There was no time for tourist stops because we had 2 days’ worth of driving around the Superior Coastal Highlands and then west of Thunder Bay. That was a little disappointing, but I was more excited about embarking on our Quetico Provincial Park expedition paddling the Hunter Island Loop!
The last time I drove around Lake Superior is when my husband and I moved back from the Yukon in 2013. I pine for Lake Superior and it’s mightiness. My heart can be in so much ache driving through the landscape. I didn’t see much of it our first day of driving because we reached Sault Ste. Marie around sunset, so I just caught a little bit of the lake views before it turned dark. We stayed at the White Fang Hotel south of Wawa our first night.
My husband had us up at some asinine time the next morning to continue our drive. I just barely got to sleep before it was time to get up when he jumped out of bed and turned all the lights on in the room. Ouch, my eyes. You can compare the sensation with living in a cave for 3 years and suddenly the sun shines inside.
When we reached White River we treated ourselves to some gut rot coffee.
The drive was so wonderful. It was hard sitting for that long, but worth it.
After we drove through Thunder Bay, spirits were high. We both remember seeing the Quetico Park sign on our drive home from the Yukon when we stopped in Atikokan for gas not knowing the significance of the area, just that we thought it would be neat to get back there to explore. Well, here we are!
First we passed through the Arctic Watershed, so now all streams were flowing north to the Arctic Ocean which is pretty cool, and we entered into the Central Time Zone.
When we saw the park sign, we were amped.
Quetico is a wilderness park, meaning it is real wilderness tripping country. For thousands of years our paddling predecessors have gotten along just fine without painted signs in the wilderness to indicate portages, campsites or thunder boxes. – Quetico park map
I’m always pushing myself and my skills, so navigating through land that is unmarked is exciting and really gives me a lot of confidence when I’m in the wilderness. We don’t need portage markers. Thunder boxes? Well they’re not so nice either, but without them in populated parks there would be an awful mess.
We picked up our permit at the Dawson Trail Campground and talked with the Park Warden regarding our route (Hunter Island Loop). Not much to report on our chosen loop, just that the water was up because of the amount of rain received during spring, he was jealous we were going to be paddling through that much of the park and that he really loved the Maligne River section, which ended up being my least favourite…
With permit in hand we headed into Atikokan for some exploring.
We stopped by XY Company to introduce ourselves to Spencer Meany. He made my husband’s racing paddle for the Algonquin Outfitters Muskoka River X canoe race last year. His family has a history in the area of making beautiful paddles and canoe racing.
Along the same stretch of highway is Souris River Canoes.
It wasn’t long before we started seeing Mike Ranta‘s name popping up everywhere. It isn’t hard to tell how proud Atikokan is of Mike and his paddling coast-to-coast accomplishments and the causes he raises awareness for.
We stopped for some food in town and then headed back to the Dawson Trail Campground in Quetico Provincial Park to organize ourselves and gear in a beauty cabin for our last night before we began our epic canoe trip.
At the campground, my husband found a plaque with an Ojibwe prayer that I held so close to my heart.
to be continued…
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