We were back on the road, and not just any road! Ever since we talked to locals in Ontario about crossing Canada they talked about highway 17. We turned onto the 17 soon after we left Manitoulin island and the first stretch led us by the edge of Lake Huron, a scenic up and down drive cut through rock and overlooking the water.
We were on our way to the first city on route, Sault Ste Marie a city divided by the Canadian, American border. The border was the St. Marie river, the only water connection between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. The cities in this part of Canada are a bit sad without lots of things that we were drawn to. We slept the night at Walmart and when we woke up a gentleman came over to talk to us and advised us to go for a little walk just on the other side of the road. When we got to the other side of the road there was a small National park, a small historic site with a lock system.
Behind the lock system there was a swampy area with some trails leading over boardwalks to see water views and ended at the river that was the border. On the trail were lots of informative signs showing native live but above that told us about how this land was prime fishing and gathering land for the native people. This area was taken by the settlers and heavily exploited before the native people fought to get it back, the signs told a story what people are not telling us about the natives that were forced of their land in terrible ways. We would see and read more about this travelling deeper into Canada.
We got back onto the 17 to get to Lake Superior Provincial Park, it was already past midday when we hit the road but our next destination was not far away. Right before getting into the park there was a small gravel road on the left side of the road, we drive reaaaaly fast so we almost missed it but it was to promising to pass up on. We turned around to check out this road because in between the lake and the road was only a small patch of land. We couldn’t believe our luck, after a steep drop the area flattened out in between the trees. The gravel road led to several small sites with natural fire pits after what seemed to be the last spot the road was swept away by water exposing bigger boulders and rocks. The washway led to an amazing spot overlooking the lake through the leaves of trees and bushes. This was THE spot but there was no way the van could drive that steep washed out track, or could it? We decided to go for it and slowly rolled and tumbled the van over the boulders into this amazing spot, getting back out was trouble for tomorrow, for today this was the best.
We parked the van without considering if we parked it in the best angle to sleep the night and jumped right out of the van to explore. Through an opening between the trees another washed out foot trail led us climbing down to what we thought was a beach but was more like a collection of rounded off boulders in every colour and size imaginable. After walking about 50 meters a river came out of the treeline, rushing in between the boulders and pebbles it made its way into the lake. This place was amazing and we were super excited to be in a spot like this and above all sleep right here.
We had dinner on the beach before turning in for the night. Waking up the next morning we still couldn’t believe where we were, but in the back of my mind I started to wander about how the hell we were going to get out of this spot. After we set the camera to film our smooth crawl out of this amazing the van pulled out of the spot withour a hick-ip. It was a bit of an anti-climax but the van didn’t have any trouble crawling over the boulder right up the higher flat area. The steep incline and the rocking motion while tumbling over the boulders threw our dirty dishes all over the van but that was all. We rolled back onto the 17 to get into the State Park.
In the Park we planned to do some hiking, it was a wet day with rain on and off but we were excited to get into nature and look for wildlife again. We always want to see moose and bears and we were adviced to do a hike around a lake that was regularly visited by moose. The lake was a bit foggy and the trail wiggled in between the trees to and from the water, sometimes little streams came down the moss covered almost vertical rocks and it made the trail soggy at some places. When we would stop to listen for any sounds we noticed it was dead still around us, no cars, no birds or wildlife, but of course every now and then in these surrounding we could swear we saw a moose! Besides a some green frogs we did not see any wildlife but the scenery was amazing.
We drove further into the park to go on our second hike of the day. This hike was soaking wet, the trails were small creeks because of the rain and big puddles formed at every dip in the trail, it gave the whole place a magic feeling. The area had big rock faces that somehow cracked and the trail led right through the cracks. Some cracks were all the way down to the lake and the rain water was rushing down through these cracks.
The main attraction on this hike was at the end of the trail. After some step stones we reached the lake that was accessible by crawling over big car sized boulders. The boulders were laying half in the water against a vertical rock face, after climbing the boulders some flat rock slats that seemed to be hanging against the rock face disappearing under the water in an angle that made it scary to walk on. A sign said many people drowned here, and ropes were bolted in place for an extra handhold while walking the rock slats. After 20 meters or so we saw what we came for, petroglyphs. At first sight they were not all that clear but after a while we spotted more and more drawings on the rocks. Most of them were of animals, some recognisable but some looking like strange dragons or aliens, pretty cool. They were all drawn with a dark red ochre colour and all in the same cartoonish style. Signs talking about the area and about the petroglyphs were clearly not written by the native community, we see signs like this more often and it seems like the local people don’t like how they are written. Sometimes the signs are in a passed sentence and people get offended and try to change the signs, a way of letting everybody know the native people and their culture are still around.
It was getting late when we returned from our second hike, and since we were in a State park we could not sleep right there. We drove out of the park and looked for the first place we could find so before long we pulled off to a little spot on the lake. This spot was also at a native reserve, an area of land close to the Michipicoten river on lake superior, at this spot there was also a sign telling about how the natives fought legal battles the get back their land. We pulled onto a small dirt road leading up to a small recreation area that had a small trial right on to a beach. It was a rainy day and we did not enjoy the beach much before getting back into the van for the night.
The next stop was Thunder Bay, a two day drive for us while the 17 took us on a detour away from Lake Superior. When we got back to the lake it was already time for us to find a place to stay so we drove down into another reserve over a gravel road that took us way further away from the highway than we thought it would, It was worth it because at the end of the road there was a bay with on the very end a beach that stretched for about 400 meters, the rest of the bay it was a red rock surface that dropped into the water sometimes in the form of big boulders and sometimes as flat waters worn surfaces. In the middle of the bay there was a small boat anchored and far in the distance small tree covered islands draw our gaze onto the main Lake Superior. We slept a good night at this spot and in the morning I took Paco for a walk. When I got to the small beach Paco and me had to climb over a massive amount of driftwood, sizes from small branches up to enormous trees. While walking on the beach we noticed little streams cutting their ever changing small little canyons to get to the lake. Walking the rocky shoreline a female merganser and her ducklings hurried into the safety of the water. While I sat there watching them I felt really good about how life was at that moment, and now back on the road to get to Thunder Bay.