Pukaskwa National Park lies on the beautiful north shore of Lake Superior just east of my camp at Penn Lake in Marathon, Ontario. I wanted to visit the suspension bridge over the White River so I hit the trail about 10am. The trail starts out nice and inviting and winds through forest and across a huge marsh, where the park service has installed a floating boardwalk to help hikers across. It would be a long hike around this beautiful marsh, plus the floating wood was cool to walk across.
The friendly trail changes it’s spots pretty quickly as it winds it’s way through the riparian landscape. The trail bed changes almost constantly, from soft loamy soil to tree root twisting paths to knee crunching rocky outposts to boggy mud. It’s not an easy trail but it is always interesting. Beautiful scenery the few times the trail exposes from underneath the forest canopy. Under the canopy it’s a robust mix of ferns, berry bushes (hmmmm) and streams. The 9 kilometer trek with temps in the teens took me right at three hours to reach the bridge.
O.M.G. The bridge and the gorge it spans are nothing short of spectacular. Worth every step to get here. I could’ve stood mid-span for hours. God’s creativity is on major display in this special place. I know He liked my smile as I took in His creative work.
After a lunch/snack break, I started heading back to the park visitor center. My knee was starting to nag at me so I slowed down to accommodate the little bitch. About 7 kilometers into the return hike a couple from Wisconsin caught up to me. Ed & Marybeth passed me in a downhill section and then, next thing I knew, they had turned and were running back toward me.
“BEAR! HUGE BEAR!” was what I heard. Marybeth’s face told the story even better: downright scared. Ed was right behind her, majorly concerned that the bear had turned and was coming toward them. We huddled together to make a bigger target and made lots of noise. Decided to wait for more hikers coming back out of the woods to join us for an even bigger party threat. About 15 minutes later locals Josh & Emily and their German Pointer came upon us. Josh let the dog off the leash to run ahead and we all set out following the fearless dog, making noise and Emily ringing her bear bell. I was super glad I had met up with my new trail friends at the right time. Security in numbers. And, they are great, friendly people. I’m getting used to that up here!
Never saw the bear again but our eyes & ears were on alert and the dog, running around through the bushes gave Marybeth a start or two (but she didn’t scream like a little girl, lol). We had about two kilometers to go and made good progress, despite both my boots trying to toss their treads. Dang it. I like those boots. Being on the road might make it difficult to get them resoled. Anyway, by the time we got back to the visitor center my dogs and my knee were screaming at me. I drove back to the campsite in Marathon, took a loooong shower in the park shower (I knew I wanted more than six gallons of hot water), threw a steak on the grill, opened a bottle of Casa Nuestra Cabernet Franc, and in a little time, with feet up in the recliner, I nodded…