'No bears, no bugs, it's perfect': Saskatonians on winter camping at Prince Albert National Park
PRINCE ALBERT -- Richard Verbruggen is new to Saskatoon and needed something to do on weekends to get away, so he’s winter camping at Prince Albert National Park.
“No bear, no bugs, it’s perfect. It’s quiet and peaceful,” said Verbruggen. “I like the quiet and solitude, you get to be by yourself and collect all you thoughts.”
Verbruggen slept in a small tent beside a wood fire and said he wasn’t cold until about 4:30 a.m. when the camp fire burnt out.
He says the recent warm weather has made it possible for him to sleep in a tent. During the day he snowshoes on the lake and hikes the trails.
“For me right now, there’s a lot going on in life so this my little escape,” said Verbruggen
The Aulakh family from Saskatoon was also at the park. For them, it was their first time winter camping.
“With the fire and also the toe warmers it was actually pretty toasty,” said 14-year-old Baljot Aulakh.
The family slept in a tent without a heater. Visitors are required to pay winter camping fees to the national park and can stay in designated winter camping sites with camp kitchens and rustic washrooms.
Back country camping is also allowed but visitor safety officer says it poses more of challenges and safety concerns according to visitor safety coordinator Kevin Ferrie.
“Make sure you file a trip plan, so let someone know where you're going and when you're expected back is always important. And don't count on your cell phone,” said Ferrie.
Ferrie recommends people file a trip plans and tell someone where they are going and when they expect to be back so someone can come looking for them if needed. Cell phone coverage is spotty throughout the park and shouldn’t be relied on. Things to pack include a reliable fire starter, extra food and water, a pocket knife, a compass and first-aid kit.
“Ice thickness can vary,” said Ferrie.
He says visitors should be cautious near creeks and dams and to stay away from open water.
Like summer camping, keeping a clean campsite is important in the winter says ecologist team leader Digit Guedo. She recommends visitors give wildlife their space and view them from a safe distance.
“The best thing we can do with wildlife is to keep them wild,” said Guedo.
The park has placed signs at campgrounds to remind visitors not to feed wildlife.
“Red foxes are fairly bold. They are perfectly equipped at surviving in the conditions that we have in the area and they don’t need the extra food so don’t be tempted to feed the wildlife,” said Guedo.
Baljot says she'd like to come back this winter and stayover again.
“It was refreshing to not be looking at a screen 24/7 and to be outside in fresh air."
Her father Rupinder agrees. They saw and did things they couldn’t do in Saskatoon.
“All the stars lit up over there and then we got up early in the morning and we were able to see the sunrise from the horizon so that was very good,” said Rupinder Aulakh.