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!

Voyager Jusqu’à Montréal & Quebec City

After looking at many options including visiting Manitoulin Island and Algonquin Provincial Park, I decided to play the next stage by ear. Time to move on from the Great Lakes. I broke camp early in The Soo and headed east, continuing on the Trans Canada Highway. Once out of Sault Ste Marie the beautiful drive continued through forests, across meadows, beside the Serpent River and eventually wound through Sudbury and North Bay toward the Ottawa Valley. In Whanapitae I pulled into a fuel station—a gas bar as they call ’em here—since I caught the surprisingly low price of $1.27 per liter of diesel out of the corner of my eye. And it came with a friendly old guy doing the pumping. Took the opportunity to grab a wrap at Subway and send Julie a happy birthday text. I was enjoying the drive so I checked the distance to Montreal and decided to go for it: a seven hour run. It was a good call because, even though the countryside was still quite pretty, it started to kinda look the same and, unless I was going canoeing in the provincial park, there wasn’t much more to see or do. The last hour of my twelve-hour trip was long but not grueling. A toll operator at the St. Lawrence River toll bridge welcomed me to Montreal and waived the toll! Have I mentioned the friendly people? It was a long day on the road: Twelve hours, 616 miles/986 kilometers. I checked into the KOA for four nights, ready to check out the city of Montreal and spend a day or two knocking around town.

My first full day I roamed around Old Town and Old Port, taking in sights, smells and sounds. I generally love the older parts of a city and Montreal was no exception. Really a cool place where language is not an issue, as most restaurant and pub employees speak perfect English—about 57% of the city population is at least bi-lingual, if not able to speak three languages. As Americans, we  suck at that.

By the way, Siri did a superb job getting me from the KOA to the metro station 15 miles away at Longuieul. Seems every major road in Montreal is under construction and since the road signs were little more than an undecipherable jumble of letters, Siri got me around and through the construction detours. It was a time I really loved the little B in the Box.

My wanderings took me through a couple microbreweries, both pretty cool places. Had french fries in the first pub; seemed like the thing to do… It surprised me how fast the time went and I headed back to camp before it got too dark; just didn’t want to chance the myriad detours at night solo. But the next day after “attending” trailer church I headed back to the city and, yes, hopped on and off one of those London-style double decker buses. Never done that before and I gotta say, it was actually pretty cool. Beautiful day sitting up-top and the guides were very informative and entertaining. A solid $52 Canadian bucks spent. Beautiful city.

Montreal

Monday I just putzed around camp, took care of a few cleaning and maintenance issues and got more coffee at Costco just a few miles away. Felt like home!

Yikes!
Yikes!

Tuesday I headed north for the short drive to Quebec City. Fairly unremarkable drive on an interstate-like highway. When I was setting up at the KOA I noticed one of my four trailer tires was down to no tread in spots. (I’d had to stand on the brakes way back on I-20 in East Texas in May and knew I’d left some rubber scars on the highway but it still mystifies me why only one tire took the hit.) Tried to change it myself but turns out I didn’t have a cross wrench that fit and I could not budge the lugs; the large wrench for my truck is 7/8″ while the trailer lugs are 3/4″. So I put my AAA membership work for me. Less than an hour later, the spare was on and the bad tire & wheel were in my truck bed. In the morning I visited a tire shop a kilometer from the campground and in less than ten minutes (but $160 in Canadian money) later I had a new tire on the primary rim. I’d switch the spare and primary myself because I went and got a cross wrench at a local Napa shop. Bad call. More on that later.

After the tire shop visit I joined a group going into the city on a shuttle. I dunno… Quebec City just didn’t blow my skirt up like Montreal did. Sure, the cobblestone streets are cool and the boardwalk is cool and the citadel is impressive. I guess I was just off my feed thanks to the tire hassle and rain that caught me walking between brew pubs. Nice enough City, but I was ready to move on. So… when I got back to camp I set about swapping the wheels.

Quebec City

Bad call. I guess a grain of sand got inside a lug nut and I guess the lugs are pretty soft stuff. I managed to strip not just the lug nut but the stud too, dammit. Got the wheel mounted but with just 5 of the 6 lugs in place. In the morning on my out out of town I stopped by the tire shop and the friendly guy there (the kid who spoke English) tried to get that lug back in business but just didn’t have the tools. He thought the stud would need to be replaced but said I’d be good to roll on just the five secured studs. So I rolled on.

But, dammit, I wasn’t comfortable. Every time I looked in the mirror I thought I saw a wobble or anytime I felt a minor movement by the trailer I was sure the damn wheel was launching. So, for peace of mind I stopped into another tire shop in a town a couple hours north. They couldn’t fit me in but recommended a local RV shop. Instead, I searched up an RV shop closer to my destination, just 30 minutes away. They couldn’t help either, but sent me to a really small one-man garage in the village of Saint Simon. I was willing to give it a shot. I wanted resolution.

The owner mechanic, Guillaume Quellet—William in English—speaks perfect French. I speak (when I wish to!) perfect English. So after some pointing and nodding and smiling he quickly set to work. I love this guy! He re-threaded the stud, drove 20 minutes away to buy a new lug nut (plus a couple spares) and within 90 minutes I was securely on my way for probably 1/4 what an RV shop visit wudda cost. I tipped him two beers worth. I suppose I shouldn’t have mentioned that Guillaume is the French equivalent of my middle name and my dad’s name because that took more pointing and gesturing. Kinda funny.Anyway, he’d made a few unexpected bucks cash and I was happy and securely on my way again. Have I mentioned how friendly the people are? Truly loving Canada!

Aside from the mechanical faux pas, the drive was very nice through verdant fields with great views of the Saint Lawrence River. From what I understand the drive tomorrow to Gaspé is even better. So now, sitting atop a hill looking at other hills and the lake below, with a campfire holding off the evening chill, I’m wrapping up this post. I’ve got another day in the province, six hours northeast on the top of the peninsula followed by six hours back south to Bathurst, New Brunswick. Then looking forward to Prince Edward Island. Talk to you soon!

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!