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Gangler’s Sub-Arctic: A Wilderness Adventure in Manitoba’s North


Credit: Gangler's Sub Arcitc

In the far north of Manitoba, just before the border with Nunavut, lies the North Seal River region - one of the last pristine natural gems in Manitoba. The area can only be reached by air, as there are no roads in the unspoiled nature and boundless expanse of Canada’s Subarctic. This is wilderness at its purest: where prairies give way to boreal forest intersected with countless lakes and waterways. It is possible that no human has ever walked here.


Credit: Travel Manitoba

Out here, bears, moose, caribou, and wolves roam. All imposing, impressive and impossible-to-ignore wildlife. Manitoba’s north is a mystery, where the rules are different, where the air is pure, where the nights are silent and where a sense of mystery echoes in the wild.


Credit: Gangler's Sub Arctic

Here, you’ll also find Gangler’s North Seal River Lodge. Stranded between Tadoule Lake and Lac Brochet, a mere 100 km south of the Nunavut border, the lodge stands on the glassy Lake Egenolf, a haven for those yearning to explore this new world.


Gangler's North Seal River Lodge - Credit: Gangler's Sub Arctic

The journey starts at the crack of dawn in Manitoba’s capital city of Winnipeg. It’s August, and it’s so early that the sun hasn’t risen over the horizon yet. You board Calm Air and leave the bustle of the city. The land beneath changes and transforms as you fly into the proverbial ‘middle of nowhere’. The plane eventually makes its delicate landing on a sandy airstrip - the most sophisticated of its kind in Manitoba’s north – and here you arrive at Gangler’s North Seal River Lodge.


Arriving at Gangler's North Seal River Lodge - Credit: Gangler's Sub Arctic

A set of RTVs greets the new guests, waiting to take them to their cabins and home for the next couple of nights. The main lodge is a beautiful log structure where you will spend numerous hours reliving your day’s adventures over lively conversation and a gourmet meal paired with a glass of wine on the side.


Main building of Gangler's North Seal River Lodge - Credit: Gangler's Sub Arctic

Arriving early in the morning means breakfast is being served: eggs and bacon washed down with freshly squeezed orange juice make a good start for the day. One of the marvels of operating a northern lodge is the fact that nothing happens here easily. From the building materials that created this place, to the very egg on the plates, everything is a study in logistics. Three kinds of fuel need to be kept on hand at all times. Food, people, building supplies, machinery, equipment - everything must be planned and accounted for. There is no stopping at the nearest Walmart to pick something up. The nearest one is more than 1,000 km away.


Remote location of Gangler's North Seal River Lodge - Credit: Gangler's Sub Arctic

Once everyone is oriented and settled into their cabins, it’s time to explore the surroundings. The northern region of the North Seal River includes more than 12 river systems and 100 lakes. It is also home to Northern Canada's largest area for the rare sand eskers - unique geological formations that rise to more than 100 metres in height and offer breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Some of them are more than 200 kilometres long and have been used for centuries by wildlife and Indigenous people to travel the area.


Sand esker at Gangler's North Seal River Lodge - Credit: Gangler's Sub Arctic

Eskers are a geological phenomenon, huge sand bars that were left behind 8,000 years ago when 4-kilometre-thick glaciers receded. By RTV you quickly traverse the first esker in what feels like a roller coaster ride up and down the sand.


Traversing the esker - Credit: Gangler's Sub Arctic

When stopping along the way, you can take in views of the surrounding lakes and explore the local flora, such as carpets of juniper berries and thickets of Labrador tea.


Softly bedded - Credit: Travel Manitoba

Brian, one of the guides and a biologist with a penchant for herbology, describes the medicinal uses of the plants around the group and how the early Indigenous peoples of the area may have used them.


Learning about the local plants - Credit: Gangler's Sub Arctic

Along the way the group pays a visit to a set of glacial erractics - huge granite boulders that dwarf the guests with their size. These are another gift from the glaciers that once covered this land.


Huge boulders - Credit: Travel Manitoba

The eskers, which vary in size, height, width, and location throughout this vast area, also become a playground for mountain bike aficionados wanting to challenge themselves on a fat tire bike during an early evening ride. Eskers also become a haven for hikers as a climb up the highest, reveals majestic views of lakes, the frothing North Seal River, valleys and more.


Hiking on the esker - Credit: Travel Manitoba

This area, once a regular route for the original first peoples of Canada, is veritably strewn with artifacts like arrowheads, tools, and remnants of the past. Items are lovingly recorded, marked by location, and then returned to their place for the next adventurers to discover. There are old portage trails, marked by large rocks and rustic trapping cabins, squatting quietly in the bushes.


Old trapping cabin - Credit: Travel Manitoba

Back at ground level, the lakes in this area teem with fish. It’s a regular story told back at the lodge on how to spend a day casting your line to catch a wriggling walleye, or trout, or pike. Even as a beginner angler, you will manage to snag your very first pike on a lake so still and peaceful it’s easy to feel like you are the only person left in the entire world.


Fishing in the wilderness of the North - Credit: Gangler's Sub Arctic

After a morning spent fishing on the water, it’s time for a quintessential Manitoba shore lunch. The fishing guide flourishes his fillet knife with a practiced hand, expertly cutting up the catch. Another guide mixes the seasonings, chops onions, mushrooms and potatoes, and everything goes into enormous cast iron pans on an open fire on the beach. The result is quite simply indescribable. There’s your catch, the northern pike. It’s crispy, flavourful, and light. But combine this with the fact you’ve just witnessed a gourmet lunch being whipped up on a remote beach with supplies procured from a small tin box. You’ve experienced something truly Canadian here.

 

Shore Lunch - Credit: Travel Manitoba

Now that sand and water has been traversed, the next quest is to the sky. A float plane awaits to fly the guests north to Courage Lake, another 100 kilometres north. The float plane gently takes off, the ride so smooth that you don’t even realize when you’ve left the water. There’s a language amongst the people up here that consists of engines, motors, fuel and tools. Out here, a person must live by where the machines can take them. There are no roads; there is nothing but water, sky and undriveable terrain. This talk peppers every conversation, an eye-opening lesson for any city dweller.


Flying by float plane - Credit: Travel Manitoba

On the way to Courage Lake, the float plane passes the tree line and below the aircraft, there is a different world: the Tundra. There is no vegetation taller than the knees out here. The eye can see for miles. There are mushrooms so bright red, you’d swear they are hot house tomatoes, and ripe cloudberries so plump they almost explode in your fingers as you pick them.


Credit: Travel Manitoba

When trekking by foot a little further north, you cross the border into the territory of Nunavut, the spot marked by a medallion affixed to a stone in the ground. In the fall, this is where the caribou will migrate, awaiting the shutter clicks of eager photographers hoping for that perfect shot.


Credit: Gangler's Sub Arctic

Back at the lodge, comfort awaits. Appetizers at 5:30 pm are a nightly treat as adventurers return from their day of reeling in fish, kayaking the lakes, watching for wildlife, and exploring the wilderness. Dinner is served at 7.00 pm, with mouthwatering options like beef tenderloin, crème caramel, and bocconcini salads filling hungry bellies.


Culinary delights at Gangler's North Seal River Lodge - Credit: Travel Manitoba

As the sun sets, everybody drifts outside, Chardonnay in hand, to watch the stars come out and listen to the crackle of the bonfire. If you’re fortunate to have a clear night, the northern lights dance in the sky.


Aurora at Gangler's North Seal River Lodge - Credit: Gangler's Sub Arctic

Further information can be found at www.ganglersadventures.com and www.travelmanitoba.com.

 

 

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