I closed off September with a quick trip up to the Meadow Lake Provincial Park. I was able to sneak in on the last two days that the Greig Lake Campground was open. I haven't been to the park in years, and even then have only visited a handful of the many available lakes.
The end of September is a beautiful time of year to explore Sask Lakes! Although it can be a bit cold during the day and especially at night, the reward is that you get to experience the lakes and parks almost entirely alone. Things are very quiet this time of year as the campgrounds close, and people are closing up their cabins and taking out docks for the winter.
This was going to be a quick trip, and although I've been to the Park before I was not super familiar with it. So the plan was for this to be an exploratory trip, I wanted to stop at as many lakes as possible, getting familiar with the area, the trails, cabins, and services available at each. I wouldn't have much time at each lake, but it would give me an idea of the area, and help me to plan more trips in the future. I wanted to focus on the Provincial Park itself, but like always also hoped to stop on any lakes that caught my eye on the way there and the way back. I wasn't planning on doing a lot of hiking but did want to find out more about the Boreal Trail and get a better idea of what it might look like to hike it next spring. I also brought my kayak along, just in case I found something I wanted to explore from the water.
Lakes I visited
I started the trip from Prince Albert driving in the rain, and the weather didn't improve from there at all the first day. I headed west to Shellbrook and from there north to Debden, Canwood, and Big River. I stopped at the Big River Regional Park on the shores of Cowan Lake before continuing north.
Past the end of Cowan Lake Highway 55 turns towards the west and passes through the Northern Village of Green Lake. This small village is at the far north end of another very long and skinny lake which gave the village its name. It was pouring rain at this point so I didn't stop to look around. Several outfitters and lodges are operating on the lake and I'm hoping to be back again soon.
I stopped to fuel up in the city of Meadow Lake. The city is directly beside the lake it's named after. Confusingly though both the city and the lake are about 40km south of the Meadow Lake Provincial Park. From Meadow Lake, I turned north and passed through Dorintosh to finally arrive at the park. From there I headed north on Highway 904 to visit some of the lakes accessible from that highway. The highway was in pretty bad shape when I drove it, and the heavy rain didn't help, pretty rough, and slick in spots. I spent the rest of the day stopping at Waterhen Lake, Flotten Lake, and Jeanette Lake before heading to Greig Lake and finding a campsite.
The next day I headed west on Highway 224 which was in much better shape than Highway 904. There are so many lakes on this stretch of Highway many accessible by road and others accessible only by trail and water. I stopped at Rusty Lake, First Mustus Lake, Second Mustus Lake, Third Mustus Lake, Matheson Lake, Mistohay Lake, Johnston Lake, Lac De Isle, Pierce Lake and Kimball Lake before heading back to Greig Lake for the night. It was a pretty dark, and cool day but the rain held off and it was a lot of fun seeing so many new lakes! I pulled into Vivian Lake to look around as well, but there was a hunting camp set up at the campground so I didn't get a chance to take any pictures. This was the last day the campground at Greig Lake was open, but there were still a few people staying there.
The next morning October 1st I started south again. I wanted to take a different route home and headed south from Meadow Lake down toward Glaslyn then over to Spiritwood, Shellbrook, Shell Lake and PA. North of Glaslyn there is a cluster of three large lakes I wanted to check out; Helene Lake, Midnight Lake, and Birch Lake. I stopped briefly at Shell Lake to take a look at Memorial Lake and the Regional Park before making it back to Prince Albert that night.
This was a really fun trip. The weather wasn't amazing, but it was a lot of fun seeing some new country and making plans for new adventures in the future. I'm hoping to be back to the park again a few times next summer to get to some of the lakes I didn't make it to and spend some more time on the trails and the water.
Things that surprised me
Although the Greig Lake Campground was open for camping until the night of the 30th. I found out after I got there that they had shut the water off to the campground on the 29th. In fact, every washroom/shower house with running water was locked up, not just at Grieg Lake but at all the other campgrounds/lakes in the park. Luckily I'd brought enough drinking water with me, but it was tricky finding bathrooms that were open at most of the campgrounds. I had better luck at the boat launches where usually it was a pit toilet that was open.
There were a ton of hunters out in the park the last weekend of September. I even ran into a pretty sizeable First Nations hunting camp at Vivian Lake Campground. Reminder to pack bright colours and be careful when out in the woods this time of year.
I saw more bears on this trip than I ever have at one time before. Multiple groups of 3 or 4 bears in the ditches eating grass, and several bears on their own as well. They were a lot of fun to watch from the vehicle, but a good reminder to bring bear spray and be bear prepared.
What I want to do next
I got a chance to look at a number of the Boreal Trail trailheads, trail maps, etc. while on this trip. There are a lot of different lakes (Humphrey Lake, Sawdust Lake, Stanley Lake) that are only accessible by these trails, and I'm looking forward to hiking the trail and getting to visit them. I'm hoping to do that next spring before the bugs get too bad.
I paddled from Second Mustus Lake to Third Mustus Lake, but I didn't realize there was a channel to Peitahigan Lake from the Third. I was also told you should be able to paddle to Fourth Mustus Lake from Third as well. I would like to try that next time I'm in the park as well.
I tried driving out to Little Raspberry Lake, just south of Kimball Lake. The road was mucky after the rain, and it was starting to get dark so I ended up not getting there. I'd like to paddle across Kimball and then portage to Little Raspberry.
Things I won't do again
Meadow Lake Park in the rain can be very muddy, especially on Highway 904 heading north. The last time I was in Meadow Lake Park it poured and for some reason, it poured again this trip. The highways were passable, but some of the smaller roads/trails I wanted to go on were in bad shape and I ended up not trying them, especially given how few people were around in case I got stuck. I had a great trip, but I'm still hoping I can avoid visiting during a rainstorm next time!