Superior Outdoors Fire Season an early start P. 4
Glimpse of Gitchigumi a
Sailing in the NMCA P.30
Life’s a Beach
Road Tripping Superior’s South Shore P.44
Fish and Trips
Kayaking the Islands of Neys Provincial Park P.48
Hiking the Canadian Shield
the Casques Isles Trail P.36
80% 1.5 BWR PD
Conquer the Dog
Orient Bay Rock 0
Hiking and History on the Canadian Shield
A Brief Guide to Exploring the Casques Isles Trail
by Kas Stone
Lifeâ€™s a Beach Road Tripping on Superiorâ€™s South Shore
by Michelle McChristie
FIsh and Trips
Kayaking the Islands of Neys Provinical Park by Julian Holenstein
A Glimpse of Gitchigumi Sailing in the NMCA
by John-Paul Marion
Adventure Travel 19
Superior Styles 7
Arts and Literature 27
Sustainable Developments 8
The Food Chain 17
Perspective 64 P.30
On the cover: Michael Meade after a day of kayak fishing, Neys Provincial Park, Ontario Photo by: Julian Holenstein
This page: The final rays of a great day exploring 12-Mile Beach, Apostle Island National Lakeshore, Wisconsin Photo by: Darren McChristie
Superior Outdoors m ag azi ne
Editor-in-chief/Design Darren McChristie Art Director John-Paul Marion
Contributing Editors Tiffany Jarva, Michelle McChristie Copy Editor Nancy Saunders Business Manager Doug McChristie Contributing Writers Nick Buda, Chris Gibbs, Julian Holenstein, Tiffany Jarva, Ryan LeBlanc, John-Paul Marion, Darren McChristie, Michelle McChristie, Conor Mihell, Graham Saunders, Kas Stone Contributing Photographers Kamil Bialous, Nick Buda, Robert Berlute, Jarron Childs, Chris Gibbs, Bryan Hansel, Eric Hansen, Julian Holenstein, David Jardine, Jen Johansen, Ryan LeBlanc, Greg Maino, John-Paul Marion, Darren McChristie, Michelle McChristie, Conor Mihell, Kas Stone Publisher Superior Outdoors Inc. Advertising Sales/Distribution Michelle McChristie Superior Outdoors is published twice a year: Summer (May) and Winter (November) Copyright ÂŠ 2010 by Superior Outdoors Inc., All Rights Reserved. Reproduction of any article, photograph or artwork without written permission is strictly forbidden. Views expressed herein are those of the author exclusively. Editorial and Advertising: Submissions must be accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Superior Outdoors cannot be held responsible for unsolicited material.
Hydraulic bicycle disc brakes can generate a force of over 3000 psi. Thatâ€™s equivalent to the biting force of a 15-foot saltwater crocodile.
IF UNDELIVERABLE RETURN TO: The Boreal Company Suite 242, 1100 Memorial Avenue, Thunder Bay, Ontario P7B 4A3 Telephone (807) 627-3017; Fax (807) 622-2575 E-mail: email@example.com Disclaimer: the activities described and illustrated herein are performed by trained athletes and could result in serious bodily injury; do not attempt them without proper training, safety equipment, and supervision. The Boreal Company is not responsible for injuries sustained by readers or failure of equipment described or illustrated herein. ISSN Number 1913-444 Canada Post Publications Agreement Number 41497554 Printed in Canada on Acid and Elemental Chlorine Free, Post-Consumer Recycled Paper Superior Outdoors Inc donates 1% of all sales to 1% for the Planet www.onepercentfortheplanet.com
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intro Late night campfire Red Rock Folk Festival Red Rock, Ontario
n recent years, camping has made a comeback as the preferred vacation in North America. This trend could be the result of the economic slump or the desire to return to a simpler lifestyle – at least for a few weekends a year. In 2009, approximately 9.5 million people visited an Ontario Park and overnight guests occupied 1.1 million campsites. While some people camped in tents, increasingly more campers opted for the comfort of recreational vehicles and trailers. For some, dishwashers, satellite dishes and air conditioners are part of the outdoor experience - bring on the full hookups! While not everyone enjoys the primitive wonders of camping out beneath the stars, most people appreciate the warmth of a crackling fire in the company of others. Gathering around a fire is perhaps one of our oldest traditions - one that came out of necessity rather than recreation. Evidence of controlled use of fire suggests it started during the Stone Age, approximately 800,000 years ago. As camping equipment and campground amenities continue to evolve, the campfire remains an integral part of
the experience. It provides us with light, heat and the ability to cook food and warm drinks. After the tent is up, dishes are done, beds are made and everything is put in its place for the night, it is the campfire that provides us with a primal reward after a full day in the outdoors. As dancing flames draw our gaze, we sit motionless having finally found time to relax. In this issue we cover camping on all corners of the lake, both with and without fire, via foot, kayak, sailboat and van. Graham Saunders explains why the spring of 2010 began as one of the earliest fire seasons on record, while Conor Mihell explores another hot topic: wind energy. This issue also provides some insight into the marshmallow, another integral part of the camping experience. Regardless of where or how you camp, we hope you enjoy the experience. But, if you reach the point that you find yourself cozying up to your plasma screen television, enjoying ‘pre-toasted’ packaged marshmallows, you might want to reconsider what attracted you to camping in the first place. D. McChristie
weather The Worst inYears
Is El Niño to blame for the earliest start to the fire season on record? The number of forest fires and hectares that burn varies greatly from year to year in the boreal forests north and west of Lake Superior. This year marks the earliest recorded start to the fire season. The first fires were reported and extinguished in late March and more than 100 fires burned by late April between Thunder Bay and the Manitoba border. All southern districts were “Restricted Fire Zones,” by order of the Ministry of Natural Resources and open fires were therefore prohibited. Winter snow accumulations were well below normal throughout the Lake Superior Basin and in all directions. A thin snow cover disappeared quickly during record warmth in early spring. Limited rainfall, considerable bright sunshine and low relative humidity all accelerated moisture deficits in forest and field soils. In contrast, the winter of 1996 saw near record-setting amounts of snow. With a combination of cool temperatures and additional snow in April and even early May that year, it was an exceptionally late spring. Even so, by the middle of June there were hundreds of fires burning in Northwestern Ontario. While the quantity of winter snow and the duration of snow cover are factors affecting the number of spring fires, the timing and levels of spring rain are of even greater importance. A high-pressure ridge is often an atmospheric circulation feature in Ontario, western Canada and Minnesota during the spring season. Day after day of clear skies, light winds, dry air and warmth constitute “good” weather for most, but can be the preamble for severe burning situations. Eventual breakdown of the ridge often features movement of one or more frontal systems with lightning, moderate or strong wind and highly variable rainfall amounts. Timing is critical for the commencement of multiple fires. Once in leaf, plentiful stands of poplar and birch trees can slow or even stop fire spread. 4
However, a persistent ridge situation can begin the fire season before leaf-out is complete on trees. Another detail, the timing of “iceout,” may severely complicate strategies for those responsible for forest fire management and planning. Any amount of ice on inland lakes, even the possibility of a floating piece, eliminates the use of water bombers and makes resultant land-based attacks much more difficult and dangerous. The exceptionally mild and dry winter of 2009-10 likely has connections to several features in the distant Pacific Ocean. The best known is El Niño, an extended time of unusually warm water conditions in the tropical Pacific. www.freshairexp.com It would be too simplistic to blame (or thank) El Niño for the warmest Canadian winter in the instrument record, but it and other processes of airflow over and off the Pacific Ocean affect seasonal weather throughout North America. About fifteen El Niños have taken place since 1950. They vary consider311 VICTORIA AVE. E., THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO 1 807-623-9393 | TOLL FREE 1 877-311-9393 ably in their impact on water warmth and in duration. Conventional wisdom accepts the connection between winter conditions and El Niño, but usually FRESH AIR AD.indd 1 5/4/09 3:37:57 PM suggests that this feature has little or no influence on the subsequent spring and summer seasons. The current El Niño began in May 2009. It was something of a late-bloomer and several weather forecasting agencies did not predict a warm, dry winter until the winter was in progress. My early research suggests a correlation between medium and unusually strong events on forest fire numbers and area burned. If the future mimics the past, one would plan for increased fire behaviour in late spring and into the summer.
Eric Hansen, OMNR
This year marks the earliest recorded start to the fire season.
Do North. Due South. Do it all: the worldâ€™s largest lake, a couple million acres of wilderness, and dozens of shops, galleries and restaurants. GrandMarais.com
Full Circle Two Retirees Aim to Circumnavigate Superior’s Shoreline on Foot
Married on a 42-foot ketch sailboat on Madeline Island, Mike Link and Kate Crowley know and love Lake Superior. And on the morning of April 29th, their 24th wedding anniversary, they will return to Lake Superior to embark on a Full Circle Expedition: a fivemonth walking circumnavigation of the lake starting in Duluth, MN. “Education is a big part of this,” says Mike, founder and former executive director of the Audubon Center of the North Woods, a residential environmental education centre. “Our goal is to stay as close to the shoreline as possible,” says Kate. Expedition goals include: raising an awareness of the importance of protecting Lake Superior and fresh water; conducting baseline research of flora and fauna along the shoreline; and collecting data on health and aging. With greying hair and twinkled lines, Kate and Mike, both veteran naturalists, are not your stereotypical young, adrenaline-thirsty adventurers. “We want to take this journey and do this research on behalf of our children and our grandchildren,” says Mike. Kate agrees. “When our first grandchild came, the future became very real. I want to believe my grandchildren will have the same resources we had.” There are very few records of anyone circumnavigating the lake by foot and compiling updated research. Even with modern-day technology, Mike emphasizes the importance of doing the “groundproof ” research. Trying to hug the shoreline (approximately 1826 miles) whenever possible, day trips will be combined with multi-day trips with the hope of accomplishing 15 km a day. The expedition’s education coordinator, also responsible for creating education materials and maintaining connections with classrooms, will follow closely in a SAG (“Supplies and Gear”) wagon/RV (necessary on private land) storing samples, uploading newly gathered data and providing new kits and materials to Kate and Mike. “This research needs to be done and I feel it would be wrong for us just to wait and let others do it on our behalf,” says Mike. In 1971, Mike started the Audubon Center after taking on a job description that said “see what you can do” very seriously. After more than 38 successful years of educating elementary, secondary and college students, Kate encouraged Mike to “walk away from the centre and keep walking.” And this, Kate says, somehow branched into, “Why don’t we continue walking around the lake? Has anyone ever done it before?” Kate, a former Minnesota Zoo naturalist, admits that once said out loud, it was difficult to take back. During the walk, Kate and Mike, both well-traveled, accomplished writers, plan on writing about their experience and facilitating speaking engagements. “This is also about being connected to a sense of place, people and feelings.” Even though officially “retired,” both insist they are far from “tired.” Kate, 60, and Mike, 64, hope to set a positive example for those who are aging. Mike has already walked more than 1600 accumulated miles in training. He and Kate are preparing for the trip by walking daily (two to 14 miles), practicing yoga and stretching. When their expedition is done, Kate plans on getting a permanent tattoo of Lake Superior. “Nothing revives the spirit like Lake Superior. And after this we will carry the lake with us for the rest of our lives.” She chuckles. “Hopefully when our grandchildren are old enough to understand what we have done, they will be impressed.” For more information about the Full Circle Superior Expedition visit: www.fullcirclesuperior.org Tiffany Jarva Superior Outdoors
The Native Orchids of the Lake Superior Basin Arethusa, a beautiful Naiad nymph of Greek mythology, found herself exhausted after a long day of hunting. She came upon a cool, crystal-clear river and frolicked in its refreshing, therapeutic waters. The river god Alpheus having assumed human form, watched amorously as the nubile beauty frolicked in the river. He was smitten by the beauty of the huntress and fell deeply in love. Arethusa had vowed to never marry and fled to escape his persistent advances. She summoned protection from her patron goddess Artemis, who transformed her into an underground spring. Flowing under the sea from Greece, Arethusa’s waters would eventually emerge as a fountain on the Sicilian island of Ortygia. Undaunted, Alpheus followed her where it is said their waters still mingle to this day in the Fountain of Arethusa. Every year in the month of June, Arethusa appears in the Lake Superior Basin. Her comely image does not manifest itself as a fountain, but as an exquisite, pink orchid. It is a little-known fact that the Lake Superior Basin is second only to Florida’s number of native North American orchid species. As many as thirty-five species can be found in the Thunder Bay District. Orchids are characterized as having three sepals and showy three-petal flowers, with their middle petal enlarged into a lip and differing from the others in shape and color. They thrive in damp or boggy woods, cedar swamps and sphagnum rich bogs and fens in our Boreal and Great Lakes forests. Arethusa bulbosa or the “Dragon’s Mouth orchid” is considered to be the most beautiful plant of all North American flora. This stunning orchid emerges in mid-June and continues to bloom until early July. Generally found in sunny, acidic bogs of the Boreal forest, it can also be found in alkaline fens. A single, delicate pink flower adorns a four-inch stalk. The lower lip is very showy with magenta streaks, white and yellow-fringed crests. Even though it is sweetly-scented and extremely colourful, Arethusa does not offer much reward to potential pollinators. The plant has practically no nectar so it is considered a deceiver, relying on inexperienced bees for pollination. Sadly, Arethusa is highly desirable to collectors, which may have led to decreasing numbers in some areas. Once taken from the wild, the Dragon’s Mouth orchid does not fare well, so like all native orchid species collection is unwise. One of the most exotic yet puzzling orchids is the Grass Pink (Calopogon tuberosus) which can not only be found in the Lake Superior Basin, but in Cuba and the Bahamas as well. Preferring pineland acid-soiled bogs and moist areas the flowers, ranging from pink to magenta, are typically found growing in sphagnum. They are known as Grass Pink because of their long, slender, grass-like leaves. Partway up the lip they display a tuft of orange-yellow hair that mimics the pistils and stamens of typical bog land flowers. Because the base of the lip is jointed, bees that are deceived by this crafty deception land on the tuft and their weight triggers the downward flexing of the lip. Assuming the bee already carries a load of pollen, it will then pol8
The Lake Superior basin is second only to Florida for the number of native North American orchid species.
words and photos by Ryan LeBlanc
sustainabledevelopments linate the stigma on which it has landed. While walking in the Great Lakes or Boreal Forest in early June, the hiker’s eye may occasionally catch a glimpse of the pinkish-purple Calypso orchid (Calypso bulbosa). This diminutive, yet spectacular orchid would have recently arisen from a single leaf produced in the previous fall which survived under the winter snows. The intricate and colourful blossom produces a pleasant vanilla-like aroma. Although considered rare, the Lake Superior Basin boasts the presence of the enigmatic Ram’s Head Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium arietinum). In Ontario it is given an S3 rating signifying that it is provincially rare as there are no more than 100 occurrences in the province. Blooming in early June, this unique orchid prefers the thin, cool soils of maturing coniferous forests. The smallest of the lady’s slippers, this orchid’s distinctive “ram’s head” shape is crisscrossed with red veination. Originally reported as a native European plant, the Yellow Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium calceolus) is one of the most common Lady’s Slipper. It can be found in all Canadian provinces along streams, in wet woods, bogs and open swamps of the boreal forest. One or two large yellow flowers adorn a twofoot-high stock with three to five deeply veined oval-shaped leaves sheathing the stem. Worthy of note are the medicinal properties of this orchid which has been historically used to treat nervous disorders, as a mild stimulant and antispasmodic. In Native American lore, the Yellow Lady’s Slipper was used to induce dreams. The Showy Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium regina) is a somewhat rare orchid in the Lake Superior Basin. It is a brightly coloured orchid with a single blossom, or occasionally two blossoms on a solitary stem. Alabaster white petals adorn a white pouch or “slipper” streaked with pink. A new plant takes as many as 16 years to display its first blooms and can live for more than 50 years. The distinctive blossoms emerge in late June or early July. In 1902, the Showy Lady’s Slipper became the state flower of Minnesota, and laws were enacted in 1925 making it illegal to pick or uproot the plant. In 1947 it was made the provincial flower of Prince Edward Island, but because of its rarity a different Lady’s Slipper, the Pink Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium acaule) became the province’s floral emblem. The latter is also the state wildflower of New Hampshire. To some people who come in physical contact with the Showy orchid, allergic reactions similar to that of poison ivy contact may develop. Sadly, this feature has not deterred collectors and excessive plucking has resulted in huge population declines. Charles Darwin was unsuccessful in his efforts to cultivate this orchid. Over 22,000 species of orchids can be found across the globe and on all continents, with the exception of Antarctica. They grow in climates as diverse as the Arctic tundra, temperate forests and tropical rainforests. Habitat destruction, pollution and over-zealous collecting have resulted in the decline of many species. With wise resource management, habitat creation, restoration and stewardship projects, these exquisite flowers can thrive once again. Ryan LeBlanc
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sustainabledevelopments > monitoring
Thunder Cape Bird Observatory Worrying statistics swoop in from all directions. A 70 percent decline in the population of Bay-Breasted Warblers has been reported in recent decades; Boreal Chickadees are down by about 75 percent; Canada Warblers by 80 percent; and Rusty Blackbird numbers have plummeted by 90 percent. Olive-Sided Flycatchers were recently designated “threatened” under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, and the Evening Grosbeak, once a common visitor at backyard birdfeeders, is being considered for the same dubious distinction. Not all the reports are gloomy. Some bird populations do appear stable, while others have actually increased. What is of concern, however, is that many of the declining species rely for their survival on Canada’s boreal forests. Drawn by the vast wild space and abundance of insects, more than three billion birds representing 325 species – nearly half the avian population of the continent – nest here annually, transforming the boreal region into North America’s “bird nursery” each summer. A significant portion of the entire global population of some species becomes concentrated here: 98 percent of Palm Warblers, 97 percent of Tennessee Warblers, and overall, 53 percent of the continent’s warblers, 63 percent of finches, 80 percent of waterfowl, and 93 percent of thrushes. Most migrate south at the end of the season. Some fly just far enough to escape the harshest climatic effects, but others, like the tiny, colourful warblers, journey almost 5,000 kilometres to winter to the Neotropics of Central and South America. Then they return, and for a few brief weeks the northern forests ring again with birdsong. Yet, less than eight percent of Canada’s boreal ecosystem is protected. At least 30 percent has already been allocated for logging (of which 90 percent is destined for clear-cutting), and sizeable tracts are being stripped for aggregates, minerals, petroleum and peat. Other areas have been flooded by hydroelectric reservoirs. Thousands of kilometres of 12
access roads now criss-cross the north, fragmenting what was once four million square kilometres of intact wilderness. Like the tropical rainforests, felled for agriculture and exotic timber at the southern end of the migration route, the boreal region faces serious pressure from human activity. The warblers are barometers of change in ecosystem health – at both ends of their range. Lake Superior laps against the southern margin of Canada’s boreal forest. It is the last major hurdle for many migrating birds. Jutting 40 kilometres out into the northwestern corner of the lake, the Sibley Peninsula is a welcome landfall for exhausted passerines (perching birds). For raptors, the steep cliffs of the peninsula’s Sleeping Giant create thermal updrafts that speed them onwards, while for low-flying shorebirds, the cliffs pose an obstacle that must be skirted. Whether channelled around or along the Sleeping Giant, birds converge by the thousands on the Sibley Peninsula. There, perched at the peninsula’s remote tip, stands the Thunder Cape Bird Observatory (TCBO). Twice a year the TCBO becomes a frantic hub of avian activity. Volunteers
operate the observatory from early May to late October, gathering data for various projects: migration monitoring for Bird Studies Canada in spring and fall; a census of forest birds and survey of their reproductive success in midsummer; and short-term studies of individual species like Common Nighthawks and Northern Saw-Whet Owls. John Woodcock is the TCBO’s Program Coordinator. A professional ornithologist and bird bander licensed by the Canadian Wildlife Service, John first came to this station in 2001 and has run its scientific programs ever since. He works under an annual contract with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, with supplementary capital support from the Thunder Bay Field Naturalists. Funding is always tight, and John is the only paid member of the team; all the others are volunteers. This includes John’s wife, Maureen, also a licensed bird bander and an ornithologist, she says, “by osmosis.” With her formal training in hotel management, she efficiently juggles the demands of research and everyday life at the observatory, which can feel isolated and rustic at times. Together, John and Maureen train
sustainabledevelopments John-Paul Marion
the volunteer workers that are the lifeblood of the TCBO. Some are biology students; others simply wildlife enthusiasts. They come from all over the world, and they leave with an enviable résumé of birding skills and field experience. The intensive apprenticeship at Thunder Cape inspires many to pursue their own careers in ornithology. Competent, committed volunteers are hard to come by however, and the station is often short-staffed. The daily routine begins before sunrise and can extend past midnight during the autumn owl census. For the official seven-hour “watch” each day, volunteers scan the skies with binoculars and scopes and patrol an elaborate system of nets and traps, taking captured birds to the banding lab where they are swiftly processed and released. As few as a handful, and as many as 400 or 500 birds may be banded in a single day. The annual total typically ranges between 4,000 and 8,000 birds. Meticulously, the team catalogues their measurements and observations in a battery of logbooks. Information gathered at Thunder Cape is added to that from similar stations across the
country – collectively known as the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network – and compiled into an extensive database of statistics about population trends and patterns of movement. This data is vital to the understanding of the birds themselves, and to the making of informed decisions about the environmental issues that affect their habitats. Concern for these habitats and the welfare of their winged residents keeps John and Maureen coming back to Thunder Cape year after year. It is also why at season’s end, like some of their favourite birds, they fly south to the mangrove swamps of Costa Rica, where they do the same thing all over again during the winter months. Their passion is irresistible, and their dedication is infectious. Their success depends on adequate funding and reliable volunteers. If you would like to help, please visit the Thunder Cape Bird Observatory’s website at www.tbfn.net/tcbotbfn.htm Kas Stone
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sustainabledevelopments > energy
Winds of Change
Propsed Wind Farm Concerns Thunder Bay Citizens The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources’ online wind atlas confirms a fact known to anyone who’s spent time along Lake Superior’s north shore: the wind blows more incessantly here than anywhere else in the province. Now, as Ontario ramps up its demand for “green” energy, industrial-scale wind farms could pincushion the north shore. Completed in 2005, the 126-turbine Prince Wind Farm near Sault Sainte Marie is one of the largest wind power installations in Canada; developers are set to begin a project just north of Montreal River; and in Thunder Bay, a Toronto-based developer is poised to erect turbines on the city-owned Nor’Wester Mountains. In early April, the Ontario Power Authority (OPA), the province’s electricity planning agency, offered a contract to Horizon Wind Energy to develop 16.5 megawatts of wind power just south of Thunder Bay. An additional 62.5 megawatts of wind energy developments proposed for the Nor’Westers is awaiting approval under the OPA’s “economic connection test” to assess transmission capabilities. The process of converting energy produced by spinning turbine blades into electric power has the support of many environmentalists for various reasons. This method of energy production doesn’t release climate change-inducing greenhouse gases, smog-producing pollution or toxic nuclear wastes. Since wind farms involve a network of individual turbines, shutting one down has little effect on the installation’s overall capacity—unlike centralized coal-burning plants, nuclear reactors or hydroelectric stations. And unlike hydroelectric projects, wind farms don’t pollute the aquatic environment with methylmercury, a human neurotoxin that accumulates in fish and is initially released into waterways when vast areas are flooded by hydro dams. When it’s done “in conjunction with well thought-out land use planning,” 14
wind is an environmentally friendly way to produce electricity, says Janet Sumner, the executive director of the Wildlands League, the Ontario chapter of the nongovernmental Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. In the United States, environmental groups like The Nature Conservancy, Audubon Society and the Sierra Club worked out a agreement with wind energy producers to ensure environmentally sensitive industry standards. This landmark 2008 collaboration has no Canadian equivalent. Environmental concerns are at the forefront of a brewing controversy in Neebing, a community just south of Thunder Bay, where Horizon Wind Energy plans to install 122-metre-tall towers on Mount Johnson, adjacent to Loch Lomond Ski Area. On paper, the proposed Big Thunder Wind Park seems like a valuable addition of approximately 30 megawatts of renewable power to northwestern Ontario’s energy grid. Project coordinator Nhung Nguyen says the installation would meet the energy needs of 9,000 homes and displace 15,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year. But Irene Bond, a member of the Nor’Wester Mountains Protection Committee, says that while Horizon Energy’s statements may be true of wind farms elsewhere in Ontario, they’re outright false in the energy-rich landscape of northwestern Ontario. “We have an excess of clean, green hydroelectricity here,” says Bond, whose family owns the Loch Lomond Ski Area. “Replacing a reliable, existing source of energy with something so destructive just doesn’t make sense.” Any power produced in northwestern Ontario cannot tie into the provincial grid to feed renewable energy-hungry communities in southern Ontario due to a lack of transmission capacity, explains Bond. Neebing residents lament the potential impacts the building of roads and transmission corridors, both essential parts of the construction process, would have on City of Thunder Bay-owned greenspace—which a 1980s city council suggested to become a provincial park. Bond says she’s “mystified” as to why Thunder Bay’s City Council has been supportive of the project; Big Thunder would be the only wind farm on munic-
ipality-owned land. “It goes completely counter to what’s going on down in southern Ontario,” where 42 municipalities have declared a moratorium on wind power developments, says Bond. Meanwhile, Ontario’s wholehearted push for “green” energy gives concerned citizens few opportunities to voice their worries. Modifications to the Environmental Protection Act in 2009 state that the province will only recognize public concerns for projects that might cause “serious harm to human health; or serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment.” The provincial Green Energy and Economy Act encourages rapid-fire development with similar carte-blanche provisions. While such stimulus might be needed in southern Ontario, which still sources much of its electricity from “dirty” coal-burning facilities, Bond says the act doesn’t work in northwestern Ontario. “I fear that we’re going to make this huge mistake and suffer the consequences for a long time,” sheAhnisnabae_SOMAGE_08.pdf says. 10/20/08 Conor Mihell
Ahnisnabae Art Gallery
Creating an Appreciation and Awareness of Native Culture through Art
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The Prince Wind Farm near Sault Ste. Marie is one of the largest in Canada photo by Darren McChristie
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4/30/10 1:26:44 PM
The Golden Confectionary A Brief History of the Marshmallow
Perhaps no food is as synonymous with camping as the marshmallow. According to the National Confectioners Association, Americans dole out about $125 million dollars on marshmallows each year. That amounts to 90 million pounds, the combined weight of about 1,286 grey whales. As a mass-produced, human-made confection, the modern marshmallow bears little resemblance to its more natural ancestor. Marsh mallow or Althaeo officinalia is a woodystemmed perennial herb that is native to the banks of salt-water marshes in Europe, Asia and northern Africa. The first “marshmallows” were made by boiling pieces of the plant’s root with honey until the mixture thickened. It is said that ancient Egyptians made marshmallows for their nobility, gods and pharaohs. The Romans and Greeks used tea brewed from parts of the plant to soothe sore throats, and the plant is listed among Hippocrates’ medical treatments. Today about 50% of all marshmallows sold in the summer are toasted over a fire. While some people favour the rotisserie method to ensure even toasting and golden perfection, others favour the ignite/extinguish method. The different techniques used to toast marshmallows have been debated and discussed around campfires for decades, probably since mass production of the confection began over 60 years ago. Alex Doumak, the founder of Doumak Inc. (makers of Campfire Marshmallows), revolutionized marshmallow manufacturing when he patented the extrusion process in 1948. Doumak piped a fluffy mixture through long tubes and then cut the candy into equal pieces, which were then cooled and packaged. A previous advance in marshmallow production methods occurred in the early 1900s when French confectioners discovered the starch mogul system. The starch mogul machine was an alternative to making each individual marshmallow in a mold. It involved the use of gelatine and starch as the main ingredients, as opposed to sap from the root of the marsh mallow plant. Given the medicinal “roots” of the plant, it is somewhat ironic that the marshmallow has become one of the foods that, according to a 2009 report by Fox News, people should avoid. The story described marshmallows as a “heavily refined version of the original concept” and one of “the most unnatural items found on grocery store shelves.” While this may be the case, a campfire just wouldn’t be the same without them.
Americans eat 90 million pounds of marshmallows a year.
Michelle McChristie Superior Outdoors
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Wood Boat Show & Summer Soltice Festival Grand Marais kicks off its summer season of festivals with an event that defiantly marks the cultural, natural and artistic talent of this North Shore community – the Wooden Boat Show & Summer Solstice Festival. Hosted over the first official weekend of summer, June 18-20, the North House Folk School campus sets the stage for a mix of craft artisans, performing artists and educational events. The festival includes a line-up of programs and workshops that fit nearly every interest. From the preeminent display of handcrafted wooden boats that line the campus, to the dozens of Lake Superior chowders served up by North Shore chefs and restaurants, the schedule of family-oriented events ending in a wooden-boat parade in the harbor. The festival culminates on Saturday night with an outdoor pageant, featuring larger-than-life puppetry presented by the Good Harbor Hill Players. The 13th Annual Wooden Boat Show & Summer Solstice Festival welcomes renowned Arctic canoeist, Bob O’Hara, as the featured guest. Mr. O’Hara may be the most well traveled Arctic canoeist of the last generation - it is noted that O’Hara has paddled the equivalent of the earth’s circumference, all in frigid far-north waters. His presentation, “From the Stern of My Canoe - Seeing the Culture and Landscapes of the Far North – The Bob O’Hara Legacy” rounds out the schedule on Sunday afternoon. The event is admission-free, however there are a variety of ways to help support the event and the School’s efforts to host this growing North Shore tradition. For a complete schedule of events – visit www.northhouse.org or call 888387-9762 for more information. (left) The wooden schooner Hjordis docked at the North House Folk School (below) Racing on the Dog River during Conquer the Dog
Conquer the Dog Triathlon On August 21, 2010 the 12th annual Conquer the Dog race will be held in Kaministiquia, Ontario - about 30 minutes west of Thunder Bay. The race begins with a five-kilometre canoe/kayak on the Dog River, followed by an 18kilometre cycle and a five-kilometer run. The race is open to all ages and abilities and is family-friendly. Childcare is available so that adults can compete once the kids have had their fun. The distances are shorter for kids and adults can compete as part of a relay team or individually. Proceeds from the event support the Kaministiquia Community Centre. The race is followed by a luncheon, awards and an impressive assortment of draw prizes. For more info visit www.conquerthedog.ca. Superior Outdoors
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Cresting the hill of the South Loop Trail, I always pause to gawk at the size and scale of these cliffs used by ice climbers to access some of Orient Bay’s best ice routes. The Tajmahwall is home to arguably the best rock climbing in the province – and it is BIG! Compared to my usual evening crag hangouts closer to Thunder Bay, where I typically climb with a shortened rope or simply a crash pad, I find the scale of the routes here intimidating. Mere mortals like me find significant challenges in attempting these lines, most offering three long and difficult rope-lengths barely attainable for a weekend warrior with overused tendons and nagging shoulder problems. Even more unsettling is the fact that today, we’ve come to climb a big route of a style I’m not particularly good at: wider-crack climbing. As with most of the routes and landmark features on this cliff, the route is named after one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Temple of Zeus soars three rope-lengths, or pitches, directly up the main cliff, following a wide crack and overhanging chimney system with considerable exposure. A large roof near the end of the first pitch strikes fear in many would-be suitors, with most parties diverting to an easier climb nearby. Despite the route’s fearful appearance, its first ascent was almost a casual afterthought. The story, as it’s been told to me, had a group of the local climbers poking at it nervously, and not getting very far, when Jody Bernst casually happened by on the way home from work. Grabbing his shoes and chalk bag from the truck and borrowing a barely-adequate rack of protection from a friend, he sailed up the route in a matter of minutes without any difficulty whatsoever. This feat is recognized among locals as a proud one; the local guidebook describes the route as “…intimidating to say the least.” In response to that intimidation, my best friend and I have come armed with a collection of larger cams (mechanical expansion devices that fit into cracks to protect against falls), and the weight of the gear is pulling my harness down before I even get started. This is not my first attempt on this route, but I feel more
The Temple of Zeus Rock climbing the cliffs of Orient Bay
confident than I did last time. Strained small-talk calms my nerves somewhat as I tie in and start climbing. I know from an earlier attempt that the crux of this climb lies about a third of the way up the first pitch, and I hesitate on a wide ledge a few metres below before getting after it. Overcoming the crux with a mixture of luck, gritty determination and the requisite cursing and whining that accompanies climbing with a distinct lack of skill, I move quickly to the big roof looming above. Delightfully, I find that ample holds make the upper chimney
section much less difficult than it looked and I’m arranging a belay to bring my partner up before long. We’re even relaxed enough to appreciate the multicoloured lichens that glow on the dark, water-streaked rock as the first rays of the afternoon sun come around the corner. Our small taste of success is tempered though with the realization that two-thirds of the route still remains above. And I have no idea how we’re going to even start the next pitch. words and photo by Nick Buda Superior Outdoors
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Running the Cascades on the Current River
Cascades of the Current The aptly named Current River is a premier urban whitewater-kayaking destination located within the City of Thunder Bay. This spectacular river races towards Lake Superior from the Cascades Conservation Area and eventually spills out at the city’s busy waterfront. The river’s urban location and its many outstanding features make it a favourite run of both local and visiting paddlers. The most challenging whitewater can usually be expected to last between one and three weeks during high flows associated with the spring snow melt. Suitable flows may also occur following extreme rainfall events in early summer months, but this is quite rare. Part of the Current River’s popularity as a recreation resource is due to its multiple points of easy access and its wide variety of rapids suitable for all skill levels. Novice paddlers enjoy working on their ferrying techniques or practicing selfrescues where the river safely dumps its turbulent flows into the quiet waters of Boulevard Lake, a local municipal park. Further upstream, intermediate paddlers enjoy river-play features with names like “World’s Friendliest Hole” – a pour-over ledge that creates an aerated pillow of water suitable for frontand side-surfing. Whitewater paddlers looking for more of
a challenge will approach Class III-IV rapids or drops with names like “Trowbridge Falls” and “Soldier’s Hole.” Extreme adrenaline junkies unable to get their fix on the lower reaches of the river will often head up to the narrow and rocky “cascades” section, or the “north branch” of the river, for some of the most intense whitewater kayaking in the region. Both these locations offer what paddlers often refer to as a “steep-creeking” style. This type of kayaking includes sections of Class IV+ whitewater with significant drops only suitable for the most experienced whitewater paddlers - those who have both the necessary equipment, and skill sets for swiftwater rescue. The Current River’s biggest draw for all whitewater paddlers is its pristine, clear waters and undeveloped shorelines. Because of the wisdom of early city planners, the most popular sections of the river were given a protected area status as either municipal parklands or conservation area. These designations have allowed the wonderful wilderness feel to remain along what is largely an urban river. words and photo by Julian Holenstein Superior Outdoors
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Slow Trains and Fast Rivers
Ride the rails to some of Lake Superior’s best river canoetripping Amid a day of near-continuous whitewater canoeing on the Agawa River, an inconspicuous but considerable drop has a way of sneaking up on you. One minute you’re coasting in swift water, gazing skyward at 250-metre cliffs that form much of the river valley; the next you’re dodging boulders, wallowing in metrehigh whitecaps and (hopefully) threading the needle alongside a billowing, pulsing abyss. Miss the line and you’ll end up swimming. Fortunately, there’s a pool and gravel bar just downstream where you can regroup. The Agawa River flows along the southern boundary of Lake Superior Provincial Park from the Agawa Canyon—a popular tourist destination for fall colours—to Highway 17 and Lake Superior. A canoe trip on the Agawa River begins with a ride on the Algoma Central Railway whose 475-kilometre line bisects northern Ontario from Sault Ste. Marie to Hearst. While this railway ushers thousands of tourists to the Agawa Canyon each year, paddlers ride the more nostalgic, less touristy passenger train that runs northbound and southbound on opposite days, six days per week. Rail is the only way to access the put-in at Mile 114, Canyon Park; the river is only runnable in the spring or after heavy rain. On the northbound route, the passenger train generally arrives at Canyon Park by early afternoon. In contrast to the relaxed pace of the train, the Agawa River flows fast from the outset. Railroad Rapid is a challenging Class III just downstream from the put-in. The rapid is strewn with canoe-eating boulders and hydraulics, making the option of portaging on either shore a prudent choice. Next in line are two runnable Class IIs—River Bend and Hydro. The river pulses steadily to the mouth of the Little Agawa—my favourite place to camp on an overnight trip. Early on day two, evidence of the Agawa’s logging days is revealed at the Gorge,
The spectacular Agawa Falls.
a Class III rapid that feeds into a constricted, high-volume Class IV. The 750metre portage begins at an old boom log on the left that once held rafts of white pine, and ends in a boulder-rich pitch to a deep pool. Just downstream, don’t miss the well-worn 500-metre portage trail on the right-hand shore to bypass spectacular Agawa Falls, which drops 25 metres in a thundering plume. It’s a glorious three-hour swift water
run from Agawa Falls downstream to the highway bridge, including the short but not-so-sweet Hole Shot Rapid. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and lose track of time as one rapid feeds into the next. All too soon, the steep canyon walls retreat and the river finishes its dash for Lake Superior. words and photo by Conor Mihell Superior Outdoors
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Lucie M. Gagnon During her first encounter with Lake Superior, Lucie Gagnon paddled from Katherine Cove to the Agawa Pictographs in Lake Superior Provincial Park. Having paddled rivers and smaller lakes in the past, she felt a little lost on such a big, open space “I missed seeing the other side… there was so much water.” While she was out on the lake in her small yellow kayak, the wind picked up speed and Lucie watched the waves grow in size and force. At the time it was an intimidating experience, but Lucie has since adapted and continues to enjoy exploring Lake Superior and its tributaries. Lucie was born in Fauquier, Ontario, a small village located on the Groundhog River in the James Bay Frontier. She recalls being interested in art at a very young age and experimenting using basic school supplies and birch bark. Having grown up without a mentor or formal instruction, Lucie’s inspiration and knowledge came from the details she observed in the world around her. Lucie creates incredibly realistic drawings using graphite pencils. Her art is so precise that a drawing can easily be mistaken for a black and white photograph. “I can see in black and white and all of the shades of grey in between.” Lucie selects her graphite pencils and paper meticulously. Her choice of paper will often depend on the subject – heavy and textured papers, such as those made from hemp or recycled bark, are among her favourites. According to Lucie, it’s important to “respect the paper” because it can have irregularities that need to be worked into the drawing; variations in thickness that can be easily torn with a pencil. She incorporates the texture of the paper into her art. Since moving to Goulais River in 2001, Lucie’s work has been shown in galleries throughout Ontario and is featured at the interpretive centre at Lake Superior Provincial Park. Because one drawing can take up to three months to complete, Lucie often begins by making notes and, in some cases, taking photos. She enjoys the comfort of her small and simple studio, custom-build by her husband. Lucie Gagnon’s love of art is deeply rooted in its variability. When creating drawings, Lucie studies her subject to understand the story behind the details she aims to capture. Her goal is to be as faithful as possible to the details she observes.
The Spirit of Old Woman Bay, Bill Mason graphite pencil drawing by Lucie M. Gagnon
For more information visit: www.luciegagnonartist.ca Michelle McChristie
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Camping the North Shore by Andrew Slade There and Back Books 131 pp., softcover
In the process of exploring the North Shore and writing this book, naturalist and outdoors expert Andrew Slade scouted out nearly two thousand campsites. In Camping the North Shore, he provides comprehensive advice on 23
best campgrounds including easy to follow directions and maps, tips on reserving a site, details on facilities, photos and a description of the campground. The “S’more to See and Do” pages highlight nearby activities and attractions, such as hiking trails, historic sites and locallyowned businesses. Campgrounds located between Duluth, Minnesota and the Canadian border, including the Gunflint Trail, are featured. The sites range from municipal campgrounds to national forests, fullhookup RV sites to rustic backcountry tent sites. At end of the book, general information is provided on an additional 43 campgrounds. According to Slade, “Camping isn’t just about sitting in a nice campsite, it’s about getting out and having adventures.” Regardless of your interpretation of the word adventure, this book will help steer you in the right direction. Each campground has easy to use with simple directions and maps. The “S’more to See and Do” section highlights nearby activities and attractions, such as hiking trails, historic sites and locally-owned businesses.
The Blue Tarp Bible by Ron C. Judd Skipstone 176 pp., softcover
The Blue Tarp Bible, by veteran columnist and outdoor writer Ron Judd, features a social history and the first-ever compendium of uses for the common blue tarp. If you’ve got a problem that is too big to handle, too expensive to fix or too embarrassing to be seen, Judd has a solution – “tarp it over.” The Big Blue Tarp, a.k.a. BBT, is ubiquitous in campgrounds, backyards and some frontyards in North America. Judd’s book is filled with entertaining and interesting accounts of how blue tarps have been used since the birth of polyethylene in the 1930s. Judd’s tongue-in-cheek, yet factual, writing style makes for a funny, light read that is prefect for a weekend road trip.
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Superior Artisans by Cameron Norman Butter Moon Arts 111 pp., softcover
When visiting Grand Marais, Minnesota, the rich and varied artistic talent in the community is hard to miss. For a town with a population of only 1,400 located in a rural county with an additional 5,400 people, Grand Marais has an unusually high proportion of artisans. Superior Artisans is Cameron Norman’s tribute to those artisans that have responded to the beautiful environment in which they live with creativity and joy. Through photographs and personal statements about their craft, Norman explores the work of 44 artists. The diversity of skills is truly impressive as Norman has assembled artists that work with media such as wood, plants, metal, fabric and stone to create or buildOUTDOORS items such as jewelry, CHALTREK OSTROM boats, sculptures, paintings and even beer. Lake Superior and the rugged beauty of the North Shore is the 45 Years of Serving Outdoor Enthusiasts common thread that weaves the artOstrom Packs • Camping • Canoes/Kayaks • Chairs • Hobie ists together. Mirage Kayaks • Charts • Waterproof Digital Cameras An artist herself, Norman has a Climbing • Outdoor Clothing • Compasses • Ruffwear Cots • Hats, Booties, Gloves • Drybags • Outdoor T-Shirts deep appreciation for the work of Food • Sewing Repairs • G.P.S. • Geology • Sleeping Bags the artisans – she invites readers toM&APS Hiking • Tents • Kitchenwares • Baby Carriers C HART Lapidary Supplies • Lightweight Mapsventure with discover theirShelters work •and S Mattresses • Stainless Steel Water Bottles them into the environment that inspires such creativity.
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Approaching Trowbridge Island aboard Varua
Glimpse of Gitchigumi a
Exploring the NMCA Under Sail words and photos by John-Paul Marion
...the mountainous form of the Sleeping Giant loomed large with light and shadow.
(top) Plenty of room in Frodo for a group lunch, complete with a Thunder Bay delight - persians (bottom) The deck of Frodo - a beautiful boat
f the many ways to experience the north shore of Superior, one of the more sublime has got to be by sailboat, particularly in fully equipped vessels that are capable of crossing oceans. From harbour cruises, trips to the Welcome Islands and Isle Royale or, in this case, a three-day journey from Thunder Bay to Red Rock, the magnificence of Lake Superior is undeniable. Among the experiences to enjoy are open water, narrow passages, lighthouses, swimming, fishing, delightful anchorages in sheltered bays, and river mouths. 32
Based out of Thunder Bay, Sail Superior deployed 40’ Frodo, captained by Greg Heroux, and 36’ Varua, captained by Greg’s brother Cameron. With six writers and one Tai Chi master aboard, we cast off on a mission linking tourist travel from the Thunder Bay Harbour to the Red Rock Marina, capped by a relaxing stay at the historic Quebec Lodge. It being my first time aboard, it was exciting just to climb onto the Varua and motor out of the harbour. We were soon under sail as the city shrank in the distance. The winds weren’t
Sleeping Giant in distance shortly after exiting Thunder Bay harbour
too strong but it was a great feeling to be silently forging ahead in a boat powered only by a light wind. Captain Cameron Heroux skilfully operated the boat on his own while the rest of us got our “sea legs.” It wasn’t long before captain Greg Heroux, owner/operator of Sail Superior, overtook us in Frodo, leading the way to our first destination: the Trowbridge Island lighthouse. This adventure was all about exposing the beauty and rigours of sailing this wonderful portion of the big lake they call “Gitchigu-
mi!” The atmospheric haze thinned as we passed the tip of the Sibley Peninsula. The bird watcher’s compound at Thunder Cape came into clear view, while the mountainous form of the Sleeping Giant loomed large with light and shadow. The lighthouse atop the lichen-covered rocks of Trowbridge Island shone like a beacon in the setting sun; a warm feeling in a cool and isolated place, much like the reception we were about to receive. As a result of the automation of lighthouses, vacant resiSuperior Outdoors
dences have become available for hearty souls in search of low rent on prime lakefront property. For the past 13 years, Trowbridge’s former housing duplex has been the summer home of 76-year-old Maureen Robertson. With great flare, Maureen has elaborately decorated the duplex’s many rooms in various themes. There is a Captain’s room and a room covered with vintage posters of Canadian Mounties – both were decorated thriftily with unique secondhand finds. Her museum of the imagination is something to behold. A wood-burning cook stove provides the only source of heat, with propane as needed for cooking and a few lights. Otherwise it’s candles and living by the light of the day. During the day Maureen keeps busy happily cutting trails and keeping the residence in good condition; not a small feat. If anyone 34
is inclined to visit, fresh fruit and bread are a welcome gift in this wonderful – and isolated – setting. What a beautiful way rest stop en route, just shy of our first anchorage in the safe wrap of Tee Harbour. Upon reaching our destination we enjoyed a satisfying steak dinner, a glass of wine, conversation, and finally a greatly relaxing first night’s sleep on board these comfy vessels. Morning allowed a slow wake-up for all with coffee to start, a trip to shore in the dinghy for exploration and Tai Chi on the beach, followed by a hearty breakfast. Shortly after motoring out of Tee Harbour we were under sail. With a fair breeze we were able to cruise at a speed of 7 knots. Sailing toward the historic hamlet of Silver Islet, we had a long view of the Sleeping Giant - in mirror image of what we are used to seeing from mainland Thunder Bay. This
(above) Frodo docked at Trowbridge Island Lighthouse (top right) Maureen Robertson, spirited summer resident of Trowbridge Island (middle right) A remarkable reverse profile of the Sleeing Giant as seen from open water near Silver Islet (bottom right) Master Peng doing morning Tai Chi on the deck of Frodo
became our time for an introductory lesson in sailing. Our captain had us working the sails while tacking; he offered up the helm, instructing us to keep our eyes up the mast on the wind indicator and to feel the keel while manning the wheel. Well into the waters of Parks Canada’s Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area we sailed by the community of Silver Islet, cruising close to the islet itself that was once the most productive silver mine in the world. There are no remaining outward indications that this small island once housed a flourishing silver mine. Beyond Silver Islet lay open water, and we aimed our boat toward the tip of the Black Bay Peninsula. Passing the Porphyry Point Lighthouse, the sails came down and Captain 36
Greg took the lead in Frodo, expertly guiding us through Walker’s channel. With a 7 1/2’ keel in shallow waters, Captain Greg’s experience coupled with modern navigation technology allow for safe passage in beautiful but tricky waters. By evening on day two, the wind had calmed and fog began to set in while we motored to our night anchorage in an idyllic sheltered channel. There are times on Lake Superior, with gentle waves lapping on the rocky shoreline, fog rolling in and a distinctive marine scent in the air, when it feels as though you could be on any big water shore in the world. This was the case as a few of us spent the waning daylight hour exploring basalt rock formations, ancient cedar trees, and the warm pools left in the
With a feeling both exotic and familiar, this island shoreline made us yearn for more time, but darkness was encroaching.
(above) One of many unmanned lighthouses - a comforting witness on a foggy trip (top right) Captain Greg Heroux takes action as the breeze picks up (bottom right) Under sail in a foggy strait, guided by expert sailors
Arriving at Red Rock marina, our final landing
north shore rock by wave action earlier in the day. With a feeling both exotic and familiar, this island shoreline made us yearn for more time, but darkness was encroaching. Within minutes we were back to the boats preparing for supper in the galley of the Frodo. Another fantastic meal with wine, conversation, and laughter, after which we retired to our respective boats for a good night’s rest, lulled to sleep by the gentle heartbeat of Lake Superior. The next morning was again a relaxed, unhurried affair. The air remained calm and the fog that had moved in the day before hung around like a misty veil. After a delicious breakfast, Captain Cameron led us to the galley of the Varua to view maps and charts. He outlined our journey thus far, and showed us the route planned for this, our last day on the water. Captain Greg led both vessels straight into a fog that grew denser as the morning progressed. Greg’s confidence and experience kept us at ease as we motored through the calm water with barely any visual cues to identify where we might be. The course charted with GPS technology allowed us to move safely and at a good pace. Eventually the wind picked up, the fog thinned somewhat, and we were once again under sail. The wind was short-lived however, and for the remaining couple of hours the diesel engines propelled us through the magical beauty The “great room” in the Quebec Lodge
of alternately thickening, then thinning fog. As we approached Red Rock the visibility increased enough for us to witness an eagle struggling to gain altitude from the water’s surface, carrying a large fish in its talons. Our first view of Red Rock was of the mill, appearing dreamlike behind the shroud of mist. Red Rock has a lovely marina, constructed in the mid 1990’s, and shortly before our arrival a dredging project was completed, allowing deeper-keeled boats like the Frodo to dock. We were met by Ray Rivard, owner/operator of the Quebec Lodge. He whisked us up to the lodge to shower and change before escorting us back to the town centre of this quaint north shore community. We were treated to a fine dinner at the historic Red Rock Inn. Relaxing, elegant and homey, this was a great way to cap our sailing journey. For the final chapter of the trip we were the guests of Ray Rivard, an entrepreneur who resurrected the Quebec Lodge in 2007. This beautifully constructed log building was built in 1937 to house officials from the local paper mill. Currently operating as a B & B, it offers hiking, fishing, and boating, and hosts luncheons and dinners for the community. With a spectacular view of the bay and marina, well-manicured grounds for strolling, a covered deck and bonfire pit, it was easy to kick back and enjoy the rustic charm of this humble palace. Whether kayaking in the bay or fishing the Nipigon River for trophy speckled trout, the Quebec Lodge offers top-notch accommodation. Sail Superior can get you there or to many other destinations if you are drawn to the excitement and simple pleasure of sailing. Featuring a fantastic three-day folk festival as just one summer highlight, Red Rock is a secret gem worth visiting. After this enjoyable experience in the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area I give two big thumbs up to the spirit within the communities and individuals living along the north shore of this great lake. John-Paul Marion
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Life’s a BEACH Road tripping Superior’s south shore
words by Michelle McChristie photographs by Darren McChristie
(previous page) Goldie parked at a beachside campsite, Lake Superior Provinicial Park; (above) The beach in Grand Marais, Michigan; (below) Tahquamenon Falls
“I should have brought the fire with us,” grumbled Darren as he fanned the flames of our fledgling campfire. It was about 11 p.m. and we had just been ousted from our campsite at Lake Superior Provincial Park - the result of our having provided the staff at the gatehouse with the wrong campsite number when we registered. It was an honest mistake; regardless, we were forced to pack up our camper van and move to a new site, awaking our sleeping children and abandoning a cozy campfire in the process. Reflecting on the mishap the next
morning, we took it as a sign that it was time to move on. After all, it’s a big lake with many campgrounds and beaches to experience. From the cool breezes and rugged shores of the north to the sandy dunes and warmer waters of the south, we spent two weeks exploring the beaches of Lake Superior with our children, Nathan and Sarah, and our dog, Samson. Heading east from Thunder Bay in the convenience of our aging VW Westfalia, our plan was to explore the shores of Lake Superior through camping,
hiking, biking and swimming. Our van, Goldie, had just returned from an extended stay with our mechanic and we were confident that the repairs would make for a tow-truck-free vacation. Our route included scenic byways, partly because Goldie’s optimum speed is about 90 kilometres (55 miles) per hour, but also because we wanted to maximize our view of the lake and our time spent on its shores. We spent our first night at Lake Superior Provincial Park. With an area of 1,600 square kilometers (618 square miles), this park is one of the largest protected areas in Ontario. The park has three campgrounds - we choose the Agawa Bay location for its premium beachside campsites. Because the cold and, at times, miserable weather deterred us from swimming, our entertainment involved biking to the interpretive centre, hiking on the trails and building sand castles and other creations on the beach. When it came time to leave, we packed up the van and headed south through the Algoma Highlands to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. The terrain in Michigan was a stark contrast to that of the north shore. The exposed bedrock of the Canadian Shield had vanished, and farmer’s fields dominated the landscape.
(bottom right) 12-Mile Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
After a brief stop in Paradise, Michigan, we continued to Tahquamenon Falls State Park. The park covers an area of 182 square kilometers (70 square miles) and is the second largest protected area in Michigan. The campground was almost full and had a more urban feel compared to Lake Superior Provincial Park. We selected a larger, corner site in hopes of maximizing the wilderness experience. While Darren set up the van, I went hiking with Nathan and Sarah. We returned to the sight of our neighbour spraying the periphery of his campsite with a large can of insect repellant. He proceeded to spray his dog and then unpack his hiking boots, tent and other supplies from unopened boxes that he later used to start his campfire. With so much activity (and smoke) around us, it was hard to relax. In the morning, we were anxious to pack up and make our way to the next campground. I convinced Darren to make a brief stop at Tahquamenon Falls. The falls are easily accessed with a trail, boardwalks, stairs and viewing platforms. As one of the largest water falls east of the Mississippi, the falls are an impressive site. We snapped a few photos of the falls and walked back to the van, slightly dampened from the misty spray. We wanted to get to the next campground
early in hopes of finding a quiet campsite near the shoreline. Our next stop was Grand Marais, Michigan â€“ the eastern gateway to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Pictured Rocks covers a 69-kilometre (42-mile) stretch of shoreline and was the first national lakeshore created in the United States. The town is located on a huge stretch of sandy beach and a picturesque bay. The scenery drew us to the lake and, after exploring the beach, we ventured downtown to eat whitefish sandwiches and buy groceries. In search
of information and advice, we visited the Grand Sable Visitor Center. There were a few options for camping and we chose the Twelvemile Beach campground. It is only 15 minutes west of Grand Marais and each campsite is a short walk to the lake. Twelvemile Beach, as one might surmise, invites long walks along the shore. We passed the day swimming and walking along the alternating sand and sandstone shoreline. The sandstone is rich in feldspar, deep red in colour with white mottling. We noticed something pecu-
The Grand Sable Dunes rise more than 300 ft above Lake Superior
(above) Grand Sable Dunes as viewed from the Log Slide (left) The mineral-stained cliffs of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
liar about the sand – it made a squeaking noise when we dug into it with our hands. I later learned that this is known as “singing sand.” When the grains are rubbed together, the friction makes a singing sound; the phenomenon is thought to occur when there is a certain level of moisture between the sand grains. One of the most unique landforms in the Lake Superior basin is the Grand Sable Dunes. Located about halfway between the campground and town, the Log Slide offers an accessible and impressive view of the dunes. In the 1800s, a wooden log chute was used to send logs from the top of the dune to Lake Superior. Logs sent down the steep 500-foot chute are said to have generated enough friction to start a fire. We visited the dunes en route to the fourth of July fireworks in Grand Marais. After traversing along a steep ridge in the sand, we decided to scramble down the dune, perhaps despite the warning sign. With each step, our feet sunk deep into the sand as if we were on a sinking escalator. On the climb up, we wished we’d taken heed to the sign’s warning. With every step we slid backwards like overgrown inchworms in the sand. Positioning ourselves to watch the fireworks, we parked near the beach. This location offered an unobstructed view of the sunset reflecting darkening shades of gold on the lake and shoreline. As the sun set, the streets of Grand Marais were transformed into a huge tailgate party. Backyard fireworks exploded around us and then the sky overhead erupted in a spectacular fireworks display. The next day, we packed up our van and headed to Munising at the western boundary of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Knowing that the pictured rocks are best viewed from the lake, we endeavored to rent tandem kayaks to paddle the shoreline. Unfortunately, kayak rentals required a four-hour long lesson. At this point, we considered our other options: either take a cruise or rent a pontoon boat. The pontoon, a.k.a. party boat, offered us the flexibility to explore the lakeshore at our own pace and surprisingly, only a valid driver’s license and a credit card deposit were required. We cruised along the pictured rocks, admiring the multi-coloured mineral deposits left by water seepage. The boat proved itself seaworthy despite its raft-like appearance and was well-tested against the crashing waves that repeatedly flooded the deck. When the waves became too rough, we turned around and hugged the shore of Grand Island on our return trip scanning the water for shipwrecks in the Agler Underwater Preserve. We followed the map
(top right) A golden sun sets on Lake Superior (middle right) Goldie on route to Madeline Island (botton right) Darren on the standup-paddleboard (right) Busking on the main strip on Madeline Island
BELLEVUE VALLEY LODGE
(above) Gov’t Mule performs under under the tent at Big Top Chautauqua
to the Bermuda, a wooden schooner that sank in 1870. The wreck was easily viewed from our boat, as her top deck is just four metres (12 feet) below the water’s surface. With time running out on our vacation, we decided to spend the remaining days exploring Wisconsin’s share of Lake Superior’s shoreline. At this point in our trip, Goldie began to show signs of fatigue. During a pit stop in Ashland, she failed to start when Darren turned the key. Luckily we were parked on a downward slope that provided just enough momentum for a successful bump start. We arrived in Bayfield in the evening and opted for the convenience and comfort of a hotel. Madeline Island, the largest of the Apostle Islands, would be our home for the next few days and we planned to get an early start the next day. After a hearty breakfast and several cups of coffee, we boarded the ferry for the short trip to the Island. Upon arriving in the beach town of LaPointe, we immediately felt at ease with the laidback atmosphere. The town presented an unusual mix of beatniks and yuppies, bicycles and BMWs. We could have spent the rest of our summer exploring the back roads of Madeline Island on our bicycles, or hanging out at Tom’s Burned Down Café, a one-of-a-kind open-air bar, and the playground and beach across the road. Feeling the influence of the island’s culture, Darren rented a stand up paddleboard – a behemoth of a surfboard that, I must admit, looked pretty cool on Goldie’s roof. While the kids swam in the warmest water they’ve ex46
perienced on Lake Superior, Darren became hooked on a new boardsport. Our motivation for leaving Madeline Island was the Big Top Chautauqua, a huge tent that hosts an eclectic concert series throughout the summer. Live music was something this vacation was missing and Gov’t Mule was playing under the Big Top. The Mule’s style of southern rock proved too loud for Nathan and Sarah, even with the complimentary earplugs. While the kids and I watched the remainder of the concert from the grassy hill behind the tent, Darren rocked on under the big top. We spent that night in a spacious suite at the Bayfront Inn that overlooked the marina and downtown. After the concert, we sat on the deck and enjoyed the sites and sounds of Bayfield. Our stay in Bayfield was a treat and seemed like the perfect ending to our vacation. After traveling 2,100 kilometers (1,300 miles) and growing wearing of living in a van, we were longing for home. Plus, we had so far eluded tow trucks and didn’t want to push our luck - or the van. The contrast between north and south shores became obvious once again as we headed north from Duluth along the scenic byway. Cobblestones and rocky shorelines replaced the sandy beaches. The cool breeze from the start of our trip returned. When we crossed the border into Canada, the lake disappeared behind the Nor’wester Mountains and we ended our adventure where it began. Michelle McChristie
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Fish&Trips Sea Kayaking the Islands of Neys Provincial Park
words and photographs by Julian Holenstein
Trolling for Lake Trout near Neys Provincial Park
(above) Relaxing on smooth Precambrian rock; (bottom left) Paddling in a sea kayaker’s paradise; (right) Fishing gear is easily accessed from the deck; (opposite) Polytrichum, a type of moss, is part of the surprising array of plant life
hen I received a call from Michael Meade asking if I might want to join a group of fellow sea kayakers for a weekend exploring the islands of Neys Provincial Park, I responded with a cautious, “Sounds interesting”. When Michael then cautioned me not to forget my fishing gear, I was hooked (pun intended). It had been exactly three years since the birth of my son; for obvious reasons the canoe had become my vessel of choice while my single seat kayak was collecting dust in the garage. I had never previously paddled with Michael but knew we shared a passion for sea kayaking among Lake Superior’s many islands. Now we finally we had a reason to connect: lake trout fishing! Neys Provincial Park is a premier destination along Superior’s north shore and is located between the towns of Marathon and Terrace Bay. First established in 1965, the park is best known for its spectacular 1.5km sand beach, where the shallow waters are a main attraction for visiting families. While many people visit its tremendous beachfront and stay in its mainland campgrounds, fewer people are aware that an additional 1,939 hectares of offshore islands near the Coldwell Peninsula were added to the park through Ontario’s “Living Legacy” conservation initiative. These Lake Superior island additions are a sea kayaker’s paradise and, as I soon found out, 50
are home to bountiful natural strains of lake trout. By the time I had attempted to find all of my buried and lost kayaking accessories it was time for a follow-up call to the trip leader: “I’m running a bit late… I’ll paddle out solo tomorrow and meet you there – I’m sure it won’t be a problem finding you”. Early the next morning the sunrise found me hucking gear from the car to the unloaded sea kayak parked on the Neys beachfront. The lake was calm, free of fog, and the westernmost tip of Pic Island was prominent and beckoning on the horizon less than five kilometres away. Pic Island is a wondrous sloped and shapely island that first caught the eye of “Group of Seven” painter Lawren Harris in 1924. It is believed that Harris painted the now iconic and often-reproduced image of Pic Island from a nearby railway siding. As I rounded the dramatic, steep-sided shore of Guse Point on approach to Pic Island it was easy to see how the island’s wild character and distinct shape had captured the artist’s heart and imagination. After about an hour’s paddle out into the open waters, the vastness of this great lake penetrated my being. My 17-foot sea kayak had seemed large and unwieldy when I was attaching it to the car roof early that morning; it now felt quite dwarfed and insignificant. Paddling solo in this setting of huge cliffs,
e fire in the Croft Yurt dad Trail is the longest groomed crossthe BWCA
(above) paddling alongside the cliffs; (top right) A lone piece of driftwood; (bottom right) Superior’s wave-washed shoreline
barren wave-washed shorelines and vast horizon lines, brings a sense of humility and humbleness to both paddler and vessel. Lake Superior’s impressive landscape had very quickly induced feelings of being a flea on the back of an elephant. After a shore lunch on Pic Island, I started to entertain thoughts of uncertainty due to do the vast scale of this archipelago. Perhaps it might not be so easy to find a group of six kayakers out here. Many orange-colored lichen rocks created the illusion of a shored kayak, only to disappoint on closer inspection. Fortunately one of the group had the foresight to mark their site with a fluorescent orange life jacket hanging from a tree – easily discernable with pocket binoculars. I continued paddling and soon discovered that a comfortable camp had been made. Connecting with the group provided a sense of security that I’d been missing during my solo paddle across the water. It being mid-afternoon, most of the group was napping while some explored flowering plant life along the shore. Others had discovered that the smooth Precambrian rock formations offered just the right amount of support and curvature to make comfortable reading chairs. Formed approximately 1.108 billion years ago; subjected 10,000 years later to glacial ice that carved its grooves and striations; and finally polished to its modern day smoothness by wave and water - these are 52
reading chairs whose age and natural design process boggle the imagination. Neys Provincial Park, the Port Coldwell Peninsula and the accompanying offshore islands are all defined and characterized by a rich geological history. Downfaulting during continental rifting resulted in the variable, high relief landscape that distinguishes the Superior shoreline and the rugged physiography of the park. It is a landscape that invites the sea kayaker to explore faulted valleys, natural harbours, and some of the highest hilltop elevations in Ontario. From a distance these wave-washed shorelines appear stark, but on closer inspection they offer a wondrous explosion of color and plant life. Surrounded by Superior’s ice-cold waters, the meager soils offer an extremely short growing season. By the time limited warmth arrives in mid-July there is an unspoken urgency for plant life to flower, pollinate, and prepare to seed. Bright purple flowers signal locations of Butterwort, a carnivorous plant that uses sticky leaves to capture small insects needed to supplement its nutritional diet. Soft green mosses are covered with bright legions of red sporphytes, their capsules ready to launch spores into the wind. At sunrise the next morning there came a flurry of activity as we packed lunches, checked fishing gear and prepared boats. It was becoming apparent that I had not just joined a
friendly group of sea kayakers; I was part of a group with an ambitious goal. Our task that day was clear – catch lake trout for our evening meal. Lake trout populations in Lake Superior suffered devastating collapses during the 1950’s from a combination of commercial overfishing and the introduction of the sea lamprey. Eventually government reduction of commercial fishing quotas, increased stocking efforts, and the chemical control of lampreys led to a recovery for many management zones in the lake. It is believed that surviving stocks of native lake trout persist and are naturally reproducing in this area and the nearby Slate Islands. New fisheries knowledge has also forced a shift from fish stocking programs to the more successful focus on better management of existing wild lake trout stocks. In this area of Lake Superior, lake trout populations now appear to be flourishing. We departed from the safety of our natural harbour and I paddled alongside Michael, who has been guiding his friends
and fellow paddlers on Lake Superior for over 15 years. I learned the fine art of fishing from a sea kayak as I watched Michael land fish after fish. Having a suitable fishing rod holder to keep both hands free for paddling is essential. Our fellow paddlers had various adaptations of commercially sold rod holders mounted on their kayak decks but they employed the same method: cast the deep diving plug; close the bail; put the rod in the holder; and start paddling - simple. It’s once a fish is hooked that the real challenges take hold. With a fish on the line, one has to at some point put down the paddle and pick up the reel. This is where a paddle leash is a very nice accessory. It tethers your paddle close-by while freeing both hands to reel in your fish. You should also position your boat prior to reeling in, so that you are pointing into the wind or downwind and waves are not hitting the boat broad side, which could cause you to be unstable. Once the fish is alongside the boat, call to your fellow paddlers to “raft up” and create a more stable environment for the fish landing
(this page) Michael demonstrating the fine art of fishing from a sea kayak
An evening feast of fresh Lake Trout
procedure. I studied Michael’s method of handling fish and watched as he placed one hand over the fish’s head and put firm pressure on the gills - this seemed to put the fish into some type of “sleeper hold” which allowed time for the delicate job of removing hooks. Michael also carried a small net in case a lunker fish presented itself. A “deck bag” mounted in front of the kayak hatch proved to be indispensable and provided a place to quickly access lures and pliers if needed. The final part of the process was dispatching the fish. For this messy job some people carried a small bat or a heavy stick on their deck. Once the fish was knocked unconscious it was wrapped in a plastic bag, the spray skirt was popped, and fish placed onto the cockpit floor to stay cool until dinner preparations. By mid-afternoon we had captured enough fresh trout to prepare a wonderful evening feast. Heavy cast iron pans were pre-heated with oil and loaded with garlic, then the fish fillets were added - some a rich orange with others being more pallid and white in colour. All fillets were from the same lake trout species, however different 54
strains and perhaps a variety in diet are the reasons for this diversity in colour. After a wonderful meal of lake trout, the red wine flowed freely and so did the claims as to who had caught the most fish that day. We watched a magnificent sunset and I reflected on the joy of spending the day paddling and getting reacquainted with my sea kayak. It was a great opportunity to participate in and witness how the sea kayak can be safely used for fishing on this big lake. The ancient shape and shallow draft of the sea kayak permits fishing over shallow shoals and narrow passages where prop boats could never travel. Simple by design, no fussing with gas, no noise, no fumes, they silently pass through this island wilderness that remains much as it did when the voyageurs passed through during the fur-trading era. While fishing the Neys Provincial Park archipelago became the motivation and focus of the group, it was clear that the wildness of this island wilderness was what everyone had come to experience. We wanted to remind ourselves that we are part of this vast Lake Superior ecosystem; we had a desire to wash off the comforts of our daily urban lives, to live more deliberately, and to enjoy the gift of self-reliance in catching our own dinners. Julian Holenstein
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Climbing ‘Mother Jugs and Speed’ Silver Harbour Conservation Area, ON photo by Jarron Childs
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Road cycling Willard Munger State Trail, MN photo by Chris Gibbs
Paddling shallow water Lake Superior Provncial Park, ON photo by Kamil Bialous
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The view from atop Mount Gwynne looking east
Hiking and History on the Canadian Shield A brief guide to exploring the Casque Isles Trail
words and photographs by KAS
The first time I climbed Mount Gwynne I was greeted at the summit by a vicious blast of hail. My picnic lunch was a hurried sandwich in the shelter of a mossy hollow. Whenever I stood up and tried to admire the view, my eyes watered and my eyelashes froze together so that I couldn’t see beyond them. I remember holding the camera above my head and firing off a few snaps, hoping to enjoy the vista later – on my slide projector in the comfort of my living room! That was early May more than a decade ago. I have been back to Mount Gwynne several times since then and the view from the summit, though always windy, has become one of my very favourites. After all, it overlooks some of the most spectacular coastal scenery on Lake Superior’s north shore. Rising 260 metres from lake level, Mount Gwynne is also the highest point on the Casque Isles Trail. A geodetic survey marker identifies the topmost rock, and below it a plaque pays tribute to Tom McGrath, “founder of the Casque Isles Section of the Voyageur Trail, who loved to hike this trail”. Working under McGrath’s direction, students funded by a Ministry of Natural Resources summer employment program began clearing and blazing the trail’s first 25 kilometres in 1975. The route was extended another 28 kilometres west during the early 1980s. The Casque Isles Trail derives its name from John Bigsby’s oft-quoted journal, in which he describes the area’s prominent hills and heavily-indented coast as being dotted with “casqueshaped” (helmet-shaped) islands. Bigsby arrived in Canada from Britain in 1818 as an army surgeon and physician. He was captivated by the country’s geological and natural history, which led him to enlist in survey expeditions that Henry Bayfield was conducting on the Upper Great Lakes during the early 1820s. It was one of these expeditions that brought him to the “Casque Isles” coast in the summer of 1823. Today the Casque Isles Trail stretches 53 kilometres between Terrace Bay and Rossport, part of the Voyageur Trail network along the North Channel and Lake Superior. Volunteers from the area’s hiking club maintain the trail, and the route is clearly marked with various iconic signs: blue-and-white plastic hikers; white painted blazes; yellow Voyageur Trail
diamonds; and stone cairns across open areas. While it is possible to tackle the entire trail as a multi-day wilderness backpacking trip with overnight stops at primitive campsites, its intermittent proximity to Highway 17 allows convenient access for day-hikes, albeit strenuous ones. The latter is the manner by which I have “done” the Casque Isles Trail. John Bigsby’s description was bang on. The Casque Isles Trail is part of the The coast between Ter- larger Voyageur Trail system race Bay and Rossport is bursting with topographic variation. And the Casque Isles Trail follows every up and down. Scrambling over knobby hills, stumbling across awkward boulder fields and pushing through tangles of black spruce, it emerges frequently on clifftop lookouts and pauses to rest at pleasant sandy coves. The route is punctuated by glacial erratics, huge stones dropped by melting ice sheets 10,000 years ago. Rivers intersect the path at regular intervals, spilling their banks and cascading over waterfalls in early spring, then slowing to a trickle by summer’s end. The former shorelines of a much deeper glacial lake extend hundreds of metres inland, their terraces of battered cobbles perhaps still echoing the crash of long-ago November gales. Many of these rocks are now encrusted with lichens. Indeed lichens are constant companions along the trail: brittle brown lobes of Rock Tripe, dew-filled Pixie Cups, brilliant orange Xanthoria soaking up nitrogen from the droppings of passing shorebirds, wisps of Old Man’s Beard hanging from branches, herds of Reindeer Lichen marching across the forest floor, and red-capped “British Soldiers” defending their emSuperior Outdoors
(left) The Aguasabon River gorge; (above) map of the Casque Isles Hiking Trail
pires on rotting tree stumps. It is quintessential Canadian Shield landscape – wild, glorious and unforgiving. Mount Gwynne may be the high point on the Casque Isles Trail, but it is by no means the trail’s only highlight. Each of the trail’s five segments has its share of attractions. Some are geological; others relate to the creatures and people who have lived on this coast. Their history is rich and fascinating. The trail offers fifty-three kilometres of hiking and history. What follows is just a sampling of my favourites on each segment of the trail.
Lyda Bay Segment (6 km between Terrace Bay and Hydro Bay) This is the Casque Isles Trail’s most accessible and popular segment, the segment to put on your to-do list if you have time for only one. It contains many of the trail’s essential features, all within a manageable distance of convenient parking lots (with toilets). And it boasts one of the area’s most impressive waterfalls… sometimes! On the west side of Terrace Bay, just south of Highway 17, the Aguasabon River plunges 30 metres down a fault in the bedrock, then turns sharply left and surges through a narrow gorge towards Lake Superior. In full flood the water’s roar is deafening. The gorge becomes filled with rainbows and the surrounding forest glistens with spray. That is how I first saw Aguasabon Falls, in early May the same year I first climbed Mount Gwynne. But less than a week later, when I stopped at the falls again on my way home, the flow had diminished to a dribble. It gave me an eerie feeling, like peeking into an abandoned building after all the people have moved on. Then I learned its history.
Terrace Bay was established in the mid 1940s, a company town founded around a pulp-and-paper mill. The location was ideal, with a handy, seemingly limitless supply of virgin spruce in the northern forests, a perfect conduit on the Aguasabon River, and access to southern markets via the Canadian Pacific Railway. The river was sizeable enough to float logs to the mill, and it could supply hydroelectric power for the pulpwood operations. Ontario Hydro became involved, and an ambitious plan was hatched. It involved constructing a series of canals to extend the Aguasabon River across the watershed divide into Long Lake, 40 kilometres to the north, and erecting dams to divert the lake’s flow from the north (into James Bay) to the south (into Lake Superior). The additional water would augment the generating capacity at Terrace Bay’s Hydro Bay facility, and have a ripple effect even as far downstream as the power plants at Niagara Falls. For more than half a century the Terrace Bay pulp mill kept the town employed and prosperous. However in recent years the fortunes of the mill, like those of Canada’s entire forest products industry, have fluctuated on the whims of international trade. As a result, the town’s future is far from certain. Its population has begun to look to tourism to provide fresh opportunities. Meanwhile, the mill’s smokestacks and the tower on Hydro Bay serve as landmarks along the Casque Isles Trail. The water flowing over Aguasabon Falls seesaws with the seasons – and with the twist of a dial on the dams upstream.
Death Valley Segment (13 km between Hydro Bay and Worthington Bay) Despite its ominous name (derived from the Ojibway custom of using the adjacent hills as vantage points for huntSuperior Outdoors
ing game that passed through the valley), this segment of the Casque Isles Trail is one of its most rewarding… and challenging. Hugging the shoreline closely, the trail dips almost into the water at times, especially when the lake is rough. Its route is remote, straying far from the rail and highway corridor, and there are many steep scrambles and tricky sections to navigate. The reward, however, is dazzling coastal scenery, peaceful solitude, and a satisfying feeling of exhaustion at the end of a long day’s hike.
Raised cobble beach
The pictographs in Worthington Bay
Mount Gwynne Segment (7 km between Worthington Bay and Schreiber Beach) Without a doubt, the view from Mount Gwynne’s summit is one of the best in all of Ontario. On a clear day, with a map in one hand and binoculars in the other, you can identify landmarks along more than a hundred kilometres of Lake Superior’s coast. Looking west through Schreiber Channel toward Nipigon Bay, you can identify the islands within the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area and follow the long finger of the Black Bay Peninsula that points down the western horizon. Turning the other way, the Slate Islands seem to float deceptively near the mainland shore (a distance, in fact, of more than 10 kilometres) and the striking hills of Pic Island and the Coldwell Peninsula are silhouetted against the eastern sky. To the north is Schreiber, an incongruous cluster of tiny white rectangles in a vast boreal wilderness. If you look closely you can pick out the ribbon of railway that brought the town into existence as a Canadian Pacific Railway construction post during the 1880s and keeps it vibrant as a railway-servicing terminal today. Many of the navvies who built this section of the track were immigrants from Italy, and names like Costa, Spadoni and Figliomeni are still common on storefront signs. Even the name of the town itself has a railway connection: Sir Collingwood Schreiber was the Chief Engineer of the CPR in 1880 when the railway completed the notorious “two hundred miles of engineering impossibilities” that became Lake Superior’s portion of the transcontinental railway (second only in difficulty to the Kicking Horse Pass through the Rocky Mountains!). The ascent of Mount Gwynne can be tackled from either direction. The western access from Schreiber Beach boasts increasingly impressive lookouts on the way up, including a magnificent view from the cliffs at the Abyond lookout, along a two kilometre side-trail loop. Mount Gwynne’s eastern access begins from Worthington Bay. (In actuality, unless you have an all-terrain vehicle, it begins four kilometres up the Worthington Bay Road – an optimistic name for the muddy rut that slithers down the hill from Highway 17.) Worthington Bay is awash in history. Most obvious is the crumbling foundation and rusting machinery of a gold mill that operated briefly here in the 1930s. Indeed, the trail up Mount Gwynne’s eastern slope follows a track once used by miners to transport ore down from mine sites on the mountain. Flooded shafts
The view west from atop Mount Gwynne
gape ominously from the hillside and piles of tailings can still be seen beside the trail. One can also read a sign, recently posted on behalf of the American Bonanza Gold Corporation, warning of dangers to modern-day trespassers. The 2.5-billion-year-old slab of volcanic rock that underlies Mount Gwynne has been of interest to prospectors for more than a century. Early drilling revealed significant quantities of economically important minerals. Base metals like copper and zinc have been excavated from the area since the early 1900s, and deposits of precious metals, including gold, were explored at several locations, though their extent (so far) has been disappointing in comparison with the massive finds farther east at Hemlo. Worthington Bay’s history is not all modern. Its gravelly beach is a traditional resting place, and Ojibway travellers once left pictographs here. These “picture-writings” were painted in red-ochre, a pigment made from iron oxide that was excavated from the rocks, ground into powder and mixed with animal fat or fish oil into a paste. Although their precise meaning is unknown, pictographs are typically located at places of spiritual significance where the elements of earth, water and air – and the realms of humans and Manitou – converge. A cliff face plunging into a deep lake is a classic canvas for these drawings, most famously on Agawa Rock at Lake Superior Provincial Park. The pictographs at Worthington Bay are more illusive, tucked near the base of a rock towards the western end of the beach, just past the gold mill
ruins. Though faded, they can still be seen today.
Schreiber Channel Segment (13 km between Schreiber Beach and Rainbow Falls Provincial Park) The mesmerizing cobble shoreline at Schreiber Beach was once a Canadian Pacific Railway docking facility. Now it is a popular picnic site and good starting point for a hike on the Casque Isles Trail in either direction. Hiking 5.5 kilometres to the west, just beyond the abandoned port of Twin Harbours, brings you to the Schreiber Channel Nature Reserve, where another of the trail’s unique natural features awaits. The bedrock here is an outcropping of the Gunflint Formation, a two-billion-year-old sedimentary rock composed of iron-rich chert. To the untrained eye of a passing hiker the outcropping may look unremarkable. But these rocks have caused great excitement in the geological community, as they were found to contain some of the oldest, rarest and best preserved fossil remains anywhere on Earth. The fossils are microscopic, and they tell the story of early generations of single-celled organisms – algae and bacteria – which clustered in mats along the margins of an ancient shallow sea. The fossilized mats appear as dome-shaped, circular structures called stromatolites. Evidence suggests that these organisms were among the first to generate nourishment by means of photosynthesis, and they did so with such exuberance that they released enough oxygen to alter the composiSuperior Outdoors
tion of the atmosphere, paving the way for the evolution of creatures like ourselves. Another of their metabolic byproducts was the iron that permeates the terrain and causes the reddish colouring in the rocks we hike across today.
McLeans Segment (14 km between Rossport and Rainbow Falls Provincial Park) The Casque Isles Trail winds along an inland ridge for much of this segment, with several panoramic views over Schreiber Channel. Numerous small streams cross the trail, the prettiest tumbling 100 metres over a series of cascades to Lake Superior from Whitesand Lake in Rainbow Falls Provincial Park. The park boasts a large, serviced campground which makes an excellent base for exploring the Casque Isles area. The trail’s western terminus is located in Wardrope Park at the east entrance to the town of Rossport. Although its sheltered harbour was a traditional haven for travellers, and a thriving commercial fishery had developed at the
site, Rossport sprang to life in earnest during the 1880s as a supply depot and construction camp for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Upon completion of the line, Rossport became a busy terminal for passengers and freight that consisted chiefly of Whitefish and Lake Trout from the Nipigon Bay Fish Company. The historic Rossport Inn, built by the CPR in 1884, still serves its original purpose as a stylish hotel and restaurant. Guests may still wonder how the locals sleep through the clamour of trains as they rattle through town, just a few metres away. Hiking and history indeed - the Casque Isles Trail traverses billions of years of geology and hundreds of years of human heritage. As you admire the scenery from one glorious lookout after another along the route, you may even find yourself quoting John Bigsby, who remarked that he felt “well repaid for the trouble of the ascent.”
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Perspective Cartwheeling on the Kettle A participant in the 2009 Kettle River Paddle Festival performs a carwheel during the kayak rodeo. photo by Chris Gibbs
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Nestled on the shores of Manitouwadge Lake, on Hwy 614 north of Hwy 17 midway between Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay
Young or old, visitor or resident, Manitouwadge challenges you to play in the extreme! Manitouwadge is a beautiful community that offers year round opportunities for outdoor adventure and indoor fun. In the summer, explore our great forests and wilderness while you kayak or canoe along pristine waters or rushing rapids, ﬁsh on any of the hundreds of nearby lakes, camp out under the stars, or spend the day hiking or biking on miles of marked trails and old logging roads. Manitouwadge also features a nine-hole golf course, complete with full clubhouse facilities and Canada’s ﬁrst aquatic driving range.
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11 QUADRILLION LITRES OF FRESH WATER, and a memory to match every single one.
Itâ€™s in our nature.
Published on May 1, 2010
Published on May 1, 2010
In this issue: Sailing the rugged north shore of Lake Supeior'r National Marine Conservation Area, Road tripping Superior's south shore, Hik...