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'Berta Reality Diary: vol. 1.

On Labour Day weekend, a friend and I headed out on another camping trip. The weather forecast wasn’t great. Would it rain all night? Would it snow? Would we spend a miserable night shivering in our tent? We decided to take our chances. We clung to the hope of a few more beautiful days of late-summer bliss.

We chose Twin Lake Campground in Wetaskiwin County. We first checked it out back in July. It’s really a hidden gem. It's not crowded. It gets plenty of sun. There’s a scuba diving centre there, and you often see the divers suiting up on the dock. If you’re out swimming while they’re diving, you see the bubbles from their breathing regulators suddenly erupting around you, marking their presence somewhere below, which is weird when you’re suspicious of deep water like me.

Grill. That. Burger.

Several times, we heard locals say there used to be an underwater dome located at the bottom of the lake for divers to swim into. They said there was a giant chicken sculpture down there too. I didn’t know what to make of this story, but it's true. Proved by YouTube. There’s a whole ‘treasure hunt’ on the bottom of the lake, including a sunken boat, and there is indeed a big chicken sculpture floating down there, on the end of a cable secured to the lake bottom. It looks like Danny Devito’s penguin wagon from Batman Returns. If that thing ever breaks loose from its cable and rises to the surface, it will be one hell of a sight.

With a flotation device

We heard they were booked solid for the Labour Day weekend, but when we rolled in on Monday afternoon, the place was practically deserted. We drove the whole place to find the best sites. If you’re tenting, go for spot #32. It’s the best spot in the campground. It’s big, level, grassy, and it’s on top of a bank overlooking the whole lake. (If you have a trailer or an RV, go for #33). There’s a ton of spots that back on to each other, if you want to plan a group trip.

Twin Lake: no toxic algae

Camping in a tent really reminds you just how long a night actually is. I’ve become a light sleeper, so I wake up to every sound of the wind against the tent, or of raindrops falling, or weird forest noises.

Sometime in the night, we both woke up to an eerie high-pitched howling. The moonlight was glowing pale through the fabric of the tent. At first, I thought I was still dreaming. The howling had an unreal, supernatural quality. It rose and fell, and when it dropped away, its echo rippled off into the far distance. The forest was so quiet we could hear the dogs in Winfield, at least a mile away, barking in response. Then the howling would start again.

Yeah, it sounded like a werewolf, and if I'd had my kids out there, it would've been the greatest opportunity to tell a ghost story of my life. "Those are the screams of Twin Lake Tom. Oh, you've never heard of him? Let me tell you how he died..." That kind of thing. Alas, I don't have kids. My camping buddy didn't like it very much, though. "Do you hear that?" she whispered. I nodded sleepily. "I think it's getting closer," she said. I grunted something. Then I passed out again.

I was curious to figure out what kind of creature was doing that howling. No, I did not run into the bush to find it. Instead, when we got home the next day, I turned once again to YouTube. After some digging, I think it had to be a coyote. We found a few videos that sound like it. Coyotes usually bark or a yip, or they'll sing in a group, but not that night. I’ve never heard a coyote howl like that before, and hearing it out by the lake in the middle of the night was...actually pretty awesome.

No snow or rain disturbed the trip. It was 100% worth the drive. I have my hopes up for more of these excursions before September comes to an end.

BEST THING: Scoring the best campsite

WORST THING: Forgetting the ketchup

HIGH MOMENT: Creepy midnight howling

LOW MOMENT: Dumping burgers into fire

BEST SPOT: Site 32


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