Ontario Part 1: July 1 - July 7
1 - Rest day in Thunder Bay
city itself is not the main attraction in this region – the
landscape is pretty stunning! We are staying at a place a bit out of
town with a spectacular view of these mountains that are nearby. The
sheer cliffs are pretty amazing. Today, our rest day, is sunny
(though still chilly) and we spent some time exploring the area. Very
nice – and from what I hear it is going to be pretty spectacular
all the way from here to Sault Ste. Marie. And hilly too! I am
looking forward to it.
on Lake Superior
Cheryl again. After several days with a lot of rain, it's nice to see
the sun again. But northern Ontario was surprisingly pretty--so many
times I've heard it said that there is "nothing" out here.
Not so! No strip malls or cities, true, but there is plenty to see.
The trees and lakes are reminiscent of B.C., but everything is small.
It is like wandering into a storybook forest, Hansel and Gretel
territory. And it does feel awfully remote. I've been searching in
vain for a glimpse of the ghost of Tom Thomson, because I'm sure he
is haunting these woods. I also haven't seen a moose yet--sigh--but
the wildflowers make up for it. Even the insects are coloured like
unsettled weather is not as discouraging as I would have expected.
Every day is a little different, and every morning brings a change,
for better or worse. Whatever happened last week seems worlds away.
Chris and I have developed some new skills, too. We are now
remorseless mosquito-killing machines, and experts at running,
hopping and scrambling out of the bug-infested woods of northern
Ontario after those inevitable "rest stops." Yes, it's the
quintessential Canadian comedy moment. I'm sure those passing
truckers have seen it all before.
wasn't until we left the prairies that both of us started to feel
this was real, and now that we have made some progress we both feel
more relaxed and able to enjoy the strangeness of it all. A sense of
humour is essential at times, as well as the ability to notice and
appreciate the details all around you. Of course, some times that
means noticing which gas stations have the really good paper-towel
dispensers, and how the Smitty's breakfast skillet differs ever so
slightly from province to province. Hey, if you just spent a year
studying literary theory like I did, you'd understand why this is so
appealing to me.
the fireworks are starting in Thunder Bay. Happy Canada Day everyone!
glimpse of Lake Superior!
got our first view of the Great Lakes today...Lake Superior, the
largest freshwater lake in the world! It’s cool to see water
stretching away to the horizon once again.
lived close to Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence river for a long
time, and spent time camping on the Great Lakes many years ago (like
30 or so!). The semi-familiarity is starting to help put our progress
to date in perspective. We passed the 3000km mark a few days ago, and
we should pass the halfway point of the trip sometime this coming
in Thunder Bay on Canada Day
we have had a lot of bad weather, we have been lucky for most of our
rest days and today was no exception. The best weather day we've had
in a while. Being July 1st, all the stores here are closed...once
again! However, we are getting very good at taking it easy on the
rest days. It is a welcome break to what has become our unusual
routine. I try to take it easy, rest the legs, and eat a few extra
meals, while Cheryl usually gets some excellent exercise hiking the
local trails or else finds a fitness centre!
log: 102.5km, 554m of vertical, avg. speed 30.8 km/hr
2 – Thunder Bay to Nipigon
short ride today, but once again there is not too much option of
places to stay. The next place along (Rainbow Falls Provincial Park)
looked to be a good 70km, and from what I hear the hills start about
here. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the provincial parks are all
full this long weekend. It won’t be a problem finding places to
stay along the north shore of Lake Superior this week, but I think
some days are going to be shorter. Although I do remember what
happened last time I said that – rain and headwinds for the next
week! But if all goes OK we should hit Sault Ste. Marie in 5 or 6
You know you are in Northern Ontario when you see signs like this. I have no idea what it meant.
ride was pretty flat today, although the condition of the shoulder
kept me awake! It was not in good shape at all in quite a few places.
Fortunately, this is the Saturday of a long weekend so the traffic
was relatively light. In heavy traffic, there would be a number of
places in this stretch that would have required riding on the gravel.
stretch of highway that we traveled today passes a monument to Terry
Fox (his trip ended at Thunder Bay), and the highway is named the
Terry Fox Courage Highway in his honour. Ironically, pedestrians and
cyclists are barred from portions of it near Thunder Bay. Or perhaps
it is meant out of respect to his incredible achievement, I don’t
know. Thunder Bay is not a bike friendly city, and I found that the
drivers here are pretty bad – I have seen 2 instances of cars
passing other cars on the inside by driving on the shoulder! I did
manage to find a nice way out of town (follow Hudson to Arundel to
Strathcona) that bypassed a good 20-25km of the highway. Nice!
near our campsite in Nipigon
again, the land around the campground is stunning. Little streams and
lakes are everywhere, as well as great views of Lake Superior!
met a guy from Squamish BC today who is riding to Owen Sound. He knew
the smoking cyclist that I passed a few days ago, and had spent some
time with him. He is from Timmins, ON, and he is riding from Tofino
BC to his home. Apparently he has done lots of long distance cycling
– something like 17,000km over the last several years. He goes
about 70km per day, and stays in motels and mostly eats at
thing that I have learned on this trip is that there are as many ways
to do long distance cycling as there are people. Everything from
route selection, daily distances and riding speeds, sleeping
arrangements, food, and choice of trip partners (or not) is up in the
air. And now it is offered it in smoking or non-smoking too! I think
that anyone can do something like this, you just need to figure out
what is within your physical abilities, and then be prepared to deal
with everything you haven’t thought of or is beyond your control!
Sunday, July 3
Bike log: 110.3 km, 1032m of
vertical, avg. speed 24.6km/hr
3 – Nipigon to Terrace Bay
sure jinxed things yesterday by predicting some short rides! I think
that today had the heaviest sustained rain I’ve experienced while
riding on this trip. It rained solid for the first 2 and a half hours
of the ride. My old friend, Mr. Headwind, was also along today for
fun, and to top it off it was COLD! The only way this could make
sense is if we are in the southern hemisphere or something, where
July is the middle of winter. It was probably around 12 degrees for a
good portion of the day – which made stopping for more than a
couple of minutes pretty unpleasant. There was also lightning for an
hour or so. I reassured myself that only people out doing something
stupid – like riding through mountains or something – were
actually struck by lightning…
are staying in a private campground near Agusabon Falls in Terrace
Bay. It was not listed in any of our camping guides, but it’s here!
We hiked up to the falls (where this photo was taken). Well worth the
10 minute walk.
with a fellow rider
met a guy today (Jordan) who is riding from Vancouver to Quebec City.
He is staying in the same campsite as us. Sounds like his plans for
tomorrow are similar to ours, I’ll probably be seeing him again on
the road. I saw the fellow from Squamish today a couple of times (he
stopped in the same café in Rossport). This stretch of road is
a concentrator for cyclists – not too many alternate routes around
here, unless you take the north route through Kapuskasing at Nipigon.
Then you really head into the wilderness!
is a very neat little town – definitely worth the detour (it is on
a loop actually, so it is not out of the way). We had a great lunch
at a little café there. From the back of the menu, we learned
that Rossport used to be a fishing village, but there is no more
fishing due to the “depredation of the Moray Eel.” Not sure what
that means. But you get the feeling that you’ve entered an episode
of The Beachcombers when you enter town.
had to change clothes completely when we stopped for lunch in
Rossport. It was dry for the rest of the day, and the sun even
started to come out – after I stopped riding. However, once the
rain stopped we got some really fantastic views of Lake Superior. The
scenery is quite reminiscent of Vancouver Island – I have to keep
reminding myself where we are. The hills have indeed started up,
although nothing major yet. My GPS trip log showed that I cracked the
1000m of vertical mark today, first time since leaving BC.
Fortunately, the shoulder has improved considerably since passing
Nipigon. Riding a treacherous shoulder in the rain is not fun at all.
was trying to take a nice photo of me next to these unique trees when
I was nearly burned by the sparks shooting off the sled of a guy
going down this otherwise peaceful road. What a lunatic!
log: 142.6 km, 1246m of vertical, avg. speed 27.9 km/h
4 –Terrace Bay to White Lake Provincial Park
was a great day in many ways. First of all, it didn’t rain,
although it was extremely foggy for the first couple of hours. The
sun came out for the last hour or so, and at the same time, the
headwind which I had been going into all day turned into a tailwind.
Secondly, the scenery was truly spectacular all along the way. Lots
of great views of Lake Superior, lots of small lakes, cliffs,
forests, cool bridges and rock cuts for the train – just about
everything you could ask for. The fog obscured some of the view, but
also gave a really interesting look to some of the forests, small
lakes, and streams. And finally, it was great to be back into some
hills! There was quite a bit of up and down today, very reminiscent
of the roads back home on Vancouver Island, though the hills were a
bit shorter – probably nothing more than 120m vertical. Still, it
was enough to get the heart rate up, and the downhills were a blast!
Oh yeah - the shoulder was very good the whole day too!
cyclist I met yesterday, Jordan, did the same route I did today, but
with panniers. A very good workout. He broke a spoke about halfway
along, and I helped him to repair it. We were lucky that we could
replace it without removing the gear cluster – we had to bend the
spoke a bit but it straightened out when we tightened it up. This
would be a bad place to get a serious bike problem – the towns are
few and far between! We only went through 1 town today (Marathon),
and looks like the next couple of days will be similar.
Relaxing at the Lake
provincial park we are staying at is really nice. Inexplicably, there
are very few bugs! We were really worried that the flies would be
terrible here in Northern Ontario, but so far we have been lucky.
Maybe the cold, windy, and wet weather is keeping them down. Or they
may have all moved to Manitoba. This campground is a little ways off
Lake Superior, on a small lake. If it was just a bit warmer today I
would have been in there swimming – it looked inviting! From our
campsite, we can hear loons calling.
of Seven material!
fog was really cool - it helped make some of these places seem really
along Lake Superior
took lots of photos, they all were great views. It is hard to pick
any thing that stands out, but here is a sample.
many places where rock cuts and bridges for the train were visible.
The building of the railroad was an incredible undertaking!
Tuesday, July 5
log: 129.5km, 886m of vertical, avg. speed 27.9 km/h
July 5 –White Lake Provincial
Park to Wawa
pretty good day today – no rain once again! It’s been a while
since I’ve had two straight days with no rain, and the forecast is
for more sunshine. Wind was a mix of crosswind and headwind for most
of today, but due to the fact that the last hour or so was due south
it was partially a tailwind for the last part of the day. A nice way
to end it up.
passed through White River on the way here – the only town (or
village even) we went through all day. White River is “famous” as
the place where Winnie the Pooh got his start. He is still there,
Cheryl got a photo of me with him.
have started to head south (as opposed to east) towards Sault Ste.
Marie. We are now at the southern most point of our journey so far.
We are about 40km further south than Victoria! We will be dipping
down south another 450km or so in total as we pass into southern
Ontario in a week or so.
cyclist from Quebec, Jordan, once again did the same route as I did
today. He will be resting here, and then heading on, continuing east
to Ottawa as we go south across Manitoulin Island and into southern
Ontario. A couple of other cyclists just pulled into the campsite –
not sure which way they are headed or where they started! This is
definitely the most cycling traffic I’ve seen on the trip. As I
mentioned earlier it is probably due to the fact that there is not
much choice of roads between east and west – and this is probably
the most scenic one.
there are not many towns through here, there are lots of provincial
parks. We passed through Obatanga Provincial Park, about 50km past
White River – it also looked very pretty. Another very swimmable
lake. Today was warmer than yesterday, and if the trend continues I
think I’m going to be hitting some of these lakes!
is fantastic that there are so many parks along this route. With the
towns so sparse, it would be hard to figure out where to stop
Giant birds in Wawa!
was the 2nd largest bird sculpture in Wawa. There is a way bigger one
right near the highway but it required pulling off at an awkward
spot. I have no idea what the story is, we did not stop at the
Wednesday, July 6
log: 157.9 km, 1310m of vertical, avg. speed 28.4 km/h
6 –Wawa to Pancake Bay Provincial Park
was absolutely stunning! Once again, beautiful sunshine and not much
wind for the most part, and an excellent shoulder to ride on. And
what incredible scenery! We passed through Lake Superior Provincial
Park for a good portion of the trip.
Sandy Beaches everwhere!
It was one of those days where
you did not know where to point the camera, there were beaches,
coves, mountains, islands, and lake views everywhere. You could have
stopped every 10km at another viewpoint or park.
Not tidal pool
of it looked very familiar, similar to the landscape around Vancouver
Island. This place reminded me of all the tidal pools along
Vancouver Island. The deciduous trees give it a different flavour
spoke with the two other cyclists from the campground this morning,
both doing the cross-Canada trip. They met on the road and have been
riding together a bit. Today, one of them (Ryan) got up early and was
going for Sault Ste. Marie, which is about 235km! I think he made it
too, I passed him (I have no packs to carry) about 20km before I
stopped and he was going strong. The other cyclist (Andrew) also made
it to this campground tonight. I saw a few other cyclists today as
well, going both directions.
I realized that I would rather climb hills all day rather than fight
a headwind. It was pretty hilly, the third most vertical I’ve done
on the trip. The largest single climb was about 200m, but it was
almost always either going up or down. I really enjoyed it, it made
for a very interesting ride - always something different coming up.
And of course, for every uphill you always get to enjoy the downhill,
unlike fighting wind!
saw another moose today – my 2nd one of the trip. He was nosing
about in the ditch beside the highway when I came up to him. I think
I kind of spooked him, because he took off pretty fast towards the
woods when he looked up and saw me. I am glad he didn’t come my way
– he was big and fast. But he would not have been fast enough to
catch a cyclist who is fleeing for his life!
We went down to the beach for sunset. Very peaceful and quiet,
and the colours were fantastic. A great end to a spectacular day!