Week Five: Rossport, ON to Pukaskwa National Park
Week five has been a week of rest (mostly). We have been looking forward to this stretch of the north shore for quite some time. This region of Ontario is home to Hattie Cove in Pukaskwa National Park, one of Allissa’s favorite spots on the lake. An elaborate grouping of bays, inlets and jagged shoreline, this park has been a calm spot to rest our legs for a couple of days.
Before making it to Hattie Cove we started our week running from Rainbow Falls Provincial Park to Terrace Bay. We had a brief layover in the small town of Schreiber to visit a recommended burger spot called the Golden Rail. We gorged on a dense lunch of cheeseburgers and onion rings which our bodies took surprisingly well as finished the rest of the day. That evening we watched the fog roll in off the lake from our camp on the beach. We cooked dinner and spent time in conversation with a fellow Northland College alum named Shawn who just happened to be staying on the beach the same night as us. Shawn is spending a few weeks biking around the lake. We talked about past travels and what it’s like to eat the same few meals for months at a time.
We woke to a fog-shrouded beach the next morning and with that fog seemed to have settled in a bit of group melancholy. From time to time all of the sweat and energy that we pour into the road seems to add up and our travels can feel overwhelming. We slow down in these moments. On that morning in particular we sat and drank coffee. And then we drank some more coffee. And then, after getting a very late start, decided to clump two of our days together to have our longest run yet. Properly rested and caffeinated, we found that our extra effort was well worth the additional day of rest that we created for ourselves at Neys Provincial Park. That section of the road, strewn with massive rolling hills and beautiful inland lakes, also turned out to be one of our most scenic yet.
We made it to Neys in the dark that evening and were promptly greeted by the most impressive storm of the trip yet. Without much communication we snapped to action, setting up camp in a fluid but hastened manner. We spent the next two days in Neys wandering its litany of trails and trying to stay warm despite periodic spits of rain. We also had a scare when our food bags went missing one morning. Unfortunately the park doesn’t offer bear-proof food storage for those without vehicles, so we had decided to hang our food in a low-trafficked bathroom for the evening. We woke and walked to grab our food one morning only to find an empty bathroom. We, again, quickly jumped to action and began walking the grounds until we found two young maintenance workers who had taken the bags. Upon hearing our story the two quietly stated, “Yeah, we didn’t know what was going on.” Maybe we’ll leave a note next time. The highlight of our time in Neys was basking in the ambience of the summer solstice and full moon.
As we started running again we appreciated our rest days in a new way, traversing a constant stream of hills that day. It may not have been as long as our previous travel day but our calves burned at the end of it. We turned off of our well-known travel companion, Highway 17, to detour down through Heron Bay and Pic River in order to make it to Pukaskwa. As we passed through these small towns we were stopped by more people than we have been at any other point in our journey. Everyone was stopping us to ask what we were doing, wish us well and encourage us to find some sets of rollerblades. Oh, and also to give us a brief ride passed a more-than-curious mother bear and her two cubs.
We spent two full rest days at Hattie Cove, during the second of which Andy’s parents visited us. They refueled us with all sorts of treats and resupplied us with our highly-anticipated Camp Chow, a generous donation from Sarah Hamilton, which will provide us with lunches for the rest of our journey. We will be veering away from the lake for the next week as Highway 17 covers its most inland stretch. While everyday seems to hold something new and exciting for us we are already looking forward to seeing the lake again once we reach its shores in Wawa. The rest from this week has sunk into our bodies in a necessary way. We haven’t offered ourselves this kind of rest yet and won’t see it again until much further into Michigan. The halfway-mark of our journey is near and our bodies have settled into a rhythm we couldn’t have imagined before beginning.