Although living in the Great Lakes region of Canada my entire life I had never visited Lake Superior. This changed recently with a trip to Lake Superior Provincial Park to hike the rugged “Coastal Trail “, which is an absolutely fantastic way to experience the lake.
What a surprise this place is! The park is incredibly well maintained; the trail markings are clear and intuitive, while campsites are unbelievably clean, and well kept, especially considering how remote some are. The staff is very friendly, and helpful. This came especially useful since our planning for the trip was hurried. With a little insight from the ladies at the visitors centre, an informative topographic map, and an expeditious mindset we took off on the trail with open minds for what was to come.
The Coastal Trail itself is extremely diverse, starting with relatively flat hiking as we entered the mixed wood forest of conifers and deciduous trees. We quickly got into more rugged terrain with a mixture of rock scrambling, hiking on cobbles, and the hazardous boulder dash (navigating coastal boulders). All this is made more intense with a 20kg pack, but the trekking poles were very welcome, and highly recommended. The sandy beaches offered relief from the bugs, but provided another challenge due to the insecure steps consuming precious energy.
The trip was not without it’s adversities and tribulations. However it’s not really an adventure until something goes awry. The little planning, and eagerness to get moving lead us to forget some key items. Most notably was the bug spray. Yes we (I) forgot the bug spray while hiking in the backcountry of Northern Ontario. The frustration the mosquito’s provided was ruthless to say the least. We came out looking like we were at the peak of a Chicken Pox outbreak, covered everywhere with red spots, and as itchy as you can imagine. We attempted to overcome this misfortune using a couple methods I knew about. Creating a fire was the best option, smoke from the fire that we made in the evenings and mornings worked fantastic to disperse the bloodsucking bastards away. This however was not suitable while on the move, so we resorted to sticking feathers on our heads and packs, which helped a little.
By the third day on the trail we had about all we could take of the bugs, and found salvation at the Sand River. At this point the trail goes up hill to cross the river at the bridge on the Trans Canada Highway. Since the cellular signal had gone the way of the Dodo bird, and calling the shuttle service was no longer an option, we decided to attempt to hitchhike back to our car, get the bug spray, park the car at a closer location, and spend our last night at a more remote destination. Our efforts however were in vain, with most people avoiding eye contact at all costs while we methodically made our way down the road back to our car. Then it struck Mary before we made it too far to try out the day use park across the street at the Sand River. To our luck Mary was able to charm one of the Ontario Park’s staff, Ben, whom not only offered to drive us back to our car, but also had bug spray on hand! So we were able to proceed with our plan after all.
We decided to check out one of the great destination of the park called Old Women Bay, which is naturally protected by a sheer 200m tall granite cliff, rising straight out of the lake. A very impressive sight especially for Ontario! From here we repacked our bags, to head to Gargantua Bay where we made our final camp. We were lucky enough to find a beautiful camp, sandy beach, and were rewarded with one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen.
So in the end it was a lot of driving, we made some silly mistakes, but like the saying goes, “there is no such thing as problems, only opportunities for change.”