I wasn’t sure we’d ever pull it off.
Year after year, my family tossed around the idea of having Christmas “up north somewhere”. It’s something that was on my mom’s proverbial bucket list for a long time, and with good reason; who wouldn’t want to spend the holidays up at a nice cabin, sitting by a fireplace and watching the snow come down, surrounded by miles of northern boreal forest, with all sorts of wildlife who call the area home?
Incredibly, we managed to pull it off.
On a random Sunday back in September, Mom and my brother Perry asked my advice on a listing they came across on a website called Air BnB. When my eyes saw that it was a cabin that I’d been looking at for a possible summer excursion earlier in the year, I instinctively knew that we had to lock it down for Christmas NOW if we were to ever pull off this idea. Not only that, but it was up at Candle Lake, a place that my family and I used to take our summer vacations when my brothers and I were kids. In a way, I guess it seemed like a sign that it was meant to be.
After some further discussion about all the fine details, we reserved it.
At that point, it seemed like December was such a long wait, but in reality, the fall seemed to shoot by and we approached the last few days before we were set to leave for Candle Lake on December 22. Those few days all seem like a blur now because so much was packed into them, but I remember a few final grocery runs and wrapping gifts.
The night before we left, we opened a few “big” gifts at the Ruttle house because we didn’t want to pack anything that we didn’t need to. As it turned out, my SUV was the one with all the Christmas gifts packed away. Did that make me Santa Claus? Yes, yes it did.
Hitting the road on Saturday the 22nd, we were fortunate to have great traveling weather, with only a few spots around Prince Albert where blowing snow wasn’t so fun. The weather even managed to turn sunny maybe ten minutes from Candle Lake.
Pulling up to the cabin was a memory in itself because that’s when you’re simply taking in your surroundings. This sucker wasn’t just a cabin, this was a full-blown house dropped in the midst of a growing development area that was surrounded by forest. Three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a spacious second-storey loft, a wood-burning fireplace, a sunroom, and even a cold storage room leading to the wide back deck.
We were happy.
What followed was an incredible few days up north in which our surroundings amplified our Christmas spirit and made for some great memories. We even made friends for a few days with the local wildlife. Within just a couple of hours of our arrival, we had a large convoy of whitetail deer that walked through our backyard and to the front.
Aside from the endless amount of deer we would see over the next few days, we had a makeshift “pet” in the form of a fox who would routinely visit the back deck. Finally, we started tossing pieces of meat out there, and the little guy found himself pretty spoiled during our stay. I was reminded of how animals up north aren’t all that shy around us humans when I stood on the deck, dropped a dry rib a couple of feet away from me, and watched as the fox sauntered over and chowed down. I felt no sense of being threatened at all, this orange and white little fellow was just a curious little guy who enjoyed having us spoil him. I think that if I’d invested the time, eventually I could’ve had him eating out of my hand.
With food being the only thing that the cabin didn’t provide, we had set out a nightly menu ahead of our trip. On our first night there, we knew none of us would feel like cooking, so we went over to the restaurant for Chinese buffet. Sitting amongst all of Candle Lake’s “regulars”, I felt a sense of community as people milled about, talking with each other about Christmas plans. That night, we went driving around the area to check out Christmas lights and displays, including a number of them at Sandy Bay Campground. But the crème de la crème was when we came across a home that could only be described as the Clark Griswold of Candle Lake; immaculate displays, bright lights of all colors, and it seemed like every inch of this home had something holiday-related on it. Amazing.
Christmas itself was a blast, opening gifts and everyone waking up for the day as light snow came down in the backyard. Supper that night was fantastic as always – we definitely ate good on this trip.
It seemed like the four days up there just cruised by because it was the morning of Boxing Day before we knew it, and we packed up for the road trip home. A lot of memories were made during that short time, and we definitely set the bar high for future Christmases because it was truly a holiday that the Ruttles are never going to forget.
I can’t thank our host Beau and his family enough for the use of their cabin. It’s an amazing ‘home at the lake’ and it left an indelible mark on all of us.
My fingers are crossed that I can reserve it at some point this summer.