The Grey Owl story is an interesting one and Grey Owl’s Cabin (Beaver Lodge) is one of Saskatchewan’s most popular hiking destinations; it is considered one of Western Canada’s top six historic sites.
The cabin, which is located about 20 kilometres from the Kingsmere River parking lot on the shores of Ajawaan Lake in the Prince Albert National Park was the home and final resting place of Archibald Stansfeld Belaney, otherwise known as Grey Owl.
Grey Owl and his wife Gertrude Bernard whom he called 'Anahareo' moved into the cabin with their two beavers Rawhide and Jelly Roll in 1931.
Grey Owl originally from the UK came to Canada at age 18 and instantly adapted to the Iroquois way of life. He began life in Canada as a trapper until he met Anahareo who encouraged him to begin writing and speak on behalf of conservation instead.
Colleen Gerwing, an interpretation officer for Prince Albert National Park, has always loved the Grey Owl story. She said she has read his books probably a dozen times and she hikes to Grey Owl’s Cabin at least once a year. Back in 1974 she said her love of the story influenced her so much she hitchhiked all the way to B.C. just so she could meet Grey Owl’s wife Anahareo.
“It was quite a big deal to go out and meet and her,” said Gerwing. “And her family just took me in.”
“I guess they could tell that I was just sincere and I was pretty overwhelmed by the experience.”
It was during his time at Beaver Lodge, as Grey Owl called it, that he wrote with great intensity.
“He [Grey Owl] was a world famous author and his books were translated into 17 different languages, which I think was a pretty big deal at that time,” said Gerwing. “And he put Canada’s wilderness and national parks on the world map.”
“We commemorate him because of his conservation efforts and because he put his philosophy on things in writing, so we can read about it today,” she added.
Grey Owl’s cabin can only be reached by foot, canoe or boat.
Gerwing said most people, when they hike to Grey Owls cabin, spend at least one night sometimes two at the campgrounds that are made available along the trail. She said a popular route is to camp at the Sandy Bay campground.
“Usually people will set up camp there and they can go to the cabin and back the next day and they don’t have to carry everything they can just take a day pack and then come back and spend the night again at Sandy Bay,” she said.
Gerwing said the mental and physical journey to get to Grey Owl’s cabin is an important part of the story.
“It’s part of the Grey Owl and Anahareo story; the journey that they took literally and figuratively to actually arrive there,” she said.
Approximately 1,500 people visit Grey Owl’s Cabin each year.
Gerwing mentioned when Grey Owl was living there, there were hundreds of people that visited the site every year. She said since then there has never been a change as far as people going up there.
“There has always been at least a constant trickle and that continues up to this day,” she said.
“So I think that really means something,” she said. “Even if the yearly stats don’t sound like a big number this has been going on since 1931.”
For more information on the Prince Albert National Park click here.
For more information on Grey Owl (Archie Belaney) click here.
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