If you’re also tired of the rat race, they’ve got some great advice for you
Have you ever wanted to leave behind the daily grind and head into the wilderness to pursue your passion for fishing and the outdoor life? That’s what Jennifer and Aron Toland did in March 2016 when they bought an abandoned, off-grid fishing lodge on the B.C. Interior’s remote Eliguk Lake. Not that the couple rushed into the decision. Originally from northern Ontario, the Tolands moved to Kelowna 20 years ago and spent five years looking for the right spot. They also have the right background for running a lodge—Aron is a skilled mechanic and Jennifer is an accomplished chef, while both are experienced outdoor people. We caught up with them to get their tips on what it takes to make it in the wilderness.
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When they first flew into Eliguk Lake, the Tolands loved the spot but were in shock at the amount of work the overgrown lodge required. At least they knew they had the time and skills to rebuild the place. And as Jennifer says, if you’re planning to move into the wilderness, you must also prepare mentally to give up certain comforts, and to handle the solitude. “Your partner must also be your best friend or you’ll never make it through a long, cold winter,” she says. “Eliguk Lake has a wonderful history of being a successful fly-in fishing hot spot for wild rainbow trout, and we made it our goal to bring it back to life.”
“The appeal for us was the escape from the rat race,” Jennifer says. “The stress of city life slowly melts away and your senses awaken. Your hearing improves, because the solitude and tranquility are so calming, and your sense of smell sharpens with the clean air. You are free to decide the adventure of your daily happenings, and it’s a humbling way of life.” Of course, that freedom doesn’t come without a price. “It’s physically hard work, but in a very rewarding way,” Aron says. “You don’t need a gym membership out here!”
Jennifer stresses the importance of thoroughly researching everything you need to live in the wilderness, from chainsaws to generators. And don’t skimp, Aron says. “Always buy the best, because you don’t want it to break down, and always have spare parts.” You must also have the knowledge to survive off-grid. “Besides our hunting and fishing skills, we learned everything we could about foraging for edible and medicinal plants,” Jennifer says, adding that the couple learned even more about backwoods living during their first two years at the lodge. And what are the most important wilderness skills? Preparedness and the ability to stay calm under pressure, Aaron says. “Panic will kill you out here, plain and simple. You have to be prepared to deal with any situation, as there’s no getting anywhere quick, like to a hospital. Common sense must prevail.”