The heart of humble hospitality in Manitoba's North
March 15, 2023
It’s not everyday that you step off an airplane on a sand runway and are greeted with a handshake, personally welcoming you to your destination. At Gangler’s Sub-Arctic Adventures in Manitoba’s North, it is. Located near the North Seal River in the Canadian subarctic, Gangler's Lodge is a secret that wants and needs to be shared.
At Gangler's, you'll receive honest and humble helpings of not only food, but heart, home, and hospitality. The food, the fish, the fun, the fresh air, and the unforgettable feelings of a fantastic experience for friends, families, and those looking for that packaged introduction to Manitoba’s North. There's nothing quite like the true element of surprise, and in the world of travel I don't think there is anything more special. We do our research, we budget, and we plan to align our expectations with reality. There will always be those memorable and exceptional unplanned moments that make a trip. Here are the moments, the memories, and the magic of Gangler's Sub-Arctic Adventures.
Heels & Hiking Boots
I recently left my home in Winnipeg and traded in my high heels at the office for hiking boots in the wilderness, during a four-day excursion with a team of myself and five others. Having grown up in Northern Manitoba, I lived for six combined years in the communities of God's River and Wasagamach. Until now, I had never been more north than that, anywhere in Canada. My heart is in the north, so you can imagine my emotions, gratitude and excitement of returning there.
Gangler's Sub-Arctic Adventures is located 640 air miles north of Winnipeg and is only accessible by plane. Known for their Canadian Grand Slam, Gangler's presents a unique opportunity for fishing enthusiasts from around the world to catch four different species of fish; pike, walleye, trout, and arctic grayling. For those looking for family time or to connect with the outdoors, Gangler's also has you covered.
Getting To Gangler's
We departed Winnipeg at 6:30 AM for a three hour privately chartered flight, complete with meal and beverage service and a 15-minute fuel stop in Thompson. Watching the sun rise from 30,000 ft and seeing the topography and sights change from the window on the airplane, was spectacular. We landed on Gangler’s private 5400 ft sand runway. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. As we were exiting the plane, each and every one of us were greeted with a smile and handshake from lodge owner, Ken Gangler. Once our luggage was unloaded and ready to go, so were we. We jumped into large ATVs and were driven to the main lodge. Once we arrived, we were shown to our cabins, unpacked our bags, settled in, and partook in an introductory presentation about the local landscape by Manitoban biologist, Dr. Brian Kotak. The private runway at Gangler's welcomes guests from across the globe to approximately 5,500,000 acres of adventure and the great outdoors. It is this runway that allows Gangler's the possibility to open the doors to Manitoba's subarctic landscape.
Cozy Cabin # 8
Get ready to stay in your very own cozy cabin that has everything you need. A hot shower and the creature comforts of home go a long way. Fresh, hot coffee was courteously delivered to our cabins promptly every morning at 6:45 AM. Every early rise was already off to a great start and the day was only beginning. The staff were also very accommodating when it came to dietary accommodations and provided dairy alternative options to go with our coffee.
Eskers, Erratics, and Egenolf
What's an esker?
On our very first day after arriving to the lodge, there was no time to waste. We were whisked away by our two drivers, Brian (Dr. Kotak) and Roy on an unforgettable ATV excursion through the South Esker. What's an esker you might ask? Eskers are long winding ridges of sand and gravel that were left behind as the glaciers melted in the ice age over 8000 years ago. Imagine, four kilometres of thick ice, simply melting away. These eskers protrude out from the ground and provide not only high viewing points for hunters looking for prey, but for those willing to seek and explore, whether by motor or by foot. The incredible sightseeing views took my breath away, and that's something that can be difficult to truly capture in a photograph. Being able to look out on the varying landscape from lake to bog with the chance to see a moose, bald eagle, timber wolf, bear, or other living creatures that call the sub-arctic home, eskers are mountains of northern Manitoba.
Anything but erratic
We weren't feeling erratic on this trip if that's what you were wondering, but we did see them! Erratics are large rocks or boulders that were left over from the glacial ice melt. They are so large that you would think that someone had just picked them up and put them there. After a fun ATV ride, we parked the vehicles and did a short hike to an area where we were able to get up close and personal to them. The landscape was quite dense, but we were on the right track with Dr. Kotak and got where we needed to be. One of the most memorable parts of our trip was the infamous moose call from Brian. At first it may sound or seem unusual, but after hearing it over the course of four days, it's safe to say that he's mastered the calling of moose.
Gangler's Sub-Arctic Adventures is located on Egenolf Lake. Father Joseph Egenolf was a priest who was sent to Canada from Germany as a missionary for Western Canada. Learning to speak Cree, an Indigenous peoples language, he established a mission in the community of Brochet, located in northern Manitoba. He remained there for 52 years and passed away in The Pas on March 14, 1957. Egenolf Lake is named in memorial tribute of him.
Your Home Away From Home
Home. It's where we feel safe, where memories are made and where we hang our hat and take off our shoes at the end of the day. The main lodge at Gangler's is your home away from home, where its doors open for you. Personally, I'm about the little things. The connections made, the conversations had and the community and culture of any given location. That's the beauty of travel, after all. The main lodge was our home for four comfortable days. The comfort of relaxation, the enjoyment of conversation at the dinner table, the courteous and kind service of the wait staff and the curious candour from the bar and guiding staff – it was everything. Whether it was loud, quiet, or anything in between, there was never a dull moment.
It's moments like these
One of my favourite moments was curling up on one of the recliners in the main lodge on a rainy day, grabbing my journal, a hot tea and looking out on to Egenolf Lake through the large picture windows. When you feel like you are looking out into a painting, never mind being in one, that's a moment that's hard to forget.
Come for the fun, stay for the flavour
It is extremely appropriate that I am dedicating an entire section to the food and flavour of Gangler's. We had so many incredible meals, it’s hard to pick the tops! We were fed well and we were all accommodated for our varying dietary restrictions. As someone with a nut allergy and gluten sensitivity, I did not feel as if I missed out one bit. My favourite meals were hands down the elk chops with risotto, roasted chicken and penne pasta, and beef tenderloin with greens on our last evening. The main lodge is equipped with a fully stocked bar, daily specials and friendly service. A taste of home isn't far.
Stew with biscuits, ribs, eggs benedict, and caesar salad with capers – just a small list of the divine delectables we were served while at Gangler's. As an adventurer and lover of the outdoors, for me, a hot chocolate and hot dogs roasted over the campfire are the way to go. With a full breakfast, lunch, and dinner that was served with dessert, plus coffee or tea at every meal, we were taken care of. Is your mouth watering yet?
Activities & Amenities
The little store located in the main lodge, is the place for an assortment of snacks, souvenirs, fishing gear and even the Gangler's branded clothing line.
Whether you're looking for that big catch, to see wildlife, or to spend time with family, Gangler's has something for you. With a long list of activities and amenities available at Gangler’s, the options are endless. Challenge a friend to a game of darts or ping pong, take some time to tend to your lures, or spend an evening, or two, or three, visiting and getting cozying out front by the bonfire. Stories, song, and the sounds of the great outdoors are always better heard by the campfire with company. Gangler's offers an assortment of guest activities for all skill sets. Just to name a few, here we go:
A pool table, ping pong, darts, movies, puzzles, books, kayaks, canoes, botany, mountain bikes for riding along the eskers, hiking, birdwatching, ATV excursions, swimming, trail running, wolf watching, forest foraging, fishing, board games, horseshoe pit, campfire fun and the fishing lure station.
Forest Foraging & Frolicking
There really is no greater feeling than gathering and providing for yourself. On this particular day, we were on a mission to forage and gather a particular plant that would make us some nice hot tea after a long hike. We hiked the central esker and made our very own drinkable tea using a native plant called Labrador Tea, or Rhododendron groenlandicum, which is a good source of vitamin C. In traditional Indigenous medicine it was used to treat scurvy and relieves the stomach flu, headaches, fevers and colds. The Cree name for this plant is muskekopukwa, which means medicine tea. Some freshly picked Labrador tea leaves, combined with fresh blueberries and hot water over the fire – what a treat! No sugar required. Isn't this moment sweet enough?
Mushrooms... so many mushrooms!
Big ones, small ones and some as big as your head. Mushrooms that are bought in a can or from the grocery store are the only mushrooms I've ever known, until now. There were mushrooms of every colour, shape, and size. Mushrooms that looked like the feather of an owl, and some mushrooms that looked like an orange peel. Red ones, brown ones, yellow ones and orange ones.
That first catch
We jumped in boats and headed out on Egenolf Lake for… you guessed it, fishing! With the sun on our shoulders and the wind in our face, we couldn't have asked for a more perfect day. Our team had the privilege of fishing for our lunch that day and there is nothing more thrilling than that first catch. Biting hard off the get go, our team collectively managed to reel in four pike fish that were the appropriate size for lunch consumption. Manitoba operates on a catch and release system and only fish within a certain size range can be kept and those fishing in Manitoba must obtain a fishing license.
It's all about shore lunch
If you ask anyone from our team what their favourite meal of this trip was, it was hands down this. The quintessential, Manitoba shore lunch. An idyllic catch-it-yourself fish fry. The pressure was on as it was up to us to catch lunch! Our knowledgeable guides provided us with the right place and the right time; the rest was up to us. With the first catch on the line, the rest weren't far behind. Fish for lunch? Mission accomplished. Our guides filleted the northern pike fish that we had caught and fried up some beans, creamed corn, and potatoes with mushrooms and onions on an open campfire. There's nothing quite like it.
Fauna & Flora
One should never think that they are alone in the wilderness. Whether it's a hoot and howl or a chirp and clatter, you are always with company.
During our time at Gangler's, I was able to see and photograph several species of birds. During our shore lunch, there were herring gulls aplenty, (pictured left). Herring gulls, also known as Larus argentatus are the most common gull species in Manitoba and can be found on rocky shorelines and islands. The chicks were not far behind (pictured right) in learning how to feed and provide for themselves. Small and fluffy, they sure were cute. On our very first day during our ATV esker excursion, I spotted a Canada jay, also known as the whiskey jack, (pictured centre). They are known for their curiosity and boldness and are commonly referred to as camp robbers because they often try to take morsels of food that are left out by visitors. The whiskey jack gets it's name from Wihsakecahkw, which is Cree for a mythological trickster figure.
The only berries I've ever felt comfortable to pick in the wild have been blueberries, but my knowledge bank has expanded. With the varying lichen and plant life in the sub-arctic, it's a botanist and explorer's dream. The crowberry plant Empetrum nigrum (pictured centre) is derived from the black fruit berry which is as black as a crow. The red lingonberry (pictured right) or Vaccinium vitis-idaea, is a small evergreen shrub that is a food source for wildlife. It is native to the boreal forest and Arctic tundra throughout the northern hemisphere.
Rendezvousing at the Robertson
One of the most memorable days was our group rendezvous at the Robertson Esker, which involved float planes, boats, and hiking; no trains or automobiles here! What goes up, must come down, and that included us. In total, ten people travelled via two float planes and two boats to the Robertson Esker, the longest esker in the world at 300 kilometres long. It was a cloudy and rainy day, but that didn't stop our crew or our pilots from ensuring we had a safe and satisfying excursion. Our fearless guide Dr. Kotak guided us through the sub-arctic terrain. I have so many yet so little words to describe the pristine beauty that we saw that day. We hiked our heads and hearts up to 500 feet, and let me tell you that the reward was worth every huff and puff.
The Subarctic Serta
Watch out, there's a new mattress competitor in town. There have been many firsts on this trip and laying down in lichen for a cat nap is one of them. Lichen is the natural moss that grows in the Canadian subarctic and is found nearly everywhere underfoot. Something so spongey, bouncy, fun and fascinating that you can literally lay in it. Deer and other wildlife feed off lichen in the winter as a source of food. Although not the highest in nutrients, it provides sustenance for the long, cold winters.
Friends in Far Places
We came as strangers and left as friends, thanks to the humble hospitality of Gangler's. Our group included adventurers from Manitoba, Los Angeles, Wyoming, Germany and the United Kingdom. Of course our stay wouldn't have been complete without the attentive and personal care of Ken and his team. They were with us every day from sunrise to sunset. They educated us, challenged us, laughed with us and made us feel at home.
A Vision of Change
The Man Behind The Mission
This is Ken Gangler. Husband, father, visionary, talented bass player and proud owner and operator of Gangler's Sub-Arctic.
How It All Began
The story of Gangler's Sub-Arctic Adventures started 37 years ago when Ken began his journey for investing in the great Canadian wilderness. A born American from Florida, Ken's passion and promise for unique and customized adventures in Manitoba's north is second to none. Gangler's Sub-Arctic Adventures is an undeveloped area below the tree line, and with 12 river systems, over 100 lakes, and a fleet of 127 boats, Ken is building a community. The heritage and lineage of his father and family's commitment to this land runs far beyond the cool touch of the lakes and the warm aura of a sunrise. Ken emphasized that it is important to provide opportunity, for both local nearby community members and those seeking a unique like-minded outlet. It's an easy feat when you're in the business of making people happy. Ken and his team carefully craft and customize individual experience; this is why they stand out. No two visits will ever be the same. With mixed offerings at Gangler's Lodge, the classic Canadian fishing lodge experience is no longer only for individuals looking to fish, but for families looking to connect, grow, and bond in the Canadian wilderness in ways they didn't know were possible. Sometimes, you don't know what you need until you've tried it.
When Canada's Heart Is Calling
In the end, when it comes to travel we all have different takeaway's from our experience. Was it remembering how the earth felt beneath your feet as you hiked through the Manitoban sub-arctic landscape, the rush of adrenaline through your body as you jumped into a frigid northern lake, or was it the recollection and sounds of the loon at sunset? It's easy to say that the heart of humble hospitality is within reach and it's closer than you think. It's found in Manitoba's North. There's only one thing left to say: you gotta get to Gangler's. #GetToGanglers #GanglersGetaway
Travel Manitoba staff was hosted by Gangler's Sub-Arctic, who did not review or approve this story.