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There are certain places you travel to where the air, environment and everything feels different, yet similar. My favorite travel saying, “Same, same, but different” is what I mean here.
If you’ve ever spent time in the north woods in Minnesota or Canada in the summer, you know how special it is. The smell of the trees. A slight ripple on the lake. Dampness in the air with a threatening afternoon storm. The call of a loon.
For me the moment I hear a loon sing or ride in a fishing boat on a lake I get transported to the nostalgia of spending my summers at our family cabin in Northern Minnesota.
My family loved to fish. Our big family fishing adventures were in Canada. We would drive from our cabin across the border at International Falls or take a float plane from Crane Lake to Sand Point to get our Canadian fishing license.
We’d fly from lake to lake to fish. I had a few good catches as a kid, but what I really remember is the feeling of being on the lake, looking at the trees, eating the shore lunch and doing my best to bait my hook without puncturing my hand.
An Offer I Couldn’t Refuse
So, when Travel Manitoba reached out and invited me to a remote northern Manitoba luxury fishing lodge I responded with a big YES. The fact that this lodge has created in-house curated biologist eco-adventures to learn about the unique environment, wildlife and first nation communities just added to my excitement.
This was no ordinary lodge we were visiting. Ganglers North Seal River Lodge is a world-class fishing destination with over 120 lakes set on nearly six million acres. The lodge is two hundred miles from the closest paved road and over six hundred miles from the closest major city of Winnipeg.
The Ganglers adventure starts the moment you board the character flight in Winnipeg. We had flown for almost an hour and a half when we stopped to refuel at Thompson Airport. There were slightly overcast skies on our flight from Thompson to Ganglers. But when the clouds parted all we could see was an expansive terrain forest, lakes and the dirt runway we were about to land on.
When we deplaned, the fresh air greeted us as we stood on the sand runway. As I looked at the Ganglers North Seal Lodge sign it became real just how far north we had traveled.
Ganglers North Seal River Lodge
Ganglers is made up of the main camp, with a beautiful wood lodge, comfortable areas to relax, a dining area, ten guest cabins and staff quarters.
There are also several remote camps that are reachable by one of the three float planes on site. Remote cabins do have guides available and groceries provided, but cooking is all DIY.
As Ganglers expands to offer more eco adventures there are plans for remote camps to include upscale yurts and cabins equipped with Northern Lights viewing areas.
Our cabins were all very cozy, with a sitting area, bathrooms with very warm showers, comfortable beds and a porch. I felt like I was at sleepaway camp minus the awkwardness of being a teenager.
The Ganglers eco-adventures are for travelers who want to learn about the unique landscape and experience the untouched beauty of northern Manitoba. This was the vision of lodge owner and Founder Ken Gangler. Ganglers North Seal River Lodge has been welcoming guests for over twenty-five years as a world-class fishing lodge.
It was a few years BC (Before Covid) when Ken brought on staff Biologist Dr. Brian Kotak to uncover the meaning and richness of the environment with curated eco-adventures for guests. These experiences are appealing to any visitors who might want to do more than just fish.
After getting settled into our cabins, Dr. Brian took us out on our first eco-adventure. We drove away from the lodge in ATVs with viewpoints overlooking the expansive area.
As we traveled along a series of dirt and sand roads Dr. Brian told us these were not in fact roads, these were eskers, a term I had never heard before.
Learning About Eskers
This is where the adventure gets super interesting and unique. An esker is the deposited remains of silt and sand from rivers that flowed under glaciers that retreated 8,000 years ago. It took me a second to grasp this as it sounded so incredible.
I said, “So as the glaciers melted the water that flowed underneath when the glacier dried up the sand/dirt that remained is an esker?” “Exactly.” Dr. Brain said. “We are now driving on top of glacier ashes.” This was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.
On this first outing learning about the land around Gangler’s Lodge, Dr. Brian took us to see a series of very large boulders. He estimated they are well over 3 tonnes. Furthermore, Dr. Brian shared that these boulders traveled over four hundred kilometers (600 miles) to their current resetting spot. Imagine the force of the water to be able to easily move these giant boulders.
There are thirteen major eskers in this region in northern Manitoba surrounding the Ganglers Lodge. This is the largest concentration of eskers in North America. The eskers have been important travel corridors and migration routes for wildlife as well as ancient travel and hunting routes for Indigenous people.
We also learned that past archeological expeditions found tools, tent rings and stone axes dating back two thousand years. The evidence suggests the region was used primarily by modern-day Dene, Cree, Tundra Dene and Inuit people.
Getting Out On the Water
Once our group got on the lake for the first time and skimmed across the water in boats something happened to me. All the feelings I described as a kid in the north woods fishing with my family came back to me. As the boat cut through the water, the sun glistened off the lake, wind in my face, this was the moment I was so looking forward to.
It was breathtakingly beautiful. I felt a sense of being at home on the boat, taking in the shoreline, smelling the air, all familiar feels from my childhood, but different.
Dr. Brian pointed out an eagle’s nest and places where the eskers went under the lake and back up the other side. Honestly, the overwhelm of information and the vastness of the environment was blowing me away.
Time for a Hike
We didn’t stay on the boats long before stopping for a short hike. As we trekked through the terrain Dr. Brian shared with us about different plants, lichens and moss. We also made Labrador tea from berries on our hike. The tea was used by First Nations people to offer relief from colds, fevers and headaches.
In addition, Dr. Brian pointed out routes that were carved out by the caribou migration from the northern tundra to this area in the winter. There were pieces of caribou antlers everywhere we went. It was really cool.
There was a part on this hike where I had to stop, look around and smile. If you don’t stop to be present while traveling, do you really appreciate the magic of the moment? I’ve missed so many in my life that I make sure to stop now just to be present. This was absolutely one of these times.
Back on the boats, it was time to fish. I was honestly nervous, what if I didn’t catch anything? That might sound silly to some, but I could hear my cousins and dad laughing if I went to a world-class fishing resort and didn’t catch a single fish.
Within two minutes of having our lines in the water, Adrienne, the German journalist on our trip who had never fished had hooked a northern pike. About twenty-five minutes later she caught her second fish. As we reeled in to head to shore for a traditional Canadian shore lunch, I was disappointed I had not caught a fish yet.
However, the surroundings and company made up for any other feelings I had. Plus, a shore lunch can heal anything. This might be one of my favorite meals in the world. Fresh-caught fish, onions, potatoes and beans were all made over a fire next to the lake. Talk about scenic lunch.
Pristine Natural Beauty
We spent the next two days exploring the area. We took float planes thirty minutes north to another lake and hiked the Robertson Esker. It is one of the longest eskers known at over three hundred kilometers (186 miles).
On our travels, we saw tons of moose, wolf and bear skat, (a fancy word for poop) but no animals. We walked on paths that weren’t really paths. Dr. Brian said who knows if anyone had ever been where we are as we ventured into parts of the property he had never been. There is something so magical and humbling about being in such raw pristine beauty.
Being as far north as we were there was a chance we would see the Northern Lights. Unfortunately, we had cloudy skies and some rain the first few nights. But, the last night, just before 1 am, it was like someone flipped the switch. The clouds cleared and streaks of green and yellow lit up the sky.
Our group was dancing around the campfire, enjoying glasses of whiskey and marveling at the spectacle of the Northern Lights. I didn’t capture great images myself from that night, it might have been the whiskey. But I do have great memories that will last a lifetime. Plus, images were shared that were taken the night before we arrived at Ganglers by Lorranie Snipper.
Making Dad Proud
Oh, you might be wondering if I caught a fish. I ended up catching six good-sized fish. Three Northern Pikes and three trout. My dad and cousins were very impressed.
Reconnecting with my north woods past was special and nostalgic for me. Learning about the magic that Ganglers offers through true rustic luxury wellness with eco-adventures is the perfect blend of awesomeness for us at Travel With Meaning.
If you want to learn more about Ganglers and explore the magic of the North Woods let’s connect here.
Author Bio: Mike Schibel is the founder of Travel With Meaning. A lifestyle and content brand connecting people with authentic travel storytelling through podcasts, live events, experiences and brand campaigns. His passion for travel and building community sparked the idea to launch the travel network, Travel With Meaning.
A SoCal native who grew up at the beach, loving the ocean and riding waves Mike is always eager to get out in nature. In his youth Mike loved adventuring, especially exploring National Parks as a boy scout, traveling with family to their cabin in northern Minnesota and early adulthood traveling abroad. This led Mike on a transformational solo adventure around the globe leaving behind an unfulfilling decade of a career in the entertainment business. Currently he resides in Santa Monica, California with his fiancé Nicole and fur babies Barbara and Mija.
Have a listen on all streaming platforms to the Travel With Meaning Podcast as Mike interviews notable guests from around the globe whose travels shaped their lives, careers and who they are today. Travelwithmeaning.com