As we were setting up last night a car passed and, returning from the reservation booth, set up next to us. It seems the park is emptier than the list of available spots would have one believe. I was feeling sweaty which makes it harder to fall asleep. It was just the warm before the storm – our first in a tent. The rain came hard as did the lightning and thunder. I could feel the drops pelting my feet and waited until 3:00 am when I could pee in the drizzling precipitation without worry of being soaked from above and splashes below.
I couldn’t predict what happened next, but as I squat in the dark with my headlamp searching for wild animals in the trees I inadvertently was peeing on worms. I felt bad and attempted to move away from them midstream. Caleb was giggling in the tent as my confession had been heard by our neighbors, also laughing. All this commotion kept me from realizing the mosquitoes were still thirsty. I ran to the car to write this down and let Caleb sleep, but figured it could still be raining in an hour when the alarm went off, so I went to roll my things up.
Of course all my moving around woke the dogs that stepped all over Caleb in an attempt to escape. They like to pee first thing too. I put my bags away, saw a fox – happy to see it before dogs could chase it, and then let the dogs out while Caleb put his things away. While we were breaking down the tent I saw a bat and am realizing that the best time to see wildlife is while everyone else is asleep. We see a lot of frogs on the road on our way into Ignace – we are going to need some coffee this early in the morning and luckily truckers keep this gas station going throughout the night.
Did I just see a wolf? There is no questioning it. I know you are supposed to give them space and I can guarantee that I won’t get out of the car, but I might crack the window. I don’t have the time. This wolf knows all about reversing cars and that I’m about to shoot him with a canon. He’s gone and so is my morning momentum. Sleep was little to none and I’m ready for a nap before crossing over 90 degrees longitude west and into the Eastern Standard Time Zone where we will lose another hour. Good thing we got a head start this morning.
Feeling refreshed, an hour later, we are back on the road. Our first stop – Kakabeka Falls – like caca, the reference to poo. Ha ha, the ten-year old in me chuckled as I found a parking spot in the large, mostly empty, lot. We can hear the rush of water as we make our way down the wooden steps to the wide viewing platform. In front of us is a railroad track built over the Kaministiquia River flowing through a variety of green trees and over smoothed rocks showing its gold-brown-yellow-copper qualities before falling behind a wall of white tumultuous water before cascading quickly out of sight.
Somewhere near Enterprise Bay on Lake Superior we stop to get our first touch. We agree we should’ve stopped sooner – 40 minutes is too long, and yet, even here we are stopped by a man and his dog. I guess it’s his turn for community watch. He tells us to park on the side of the road, leave the dogs in the car, and make our way down this street (as he points). He has to keep track of visitors as most of this area is private property and the tiny stretch we’re allowed on only fits so many people at once.
No one heard me complain. The Great Lakes have for my entire life been something in fairy tales and history books and now I’m getting the chance to see one of the H.O.M.E.S. Lakes for myself – out of my way. At the cul-de-sac are two paths. We stay to the right, past some trees and flowers, and there it is – sand, a pool of water, a sandbar, and the lakes little waves lapping on the shore. In the distance are peninsulas and islands of Canada. I’m so grateful to be able to appreciate this place for what it is – not just some slut bath for fish, but a place of history, a suburban settlement, and a memory for Caleb and I versus nine years ago when Lake Michigan just meant freedom from work, watch, and training.
What’s next – more water! We are graciously provided with another hour or more of lake views before our next falls destination – Rainbow Falls – along the most scenic of the park’s trails. The trail is mostly wooden steps with some ‘holes’ in the railings to allow you a closer look at the river. This hot day and cool looking water have us in an extra upbeat mood and the few ‘old’ people (they acted that way) made it obvious they were getting out of our way as we skipped, joked, and photographed about the boardwalk. We came to a spot where I thought about getting in, but the fast water and sharp rocks had my mind made up for me.
This park, over two square miles, surrounded by water was sure to have another swimming opportunity – and we found it. I told Caleb not to worry about drying his undies later if we went skinny dipping now. Luckily I only had my shoes off when Caleb brought towels and a couple in conversation along. They gauged what was happening and wished us well. I was ready to go. The ‘pool’ was in the sun and there were big rocks and sticks easy to see at the bottom so I wouldn’t cut my feet. Caleb was enjoying the view and untying his shoes when he realized the kayak closing in on our location.
The other side of the park is for camping and fishing and kayak rentals. I didn’t wait to see their faces clearly before I was out of the water and putting my dry clothes on my wet body. I didn’t want to know if they had brought a zoom lens with them. It’s one thing to talk about swimming in the nude. It’s another to have pictures of said activity posted to the internet. And for a moment it felt like we had the park to ourselves. On the way back to the car another couple was making their way to the water. Maybe next time.
We are suckers for waterfalls and are easily tricked into thinking we will get a decent view at Neys Provincial Park of Aquasabon Falls. The other viewpoint is under construction so we get to enjoy the depth of the gorge formed by the gush of water obstructed by trees. South along the shore are trails leading to other parts of the lake at Pukaskwa National Park. There is a tiny parking lot and the only person inside in uniform doesn’t know where the stamp is as she is supposed to be at the front booth charging entry fees. I don’t mind getting in for free. Thanks.
We take the trail from the lot, through the campgrounds, to the beach where piles of driftwood are washing up on shore. The park is pretty, but without a map we have no idea how long the trails are, so we enjoy the greens, browns, yellows, reds, and blues before a ravenous mother spider jumps out at us and threatens to feed us to her children. We don’t need to be told twice. It is lunch time and we should be finding something to eat too. We head back to the town of Marathon for a bag of lettuce and call it a salad.
We enter the town of White River and turn around to get a picture of the sign ‘Where It All Began, Winnie-The-Pooh’. It turns out a cub was brought to town in 1914 and went to London with its owner, that bought her for $20, that would be seen by a little boy in the zoo and become the namesake of his teddy bear at home and his father’s famous stories, and the only Latin version to be featured on the New York Times Best Seller list in 1960. Winnie died in 1934, but Pooh went on to inspire philosophers and the Soviet Union to make their own adaptation – different looking characters, but sticks more to the original story than Disney did.
Unbeknownst to us, Pooh is remembered on the third weekend of August annually in White River at a festival to commemorate the cub that gave life to a story that would be shared around the world. There are different themes each year with a parade, trade show and karaoke. The story also inspired a game, the World Poohsticks Championships since 1984, based on dropping sticks over a bridge on one side and seeing whose makes it to the other side first – the power of pop culture. And without knowing where to go – we leave.
We stop in Wawa to see the giant goose – it has done its job. It was unveiled in 1960 to attract tourists while traveling along the Trans-Canada Highway thanks to Al Turcott for the idea. He was worried at one point that the road wouldn’t be built through the city, but left plenty of reasons to visit including a small church made of glass bottles, and he is still there – buried next to his fort overlooking the Michipicoten River. Also at the visitor center is an information board with tiki posts, bright flowers, and a commanding view.
Deep, far down, through the depths of Lake Superior Provincial Park and out to the other side we approach a dangerous area with slippery rocks, high rogue waves, innocent looking chipmunks, and narrow gorges to see the Agawa rock of the Ojibwe people. Or so we thought. In order to do that one must be a good swimmer and not scared of a few sharp rocks, some cold waves and holding on to ropes and chains to support your weight while you venture further out in hopes to capture a picture that some one painted over 2,000 years ago and that was rediscovered by Selwyn Dewdney in 1958.
Caleb was brave enough to make it to the first rope (that you grab until you can reach the second and so forth) and stick his hand out, point his camera at the rock, and hope that it captured some of the ochre still persisting today through wind, water, and sun. We thought a man might venture out alone, dangerous and stupid, but the lady he was with wouldn’t give him the chance. She wouldn’t leave the parking lot after seeing the sign for an animal with crested back and horned head 400 meters in the direction her man had disappeared. She stood there shouting his name until his return.
Not far from where we are is a campground with safer access to the water and a nice pebble beach to sink our feet into. Of course to stay we have to make our way through their maze. We find an empty spot, but before we can claim it a park ranger says we need to check with the office as it could be taken, by phone, and not yet marked for reservation. Well it’s a good thing we didn’t take either of the two spots near the beach that we saw available because we ended up getting another that we hadn’t noticed. Note: don’t walk barefoot around a site that you haven’t checked for the previous camper’s tent stakes.
This evening’s lakeside accommodations will cost us $42, the price of traveling without reservations or prior knowledge of what our plans are going to be except drive east, watch sunrise in Maine, drive home. And at this hour we had the option to watch the sun set behind clouds or drive into the darkness and hope that the next park almost an hour away had camping available. We opted for site 229 and with shoes off and cameras in hand headed towards the beach, with mosquitoes, to enjoy the evening as it seemed another couple further down was also doing.