Pukaskwa

WhiteRiverTrail
WhiteRiverTrail

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.

Check out a video of crossing the White River Suspension Bridge

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…

To the Soo

Took me seven hours to drive 247 miles, at 90 kph (55 mph). That’s ’cause I stopped several times to check out beaches, rivers, lake views, and the informative Lake Superior Provincial Park visitor center. Another beautiful drive that alternated between following the shoreline and heading inland. Tons of small lakes, meadows, rivers, forests. There’s a lot of water flowing into Lake Superior. I guess there hasta be: it’s a huge body of strikingly clear water.

About 3pm I arrived at the KOA in “The Soo”. I’d completed my circle tour of the big lake. At a leisurely pace I spent two weeks from Tahquamenon Falls near Whitefish Point through Duluth at the west end of the lake, Thunder Bay, Marathon and into the Lock City to arrive at the east end of the lake. Very cool.

The campground thankfully has a high pressure RV wash so I washed the bugs outta B’s teeth. Dang, the old gal was a lil scuzzy! Cost me $14 to clean her up. Beats the $200 mobile wash services wanna get. That ain’t happening.

I’m hanging in The Soo until Friday, when I’ll head north & east toward Montreal, Quebec and beyond. Having fun! Not enjoying the Canadian fuel prices but I’m this far so no holding back now!

The U. P.

Pretty incredible U.P. here! Driving across the high & long Mackinaw Straits suspension bridge, I finally moved out of Michigan’s S.P. (or is it L.P.?) and continued northbound through forests toward Tahquamenon Falls. I impressed the campsite neighbors with my trailer backing maneuvers getting the trailer onto an un-level pretty tight, overall crappy site.

Decided to check out Lower Falls since the mile long trail left right from my site. I see what the fuss is all about. The Lower Falls are quite pretty, despite lotsa people wading and whoknowswhating in them. They say the water is stained by the tannins in the forest…

The less-than-strenuous hike rewarded me with a trip to the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery. More on that in my U.P. Breweries post tomorrow (don’t let the suspension keep you awake!).

Upper Falls the next morning were also worth the visit. Bigger and more impressive, I guess, than the Lower Falls, they’re probably the attraction but I think I liked Lower Falls a little bit more. Also checked out the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. It was okay, unfortunately didn’t blow my skirt up. Worth the visit but pretty low-key.

Departed the Falls Friday and headed southwest to Fayette, a small historically restored town at the tip of a peninsula on the Lake Michigan side of Upper Land. Fayette was a key producer of pig iron back in the day. I had another tight space at Fayette Historic State Park and intruded on the neighbor to the back of me with a little bumper overhang into their lower elevation site. I think as long as I had my wheels chocked he was cool with it.

Fayette, being good for a day, I trekked back north to the Superior shore and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Much of the cross-peninsula drive was on Forest Service Highway 13.  I’m sure it makes a very nice snowmobile trail come winter!

Pictured Rocks is an expansive park that highlights the 100′ to 200′ cliffs along the shoreline. They’re pretty from above, but are stunning from a cruise boat as sunset approaches. Touristy cruise trip worth the $40 for sure. Good timing on that cruise too, as I was joining a 24-hour fast at 121CC and wasn’t eating until Sunday morning. So the tour took my mind off grilling wings.

Sunday was a blow-off day; just didn’t do much. Had a mediocre fish sandwich at Duck Pond Eatery & Beer Garden; enjoyed a couple ales there; then found a brewery in town to close out the afternoon. Monday I slept in (worn out from all the relaxing Sunday) then drove a few hours west to Lake Gogebic and my campsite on the water—my last night in the beautiful, fun state  of Michigan. I spent 31 nights in Michigan and could’ve gone another round. It’s a pretty state, summers are awesome!, towns are cool, people are great. Time to move on to eastern Canada!

Who Knu Duluth?

I enjoyed the three hour drive from Pictured Rocks across the U.P. through Marquette and into the hills of northern Wisconsin. But first, I dropped into Ore Dock Brewing Company in Marquette for lunch. Oops, they only have popcorn so they referred me to The Vierling Restaurant & Marquette Harbor Brewery. I had whitefish, which was ok, and a very good blueberry wheat. The beer tender at Ore Dock said they don’t make a blueberry wheat (very popular U.P. here) because Vierling, just down the street, does such a good job. I’ve maybe never given a wheat beer a 4 rating before.

Back at Ore Dock, I had a small Loose Juicy IPA and Reclamation IPA, both good. Then I saddled up again and continued onto Superior & Duluth. A couple beers at Thirsty Pagan Brewing and Earth Rider Brewery, another new favorite for its IPAs and Stouts served in a cool bar, separate from the production facility. I especially liked the Duluth Coffee Pale Ale and North Tower Coffee Stout. The Royal Bohemian Pilsner, which I started with, is a solid German style Pils. Easy Rider/Cedar Lounge is back across the bridge in Superior but probably worth a repeat visit, although there are a few places in Duluth I wanna drop by. Got settled into the city campground just west of town. Campfire and chicken wings, then it rained a good part of the early morning. High dropping from low 60s into the mid 50s. Summer, right? Welp, time to wash a load of musty clothes then get along into town, check out the highlights of Duluth! More later…

Coming to you now from Canal Park Brewing Co (yes, I write some of this stuff on my phone while enjoying a brew): I just finished visiting the Lake Superior Railroad Museum in the historic train depot downtown Duluth. Pretty cool. It’s a 15 minute walk from a couple breweries so that’s where you now find me having a yard bird sandwich and a pint or two. Good brewpub on the lakeshore at the end of the lake with a great patio on a summer day that doesn’t feel like when the gales of November come early!

On down the wave-sprayed lakefront on this 50s day I found the Lake Superior Maritime Museum, an interesting & informative service of the Army Corps of Engineers. Well done—and free!

Naturally, Hoops Brewing caught my eye on the way back to my truck. Lots of styles to choose from here but I settled for 10-ounces of the Keller Pils, the No. 48 IPA and their No. 88 Nitro Stout, each brew a 4-pointer.

No visit to Duluth would be complete without stopping in to Fitgers, an historic inn and the oldest brewery in Duluth. Very cool building! Interesting parking challenge, as I had to reverse my way through the ticket gate when the height of the garage wasn’t enough for me. Yep, I was that guy in traffic! Whatever, Fitgers has a good El Niño IPA.

Then finally, on my way back to camp I ducked outta the persistent drizzle into Bent Paddle Brewing Company for a couple dark ales: the traditional Black and the excellent Cold Press Black. Awesome flavor.

Duluth was an unexpected surprise; I really enjoyed the town and its attractions. Could’ve spent another day here. Thursday morning I finally got to washing the even mustier laundry then headed out to Grand Marais, about 30 minutes this side of our northern border. Spent just one night at the city campground, chilling and watching the Hall of Fame game at Voyageur Brewing. Wish I was staying longer, this is a cool village. But they’re having a huge festival this weekend and all lodging of any kind is spoken for. The lady at the city campground very graciously let me park in their ball field since I messed up on the date (was supposed to be here last night).

On the way up to Thunder Bay in the morning I stopped in quickly at Grand Portage National Monument (don’t come this far just for that, lol!). Followed by a slow, frustrating customs clearance. They wouldn’t allow me to bring a shotgun into the country unless I could prove I was going somewhere to hunt. So after a trailer cavity search they turned me around back to the U.S. to a nearby outpost that would ship the gun for me. The gun and a small knife with a quick release that was apparently quite threatening also is making the early return to Texas (Julie & Brad be on the lookout for a FedEx package in the next few days). And with that, this part of the trip is a wrap. It’ll be all eastern Canada until about the first week of September, now that I’m in-country. That’s the plan, anyway!

Thunder Bay to Marathon

Once the border guards decided I was no longer a threat to their fine land, I continued on to my campsite on the east end of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Isn’t that about the coolest name for a town?

Saturday I drove up to Kakabeka Falls, just 30 minutes away. They’re very attractive. Lots of tannins in the water and lots of water, even with the flow from the upstream dam reportedly low. Good side trip.

Back in TB, Sleeping Giant Brewing called. Very cool brewery—the kind I like. Just brewery. No restaurant. Just food truck, board games, folks hanging out. Had fun chatting with a friendly group of millennials. One of ’em had a wicked spin on the ping pong ball that kept bouncing off my shoulder, lol. I could’ve moved but the guy’s opponent just kept playing off the bounce. Pretty funny. Good group. After a couple good taster flights I left and spent the evening under the trailer awning as it rained—until the water started pooling and drove me inside. Where the fireplace was. Chill evening.

Sunday I was gonna check out Sleeping Bear Provincial Park but decided, since diesel is pushing $4 a gallon (US), to hit it on my way to Marathon Monday morning. Save a few miles. So I did some travel planning until 121cc came online for internet church. It’s not like being there but is better than nothing. But I really gotta stop cussing during church when the frisking network dies, as it does a lot in these parts.

Thunder Bay, population 108K, is woefully short on restaurants. Plenty of fast food crap but the best I could come up with for a sandwich was Appleby’s. Help me. After, I checked out Dawson Trail Brewery to wash down the anemic burger. Really small brewery with decent brews. I think the partly sunny day has the locals out on kayaks and canoes because there were just a few people even at Sleeping Giant.

I guess I had higher hopes for Thunder Bay because I booked three nights at the KOA. I’m ready to head out early for Marathon, my base for exploring Pukaskwa National Park the next couple days. Then I’ve got some serious driving ahead of me until I get to Montreal & Quebec. And after that the real extended driving starts 😀. Join me anytime!

Oh, by the way, don’t believe the Fake News media about our country’s reputation. I’ve been very welcome here. People are engaging, they’re glad (and a little impressed) I’m from Texas, they’re happy to share travel ideas, enjoy a campfire cocktail, just plain befriend another traveler. They’re proud of their country, as they should be. Very hospitable, friendly, enjoyable folks. Good times. Everyone, no exception, says I’m really gonna love the Maritime regions of Nova Scotia & (hopefully I get there) New Foundland. Headed that direction in the morning but it’s a couple weeks away . . . it’s a big country!

The Monday morning drive from Thunder Bay to Marathon was gorgeous! One of the most enjoyable roads ever. Tons of yellow, white & purple wildflowers, meadows, forests, lakes, rivers, beautifully colored rocks, vistas of Lake Superior. Really, a truly wonderful road!