It was the planes, trains, and automobiles version of the quintessential Canadian Algoma Country trip—but unlike the movie, the getting there was a fun and an important part of "getting away from it all."
The shoreline of Superior is stunning; the further we drove North, the more we saw, and the more it felt like we were getting away from it all. Not a minute after seeing a highway moose warning sign, a moose crossed in front of the vehicle. The moose was majestic, quintessentially Canadian, and luckily a safe distance from us.
We stayed at the White River Motel for the night, and at 6:30 am we parked at the White River train station and admired all of the U.S. licence plates from Texas, to Ohio, to Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. We watched hundreds of pounds of gear per group being loaded onto the train, including coolers, cases of beer, fishing rod poles in hardshell cases, and more. As a beginner, with no gear, I carried on my suitcase and camera bag.
Once comfortably seated, the train headed almost due East. It is such a scenic route, with Canada's finest trees, rocks, and lakes on display, not to mention a moose calf (that I missed seeing).
The Via Rail train stopped at mile marker 88. Descending down to the boats to be whisked away to our lodge, we were greeted by clouds of mosquitoes, that abated as soon as our boat was out on the water. I will say that my new "no-fly-zone" gear from Mark's held up particularly well against the Northern onslaught of mosquitoes and black flies.
Now on our third mode of transportation, a beautiful cedar boat, we were officially "away from it all."
Esnagi Lake is a pristine wilderness in the Boreal forest. The 27-mile lake only has three lodges and two private residences. There are less than 60 boats on the whole lake.
Mar Mac Lodge welcomed us like a hug. The cedar boats lining the docks were complemented by the varnished log buildings and cabins slightly up the hill. From the moment we stepped off the boat, the staff and owners were personable and genuinely interested in us and all of their guests.
For those not ready to brave the wilderness, Mar Mac has a spacious main lodge with a pool table, high-speed internet, a camp shop for fishing gear, snacks, and sundry items, not to mention an enormous satellite television.
The restaurant serves huge portions of delicious home-cooked food. The first night, we had a full Thanksgiving-like turkey dinner with all the fixings; the next evening, we stared down a delicious mountain of pork chops in mushroom gravy. The following night it was pot roast, carrots, gravy, potatoes, and key lime pie.
Guests can choose to bring in their own food and cook in their cabins, which have full kitchens and barbecues on the porches, or can buy one of two meal plans. Most of the guests take the full meal plan for simplicity's sake.
Our cabin slept six and had two bathrooms. It was spacious and comfortable. There was a cabin for every size group, some newer, some older but most importantly, all the windows had screens (without holes in them). The lodge can accommodate up to 45 guests.
The walk back to the cabin at night highlighted a sky of more stars than I knew existed, as there was no light pollution. A very peaceful sleep followed.
In asking the other guests what makes Mar Mac Lodge so special, they all tell tales of fly-in fishing outposts where the outhouses are full of mosquitoes, and you have to fend for yourself for everything. They say there is no comparison to Mar Mac Lodge, where the fishing is phenomenal, the guides clean all your fish, the kitchen staff put out piles of food, and of course, they rave about the clean bathrooms inside the cabins, which are all well equipped with hot water on demand.
My favourite part of the trip was the day we had a fishing guide, who showed us where to fish, then cooked us a shore lunch that rivalled any chef’s cuisine. Granted, my pride of having caught the bulk of our lunch definitely enhanced the taste of the walleye (pickerel). For someone who didn't even realize that I was holding the fishing rod wrong until day two, catching six fish that morning was quite the accomplishment.
I also caught pike but was told it was not as good eating as the white, flaky, non-fishy walleye, and I sent my 23-inch pike a-swimming.
When we were fished out, we putted around part of the lake, watching bald eagles take flight, seeing loons dive under the water, enjoying the red-headed merganser's mohawk crown, but just missing the two moose at the shore's edge and the beaver slapping its tail on the water to ward away the fishermen.
Our trip climaxed with a scenic 20-minute flight in a float plane with White River Air to return to White River. My planes, trains, automobiles (and boats) experience was coming to an end. I felt humbled at the beauty of our surroundings. I was thrilled that I was an angler for at least one day and I had the fish in my belly and some frozen to take home with me to prove it. It was a truly Canadian bucket list item that I got to check off my list, right in my own backyard.