During the 1970s when I started hiking on the Waskahegan trails, one of my favorite areas was the Ministik Sanctuary. On a few occasions when I was camped in the area with Panuq, my large Malamute, I would be awakened very early in the morning to a YEEOWL which I was never sure if I imagined or really heard.
In those days Al Oeming had his Game Farm operating in the Ministik area and nearly every farmer and acreage owner in the area had young people who had worked at the Game Farm at one time or another.
Local people told me that it was common but quiet knowledge among them that nearly every year a cougar or two would slip out of captivity into the crown land between Elk Island Park and Miquelon Lake. The cougars were never heard about again as they apparently never caused any trouble at any of the farms in the area because game was plentiful. It was likely one of these cougars that I would have heard in the wee hours of the morning.
On a number of occasions when I was camping alone in the area and sitting by my campfire having my tea in the evening, Panuq would sit twenty or more feet from the fire facing the dark of the forest and growl. I never thought anything of it at the time but there was likely a cougar hanging around that only he was aware of. It was only later that I mentioned it to some of the local people.
If it was, indeed, a Game Farm cougar, it would have had exposure to humans and perhaps was curious about our presence. Maybe it thought that I might have a spare haunch of meat to throw to it—as they did at the Game Farm.
Traces of settlement
There is a tall chimney in the area. I enjoyed exploring around it and speculating about what existed there many years ago. The cabin had burned down, leaving the chimney as a reminder and a landmark. Trees had grown through the old bed-springs and further back in the area were signs that suggested the presence of a barn and feed, likely a haystack.
South of the cabin at the edge of what would have been the shoreline of Ministik Lake were remains of a pier or some such structure that suggested a boat or a canoe would have been tied up there.
Another exciting discovery was that along the wide trail leading through the woods northward from the cabin there were smooth rocks lining the trail indicating to me the presence of a woman at the cabin. When I first saw it, there were still traces of what was likely whitewash on the rocks suggesting that efforts were made to beautify the area and perhaps make the trail more visible in the dark.
That trail may have led to another important structure—the outhouse.
My all-time favorite ski tour was in Ministik Sanctuary. I would ski from the correction line to the old fire tower and then ski hard back to the road, taking advantage of the difference in elevation for a speedy return run.
It was always an exhilarating experience!