Aikens Lake Spotlighted for Historical, Cultural Experience
Mar. 18, 2016
TravelDew, an experiential travel site, interviewed Patrick Trudel for a spotlight article on Aikens Lake. Here is the article:
“Be willing to embark into the unknown. Suspend disbelief and buy-in whole heartedly.”
Patrick Trudel is the Sales Manager and a Partner at Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge. His career at the lake started as the dockhand in 2000. He then proceeded to become a guide, then head-guide, host, manager and ultimately Trudel become part of the ownership group. Patrick’s passion for the outdoors is quite apparent; he spends free time chasing fish and game alike throughout the fishing and hunting seasons. Patrick resides at Aikens Lake from May to October annually surrounded by his lovely wife Janelle and his two boys Oscar and Arthur.
During the off-season Patrick moonlights as an actor with Le Cercle Molière, a French theater company in Winnipeg (celebrating its 90th consecutive season in 2016 – Canada’s longest tenured theater company, in fact). At the lake, Trudel is responsible for maintenance and operations. He is a great fan of all types of fishing, especially casting for pike in the spring.
Whether with general tackle or with a fly rod, you can usually find Patrick in one of the many bays on the North shore of Aikens Lake chasing down ‘Ol Snaggletooth. Patrick is always amazed and humbled at the opportunity to be a part of such an amazing operation. He is excited to continue sharing the magical bond that visitors to Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge form.
Q. How do the experiences you offer at Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge give guests a unique perspective on the history, people or culture of your region?
A. Aikens Lake is situated on a traditional trade route which dates back to the years of the fur trades. The “Voyageurs”, French-Canadian hired men, would travel waterways by canoe from Québec to western Canada, and back again, amassing pelts from trappers and first nations communities along the vast networks of lakes and rivers throughout the land. Aikens Lake was a prominent stop on the water way known as “Le Petit Nord.” Numerous artifacts and archaeologically significant evidence has been found and documented at various locations on our shores.
To this day, with our majority French-Canadian team, you can still hear the same flare, and often times singsongs, that the Frenchmen of yesteryear uttered from their canoes as they paddled by where our docks now sit. We invite our guests to immerse themselves in the steeped history that surrounds our operation. Through interpretive re-enactment, traditional cuisine, and hands-on historical practices, participants become honorary Voyageurs during their stay.
“Pathways of the Voyageur” showcases the strong, vibrant and iconic French Canadian culture. What was once found only to those meandering the remote woods of the great Boreal Forest, can now be embraced firsthand by those lucky few that choose to embark on this great adventure.
Q. How have the experiences that you offer evolved since their inception?
A. Since its inception, Pathways has grown to be able to accommodate groups of 30 or more people, at any given time (subject to availability). We have also tailored the package to be offered to smaller groups at our Great Gray Owl Mini-Lodge (groups of 6-12). Flexibility of schedule ensures that we can accommodate the most time-sensitive travelers. Also, participants may choose to opt-in for any number of sessions of guided fishing on our world-class fresh water lake. Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge operates annually from late May to mid September.
Q. What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?
A. The interpreters that accompany the enthusiasts are authentic modern-day Voyageurs. These folks still navigate the same water sheds as their forefathers and embrace the ways of the fur-trade era, its bushcraft and its absence of everyday comforts. The story-telling they offer and the precision of their historical acumen are what brings this Signature Experience to life.
Q. What do you wish every guest knew as they consider participating in the experiences you offer?
A. Every participant will be fully immersed in the francophone “Joie de vivre”. The French-Canadian identity in Western Canada holds a very important chapter in our nation’s history. Their presence, West of Québec, helped blaze the trail for thousands (eventually millions) of settlers. The fur-trade, with its Voyageurs, proliferated countless communities throughout the West and their mark can still be found in the many small towns which still, to this day, boast their French names. The zest for life and resilient tenacity of French-Canadian culture will permeate and impact each and every cultural enthusiast that chooses to visit Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge.
Q. What is one travel trend that really excites you?
A. We are proud to offer a unique and well-received vacation with our Pathways to the Voyageur experience. People traveling great distances to immerse themselves in culture-based products have opened a new avenue of potential visitors to us. These travelers seem to be looking to invest their vacation dollars in experiences that bring them on journeys rather than a trip.
We hope they see value in discovering the historical impact that the fur traders imparted on our great nation. The ability of participants to review and offer feedback to others contemplating the package is quite exciting. This dialogue gives us recourse to further enriching the experience to the benefit of all parties.
Q. What sets Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge apart from other, similar, organizations?
A. Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge is located on the shores of Manitoba second deepest lake. We are the only operators on this body of water and are accessible by float plane only (or two-day paddle in a canoe). Our proximity to Winnipeg allows us to greet our guests on our docks only two hours after they’ve landed at Winnipeg International Airport. Our award-winning service-based operation has been recognized by industry peers and influencers alike.
We are proud stewards of the land and work intimately with governmental bodies to protect and showcase our pristine wilderness region. Aikens Lake is situated on the Eastern side of Lake Winnipeg and has been coined many times as the “Gateway to the Boreal Forest.” This area of forest has been selected as a candidate to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Named “Pamachiowin Aki” (The Land That Gives – Ojibwe), it encompasses 43,000 square Kms. Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge is perfectly situated for its guests to experience the majestic untouched wilderness of the site, all from the luxurious comfort of our well-appointed amenities.
Q. What is one insiders tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?
A. Let yourself be transported on a historical journey and relive the sight, smells and flavors of the pioneers whose footsteps you are to walk in. Be willing to embark into the unknown. Suspend disbelief and buy-in whole heartedly.
Q. What is one strategy that has helped your business to grow?
A. We have aggressively marketed online. It has paid great dividends. We’ve also partnered on numerous endeavors with our tourism industry colleagues at Travel Manitoba and the Canadian Tourism Commission. Also, embracing the proposed bid for the region to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site has offered us valuable opportunities to serve as a launch pad for people looking to experience the untouched Boreal Forest. Locally, people have been receptive and encouraged by the response the global market has voiced towards our “Voyageur” experience. We’ve had many people express interest in joining and facilitating certain aspects of our experience (interpretation, cuisine and entertainment…)
Q. What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?
A. Number 1: Our golden rule: never forget who’s vacation it is. Number 2: Timely response to inquiries. We strive to reply to any booking request within 24 hrs or less. We have connectivity at the lodge which allows us, and our guests, to remain in contact.
Q. Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.
A. During the “Pathways to the Voyageur,” we have a ceremony on the beach in the evening. It is called “La promesse de l’Homme du Nord” (The promise of the Man of the North). This is a pact all new hopeful Voyageurs would make prior to embarking on their grand adventure. We call upon the participants, by firelight at dusk, to recite a toast that symbolizes certain key parts of a fur-trader’s promise to his commitment. Upon completion of their trip, l’homme du nord would, and only then, be recognized as true Voyageurs.
They are then given each a memento to commemorate their promise to “fulfill” their contract. They are then offered blessings from the Elders which wish them speed, health and success for their upcoming journey.
This ceremony has a mystical, transformative and cathartic effect on the participants. One such guest shared with us that, after the ceremony completed, that they felt tangibly connected to the Voyageurs of old. A promise which bonded them to their experience.
The website for TravelDew is TravelDew.com.