Frances Lake Wilderness Lodge News
Frances Lake Wilderness Lodge

News from Frances Lake

Archive 2015


#23 - Anniversary year 2015:
30 years Frances Lake Wilderness Lodge

Lodge main building in 1984, after 16 years of use as a private residence

Dear Friends and Guests

30 years Frances Lake Wilderness Lodge – what an anniversary! Enough reason for us to browse in the past. Going through old guest books and watching slides from the early days reveals a fascinating picture of our lodge's history. Many thanks to lodge founder Ed Festel for providing his picture library and particularly for the realisation of his vision of a wilderness lodge at that time. What a great place to be – both for visitors and for us to live!

Lodge peninsula with views across our small settlement Lodge main building in 1985 Living room after the renovation of 1987

Prior to 1985 there was already the lodge's main building, which was previously used as a private residence and got completely rebuilt inside, as well as two small cabins which were transformed into guest cabins. With plenty of enthusiasm and physical manpower from various helpers over a period of 15 years three more cozy guest cabins and various other buildings were constructed: dock and lakefront seating area, sauna, workshop and a large, two-storey owner's residence. It is admirable how much was achieved with simple means and how the entire lodge property was thoroughly embedded into the pristine nature. Pioneering early photovoltaic solar power was used and noisy, stinky generators were consciously avoided. Also for us of the third owner's generation, the principle of ecological business management and environmentally-sensitive tourism is of great concern. We gladly complete many tasks using our own physical energy, use resources economically and sometimes just prefer simple ways over modern life amenities.

Over the years hundreds of logs were hauled here for various construction tasks Constructing the large dock and lakefront seating area (1987) Construction of a lovely guest cabin (1988)

Wilderness Tourism in the 1980s was rather a novelty for the Yukon. Ed Festel and his team made it possible that nature lovers and holiday adventurers could share their simple life in a remote natural paradise and explore the pristine Canadian wilderness under expert guidance without having to waive certain comforts of the cozy lodge. Still today, our guests appreciate to blend into a different world here at Frances Lake and live with the rhythm of nature for a while. The luxury of pure nature, pleasant quietude and seclusion, adventurous excursions, gorgeous scenery, homey rustic lodge stay, culinary well-being and personal attention – this is the 30-year-old magic formula of Frances Lake Wilderness Lodge!

Picnic at the lodge (1990) Innovative lake cruise (1993) Strolling along the idyllic lake shore (1996)

Some readers may remember past times when they explored the vast Yukon wilderness on adventurous trips in their younger years. Ed's impressive images of canoe and hiking trips are evidence of such multi-day trips and voyages into various regions of the Yukon, and sometimes even across the territorial border. For instance, the Horton and Nahanni Rivers were paddled, or photo journeys along the Dempster Hwy and into Alaska were organized. Nowadays, we focus more on the southeast Yukon with rivers such as the Frances, Liard, Nisutlin or Pelly, or go hiking from the Tungsten and Canol Road. But the ultimate hit since 30 years is right in our backyard: a 2½-week tour named Wild Yukon, a combined canoe and hiking trip at Frances Lake (Yusezyu River, Mount Hunt) enriched with a few days at our comfortable lodge. An exciting itinerary through untouched wilderness and far away from any other tourists. There are still two vacancies for this year's trip from July 16 – August 2, 2015.

Trekking in the Mt Hunt area (1990) Camping in pristine wilderness (1988) Canoe trip on the Yusezyu River (1996)

During various winters of the past, howling huskies were often heard at Frances Lake. In some winters around 1990 sled dogs were kept at the lodge and multi-day trips into Frances Lake East Arm undertaken. But the area was also explored with cross-country skis and on snowshoes, the way we usually enjoy winter out here nowadays. What could be nicer than roaming through pristine snowy forests followed by a hot relaxing sauna, sitting in front of a crackling wood fire while sipping at a soup and at night marvel at the extraordinary bright starry sky and, with a bit of luck, observe the northern lights dancing across the firmament.

Dog team in front of the lodge (1997) Multi-day trip with overnight stay in a heated wall tent (1993) Cross-country skiing on Frances Lake (1994)

We are thrilled and deeply impressed by the 30-year success story of Frances Lake Wilderness Lodge and it's fascinating to see what can evolve from a dream, if one tackles a task energetically and fully motivated. We are proud and happy to contribute to the lodge's evolution since 8 years and look confidently into the future. More information about the history of Frances Lake and the lodge is available on our updated history page. And if you'd like to convince yourself (once again) of the qualities Frances Lake has to offer, this summer we still have vacancies from late June to mid-July, and at times in August and September, both at the full-service lodge and in the self-contained rental cabin. We look forward to welcoming you!

Kind regards,

Andrea & Martin Laternser

P.S. And finally, some works from our 30-year art collection (drawings from old guestbooks).

Our guestbook as an art gallery Our guestbook as an art gallery Our guestbook as an art gallery Our guestbook as an art gallery


#24 - Summer 2015

Dear Friends and Guests

It's a rainy late summer day at Frances Lake and we have time to looking back at the current guest season. Preparations began in April with a two-week shopping trip to Edmonton, our nearest city (2000 km from here). The shopping list was not everyday's: water pumps, chain saws, hoses, lights, big 12 volt batteries, fire extinguishers, carpets, paddles, specialty foods and much more. We also took the opportunity to attend a first aid refresher course. On our journey south along the Alaska Hwy we enjoyed the lovely drive through the Northern Rockies: great mountain scenery, the turquoise waters of Muncho Lake and constant wildlife viewings such as stone sheep, bears, caribous and bison. A must stop was at the Liard River Hot Springs, famous for their natural setting in lush spruce forest. Our tip: consider the attractive travel itinerary from Fort St John to Frances Lake and on to Whitehorse (one-way rental possible). We gladly provide more information.

Edmonton, Alberta's capital city Wokpash Valley, Northern Rockies Stone Sheep along the Alaska Hwy

Back in the Yukon the warm spring temperatures from down south continued. May was extraordinarily hot and dry. Brilliant sunshine, daytime temperatures of 26°C, no freezing nights, no rain at all. The result was foreseeable: in the first heavy thunderstorm towards the end of the month lightning struck close to Frances Lake. As a result of the extreme dryness a hot, ravaging fire evolved and rapidly spread towards the historic trading post at the Narrows. The close fire wore on our nerves! From which direction blows the wind? When will the long-awaited rain set it? We prepared for the worst and installed and tested all our firefighting equipment. The great relief came after 1½ days when a 24-hour, heavy downpour set in. A first survey of the burn area soon afterwards revealed that we were very lucky. The scenery around the lake is only marginally touched by the fire and in fact it's fascinating to see how after 1 – 2 months already new greenery is sprouting in the burnt forest area.

Smoke rises over Frances Lake Testing our firefighting equipment in front of the lodge Burn area in August

Because of the early onset of summer, well before the start of our guest season, we were tackling various outdoor jobs. A major project we always wanted to do was the improvement of our outside seating area. The place itself was filled up with (literally!) tons of gravel and sand and the rock baskets protecting the dock were repaired and covered with a nice wooden deck. The place now invites for sunbathing, being lazy and chatting together while admiring the great views across the lake.

10 tonnes of gravel and sand are hauled up from the lake shore to fill up the front yard Constructing a wooden deck Our new sundeck is ready!

On a sunny day in June we celebrated a very special event out here when both former lodge owners, Christoph Altherr and Ed Festel, came visiting us at Frances Lake. For the first time ever, all three generations of previous and present lodge owners were together out here. We were talking enthusiastically about the past 30 years of lodge history sharing stories and little anecdotes. Ed and Christoph were very pleased to see their legacy is being passed on worthily and impressed by the many improvements made over the years.

Arrival of Ed and Christoph by floatplane Three generations of lodge ownership Wild roses for the jubilee (of our lodge)

After the brilliant start of spring, the actual summer months July and August were extraordinarily rainy and chilly. For the forest fire situation the wet weather was a blessing, but not so much for vacationers. Especially our 2½-week canoe and hiking trip "Wild Yukon" was hampered by excessive amounts of rainfall. But it was admirable to see how the weather-hardened group maintained high spirits and cherished every warming sunbeam and campfire. A memorable impression for any participants will certainly be the many intensely coloured rainbows.

High spirits despite of rainy weather On the Mt Hunt trek Our „Rainbow Team“

By now, the first signs of autumn are already visible – morning mist over the lake, migratory birds heading south, the subtle colouring of deciduous trees, snow-covered mountain tops, dark nights with the first stars appearing after the ever-bright summer months. The many squirrels around the lodge start preparing vigorously for winter and we often see them flitting around with a mouthful of mushrooms or berries to hide in their caches. But before we are going to close for this year's season, we're looking forward to an enchanting fall hoping that our September guests can experience the true fascination of this season!

Kind regards,

Andrea & Martin Laternser

Unwind and let go out in the Yukon wilderness at Frances Lake


#25 - Review 2015

Dear Friends and Guests

The 30th summer season at Frances Lake Wilderness Lodge has been successfully completed. As in all the previous years, during the past few months we made many nice, new acquaintances and great experiences. But every year is different and different memories will be kept in our minds. Interestingly, this year we had many single travellers and guests from Australia. Feedback from solo travellers indicate that they feel very comfortable with our personal care and well looked after in small groups of other guests. Why not fulfilling your Yukon travel dreams without a travel partner? With us you pay only 20% single occupancy surcharge and get the full benefit of your own cozy log cabin and individually guided day trips. Also our multi-day adventures in small groups can be an attractive option for single travellers.

Summer clouds at Frances Lake Grilling smokies during grey weather Rainbow in front of the lodge

This year the weather was often a hot topic. Very warm and dry spring conditions in April and May made us worry about forest fires, and indeed, a nearby fire (see Summer Newsletter) showed us once again how vulnerable we are out here to natural hazards. But soon afterwards the weather tipped from one extreme to the other and July/August were particularly wet. Persistent rainfall thoroughly stopped the fire hazard though, but we were lacking the warming sunbeams for most of our peak summer season.

Fall colours at the lodge (photo: Thomas Sbampato) Golden fall leaves Fall paddling

However, the weather didn't deter the squirrels from their hectic hustle and bustle. They were always busy gathering the many mushrooms and caching them high up in the trees. Weird animal encounters we had with a woodpecker and a bat. The woodpecker made itself rather infamous by drumming repeatedly and over weeks always in the early morning hours directly onto our bedroom walls. In spite of our repeated attempts in pyjamas to repel it from our house, as soon as we were back in bed it happily continued its morning concert. And another day a tiny little bat got lost in our house. Shortly before lighting up the stove we heard a funny sound from the chimney – a bird, a large insect or even a mouse? No, after we’ve taken apart the pipes a blinded, sooty little bat escaped out into the living room.

Three-toed Woodpecker Red Squirrel Little Brown Bat

Also beside our guest operation we were quite busy this year. With plenty of enthusiasm and physical commitment we did lots of improvements and renovations. It's a true pleasure now to use the newly renovated furnishings, to gaze through new windows with freshly painted frames, to read in our cozy living room with new brilliant LED light (solar power), to work in the refurbished kitchen or to holiday in the lovingly renovated A-Frame Cabin. Also, it's a real treat to walk on our freshly weeded trails – especially in wet weather.

New window for the lodge’s dining room New electric light in the living room Newly renovated guest cabin (A-Frame Cabin)

In August, during a short period without guests, we took the opportunity and paddled down the first 50 km of Frances River. From the lodge we first paddled down the lake to the outlet and then advanced on the river. The uppermost section of the river we were familiar with, but soon entered new territory. Full of joy of discovery we were exploring the many side channels, gravel bars, islands and lakes of the lovely river. We were mightily impressed by the scenic H-Lakes – a peaceful oasis where the birds were gathering for their fall migration south. On the last section of the river, shortly before the take-out at the Campbell Hwy, we had to negotiate a swift set of rapids. It was nice, after many years, to be once again on a canoe trip just the two of us and to see that our teamwork still works fine, even in lively rapids.

Paddling down Frances River Take a break at Frances River Idyllic evening on Frances River

In the course of this summer quite a few representatives from the travel trade came out here to get a personal impression of our lodge business, in order to provide qualified information to their clients. We're very pleased that our lodge is often rated as a special gem, where pristine wilderness, comfortable accommodation and personal guest care perfectly balance each other. A new experience for us was the visit of photojournalist Thomas Sbampato. Over a period of 20 years, the well-known adventure and nature photographer has extensively traveled Canada and Alaska and has realised several book projects and multivision slide shows. In September he was visiting our lodge for a few days photo shooting for his new "Best of Show" Canada Alaska – North of Normal. So, if you would like to see and hear us on big screen, there will be soon an opportunity coming up. The show will be touring Germany and Switzerland starting fall 2016.

Thomas Sbampato, photographer Martin and Andrea camping (photo: Thomas Sbampato) Viewpoint above the lodge (photo: Thomas Sbampato)

As usual, by now our full program 2016 is online. After 5 years also we had to moderately increase our rates, but we're convinced still to offer excellent value for your money. Have a look at our Trip Advisor ratings (and many thanks to all those writing reviews). We've slightly changed our winter itinerary and in future, winter guests will be staying in our handsome, cozy self-contained log cabin enjoying plenty of privacy and unrivalled opportunities to explore the pristine winter scenery. Have a look at our richly illustrated website or visit us in late January at the travel trade show FESPO Zurich in Switzerland!

Kind regards and a happy end-of-the-year,

Andrea & Martin Laternser

Fall evening at the Lodge

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