Article Written by Denise Davy
Inside a large log cabin, a blazing fire crackles in an immense 36 foot stone fireplace and the smell of freshly baked bread fills the air. Outside, a pristine blanket of snow has created the perfect setting for a winter wonderland. This is just one of the many magical moments on a four-day Christmas getaway that’s set in the beautiful surroundings of Algonquin Provincial Park.
Voyageur Quest, a Toronto-based eco-adventure company that has specialized in canoeing and camping adventures for 23 years, added this four-day Christmas package 11 years ago to give people the magic of Christmas without the work. “It’s all about having Christmas in the woods. It really is that fantasy that people want,” says owner and founder, John Langford.
Langford says that despite all the work the guides do to make the experience magical, the question they’re asked about most is something that’s beyond their control: the weather. “Everyone asks if there’ll be snow. They all want a guarantee that it will snow,” says Langford. “I tell them it’s snowed every year for the past 11 years and it will snow again this year.” Snow, it turns out, is an important part of the getaway – not only because it adds to the wonderland ambience – but because many of the activities, which include snowshoeing, dogsledding, hiking the trails and skating, are impossible without it.
The getaway starts on December 24 with a lunch of butternut squash soup and freshly baked bread. Then guests can strap on some snowshoes and explore Surprise Lake. After adventuring outdoors all afternoon, they head back to the cabin for a wild salmon dinner. After the feast, stockings can be hung with care on the mantle and everyone is invited to help decorate the 20-foot tree. “It’s all part of making this feel like home away from home,” says Langford. The next day starts off with a champagne and orange juice brunch followed by a late afternoon turkey with all the trimmings, including Yorkshire pudding and Ontario ice wine.
On December 26, guests can work off their turkey with a snowshoeing expedition. Staying another day is optional (priced separately) and includes a dogsledding adventure. And if that’s not enough, there’s also an outdoor bonfire, torch lit skate and the opportunity to roast chestnuts on an open fire while Jack Frost nips at your nose. The six-bedroom log cabin is comfortable, but Langford makes it clear that this isn’t an ultra-glamorous getaway. There is no hydro, there aren’t any phones, guests share washrooms and heat is provided only by woodstoves. With the exception of the guides, people are asked to leave their cell phones at home. “It’s rustic because we’re an adventure tour company,” explains Langford. “When you step into the cabin, you step into yesterday.”
Rustic is clearly what people are looking for as the Christmas package typically sells out every year. This year most of the guests booked are coming from one large family. They’ve also had couples and smaller families, as well as people from other countries that want to experience a Canadian Christmas.
“Everyone eats together at the long wooden dinner table”, says Langford, “and by the end of the four days, they’ve often formed friendships.” While outdoor activities are built into the package, Langford notes that people don’t have to be in great shape to participate. He adds, “If people want to read a book around the fire, that’s fine too.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT: voyageurquest.com