Back to Ontario Part 1

Ontario - Part 2

This page covers the bike trip from Thunder Bay to (nearly) Sault Ste Marie.

Total Days: 6
Pedaling Days: 5
Total Distance: 642.8 km
Total Vertical: 5,028m
Average Speed: 27.8 km/h

Route summary:   Not a lot of options!  Highway 17 the whole way.  The shoulder was really good almost everywhere, except for the stretch from Thunder Bay to Nipigon, which was getting repaved in a few places while I rode through. This stretch was pretty hilly. The hills were nowhere near as long as the bigger passes in BC, but they were quite steep and more frequent (constant ups and downs).  Still, I would rate the slogs that I did  through BC as tougher.  For this portion of the trip, as with the days in BC, I have included vertical graphs as recorded by my GPS.  Click on the link beside the "Bike Log" text for each day to see it.
Click on a day below, or scroll down to go through day by day.  Click on any image below to get a larger view.  Click here to go back to the trip index.

  1. Ontario Part 1: July 1 - July 7
    1. Friday, July 1
      1. July 1 - Rest day in Thunder Bay
      2. Sunshine on Lake Superior
      3. First glimpse of Lake Superior!
      4. Relaxing in Thunder Bay on Canada Day
    2. Saturday, July 2
      1. July 2 – Thunder Bay to Nipigon
      2. Barn sign
      3. Stream near our campsite in Nipigon
    3. Sunday, July 3
      1. July 3 – Nipigon to Terrace Bay
      2. Climbing with a fellow rider
      3. Rossport
      4. Stormy Superior
      5. Fair warning
    4. Monday, July 4
      1. July 4 –Terrace Bay to White Lake Provincial Park
      2. Relaxing at the Lake
      3. Group of Seven material!
      4. Views along Lake Superior
    5. Tuesday, July 5
      1. July 5 –White Lake Provincial Park to Wawa
      2. Giant birds in Wawa!
    6. Wednesday, July 6
      1. July 6 –Wawa to Pancake Bay Provincial Park
      2. Sandy Beaches everwhere!
      3. Not tidal pool
      4. Swimming at last!
      5. Dusky

Ontario Part 1: July 1 - July 7

Friday, July 1

July 1 - Rest day in Thunder Bay

The 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.

Sunshine on Lake Superior

It's 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 jewels.

The 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.

It 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.

Well, the fireworks are starting in Thunder Bay. Happy Canada Day everyone!

Love, Cheryl

First glimpse of Lake Superior!

We 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.

I 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 week.

Relaxing in Thunder Bay on Canada Day

Although 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!


Saturday, July 2

Bike log: 102.5km, 554m of vertical, avg. speed 30.8 km/hr

July 2 – Thunder Bay to Nipigon

A 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 days.

Barn sign

You know you are in Northern Ontario when you see signs like this.  I have no idea what it meant.

The 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.

This 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!

Stream near our campsite in Nipigon

Once again, the land around the campground is stunning. Little streams and lakes are everywhere, as well as great views of Lake Superior!

I 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 restaurants.

One 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

July 3 – Nipigon to Terrace Bay

I 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…

We 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.

Climbing with a fellow rider

I 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!


Rossport 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.

Stormy Superior

I 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.

Fair warning

Cheryl 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!


Monday, July 4

Bike log: 142.6 km, 1246m of vertical, avg. speed 27.9 km/h

July 4 –Terrace Bay to White Lake Provincial Park

Today 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!

The 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

The 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.

Group of Seven material!

The fog was really cool - it helped make some of these places seem really foreign.

Views along Lake Superior

We took lots of photos, they all were great views. It is hard to pick any thing that stands out, but here is a sample.

There many places where rock cuts and bridges for the train were visible. The building of the railroad was an incredible undertaking!


Tuesday, July 5

Bike log: 129.5km, 886m of vertical, avg. speed 27.9 km/h

July 5 –White Lake Provincial Park to Wawa

Another 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.

We 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.

We 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.

The 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.

Obatanga Provincial Park

Although 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!

It 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 otherwise.

Giant birds in Wawa!

This 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 tourist centre.


Wednesday, July 6

Bike log: 157.9 km, 1310m of vertical, avg. speed 28.4 km/h

July 6 –Wawa to Pancake Bay Provincial Park

Today 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

Some 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 though!

Swimming at last!

I 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.

Today 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!

I 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!