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At home in the wild

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WORLD Radio - At home in the wild

A fishing lodge in Manitoba, Canada gives city-dwellers a taste of the life their ancestors experienced


James Bradley on Dogskin Lake Photo by Mary Muncy

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, August 15th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.

Coming next on The World and Everything in It: knowing the land. Canada has over a million square miles of wilderness. Only Russia has more.

In the Canadian province of Manitoba, dense forests go hundreds of miles in all directions. Parts of it are so remote, they’re almost completely uninhabited.

EICHER: But in some areas, hunting and fishing guides are reintroducing people to life in the wild. WORLD reporter Mary Muncy went out into the woods and came back to tell about it.

MARY MUNCY, REPORTER: James and Heather Bradley are sitting in a fishing boat in the Canadian wilderness. The bite is good, and Heather just learned how to unhook her own fish this week. But she still refuses to touch the minnows.

JAMES BRADLEY: Oh, you need a minnow

HEATHER BRADLEY: That’s what I always need when I’m sitting here waiting.

JAMES: Waitin' on a minnow.

James is a fishing guide working at Dogskin Lake Lodge for the summer. Heather is visiting him for a week after about two months apart.

Usually, James spends almost all day on the water with clients, either helping them fish or fishing himself.

It takes a lot of patience and customer service. And, of course, learning not to catch bigger fish than the guests.

The lodge is mostly about fishing. But for some people, their time here introduces them to nature in a way they haven’t experienced before.

JAMES: It's like, all about making sure that we take care of the resources, and making sure that like, people understand the beauty that like God has put into the lake and everything like, like it's so beautiful here, it's so peaceful, and it's just so tranquil.

The only way to get to the lodge is on a float plane. There are no roads, no trains, and no people for hundreds of miles in every direction. The lodge is one of only four lodges in the Atikaki Provincial Wilderness Park in Manitoba. The park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2018.

SHAD TORGERSON: It's meant to be a protected wilderness for future generations to enjoy.

That’s Shad Torgerson, part owner of Dogskin.

TORGERSON: So nobody can build any additional buildings in the park. No roads will ever go in the park.

Shad and his brother-turned-business-partner, Jamie, bought the lodge in 2003. Now, it’s their full-time job.

The brothers and their families live in Wisconsin most of the year planning for fishing and hunting seasons, but they spend their summers and part of the fall in Canada.

GRACE TORGERSON: [Laughing]

Grace Torgerson is Shad’s niece. She grew up spending her summers at the lodge. Now, she’s back for a summer after college and before missions school.

GRACE: There's something satisfying about going out with people and being able to lead them and guide them around like people that have never been here.

She’s been getting to know this land her whole life. Figuring out where the fish go when there’s a cold snap, what berries are safe to eat.

GRACE: It's just like knowing like, knowing where the rocks are, when you're when you're on a boat. You know, we figured that out the hard way.

Nature isn’t always easy to appreciate.

The Torgersons watch guests go in and out all summer. Some of the guests are seasoned fishermen and hunters and are used to the wilderness…Others, not so much.

TORGERSON: Certainly the city folk, they-they're freaked out. I mean, let's be honest, when they first get here. Like ‘how far away is civilization? Are the bears are gonna eat me? Wolves and all this stuff?’ They live in the city. They feel naked and exposed here, it's like they could die at any moment. They don't realize this is how people lived for millennia.

For the most part, it’s pretty safe. Animals tend to stay away and there are rarely accidents. But that’s not to say nature doesn’t test their resolve.

The nearest hospital is hours away, and if anything breaks it could be days before a repairman reaches them.

Shad says they all wear multiple hats.

TORGERSON: I’m the only one who’s carried buckets of poo out of outhouses out of any of you.

They’re also miles away from any first responders, like during a recent fire. James saw it from the cabin window.

JAMES: So we like book it into like the like Lodge and people are like the workers who are here sitting down like I'm in their coffee. I'm like, Guys cabin fives on fire.

The chef grabbed the fire extinguisher thinking they were exaggerating. But when they looked out the door, one of the cabins was completely up in flames.

JAMES: We literally just like grabbed buckets from the lake. And we're just like, like the cabin was gone. So you just had to keep up perimeter like clear and just tossing water on all the plants and making sure it wasn't spreading to all the other cabins.

There wasn’t anyone in the cabin at the time and nothing else caught on fire. But now they have to rebuild it practically from scratch.

JAMES: I was like, I didn't know I signed up to be a firefighter.

For the rest of the season, James was back to being a fishing guide.

He has just a few more weeks before he goes home to his wife. They’ve been married just over a year and the time away was tough. But he says his time on the lake gave him more than just fishing stories.

JAMES: As you fish more, you appreciate more-more of the fish’s beauty. Like, especially when you catch a big one like that, like a big fish has been alive for like longer than I have.

Shad Torgerson says if people are open to it, the lodge can change them, but not everyone will let it.

TORGERSON: And some people just still can't get out of their busy mindset. You know, where it's just no no no, just go on next trophy, and then go on to the next thing.

But others relax into the rhythm of lodge life. They let go of the hustle and bustle of their normal lives and spend time connecting to their family and the land. Even if they don’t know it, they start to realize that there is nothing but God for miles and miles.

Grace Torgerson says the land is like a person, you can’t love it more than you know it.

GRACE: C.S. Lewis says, you can't love something if you don't know it. So you can't appreciate this place if you don't know it to certain capacity. So even if you only know it three days, you can love it three days worth.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Mary Muncy in Manitoba, Canada.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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