Lake Superior Ups and Downs


That about sums up the scenery.

According to the 9th edition of the Lonely Planet's Canada book, "The Lake Superior shore is one of those drives you must do before you die." Much of the writing in various sources touches on the fact that the Group of Seven was inspired and spent much time in the shield around the lake. I can certainly believe that.

The roads are generally fairly good, on Hwy 17, the traffic isn't atrocious, but it doesn't matter because you're just looking around so much that you don't care much about these things, black flies aside. The combination of rock, water and trees reminds me of my favourite parts of BC mountain country. Ancient rock with plants and trees clinging to it, digging the roots in. I've tried to take some pictures to show what I mean, but really, it doesn't do it justice. Nothing does.

Suffice it to say, we are talking seriously about making a point of going for a cross country ski trip up here somewhere within a year or two, simply to enjoy the scenery without the spectre of the madness caused by insects.

We also saw a cougar. That was very, very cool, you don't often see these dudes. Cruising along the highway somewhat north of Wawa and I see a shape crossing the road. The brain quickly goes through the choices: "Wolf, no way, not a canine. Obviously not an ungulate. Way to big for a lynx. A cougar? I didn't think these were around here. Awesome!"

That took all of about a half second, then it was point fast and yell at Hillary, "Cougar, mountain lion up there, look!"

It padded across the road and up into the trees. We talked very loudly for the next few minutes (since we were climbing, we weren't riding overly fast) but I really wasn't concerned. Better to be prudent though, we were downwind.

As far as the riding goes since Thunder Bay, good, with some downs, but we're getting to that.

We cheated on our first day out of Thunder Bay. There was a long stretch of construction. We drove over it a couple of times on our trips out to the mine and Ouimet Canyon. Enough to have a long and difficult debate as to whether we should actually ride it. Basically it was the extended gravel sections with lots of traffic that did it. Given that we completely re-routed our path through BC (Hwy 1 to Hwy 3) based on construction, we elected to skip it. So we missed 30km of road. I'm hoping skipping %0.4 of the trip isn't too bad. :) I'll make it up elsewhere, I promise.

We had decent weather that day though, the first 60km flew by and then we turned into the wind at Nipigon. Due to us feeling good, we ended up doing about 140km and stopping at Rainbow Falls Provincial Park. Spectacular, as were the bugs.

From there, we continued through amazing country into Marathon, where we splurged and got a motel for the night so we could have baths for pretty much the first time in months. The hills got pretty serious on this ride, we had at least two that were upwards of 7% and somewhere in the ballpark of 3km long. Nothing compared to the big mountain passes, but still difficult. Starting to get warm as well, which is a nice change.

Marathon to White River was flatter, but definitely rolling. Hot sun beating down on us most of the time. Note that I am not complaining, we've been waiting for the chance to do this. This part of the ride was not quite as scenic, the roads were straighter and the trees were closer. The dominant feature of the day was going through an area where a massive forest fire had gone through a few years ago. The road wound through the short trees and blasted trunks for probably 15-20km.

Finally, White River to Wawa, starting to get back into the rocks and climbs. Again, not as serious as Nipigon to Marathon, but you can tell it's coming again. And that's where we are now.

And likely to be for at least a few days. Hillary took a minor injury a few days ago, which got infected and now requires some professional treatment. So until we get the okay from the doctors, we're parked.

Depending on how long that is, we may have to skip ahead to Ottawa to get back on track, or I may be riding alone for a few days. Regardless, we'll see how it goes.