Students walk along the boardwalk of Ominnik Marsh. (Photo: Tanya Kirnishni/Canadian Geographic)
The marsh teems with wildlife—dragonflies buzzing overhead and blackbirds swaying on tall cattails—but the star of the hour is the beaver that the students spot at the end of their hike.
“It’s been a while since I saw a beaver,” says Seth Netro, watching the animal munch on a poplar branch, oblivious to the students crowding around for a closer look. “We have beavers where we live, but they’ll get scared if they hear a noise because they’re hunted sometimes.”
As the late afternoon sun paints the boardwalk with shadows and the wind blows poplar seeds like snow over the water, the park seems to be putting on a show. “I’m going to stop and take a photo of this path,” says Justice Aubichone, looking for the best angle to catch the light. “Photography is really cool isn’t it?”
There are several budding photographers in the group. Kayce Saligo takes in the landscape with an artist’s eye. And what makes a good photo? “I look for the sun, and for things in front of it,” says Saligo, going over his collection of photos from the trip so far as the group walks back towards Wasagaming. “I took that one just now,” he says, showing a photo of a low-hanging branch from a pine tree with the sun’s rays seeping through.
After the walk, the students and their chaperones, which include teachers Tina Moody-Curran and ?Glen Brooke, as well as the principal, Amber Dumouchel, gather for dinner. Sitting in a pine grove clearing, they enjoy food prepared from locally grown and sourced ingredients, before moving to the campfire, where they are welcomed to the park by local Elder Warren Bone.
Hot chocolate is handed out and Parks Canada interpreter Desmond Mentuck launches into the history of the area, talking about the local Indigenous Peoples and the fur trade. He then introduces the father-son duo of Vincent and Jared Shingoose, who entertain the group with guitar and fiddle music, featuring Métis jigs to Irish tunes. Some of the students even hop to their feet to dance a couple turns before the fire.
At the end of this long day of travel, hiking, dancing, and even a couple games of tag, the students finally head back to their oTENTik village, passing along Clear Lake’s sandy beach just as the sun sinks into the horizon. With loons calling out on the lake and owls hooting somewhere in the poplars, they tuck into their sleeping bags to get some rest before the next day of adventure.
Tune in tomorrow for more from Canada’s Coolest School Trip!