Superior Road Trip - Part III

North of the Soo

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The 4,860 mile / 7,821 km Trans-Canada Highway zigzags north of Sault Ste Marie hugging the coast of gitchi-gami (Ojibwe phonetics) known as Lake Superior (Great Sea).

Chippewa Falls marks the halfway point on the Trans-Can. Group of Seven painter J.E.H. MacDonald painted the falls in his early years. It's a nice stop to clamber over the rocks beside the river. Here you'll find one of nearly 2 dozen easels displaying Group of Seven paintings around the Algoma region.

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Further up the highway the O'Connor family Voyageurs Lodge and Cookhouse is the spot for lunch. In the late 1700s voyageurs of the Northwest fur Trading Company, headquartered in Montréal, would set up camp here at Batchawana Bay after a typical 14-hour day of arduous paddling. 

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Arriving by car is a lot easier, though each year re-enactors paddle the 300+ miles / 400+ km from Thunder Bay (formerly Fort William). I saluted the original voyageurs and them with my dessert.

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A basket of Alaskan Klee Kai pups brought into the general store drew instant attention.

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Nineteen miles / 30 km offshore from Batchawana Bay lies the sunken Edmund Fitzgerald ore carrier. It went down with all 29 crew members in a Nov. 9, 1975 gale, one of many boats to disappear over the years in these unpredictable waters. Gordon Lightfoot wrote a haunting song about the tragedy.

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The Visitor Centre at Lake Superior Provincial Park has displays about the lake region and human history. Artist Lucie Gagnon is mentioned (see Part II of this story) and there's a 3-wheeled hand cart known as a velocipede (no, that's not a tropical spider) used by the G-7 painters to travel the Algoma Central Railway. Good luck trying that today. Be sure to check out the pictographs on nearby cliffs before leaving.

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Katharine's Cove and Old Woman's Cove are favourite locations to walk or swim in the lake.

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No one forgets the big Canada Goose at the Wawa Visitor Centre. I enlisted the help of a woman who walked by with a hula hoop to entice the bird to fly through. Didn't work.

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The Wawa Motor Inn also has its own goose. (They do tend to multiply.) We had a late supper in the ballroom-size dining room with its 27-foot high fireplace and slept soundly in the quiet of the countryside. 

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Next day's goal was to view Pic Island just offshore further north in Neys Provincial Park. It was painted by Group of Seven artist Lawren Harris in his signature abstract style. We drove to Marathon (the name inversely describes the community), checked into the modern, spartan, ultra clean Marathon Harbour Inn and with instructions in hand, drove a short distance up the highway to the trailhead.

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The uphill hike from the carpark is a 9 km return taking approximately 3.5 hours. The view was spectacular, even in the late afternoon haze. Knowing that Lawren had taken poetic licence with his painting, I sought another  interpretation. New tree growth restricted our view somewhat, so I opted for a telephoto image to avoid those obstructions. Here's a

de-hazed rendering.

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We snacked while admiring the view from a small gazebo (!) beside one of the Group of Seven easels, offered tobacco as traditional native respect for nature's beauty, picked up some trash, signed the trail log and started back down, feeling totally elated.

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With a schedule to keep, we headed inland the following day to the Chapleau region, stopping and photographing, well, non-stop. Shortly before dinner we arrived at our destination. Wakomata Shores Resort is a good old-fashion family-friendly fishing retreat with a pride of ownership and meals that are a gustatory cut above. And the sunrises are gorgeous.

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Our final delight was seeing the Mississagi River separate into streams that altogether create Aubrey Falls which then roars through a deep canyon. An upstream dam carefully regulates the flow to preserve the natural beauty in the provincial park.

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Along the short trail to the falls we met Michigan hikers Michael and Debbie Esposito with their Labrapoodle “Solo” at an easel describing a much earlier Tom Thomson canoe trip down the river.

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Meanwhile, back in Sault Ste. Marie a replica of the red boxcar used by the Group of Seven along the Algoma Central Railway now sits at the original canoe lock and historic paper mill by the St. Mary's River. 

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Photo illustration.

Photos, text and design 

© Gary Crallé 2019 

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