by Kate Dernocoeur, Guest Blogger
Forty minutes north of Sault St. Marie is some world-class cross-country (XC) skiing and snowshoeing that outdoors enthusiasts don’t want to miss. In February, for the second year in a row, I joined a group of seven friends and we drove to Goulais River, Ontario for a fine long weekend of fun.
Stokely Creek Lodge boasts enough miles of groomed XC ski trails to keep a person busy for days. The terrain varies, but all of it offers up the deep, snowy woods of Canada, complete with that treasured silence of winter—broken by frequent laughter (ours). Separate snowshoeing trails tempt a person up hillsides to granite cliffs draped by icicles that are never the same two days in a row. There are six warming huts on the property—welcome to us on several occasions when the air temperatures dipped below zero. (When you dress for the weather and are sensible, extreme cold just doesn’t matter.)
The lodge can accommodate around 80 people in various buildings with Scandanavian-style rooms. Our group filled the Peter Kalm Chalet and enjoyed evenings of storytelling and hardcore euchre. We walked up to the main lodge for exquisite meals in the main dining room, delivered by a delightful staff.
The property has a long-standing partnership with the Algoma Highlands Conservancy, and if you ski the 14km out and back to Norm’s Cabin, which overlooks one of the nine undeveloped lakes on the property, you’ll see the beautiful new cabin (the other burned several years ago). If you’re lucky, a representative of the conservancy might be there to greet you with hot tea and homemade cookies.
That’s exactly what happened on my first trip to Stokely, when three of us snowshoed up the steep side of King Mountain to the warming hut on top. A member of the Algoma Highlands Conservancy had lit the stove, the tea was made, and the cookies were ready when we arrived. The view from the overlook to Lake Superior was grand, and well worth the effort. Best of all: he had pulled our skis up by snow machine, so we got to ski down. The route? Brisk and fast!
The hosts and owners of Stokely Creek Lodge are former Calvin College president Gaylen Byker and his wife, Susan, who have come to the area for 30 years. Their goal is to preserve it for upcoming generations of outdoorspeople, including their own grandchildren. One of my favorite parts is that all the luggage is taken from the parking lot to the cabins by snow machines pulling large toboggans—no other motor vehicles are to be seen for the duration of the stay! And the stars… oh, the stars…
Apparently it’s also a great place to visit in warmer months. Stokely Creek Lodge is a popular venue for weddings and meetings, and there’s plenty of trail hiking to be done. For more information, go to www.stokelycreek.com.
Born to a ski-passionate mom, Kate was skiing before she was born. She has trouble deciding which she likes better: downhill or XC. Usually, it’s whatever she’s doing at the time! For more from Kate, go to her personal blog http://katedernocoeur.com
Kate would like to thank her “photo assistants” Jim Witte, Bonnie Sebright and Margaret Idema for their contributions.