Parks, scenery, adventures abound in trip around Lake Superior

This morning, from Sleeping Giant Provincial Park near Thunder Bay, as the loon beckoned to us from somewhere across the lake, I couldn’t help but think that there is a real upside to the lower population density in the North and the character attribute of Canadians not being boastful.

We set off on our trip around Lake Superior, without having done any planning. No campsites booked, no activities chosen. We figured we’d poke in and out at various highlights along the coast and find a campsite when we were tired. If we were in southern Ontario, this wouldn’t be an option; we would have needed reservations. But lucky for us (for more reasons than one) we do live in the North.

So far, we’ve yet to be in line for anything, except for doughnuts at Tim Hortons. We greedily soaked up scenic beaches, parks and coastlines all alone or with only one other person or group in the area. Similarly, even though we rolled in late, we found prime campgrounds each night, and felt like we’d won the lottery with each one in terms of the view, amenities and level of privacy.

As we headed west of Sault Ste. Marie, it was hard to keep my eyes off the rugged coastline, but I felt the necessity to leveraging my Rogers wireless hotspot, where there was Internet service, to figure out our next stop(s). (It’s a mom’s burden, trying to make sure everyone else is having a good time, but that’s just the way it goes.)

After leaving Pancake Bay, we started at the Agawa Pictographs for a quick hike and view of the ochre-and bear-fat-created paintings made by Anishinaabe. Then it was on to Katherine’s Cove and Old Woman’s Bay as scenic stops, and then to Magpie High Falls just outside Wawa for another hike.

Travelling with the kids made the trip a bit more challenging, as the pace of hikes slowed, and scenic stops at beaches turned into building structures with rocks and sticks, or quick “swims” (my daughter is a polar bear). By now it was onto bribery to get the kids onboard, so they were promised a pickle at Young’s General Store. Unfortunately, the pickle wasn’t the reward they wanted, but a bag of Moose Droppings (chocolate-covered almonds) got us through to Pukaskwa for the night.

We only planned to stay one night at Pukaskwa National Park, but ended up there for two. Especially after our first day full of stops, everyone deserved some down time. The next morning, after a leisurely sleep in, we became the first family to circumnavigate Hattie Cove on our stand-up paddle-boards, and then we took on two and a half of their hiking trails. We could have spent our whole vacation there, but we pushed forward the next morning.

The views over the next stretch west begged for photos (or Group of Seven paintings) constantly. We did stop at one pull-off overlooking Neys Beach, and I was glad that our cameras are digital, and film processing wouldn’t be an issue.

The Aquasabon Falls at Terrace Bay were nice, but the kids were more captivated by furry caterpillars (they were cool). The Train Museum and the beach in Schreiber were also good stops, but as charming as Rossport looked, we only drove through. Just in time, I finished reading the kids the book Paddle to the Sea, as we pulled in to Nipigon.

“Paddle to the Sea Park?” Finally a stop the kids were truly excited about. (This is an absolute must if you have kids — and as adults we were impressed too.)

After the park, we drove a bit more, and made it for the sunset at Ouimet canyon. The views were awesome and we all felt like kids as we called out words to echo back to us across the divide.

We rolled into Sleeping Giant Provincial Park in time for all of us to slumber like the rock formation that is the park’s namesake.

Although we’d only planned a one night stay here as well, I just went online and reserved a second night. There are so many hikes, and too little time. After the kids are done quacking at the ducks on the lake at the end of our campsite, we’ll get to hiking, probably again on a path that we have all to ourselves, in yet another spectacular Northern park.

The question now is, do we share the secret with our southern Ontario friends or keep it to ourselves?

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