Season’s Greetings from Perrault Lake Camp!

 I’ll get right to it folks… 2023 was a really good year. We are grateful for many blessings and I am pleased to report that we have kept very busy up here! Our heartiest Canadian, “Thank You Eh!” Goes out to everyone who made the long trip north to Perrault Lake Camp! We are fortunate to have shared this season with so many great people. It was a pleasure to have you all with us! 2023 sure felt good didn’t it? Like old times, finally! YAY!!!! What a relief and a comfort it was to operate with some consistency and familiarity. With that, Mark and I hit the ground running way back in the early days of spring and never looked back. We had big plans!

There is a list of projects on the kitchen cupboard that we aspire to accomplish. As quickly as we can cross things off more are added. Over the past few years we were thrilled to strike a line through a few of the biggies. To name a few: reclaim the beach, build an authentic cedar swing on the shoreline, build a couple new cabins, clear out messy pile up areas, junk and old sheds around the yard. This year, even with a steady week-to-week turnover, we challenged ourselves to tie up some loose ends and take on a few really exciting projects that would improve the PLC experience for everyone.

We started mid March with a quick gut job and complete interior renovation of cabin 2. Now that lovely cabin with the wrap around deck over looking the bay is decked out in a brilliant burst of woody knotty pine and fresh new furniture. There’s one thing we didn’t change, that fabulous view of the lake. Crossing this one off was especially rewarding. We are thrilled to say that there is no longer a single piece of paneling or outdated, worn down old building materials in the cabins at PLC. What a day!

In early June, after a great start to the season, we built a new dock. More people, more boats, we needed the docking space.  This one doesn’t sound like much but in addition to the day-to-day workload, it can be a challenge to devote a significant portion of your day and week to one project. Particularity when that project is plugging up your boat launch. No pressure. However, we’ve done this before too. The cribbing and shoreline side of things were all set by the time we started the floating sections. We whipped up 2 16’ docks in a couple days, paddled them over and pinned them in. Scratch that off the list!

July rolled around and we pulled the trigger on this gem! A basketball court! Mark may be living vicariously through the kids on this one. He grew up shooting hoops from the grass on a basic rim mounted to a plywood backboard and don’t get me wrong, he was happy to have it. To this day several guests like to reminisce about playing basketball with him as a kid. What a treasure this place is. Anyway, we were rocking the same set up, a driveway hoop on the grass in pretty much the same place it was 30 years ago. It’s the only flat spot on this entire property and it gets a ton of traffic. Over the past couple years Mark, the kids and many friends and guests have worn the grass down to dust playing horse. We decided that this was the year. Our kids are old enough to really enjoy it; we’re making this happen! The court was a big job; excavation, gravel, leveling, packing, forms, rebar, cement, weather conditions and so on. Almost two months went by before we crossed this one off the list. We owe a giant and very grateful thank you to a handful of neighbors who came out to help pour and finish the 30 x 36 foot concrete slab. There’s no way we could have done this without their help. The best part was that it was an instant success. The minute Mark gave his ok the kids moved in. The hoop relocated from the dusty plot to smooth fresh concrete, the hockey net was in the corner with pucks flying, roller blades were ripping in circles and they even brought a few chairs over to “chill” with their friends in a screen free, active and fun place for everyone. This spring we will complete the project with a new cemented in adjustable hoop and an outdoor sport court covering complete with half court lines. Stay tuned folks.

‘Don’t let the grass grow under your feet.’ Too bad there isn’t a little more literal truth to that old proverb. Given the pace we set for ourselves and the miles we made around the yard; mowing the lawn was one chore we would have gladly skipped this season. There was one more point on the list that we were anxiously eyeing. We had been planning for it all year, what a shame it would have been to miss this opportunity. So seize the moment we did! On September 9th, on the heals of a very busy season and at a time when we would usually embrace a slowdown in our annual routine, we kicked it into high gear and began the largest, most ambitious project we have yet to tackle. The day had finally come where we were prepared to demolish the old lodge and rebuild a brand new cabin 8!

The lodge, as it was named for generations before us, was original to the property along with cabin 1, 3, 5 and the boathouse. Constructed in the 50’s, it was the largest building in camp. This was the home of the original owners of Perrault Lake Camp. It also served as the summer home and office to Mark’s family from their beginnings here in 1978 until they built the house that we now live in back in 1989. Did you know that the lodge was not winterized or insulated? I’m not sure what the original owners did to survive the winter but in the fall Mark’s parents would move to cabin 1, which was insulated and outfitted with a wood stove. Much better suited to wait out the winter. The incredible part here is that there was no indoor plumbing through the frozen months. Until 1989, they would draw water from the lake daily for washing, drinking and bathing. I remember the first time I heard that story. I couldn’t believe it! It still amazes me to even consider the workload in their daily life. Joe and Faye were real deal outfitters. Anyway, from ’89 and on that big old barn became a summer rental. It was the setting of countless great times and wonderful memories. The lodge was the head quarters of The PLC Phantoms, The PLC Mafia and many other self-proclaimed die-hard Canada/Perrault Lake loving families and groups that we are so lucky to know! History lesson aside, it’s day had come.  The building itself was old. It was like the seven dwarfs of disrepair; sinking, saggy, leaning, leaky, musty, dusty and drafty. The cost to upgrade the building was substantial. Several years back we decided that it would be far more worthwhile to remove it and rebuild. Guests of the lodge, you’re officially getting a new clubhouse! The new Cabin 8 will look much like the other new cabins around the camp. It is a 30’ x 40’ building with an 8’ covered deck across the front to enjoy a peaceful view of the lake. It will offer a bright, spacious interior finished in rich knotty pine. The plans include 4 bedrooms to comfortably sleep up to 9 people and 2 full bathrooms. It features large front windows and a patio door, a spacious and open interior, a well-lit kitchen, large dinner table and lots of sofa space for everyone to relax after a great day on the lake.

The timeline was tight and the workload was immense. We allotted 6 weeks to tear down and rebuild to a wrapped-in for winter check point. Up here we plan Halloween costumes around our snowsuits. We did not want to be installing metal on a frosty, frozen or snow covered roof. So, like I said, we kicked it into high gear and got to work! The very last group to ever stay in the lodge was a wonderful family from Coffeeville KS. They fished, feasted, played lawn games, laughed and relaxed. The old lodge enjoyed a fitting end. They departed Friday afternoon. I don’t think the Kansans cleared the driveway before Mark was in there clearing décor, emptying cupboards, moving furniture and removing fixtures, windows and doors. The next morning while I cleaned cabins for the week ahead Mark and the kids were salvaging pine. Yes, we certainly did reclaim a large portion of the materials from the old cabin. Jack and Carmen were fantastic helpers. They processed and organized all the knotty pine wall coverings; pulling nails, sorting by size, etc. Then came the teardown. This was really exciting for Mark and I, new territory. It was our inaugural cabin demolition and as much as we have appreciated all that the lodge stood for, we couldn’t wait to get rid of it and start fresh. We dissected the building from the top down. We cut sections of the roof one at a time, pushed them over the edge and watched as they crashed to the ground. Fun stuff! We hauled each piece away and continued. The upper level of the building was composed of a few supporting stud walls so once the perimeter of the roof was gone we wrapped a chain around the center supports and yanked the whole top level down with the skid steer. It collapsed in a little cloud of dust. Again, very cool! The main level was Mark’s favorite part. We rented a track hoe with which he thoroughly enjoyed grabbing, ripping, tearing and smashing the main floor to smithereens! Are you trying to picture the machine? It’s the digging machine with a long arm on the front and a big grabby bucket on the end. Little ones use the plastic version to scoop and dump in the sandbox. Machines are fun. Mark smashed and grabbed to his heart’s content.

After the dust settled, it took a few days to clean up all the debris before we could remove the floor and foundation. This part was rigorous and exhausting. It was a lot of hands on sorting through the wreckage. Clearing sections of walls, cutting wires and pipes all littered with jagged, splintered, and shattered pieces of wood. In the ruble I found an old toy, a tiny little sesame street character. It was The Count, someone’s friend from long ago. I felt a deep empathy for disaster victims. It was overwhelming to consider the emotional impact of sorting through the wreckage of ones home and life. Fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods have affected many friends and family in recent years. I did not expect to think that profoundly or feel so tenderly. It was a humbling experience as I thanked my lucky stars and guardian angels. One piece at a time… One section at a time… It was all cleared away. The track hoe and a chainsaw took care of removing the floor, beams and cement pilings; and the skid steer smoothed it over with fresh gravel. That old lodge sat proud on the hill for nearly 70 years and in 6 days it disappeared. Guests in camp that week remarked at how impressed they were with the work the kids did and how interesting it was to witness our day-to-day progress. Stage 1, done!

There are many photos of the demo included in this year’s Christmas News Letter Album on our Facebook page. Worth checking out!

I’d like to say that on the 7th day we rested but no. It was Saturday. No rest for the wicked and no time to waste. Winter is coming. I was cleaning cabins while Mark was organizing the foundation. He began setting cement blocks, prepping to build beams and supports. Building a cabin is like adult Lego. All the materials come packaged on pallets and step-by-step you open each one to apply all the different parts appropriately. It’s very motivating to work your way through the bundles of building supplies. Piece by piece, day by day, we picked away. We framed, sheeted, raised walls, wrapped, set trusses, dangled from the rafters as we roofed and so on. Until eventually the last stack of materials on the lawn was gone. What an accomplishment! In 6 weeks, before the end of October, we reach our goal. The metal roof was complete and the windows and doors were in place. Wrapped in before the snow flies. Stage 2 complete! At this point we did rest for a few days.

To reach our goal we did almost nothing but build this cabin through the fall. I’ve skimmed over the majority of the build but make no mistake; it was intense and all consuming at times. However, this is our 3rd cabin construction. The experience we’ve gained has been instrumental in our success with this project. Until now, we would never have taken on a project of this magnitude. A couple of things are well deserving of honourable mention:
     -A friend of Mark’s joined us for the demo, groundwork and beams. An extra person sped up the process considerably. We are most grateful for his tremendous help!
     -Mark and I work really well together. Moreover, after 20 years, we still really like each other.
     -Mark is amazing. We built cabin 8 together but I could not do all the things that he does. His skills, focus and perseverance are incredible. Also, he is very strong and not afraid of heights!

Fast forward to the present, stage 3 is well underway. The electricians have come and gone, insulation is going up, followed shortly by fresh knotty pine. Will it be ready for spring? It has to be. Cabin 8 is rented out all summer long. We will be delighted to share this new addition to PLC with you in 2024.

Mother nature certainly deserves an appreciative nod too. Her gracious cooperation did not go unnoticed. The conditions were relatively calm and highly conducive to a productive season. No flooding, major storms, extended heat waves or drought. Although, we were sweating through a brief 95 degree heat wave in late May and wearing hoodies to combat a cool start to July. The weather is weird nowadays. Last spring brought disastrous flooding, the Perrault Falls raged so tumultuously that you couldn’t get near them. This year you could walk the whole pass in barely a trickle of water over the rocks. The water level in general was low and has remained at the lowest we have ever seen. Yet we did get enough rain throughout the summer to keep the grass green and the foliage in place well into the fall. Most thankfully, the surrounding area also managed to avoid the risk of forest fires. Fires did indeed rage in other parts of Canada. Out west in Alberta, to the east in Quebec and in the uninhabited north of Ontario, forest fires churned thick smoke that choked large portions of the Midwest all summer long. A lot of folks assumed we were once again in jeopardy; they checked in on our wellbeing and inquired about the likelihood of enjoying their upcoming stay. The news was shocking and almost entirely opposite of our situation. When the wind blew from the northwest it did bring smoke with it. However, there were only a couple thick smoggy days and several more that yielded a hazy sky. For the most part PLC enjoyed clear skies and fresh air. Following a few scary years, we were awfully grateful to reassure everyone that all was well.

This year Perrault yielded some fantastic fishing experiences! The season opener in May was warm and pleasing on the water. Fresh walleye sizzled in the shore lunch pans and those big beautiful muskies were moving all summer long. Muskellunge are well established and aggressively territorial, the perfect mix for an exhilarating chase. Some of our young guns really outdid themselves recording new personal bests. The musky opener in June saw Konrad and Colin, hoist 49” and 47” beauties, respectively. These boys are members of the PLC Phantoms fishing group. They may be in their early teens but they are raising the bar for years to come! We are also very proud of our young friend Charlie. Returning for his second trip to Perrault he was determined to post a leaderboard fish. Day 2 he boated a 26” walleye. Commendable but 27 gets you on the board. No asterisks at PLC. He accepted the challenge and a couple days later, this little guy was standing 10 feet tall with a picture to prove that he caught and released a 27.5” walleye. His story tops the season for me. It was a great pleasure to write his name on the Leaderboard. Way to go kid! On the opposite end of the measuring stick, smallmouth and perch kept light lines twitching through the hot sunny afternoons on Perrault Lake. Not to mention entertaining the kids on the docks for hours. There was much fun to be had. Our happiest congratulations go out to all anglers. Whether you had the chance to witness a tail dancing strike on a calm evening, hold a premiere Perrault Lake walleye or flipped pan fish back and forth over the gunnel all week we hope that you all thoroughly enjoyed your time spent in the pristine splendor of the Canadian wilderness. It’s a long drive up here but it’s worth it.

Now, lets get to the leaderboard! The biggest beasts of the 2023 season are 2 50-inch muskies. Yes, the title for biggest musky of the year is a tie! Dave Quale released the first one early in August, followed by Steve Predayna two weeks later. August was a rewarding month for musky hunters. Big congratulations gentlemen! You both posted very memorable weeks. Thank you for the fabulous photos of two remarkable muskies. Welcome to the 50 club!

The largest walleye of 2023 goes to Nick Nicholas with his tremendous 32” walleye boated late in July. What a catch! One of the biggest Perrault has to offer. Our hats off to you Nick. Tom Tahija holds the title for biggest smallmouth bass this year at a whopping 21 inches long. Also caught and released in the last few days of July. Congrats Tom, very well done. Finally, rounding out the Leaderboard’s best is Rick Estrada with his 40.5” northern caught and released way back in the opening week of the season. Cheers to you Rick! A terrific catch!   

The Leaderboard was long this year, filled with accolades representing outstanding adventures and special memories. Once again, congratulations to all the anglers! Thank you all for sharing your stories and photos with us. We are always pleased to share them along. You can check out the Leaderboard on our website and be sure to peek at all of these wonderful photos on Facebook. I’m particularly thankful for all of these photos and a quick few that Mark and I snapped throughout the season. The pace was so hurried this year; so many things were on the go that I feel like only now and I truly appreciating the whole picture. I missed the sparkle on the lake and the bright blue sky behind a happy face with a beautiful fish. The trees were so thick with leafy greenery in the background of group photos on the cedar swing and around our carved eagle. Fall was brilliant this year. I hardly noticed the colorful foliage marking the passing of time as we worked through the progression of cabin 8. Our most sincere thanks go out to our family, friends and guests. Thank you for your support and patience through the hustle. We are grateful for your kindnesses, for helping hands, for the gifts and goodies and for all your considerations. It was a momentous year. We did our best with it! Thank you.

So, what does the New Year have in store for us? Other than finishing cabin 8 of course… Hockey! Back when I said, “We did almost nothing but build cabin 8 through the fall,” hockey is the “almost nothing” part. When in Rome, right! Or should I say, when in Canada eh! Through the fall hockey slowly crept into our schedule and for the foreseeable future it will occupy the majority of our evenings and weekends. Jack and Carmen want nothing more than to lace up and skate. The kids are so patient, helpful and understanding of our family responsibilities through the season. This is their time to shine! They’re great players and excellent competitors. Jack plays defense and Carmen is a center for the Ear Falls Eagles. Jack also plays for a second team, the Red Lake Rockets. We are so very proud of the kids. Both have earned MVP awards, numerous player of the game tokens and the honor of wearing the hard work hat! We run all over NW Ontario from arena to arena for practices, games and tournaments because they love it! Mark and I are learning all kinds of important things too, like how long it takes to get to Sioux Lookout in a snow storm and which arena concession makes the best hot dogs or taco in a bag. The season runs through March. With any luck we’ll finish cabin 8 while the kids are in school and hockey will wrap up just in time for Mark and I to pick our next project on that list! So, if you’re calling and you get a message, were either running a table saw or driving up and down the 105. I promise, I will call you back. Go Eagles! Go Rockets!

In all of these events, I did not mention Lucy. Our pup. She is doing great. She had a wonderful time this season hanging with the kids on the docks and looking for snacks and snuggles at the cabin doors. I know that she too is very much looking forward to seeing everyone again in the spring. We all are. The winter months are flying by. As I bring this year’s letter to a close the solstice is upon us, longer days ahead. Yay!

We send our warmest wishes, greatest thanks and kindest regards that you all share in a joyous holiday season with family and friends. If I have learned anything this year it is that we are greatest when we work together and there is no time like the present. Make every minute count!

Coming to you from an arena somewhere in NW Ontario, Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Mark, Amy, Jack, Carmen

 & Lucy