Dick MacKenzie reflects on recent isolated getaway to experience spring’s arrival
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
Sioux Lookout resident Dick MacKenzie has longed to see the spring season develop and come into bloom from his camp, located approximately seven miles outside of Sioux Lookout by boat or snowmobile.
In late March, MacKenzie decided he was going to fulfill that dream this year. MacKenzie, with his dog Grace by his side, trekked to his cabin on March 31, which was his home for just under six weeks as he experienced the tail-end of winter in the Sioux Lookout area.
“I left on March 31 and came back May 9, so I think I was just a couple days short of six weeks… It was a last minute decision of mine. It was like an invitation to go. I’ve always wanted to see spring develop from camp. It’s a place I love to be, and I’ve never seen it from out there because there’s a period of time where you can’t get back and forth because it’s water access only and snowmobile in the winter,” said MacKenzie.
“When I went out I walked. I walked part of the way by snowmobile trail and part of the way just through the bush, so when I was out there I had no snowmobile and no boat. I had to have somebody, a friend, come out and get me on Saturday (May 9),” he added.
In a Facebook post on March 31, MacKenzie shared the beginnings of his adventure, “At 10 o'clock Tuesday morning Mary and I left the house. She drove me around to the west side of the lake where, 20 minutes later, Grace and I loaded a few supplies into a small sled, said bye to Mary, and began our foot trek across the ice and through the woods. A Bald Eagle flew low overhead as we set off. Traveling, even pulling a small sleigh, was easy. Forty minutes later we were at camp. Everything looked perfect. Few March days are as warm and pleasant as this last one of the year… Grace and I are here, just the two of us, for the next three or four weeks - until ice out. I have always wondered what spring's arrival looks like at camp. This year seems to be the perfect opportunity to find out.”
Despite colder temperatures throughout the month of April, MacKenzie said he enjoyed warm sunny days at his cabin to go along with plenty of nature hikes with his dog and seeing ice-out from a new perspective.
“As always, in spring especially, it was always nice to see the warm sunny days. I didn’t see as many of those as I would like to, but I certainly enjoyed the ones I did see. It was a pretty cold month overall compared to most years, so it was pretty chilly. I did start out at a bit of a deficit because this was a last minute decision to go out there… Without having planned for it I didn’t have seasoned firewood. I had only a very small amount of seasoned firewood, so I got into a pattern of lighting a fire in the mornings for a couple hours, warming up the cabin, and then not keeping the fire going. Overnight it got pretty chilly in the cabin, which was okay. I’ve done that before, but I think the one thing I would do different would be to make sure I had seasoned fire woods ready to go. That would’ve helped, but otherwise I loved the nice days and enjoyed seeing the change,” he said.
“I got into a little bit of a pattern with walks. There’s a river about a quarter-mile away, so Grace, my dog, and I would walk over there every day at least once and look at the wildlife. There was a lot of wildfowl, ducks, geese, and we saw swans a couple times. We saw muskrats, a wolf out on the ice, rabbits, grouse, and all kinds of birds. We did a lot of nature hikes and nature observations, and that was very pleasant.
“Watching the changing ice, I’ve done that for 50 years almost in Sioux Lookout and I’ve got my markers and things I watch for as ice-out comes on, but I didn’t have those things at camp so I was seeing a whole new perspective. That was pretty nice… I think it was a meditative experience. I had a lot of time to sit and think, and I smoked a lot of cigars. It seems like I think well when I’m relaxing with a cigar. Like I said, Grace and I went for walks, and we walked and walked. I’m not sure I saw anything I hadn’t seen before, but I did see it through different eyes and a different perspective,”
MacKenzie said a trip with his wife to New Orleans and Florida in early March led to quarantine requirements when he arrived home. MacKenzie said he decided to go to his cabin to productively isolate while enjoying the surroundings his camp has to offer.
“I didn’t think about it (COVID-19) an awful lot, and it (the getaway) was not an attempt to escape it. I had internet connections out there and I had my cellphone, so I was pretty well connected and I kept up with it. Mary and I had been on vacation until the middle of March, from the end of February into March. We had been to New Orleans and we had been in Florida, so when we came home we immediately had a two-week in-home quarantine. I decided that, if we’re going to have to sit in the house, I might as well go to camp, which is a long-time dream of mine anyways. Within a matter of a couple days I decided I was going to camp,” he said.
“I was hoping that, like everybody else, it would be a speck on the horizon by the time I got back, but that of course is not the case. I wasn’t there to escape it as much as I was to take advantage of the opportunity to get away and put my time to productive use. It was a grand experience in that respect,” he added.
After being home for three days, MacKenzie said he happily went back out to his camp, where he looks forward to enjoying more sunny days, alongside his wife, during the spring and summer months. He said he also plans on putting together a photo book, with some text and photos, about his recent experience.
To stay up to date on Sioux Lookouts weather and changing surroundings, specifically on Pelican Lake, check out MacKenzie’s 24/7 webcam view of Pelican Lake at siouxlookoutwebcam.com.