious enthusiasm. “Want to be pampered and guided? Book at the lodge. Want a hybrid outpost while still getting services like a chef and guides? Book at Great Grey Owl. Want to be completely left to your own devices? Book at Lost Lake Outpost. Now there’s something for everyone.”
Of course, there’s one minor detail left to be discussed about the new camp. It’s a question that's of great concern to all guests, whether they choose the most pampered plan at the main lodge or the most isolated option at the new outpost.
How’s the fishing?
“Lost Lake has been an underutilized gem for too long,” Turenne said about the mile-and-a-half lake. “With the lake’s dark-stained water, the walleyes in this lake have some of the coolest dark golden colors you’ll ever see. Most walleyes and pike in Lost Lake have never seen a lure, but when it has been fished it’s produced a 32.5- and a 33-inch walleye.”
The website for Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge is www.aikenslake.com. For more information, call 800.565.2595 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Having traversed the Atlantic Ocean and Ireland’s wildly untamed Connemara region to reach fabled Ashford Castle, I now can say that I have lived like royalty. It was only for a day, but a day in an ancient world lasts a lifetime in memory.
The castle, once the proud estate of the Guinness family, was built on the shores of Lough Corrib in 1228. The view across the lake has not changed in over 6,000 years and all of the castle’s 83 rooms retain their original features. The room my wife and I stayed in offered a stunning view of the 44,000-acre lake, home to some 365 islands. It was a view made better (if not blurrier) by the complimentary bottle of champagne and decanter of cherry that welcomed us upon our arrival. And so we learned, quite quickly on this special visit, that life as royalty is good.
As gorgeous as the grounds were––the castle is caressed by formal gardens that Rick Steves raves about––it was difficult to pull ourselves out from within the castle walls that first afternoon. Ashford Castle is just too magical. Original architecture is still in-tact, ranging from massive fireplaces to Waterford chandeliers to Roccoco gilt mirrors.
The Drawing Room was my favorite, where live music entertained at night and views of the perfectly manicured back-lawn, magnificent fountain and opening bay of Lough Corrib entertained by day. As soon as we checked in, my wife and I took our drinks to the Drawing Room, plopped down by the piano and wondered: Who else might have sat in these very chairs?
Possibilities include the Emperor of India, Britain’s King George V, President Ronald Reagan, Senator Ted Kennedy, Oscar Wilde, John Lennon, George Harrison, Brad Pitt, Pierce Brosnan, Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne, all of whom have stayed at Ashford. In fact, the Duke (by whom I mean John Wayne, not some British royalty) stayed at Ashford when he filmed the movie “The Quiet Man.”
Wayne, O’Hara and director John Ford stayed at Ashford during the shooting of the movie that would put the quiet, nearby village of Cong on the map. Originally, people thought the movie would be a flop––the Republic only agreed to produce the movie after Wayne and O’Hara promised to first also star in a different Republic film you may have heard of … Rio Grande. They shot Rio Grande in the U.S. then raced back to this mystical spot in Western Ireland that captivated Wayne and compelled him to convince Republic to take on the film.
Many of the movie’s action sequences were filmed on Ashford’s estate. You can walk from the castle to the very waters where the priest in “The Quiet Man” hooked the monstrous salmon he’d been trying to catch for 10 years. That’s not the only reason I was excited to bring my rod and ply the waters at Ashford; many of the largest pike in Fred Buller's famous book, "The Doomsday Book of Mammoth Pike," were caught on Lough Corrib.
The Cong River, an excellent trout and salmon stream, spills into the lake outside the castle’s front door, creating a picture-perfect scene of a fairy-tale like bridge leading to the castle’s grand entrance. “We call that the ‘Oh-My-God!’ corner,” says Ashford’s Director of Sales and Marketing Paula Carroll. “That last bend always surprises guests, when you come around the corner and suddenly this majestic castle comes into view as though sitting on the side of the lake.”
That final stretch of river is not merely scenic, though; it’s a terrific spot to cast for salmon when they’re running in May. I have to admit, I did catch myself distracted on several casts––not paying due attention to my silver spoon as my eyes gravitated toward the castle in front me. The castle’s ghillie, Frank Costello, is an Orvis-endorsed guide who grew up on Lough Corrib and doesn’t let his international reputation go to his head. Ashford’s concierge called him for me at 6:30pm and he kindly offered me tips over the phone.
I may not have caught the fabled fish that Father Lonergan hooked during Maureen O’Hara’s stream-side confession in “The Quiet Man,” but I definitely had fun trying.
As tasty as the steak was at the George V Dining Room, I wouldn’t have wanted to trade it in for a fresh-caught salmon anyway (the castle does offer to clean and cook guests' fish). The dining room was built in 1906 in preparation for a special visit from the Prince of Wales and has been winning awards ever since. Our dinner was beyond delicious, and the service was impeccable. Take a sip of wine, and a waiter tops it off. Take another sip, and the waiter comes back.
You can definitely see why Carroll, who herself has been at Ashford for 25 years, takes such pride in her 160-person staff. “What makes Ashford special are the wonderful people who work here,” she told me. “Over 40 percent of the staff have in excess of 20 years of service here, and 55 percent have more than 15 years. That’s why clients feel like they are coming and being welcomed home.”
A perfect example is the family who has visited Ashford every Christmas for the past 18 years. They leave all their own ornaments at Ashford, and the staff decorates their room for them before they arrive, creating a home-away-from-home feeling.
With such service, it’s little wonder that Ashford was voted #1 Best Resort Hotel in Europe by readers of Conde Nast Traveler in 2010. Of course, the magnificent castle, immaculate estate and stunning grounds help a bit, too.
In addition to golf, biking, boating, horseback riding, clay shooting and archery, Ashford Castle also offers falconry, providing a rare chance for visitors to partake in an ancient sport unlike any other. I have sat in a duck blind with birds as the target, but to walk in the woods with a bird as my ally––for it to be released into the tree tops to search for prey, then to return to my arm as my comrade––is something else. Falconry, defined as “taking wild quarry in its natural state or habitat using trained hawks or falcons,” dates back to 2,000 B.C. and is believed to have originated in Mesopotamia or the Far East.
Europe adopted the sport in perhaps the 4th century when the Huns invaded, and it became popular among the nobles in part because falcons and hawks were rare, expensive and required the great estates of castles. It was not exclusive to men, however, as a European nobleman in 1801 commented, “the ladies not only accompanied the gentlemen in pursuit of falconry, but often practiced it by themselves; and even excelled the men in knowledge and exercise of the art.” This note also documents that women, unsurprisingly, have been bettering men since at least 1801 … though I suspect that began centuries earlier!
In total, the grandeur of Ashford blew me away. As a writer, I’m humbled to admit I was too overwhelmed to summarize my experience in a pithy clincher sentence. So I leaned on Ashford’s General Manager Nial Rochford who, to his credit, did a fine job: “Located on the shores of the sparkling Lough Corrib, the estate boasts generous woodland and magnificently tended grounds where the slow, relaxed pace of a bygone era meets the luxury and comfort of a 5-star hotel.”
Ashford Castle's website is www.ashfordcastle.ie. For more information, email email@example.com or call 1.800.346.7007.
Tearing yourself away from Ashford Castle's 365-acre estate is no easy task, but if you manage to get away even for an hour or two, Ireland's wildest region, Connemara, is your reward. There are several notable stops nearby, including the picturesque Kylemore Abbey.
The Neo-Gothic country house was built by a wealthy English businessmen in the 1860s. During WW I, refugee Benedictine nuns from Belgium took over the Abbey, and today it's an exclusive boarding school for girls.
Connemara National Park, a short drive from Ashford, was another highlight for my wife and me. Its 5,000 acres of wild bog and mountains are free to access, with hikes ranging from easy to moderate. The Connemara region is also home to famed Croagh Patrick, the mountain from which St. Patrick supposedly banished the snakes from Ireland.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Charles Dickens’ famous line refers to life during the French Revolution, but he may as well of been writing about Canadian fishing trips.
Because when you’re on that dream fishing trip and everything’s going great, life doesn’t get much better. But when you’re stuck on a trip that’s a total bust, it’s a real kick in the pants––mainly because for months in advance the Ghost of Christmas Future teased you with visions of unreal fishing, and the disappointment of a squandered trip is devastating.
So, my New Year’s wish to fellow anglers is that in 2013 you enjoy the former, rather than suffer from the latter. To help with that goal, here are 3 tips for making sure your precious, hard-earned and well-deserved fishing vacation lives up to your great expectations (OK, no more Dickens’ references).
1. Don’t Go Anywhere Without A Referral
I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker. When I read in a fishing lodge brochure, “Fast and furious fishing action year-round with walleyes up to 8-pounds,” I instantly start to daydream about hauling in 8-pound walleyes one after the other.
After a second or two, reality kicks in, and I’ll remember the term “fast and furious” can be a bit vague, as can the phrase “up to.” After all, even a below-average lake can offer “fast and furious” action––at the right time––and likely has at least a couple walleyes “up to” 8 pounds … even if the average if a 12-inch dink.
Bottom line: Every lodge looks good on its own website. Better ask around. I felt a bit overwhelmed last year trying to pick the perfect fly-in to take my dad. So I used my “phone a friend,” and fortunately my friend was none other than Bill Sherck, host of Due North Outdoors.
Bill asked me what type of experience I was looking for and gave me great advice. I had his ultimate fly-in recommendation–––KaBeeLo Lodge––and some very concrete expectations on what I could realistically anticipate in terms of fishing and overall experience.
Also, a personal referral can share specific hot spots with you and, equally important, can warn you about parts of the lake that are better left un-fished. Lodge owners will rarely steer you away from any part of the lake because over the years “guests have caught fish there” and because, understandably, they don’t want to squash dreams or take away your joy of exploration and discovery. (Friends, whoever, will save you time and just tell you the best spots on the lake!)
2. Ask a “Trick” Question or Two
I’ve found in business––and in fishing––that you can learn a lot about someone by asking them a question you already know the answer to and seeing how they respond. Or by asking them a question they can’t possible know the answer to and listening to what they say.
So, as I pondered a trip to KaBeeLo Lodge, I asked owner Harald Lohn how many pike I could expect to catch in a day if I only targeted that toothy species. I loved his response. And it gave me a ton of confidence in Harald and his wife Ann.
Harald said, “I don’t know.”
He had no idea of my fishing ability, the weather conditions I’d encounter, and whether I considered a “day of fishing” to mean sunrise to sunset or just a couple hours between meals.
His answer was so honest, I knew he wasn’t blowing smoke about other claims either.
When went on to talk further about the type of fishing his guests generally have on the various outpost lakes, and he also directed me to the dated journal entries of guests at each lake––and those entries painted a clearly unedited and realistic view of the excellent fishing I could expect. Then we went and enjoyed dream fishing that exceeded our expectations, with the best walleye fishing of our lives and pike over 40 inches.
3. Pick a Lodge that Cares About YOU
In general, lodge owners are fantastic people. But you talk to enough of ’em and eventually you run across a couple who seem to think they’re the main attraction at Lodge XYZ rather than the fishing and the scenery.
Or you’ll encounter a lodge owner who cares more about his great lodge than your individual trip. He may simply be too understaffed to have time to truly serve your needs, but either way you leave feeling your trip could have been better if you had received more individual attention.
Like I said, I was a bit overwhelmed planning the fly-in for my dad last year because he had dreamed about doing a fly-in his entire life and I wanted it to go well. So I bombarded Harald and Ann with lots of emails with lots of questions about all aspects of KaBeeLo.
They responded promptly, and what impressed me further is that they always thanked me for the questions and encouraged me to ask more. KaBeeLo is one of the busiest fly-ins in Ontario because they get so many return guests, but Harald and Ann don’t act like they’re the busiest, and that makes an awfully big difference––especially when you’re on the trip.
Let’s face it: Your trip is a BIG deal to you individually, but it’s another day like every other day for the lodge owner. You want to go to a lodge where the owner will embrace your excitement and feed it with individual attention.
The night before my dad and I flew out to Bear Paw Lake, we had dinner with Harald and Ann and traded stories about fishing, family, current events and hobbies. The next morning when we flew to our outpost, they both walked us to the float plane (after loading all our gear) and wished us luck. When we returned from the outpost they greeted us at the dock and asked us all about our adventure.
It wasn’t another day to them; they genuinely wanted to make sure we had a unique, special experience and they demonstrated that by giving us individual attention. In turn, that individual attention made our experience that much better … and that’s a key thing to focus on when you’re picking a lodge.
So there you have it, my 3 tips for picking a lodge and planning a dream fishing trip. My last piece of advice: Do it 2013, because life’s too short to wait.
Oh, and one more thing … pack a Dickens book just in case.
“Is this Heaven?”
No, it’s Wisconsin. Canoe Bay, to be exact, but the serenity and solitude offered here surely rival that found past the Pearly Gates. And, if you’re an angler or nature lover trying to convince your significant other to join you for a weekend in the great outdoors, you may want to split the difference.
After all, it’s not very often you find a private lake teeming with giant largemouth bass that just so happens to be overlooked by “one of the 50 most romantic hotels in the world,” according to Travel & Leisure. The real kicker, for fellow Twin Cities residents, is that this gem which USA Today named “the Midwest’s premier rustic-elegant hideaway,” is barely over 100 miles east of St. Paul.
So, as someone who loves to fish, hike, camp and kayak, I decided to take my wife, someone who defines “camping” as staying in any hotel that costs less than a $100 a night. The result was a trip that blew us both away, but for different reasons.
I was amazed by the natural beauty surrounding Canoe Bay, a series of lakeside rooms and cottages secluded in the heavily forested Indianhead Region near Chetek, Wisconsin. At the center of Canoe Bay’s 300 forested acres lies Lake Wahdoon, a lake carved out by glaciers thousands of years ago, hidden today by giant maple and oaks trees over 130 years old.
You can hike miles of well-maintained trails through the massive hardwoods without seeing or hearing any signs of people or civilization. Nonetheless, you do get the distinct feeling of always being watched.
The woods are thick with wildlife, including whitetail deer, bear and pheasants, as well as the ducks and loons that live on Wahdoon and its hidden sister lakes. No motorboats are allowed, and the only access is via Canoe Bay, which accommodates a maximum of 25 couples at a time (no children are allowed, which further enhances the unique serenity and silence). There are canoes and kayaks available to enjoy the lake, and fishing is as good as you’d expect it to be on a remote, spring-fed lake that is virtually un-touched and remains strictly catch-and-release.
And trust me, you won’t be missing any shore lunch. Dinner at Canoe Bay’s lakeside dining room is an experience unto itself, with a gourmet chef using fresh, local ingredients to prepare new offerings every day––with a constantly changing menu to feature the freshest food available. Maybe this sample menu will give you a better sense of what I’m talking about:
Salad of garden greens & radishes with orange supremes, toasted pine nuts, grana padano cheese, citrus vinaigrette.
Pan-seared Alaskan Copper River Salmon on house-made Capellini Pasta with Zucchini Pearls, Cherry Tomatoes, Herbed Beurre Blanc.
Caramel Apple Tartlet
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Mint
Of course, a picture is worth a thousand words, so perhaps these photos from our dinner will do the Canoe Bay dining experience some justice. I didn’t know pork could taste this good!
Needless to say, dinner was a high point for the both of us. But for my wife, the non-camper, the ultimate highlight was the cottage itself. I have to admit, it’s hard to argue with that. It’s amazing, quite frankly, that the cabins can be so spectacular––ours was 1,300 square feet, with two stone fireplaces, a beautiful living room overlooking the lake, and a private spa equipped with an exercise bike, sauna, whirlpool and two-person steam shower––and still blend in perfectly with their woodland surroundings.
I guess that’s the genius of architectural legend Frank Lloyd Wright, whose protégé and partner actually designed much of Canoe Bay. Given the architectural brilliance of these cottages, it’s no surprise that in the weeks before us, guests had travelled from South Africa, Denmark, Britain and Israel to spend time here.
Let me put it this way: If these aren’t the finest cottages you’ve ever stepped foot in, I want to know where the heck you’ve been!
Perhaps our favorite time at the cottage came on our first night after dinner, relaxing on our deck in the darkness of night. Rain had threatened earlier in the afternoon but held off during my wife’s first-ever canoe excursion. Through dinner, the clouds darkened, then finally, after nightfall, thunder broke. The lightning illuminated the night sky, putting on dazzling display of natural fireworks. From our perch on the deck we were completely dry––all the rain was off in the distance, and we could sit together in the blackness and watch the horizon flash violently.
With each glimpse of light in sky above, we couldn’t help but ask the question: “Is that Heaven?”
The website for Canoe Bay is www.canoebay.com. For more information, call (715) 924-4594 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some people don’t get to take the trip they’ve always dreamed of––death snatches them before they get a chance, or illness cripples them, or life’s everyday busyness burdens them until the dream just slips them by. I didn’t want that to happen to my dad.
So last week I took him on the Canadian fly-in fishing adventure that, for his entire life, he’s dreamed of going on “someday.” Fact is, there’s not a fishing lodge in Ontario my dad hasn’t read about; for decades he’s pored over brochures, preparing for the day he would climb into a rickety old floatplane and fly away into the Canadian wilderness.
Now, having just spent a week at KaBeeLo Lodge’s Bear Paw Lake outpost camp, he can honestly say the dreams didn’t do the experience justice … but not for the reasons you’d anticipate.
Sure, we caught tons of fish. Every day we’d have fishing streaks so hot you’d swear we were making it up––our jigs couldn’t sink 10 feet to the bottom of the lake before a fish would gobble them up. I had a 20-inch walleye bite a plain hook I left dangling six inches in the water as I grabbed for a new minnow. There were such feeding frenzies, one time a walleye bit me off, so I tied on a new jig and caught the same walleye 60 seconds later––and recovered my original Northland Fire-Ball Jig in its mouth!
And sure we caught big fish. Walleyes over 8 pounds and pike pushing 45 inches––the biggest of both species we’ve ever landed.
But that, to a degree, was anticipated. I figured Dad had waited his whole life for this trip, so I better make sure I took him to the best dang fly-in I could afford. I asked around, and KaBeeLo came strongly recommended to me by two friends of mine who know a thing or two about world-class fishing: Ron Schara and Bill Sherck.
And so, we sort of expected fishing to be phenomenal, even in September. What we didn’t expect, and simply couldn’t have anticipated, was to feel so close to the heavens. The sky we fished under was breathtaking and bold. And incredibly close.
That far north, fall days make you feel you can touch the sky. The clouds were so low they covered the lake in a retractable roof. We were tucked inside our own little snow-globe, illuminated every night by the moon. The full moon cast light to let us see our midnight-walleyes just well enough to unhook them and toss them back into the black waters of Bear Paw.
The nightly ritual––fast and furious fishing action under the moon––was new to us, but not to the walleyes, or to the fishermen before us. This is, in fact, KaBeeLo’s 40th year of existence. But last year, as the raging flames of a historically uncontrollable wildfire encircled owners Harald and Ann Lohn and torched their family’s Ontario fly-in fishing outpost camps––it looked like that 40th anniversary might not arrive.
Mother Nature nearly wiped many of the outpost camps at KaBeeLo Lodge off the map.
The fires, the worst to ravage Ontario’s vulnerable wilderness in 50 years, laid siege to over a million acres last summer. Two of KaBeeLo’s 13 outpost camps burnt to the ground, another half dozen were shut down with fishing parties getting evacuated for safety.
The Lohns refused to leave; instead the couple transformed their base lodge into command central for 100 firefighters and worked 20 hours a day to provide food and housing for those risking their lives to squelch the flames.
The Lohns survived. And so, the 40th anniversary did arrive.
“Running the lodge is a way of life,” Harald said. “You have to embrace all aspects of the entire operation.”
Harald’s cousin opened KaBeeLo in 1972, running it for a decade before selling it to Ann and Harald, who in a previous life ran the welfare system for the state of Maryland. Today, Harald and Ann can’t image life without KaBeeLo, and neither can their children, who grew up at the lodge and lived there into their early 20s. Their son remains heavily involved with the lodge today; watching his family’s float planes as a teenager inspired him to pursue a career in aviation.
In the end, it was aviators who helped save KaBeeLo last year when flames tried to claim the now-famous fly-in. A host of planes, as well as 17 helicopters, dumped millions of gallons of water on Ontario’s burning woods, squelching the flames and saving the dream––not only for Harald and Ann, but for folks like my dad.
“You know, Tony,” Dad told me as we approached the U.S. border on the car ride home from KaBeeLo. “I’m going to be dreaming about this trip for a long time."
Good, Dad. That’s the point.
The website for KaBeeLo Lodge is www.kabeelo.com. Call 1-800-233-2952 or email email@example.com for more information.
At top: Dad likes to end each fishing outing with a catch. One night, after an hour of non-stop action, we ended our fishing with this beauty.
Above: In 7 days, my dad and I went through 70 dozen minnows (my calculator says that's 840). Northland Fire-Ball Jigs and Northland Thumper Jigs were our go-to presentations for both walleye and pike.
Sure, we got lots of great fish photos on the trip, but to me it is the scenery pictures--like this photo of us riding into the sunset--that bring me back to that special time at KaBeeLo Lodge.
Normally you dream about sunrises like this, but at KaBeeLo, you wake up, step out onto your deck, and take pictures of 'em.