In Conversation with Frank O’ Connor

As we neared the end of the easternmost leg of our run, we got in touch with Frank O’Connor, a generous and gregarious local business owner. He offered us a free meal at his restaurant - an establishment that focuses on the bygone lifeways of the French Canadian voyageur that plied the local waterways in centuries past. After our meal we sat down to talk with Frank outside while hordes of beachgoers and summer tourists were in sight all around us. Which was a fitting context while Frank talked about something that many business-owners on the lake deal with - the seasonal swings of tourists and the vital income they represent. Below is an edited transcript from that conversation where Frank shares his relationship with Lake Superior, highlighted both by public tragedies as well as personal triumphs.

How did you end up on the Lake?

Gail and I are from here. Gail is from Batchawana and I’m from Gros Cap. We married then we moved to London, Ontario. I taught school and she worked in business administration. I always had a thing for history - never taught it but always liked it. I read Peter C. Newman’s books. He’s a famous Canadian author he wrote three books one was called Company of Adventurers. The sequel was called Caesars of the Wilderness. I read those books and they really got me thinking about the north shore of Lake Superior. I taught high school business studies - teaching kids to write a business plan to go and start a business, that sort of thing. And here I am teaching this course and I'm telling my kids go and take a risk and some of the bright ones said, “you know what Mr. O’Connor, you're at the front of the room telling us to do that but you should do it!” So we quit our jobs and I gave up a great teaching job and she gave up a great business admin job. We moved our family 500 miles north and we moved into this place on January 30th, freezing cold snowstorm. We had a lot of work ahead of us. My wife is a great cook, you couldn’t do this without someone being from the cooking background. She knew she could handle running a restaurant so we said let's go for it. We dove in head first. We found a bank that supported us.

My kids were supportive I look back and say “you guys could’ve been miserable little bastards but you guys were very good” [laughs].

Can you tell us a little bit about what you do here?

So you’re at the Voyageur Lodge and I'm sure you’ve heard along this shore the stories of the voyageurs and the fur traders. And this is where you are at - the historic pathway of the voyageurs that traded for the Northwest Company (NWC) trading out of Montreal. The group that we replicate and tell the story ofis the NWC. They came from Montreal and they went to Thunder Bay they traded at Fort William and all these waterways were their transport route. So starting in Montreal in the middle of May they would paddle the St. Lawrence Seaway. They went from the Ottawa, the Matthew, the French River, Lake Huron, St. Mary’s River, and then finally Lake Superior and end up at the fort in July for the rendezvous. My wife and I lived here for many many years. Gail is from here, I’m from Gros Cap which is the last point of land before the St. Mary’s River. We met out here and we saw this opportunity to tell the story of these French Canadian voyageurs who paddled their way along this route. So we had a cottage just over there - I was a school teacher for just over 14 years she was a business administrator. This beach was empty, these two buildings were beat up and empty and no one telling these stories.  We thought there’s gotta be a business idea so we formalized it and came up with this name. And we’ve been here for 14 years trying to put together the story of the voyageurs. We do re-enactments.

If you read the menu there are lots of things there that are related to the lifestyle of the voyageur. Bannock biscuit is our biscuit and it’s really just a tea biscuit. To do that the voyageurs mixed water with their bag of flour made their dough baked it on a stick over the fire and that was their bread! We have homemade baked beans - it's all part of the voyageur mystique we’re trying to share with people.

We’ve also partnered with Fort William and we have a lot of artifacts that are original from FortWilliam. These shores were so historic and they were landing places for the voyageurs. They had with them birch bark canoes that could never touch bottom so a sand beach was ideal for them. They could park out there 30 feet, unload and carry the boat in. We talk about that when we do our voy paddle. I have a group called Batchawana Brigade. It's me and eight guys and we dress up like the voyageurs. We bring a big festival in August in Sault Ste. Marie and we’re paddling down the canal and we have a Frenchman on board that leads us in song - we have fun it's just goofing around but we have fun.

The three main companies that traded for fur were Hudson Bay Company (HBC) out of James Bay and they claimed Rupert's land - all the waters that drained into Hudson's Bay were claimed for the King of England. At one point he owned most of North America because most of the continent drains that way. Then the NW company came out of Montreal, a group of Scottish merchants to compete with the HBC. In the northeast it was the American Fur Trading Company and all companies hated each other. They would sabotage each other, they would steal each other’s trading partners, they would do all sorts of dirty things to each other. But all three companies employed the French-Canadian. The French Canadian was short and stout, if anyone was over 5 foot 4 he could paddle. Everybody dreamed of staying short two hundred years ago. You don’t see that happening for grade seven boys today [laughs]. All three companies had French Canadian voyageurs paddling their boats.

When did you start to decide to do more of those community-based group events?

In Canada we celebrate something called Victoria's Day. It’s the week before your Memorial Day weekend. Victoria Day is the Queen's birthday and we light fireworks off. I went and bought a little kit of fireworks and we lit them off on Victoria Day and that was our first community event, a little forty dollar box of fireworks. And now this year my show had about 400 people at it during Canadian Day and I do a full firework show across the bay. We played a lot of Canadian roots music in the restaurant: fiddles, french horns, that kind of stuff. Music was such a part of the voyageur lifestyle, we need to showcase music. So we started with a little music. Now I have a full stage wired for sound, a bandshell and we can put up to 500 people in there for shows in the evenings. And then all the artsy, cultural, crafty kind of stuff just sort of came to be ‘hey we need to showcase the work of Canada's artisans,’ so we started an art festival. It’s all part of having fun and showcasing Canadian roots musicians, Canadian artisans on this shore. There’s so much going on here that so many people don't realize that's happening.

When you’re running down this highway you have to imagine that every 150 feet at the beach front there's a cottage from here to Havallind Bay. Every 150 feet someone has a cottage down there.

What does your season look like here?

We’ve been open year round in the past but now we’re going to a seasonal operation because Gail and I are tired and we’ve been doing it for 14 years. We’re gonna close for Halloween and open for Easter. What happens in the winter time here, you guys are from Wisconsin so you know, so there's a lot of snow and cold here it comes across the lake and blows right in here and it’s whiteout conditions. In the summer the beaches are full of people. In the winter no one wants to be here. They want to be in Sault Ste. Marie or Wawa or Thunder Bay. They want to be in a community where there are hotels, they don't want to be stuck in a snowstorm. The winter time here is done after 3 p.m. So we battled being open for 14 years, its very high in terms of energy. Energy costs are huge, plowing is huge. I'm here at 4 a.m. trying to get it plowed. So we just got tired and said “you know what it's so busy in the summer, let's just focus on the summer.” It's very busy in the fall for the fall colors.

And you know what Lake people are very special people and it's the same on your side. I went around and met so many wonderful people. You live on Lake Superior, man. You’re on the grandaddy, there's nothing bigger, there's nothing fresher, there's nothing cooler, there's nothing deeper.

I was at a silent auction in southern Ontario when I lived there. There was a sign that said ‘welcome to the lake’. I’m bidding and this other couple is bidding all night long. The auction closes and we got the final bid. We paid $100 might’ve been worth $25. The other couple that were bidding, we never knew who they were, we never saw them put their bid down. The other couple comes up and the woman says so you’re the couple that won the bid. So this gal says “well, I certainly hope you have a nice lake to put that on.” Just like that. In a real condescending way. The whole table starts to laugh and I said, “well ma’am we have the coldest, deepest, and largest lake in the world to put it on.” She said “we’re on [Lake] Erie, where are you? And I said ‘we’re on Lake Superior” [laughs].

Its an amazing place. It generates its own weather patterns it does whatever it wants. I've seen it whip up in November, we got walls of water coming at us. The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald is just out there you're really close to it now. I hope when you get to the American side, I hope you get to do the coastal route and see the Shipwreck museum. The bell of the Fitzgerald is at the museum, it's a special kind of place. The day of the wreck is very close to us here. 1975 is very close to everyone - so many people can still remember the storm, the wildness of it. I was in Gros Cap, I was a twelve year old. And in Gros Cap the waves were 50, 60 feet up the next day after the storm. I was standing up on those bluffs and those waves were crashing over us. That's how immense that storm was.

Could you explain the Three Sisters? It’s something we hear about when people talk about the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

They’re three waves. There's a theory that three sisters hit the Edmund Fitzgerald. The first, second and third hits it and sinks it. They say the waves hit it and opened the hatches just by the sheer force. I think it was probably human error. Those boats were designed for water to go right over the decks and not sink but once water gets in then you're in trouble. That’s an Ojibwe theory - the legend of three giant waves - tidal waves in size. That was the captain’s last voyage. He was retiring three weeks later when they got home, after 40 years on the Lake. Last year was the 40th anniversary of the wreck. And I went out to the lake and I played the Gordon Lightfoot song, I play it on the 10th. It was a beautiful morning which was uncharacteristic in November - November here is real ugly. There was no traffic it was quiet and the water was glass, It was beautiful.

She’s the boss. Don’t muck with her. I’ve been in it with a sailboat with my dad. He’s a terrible sailor. He loved the lake and I thought we were in peril many times [laughs]. He’s sailed his whole life through there. But he's made it through and he’s retired now and sold his boat.

Wild Shore of an Inland Sea

Hattie Cove Campground, which is nestled in Pukaskwa National Park, was a long anticipated stop on our journey around Lake Superior. So much so that we walked nine miles off route to get there. Our time spent there quickly became one of our most rehabilitative breaks from the road. We made sure to hike the trails and eat lots of food and enjoy the quiet of being far from the highway. We also got to sit down with Nicole Dupuis, Pukaskwa’s Interpretation Coordinator. She shared a detailed and fascinating side of Pukaskwa that we would have otherwise not seen. In the following edited transcript, Nicole puts Pukaskwa and its natural denizens in a historical context that helps us understand how better to love and protect wild places.  

What do you do at Pukaskwa National Park? How did you end up here?

I grew up in northern Ontario all my life. I went to school at Lakehead University which is in Thunder Bay. When I started to look more into indigenous learning stuff, I kind of strayed my degree and ended up with two degrees - a natural science degree and an indigenous learning degree. When I finished school back in 2012 people asked me at the time, ‘What are you going to do with these things that you have?’ and I was like ‘I don’t know!’ I actually have an uncle that works in the Lake Superior Marine Conservation Area and he was telling me about a job that was coming up in Pukaskwa for interpretation and I applied. That was in May 2013 so we’re going on my fourth summer.

When I came here they were doing a lot of revamping. The Visitor Center used to be full of lots of stuff from 1985. They got rid of a lot of stuff and it was like coming into a blank slate. At the time it seemed very overwhelming. You know, first big huge career job, I can do whatever I want and the pressure is on. So then it was just basically trying to figure out what the message is of Pukaskwa.

What would you say is the message of Pukaskwa?

The theme here is ‘Wild Shore of an Inland Sea.’ Did you guys do the Southern Headland Trail hike? That hike, to me, symbolizes what a wild shore of an inland sea is. It’s rugged and it's cold and then it's like a big huge air conditioner and you're walking on Canadian Shield, the oldest rock in the world and seeing so many geological features of when that rock was formed. You can see where old river beds were. You have these plants that just know how to adapt to very severe environments. They get into the little cracks in the rock and then have basal leaves that lay on the bottom that are hairy so when there's a fog that comes in its condensed water on to them so they're able to suck as much water up as possible. That's something that's very unique to Lake Superior - to have those types of plants and on the shoreline.

"Pukaskwa is an 1,800 square kilometer chunk of land, there is still industrial things all around… Even though you have these parks that are supposed to preserve and protect, there’s nothing we can do about it."

Our old symbol used to be a caribou. There used to be a family of caribou that lived here. That was before there was moose, before deer. The ungulate in this area would’ve been caribou. For the longest time Pukaskwa was well known for having this unique caribou that hasn’t been here since moose have encroached. We consider it the ghost of Pukaskwa. That itself I think is a good conservation message for a couple reasons. The most direct you could say is competition. With the moose coming in, they bring more predators with them. There’s another reason caribou dwindled. Even though Pukaskwa is an 1,800 square kilometer chunk of land, there is still industrial things all around. You got forestry companies,  you got a highway, a hydro line. Mainly the forestry segregates the land. When you're talking about a species that's supposed to migrate all around, no matter what protection efforts you have, this isn’t a sustainable place for caribou to be anymore. There’s still a population, a healthy population on the Slate Islands.

Even though you have these parks that are supposed to preserve and protect, there’s nothing we can do about it. These are the type of messages in my job as an interpreter that I hope you get. For national parks our mandate is to ‘preserve and protect for all time the natural and cultural heritage of Canada and foster understanding and appreciation for its visitors and to maintain that ecological and commemorative integrity for present and future generations.’ What is important is to be able to tell the stories of the past and of the present and to keep these stories and to keep this area not just for us to enjoy, but for our kids to enjoy and our kids’ kids’ kids.

The biggest part in our job more so than ever is that connection, making that meaningful connection with place. The cool thing about Pukaskwa is that there are not many people here. It’s a really quiet park. That's actually something that I find all across Northwestern Ontario, it’s forest! Forest forest forest! It’s rock and forest and river. There's not much development. It's a very wild area. It’s funny because my job is to get those messages out. But I found Pukaskwa does its job by itself just by being what it is. You can really experience that solitude here because you don’t hear trains, you don’t hear transports. You don’t hear anything here except for the birds and the waves.

"The biggest part in our job more so than ever is that connection, making that meaningful connection with place."

You mentioned that part of your job is interpreting cultural heritage. How do you purvey that in your job?

Pukaskwa itself is not necessarily considered an established national park. That’s because it’s actually under a land claim right now. This area here from Thunder Bay Fort William area to just the other side of Michipicoten is called Robinson’s Superior Treaty Group. In Canada, this treaty was signed prior to all these numbered treaties. It’s different here than in America where land was signed to share with hunting and fishing rights and that kind of stuff. Now the interesting thing about Robinson’s Superior [Treaty Group]  was that it was actually prior to confederation. It was actually signed by, must’ve been the Queen! When Robinson’s Superior Group was signed over, they went to talk to each [native] band individually. They would not have been called bands at the time, more like community groups. They went to each one of the chiefs and talked about forming a treaty and had all the chiefs sign. The chief of this area, near Pic River, didn’t sign that treaty. By not signing that treaty they didn’t really cede over the land. That’s an interesting point in this area. Basically Pukaskwa is very much Anishinaabe territory. This is their land, there’s a lot of cultural heritage here. When we talk about cultural heritage, when we say that, we’re talking about the Anishinaabe people.

"Basically Pukaskwa is very much Anishinaabe territory." 

They’re doing a reconstruction of an Anishinaabe camp over there right now. What we’re building are wigwams and a cookhouse. So those would be historical houses or traditional dwellings that would be lived in in this area. The Anishinaabe people were traditionally semi-nomadic people. They would have a summer home and a winter home. And in this area the summer home would be more around the mouth of the Pic River. They would have winter homes all along they would all have their their hunting territories in the park and deeper in the interior. They would have their permanent wigwam there and their permanent wigwam at the mouth of the river.

The birch tree was considered the tree of life because it gave a lot of means of survival. Birch bark is really awesome because unlike the the bark of other trees that fall off after time, it doesn’t rot. Even though most people think of birch bark tinder is good to start fires with because it’s paper thin but the inside is very fire resistant. So when you’re making a birch bark structure you’re having the inside bark on the inside and you don’t have to worry as much of burning. A birch bark structure can stay up for up to 8-10 years with a little maintenance along the way. Birch bark doesn’t soak through either so that it could be used as a waterproof vessel. And that was really important for survival because being a semi-nomadic people travelling along the waterways was the fastest way of transportation to get from point A to point B. And this area as well is a big fishing area. They have a lot of caribou and they also ate a lot of fish. That’s the traditional sense of the Anishinaabe people.

Another message we’re trying to get across too is this contemporary one. Just like animals and other things evolve over time so does culture. Looking at the traditional sense and the evolution of the Anishinaabe culture is kind of another theme that we’re going into too.

"Another message we’re trying to get across too is this contemporary one. Just like animals and other things evolve over time so does culture."

Josh, the Cultural Interpreter here, does a woodland art program. You were in the visitor center and saw that big huge mural? It actually tells the whole story of Pic River, of when European contact first happened. But that type of art structure is called woodland art. Have you seen any pictographs before? Woodland art is an evolution of culture from that rock painting style, taking those kinds of images. It tells the story of the people here. That’s definitely a good symbolism of the evolution of culture. Or even powwows. That wasn't a traditional thing that was done but now it’s a celebration of culture that happens.

What do you see as the biggest challenges of living on the lake? Either present or future?  

The biggest challenge that lives here is the isolation. This whole area used to be all industrial. The slogan of Marathon is “built on paper laced with gold!” So mining and forestry are big here. Nipigon was a forestry town - it had a plywood mill. Red Rock was a pulp and paper mill. Terrace Bay was a mill as well. This whole area is based on the industrial revolution. It’s basically using the land for resources. All the mills have gone down now except for the Terrace Bay. There has been a very massive change in the economic growth in this area. And being a northerner and never wanting to leave around this area, you ask how does it sustain itself? I honestly think it’s in tourism. Look at how beautiful this area is. The lake is inland, it’s a sweetwater sea.  I had kids on the trail yesterday and they were like ‘This reminds me of Newfoundland’. That’s because it just has water all the way to the horizon but it’s not an ocean. So it has a lot of unique appeal to it. The water here is crystal, crystal clear. It looks tropical but it’s freezing. It could be a driving force but changing the mindset from that boom and bust cycle to this slower growth tourism is key. I would say they’re trying and there’s definitely a lot of appeal and a lot of talk in this area in becoming more tourism based. Even at this park here we’re trying to get out of the 80’s. Its definitely a challenge, because otherwise these towns they have to find jobs and jobs aren’t always here.

"The biggest challenge that lives here is the isolation."

In a park sense, the challenge of being on the lake is that it’s very attractive for tourism - it’s a paddler’s dream! - but it’s very dangerous. That lake definitely requires respect. It could literally kill you. It also is  beautiful as they come. It’s just like fire. You can sit by a fire all night but don’t leave it unattended. You have to show it respect. Don’t jump over because I mean it could burn you, same thing with the water. Those are challenges as well, to know safety.

Another big challenge with the water on a more general level is water, more so than ever, is very, very precious. Being in first world countries we can take for granted how accessible water is for us all the time. You can put on the tap and you have water. If you want a shower no problem. But in other places in the world it’s not like that. Water is a scarce resource and there are other places in the world where it's privatized. You don’t have access to water, you don’t have the right to water. In this area and the Lake Superior Marine Conservation Area it is important to have respect in that sense. We have quality water. We have freshwater. We are lucky to have such a body of water here because it’s not like that anywhere else.

"Being in first world countries we can take for granted how accessible water is for us all the time." 

How do you see yourself getting that message out?

Do you have Lake Superior day? That’s the time to get messaging out. I believe that message should come from there and that should be their main message. As for myself here - one of the hikes that I do is called ‘Gifts of the Earth’. I talk about the traditional and medicinal uses of plants and animals in the area. Part of that message of gifts of the earth is talking about the water and its importance. Part of that is the idea that there is an Anishinaabe prayer, that I sing, as an appreciation and saying thank you to the water. So those are some of the ways that I kind of interject that messaging into my programming on a  grander scale. I still think it’s gonna be the Lake Superior Marine Conservation Area that’s gonna have the larger messaging.

Anything else you’d like to add?

There are these special mounds of a rock. They were first identified and found in Pukaskwa and that’s why they’re called ‘Pukaskwa Pits’. They’re actually all around Lake Superior and many other places.  So the way Lake Superior works is that it used to be way, way higher and as time went it on the water level got lower and lower.  Consequently, on different parts  of the shoreline you have different places where the shore historically was. And the Pukaskwa Pits tend to happen on big cobblestone beaches. They’re a mystery, honestly. It’s unknown how old they are. They could be between two to five thousand years old. There is even questions of the uses of these things. There are some that look like rock cairns, to mark a trail. There are others that are literal pits that could be old fire hearths and old dwellings. There are even ones that looks like a huge fortress. In this area the Anishinaabe people know that these pits can have a spiritual use. A lot of the areas that are documented are spiritual places for naming ceremonies and midewiwin lodge. They’re the type of thing we don’t promote to the public. It’s one of the cultural integrity things that we’re trying to keep intact. Also just because of that spiritual connection to these pits - ancestors put these up so long ago that  we don’t actually talk about them too much. There are well over two hundred of these pits documented in Pukaskwa alone. It’s like this massive mystery.

Remote Locations

In Conversation with Johanna Rowe

We met with Johanna Rowe a couple of months back as we passed through the town of Wawa, Ontario. At that point, Wawa had been in our sites for a long time. Not only would it be our first time back on the shores of Lake Superior after several days of following the road as it turned away from the water’s edge in Pukaskwa National Park, but it would also offer us a much anticipated respite with some folks that we were excited to meet with. Johanna was one of those people. We were lucky enough to spend a long morning in conversation with her over coffee as we gazed out passed the mouth of the Michipicoten River towards the Big Lake. What follows is our edited conversation on the history of the northern shore and what it means for a small rural community to move forward from the past’s tough lessons.

You’ve been introduced to us as “the historian.” What is it that brought you to the lake and how is it that you came to tell the story of Wawa?

Well, I guess you’re sitting in the reason that I’m associated with the lake. My grandmother really was the one who would sit on the deck with my brother and I – here at the camp – and point out where the history was and we would take the rowboat over to the sandbar. We would find bits of china or Native artifacts. Even here along our beach and behind the cottage. She would talk about how the archaeologists came and they told us about the history of the area. My grandmother moved here with my grandfather in the late 30s and there were still old-timers here then that moved here when there was a gold boom, and the First Nations people that were involved in residential schools but who were more connected with their family history. So she listened a lot. She’s a very social person, and you were back then. There was no highway, you took the train in here. She would tell us stories about the “good ole days.” So growing up I’ve always been interested in the history of the area and when I had to decide where I was gonna go to university I thought, “Well, I don’t really know but I’ll just take something I’m interested in.” So I took history. I did my four years at university. I had to write a paper in my fourth year and I chose to write my honors bachelor paper on the Michipicoten area. As a part of that I had to travel to the archives in Toronto and I went to Winnipeg to the Hudson Bay Company archives because there’s a Hudson Bay post just up the river here. I went, “Oh my god! There’s a ton of history here and no one knows about it!”

So when I went to the different archives there were these huge sections along the shelf of original documents from factories, from the bosses of the post from the 1700s and the 1800s. They documented everything like the weather every day, and how many natives came in and the “poor little Indian kid who was sick”. Or the explorers that came up like Alexander Mackenzie or Louis Agassiz, the scientist. One of them would be sick or hurt and he would go get the local medicine man and they would come. That information is still there and it hasn’t really been pushed yet. So I’ve just kind of grown into supporting that. I used to work at the tourist information center and the lady who is still in charge of the promotion and marketing and tourism, she moved here and recognized the wealth of what Wawa has. Everything from the lake to snowmobiling to ice fishing to hunting to the history. She’s really great at getting grants and funding for promoting the local history and recognizing that that’s what cultural tourism is, it’s a growing trend. People are interested in that A.Y. Jackson painted here or that Louis Agassiz came through here and Alexander Mackenzie and Étienne Brûlé and [Pierre-Esprit] Radisson and [Sieur des] Groseilliers. All those people. There’s been different projects and different interpretive plaques that we’ve put up around the area.

Extractive industry is a huge part of how many communities around the Lake were built. As we’ve seen in places like Wawa, however, that’s a boom and bust cycle. That cycle has the potential to become a story that we tell people to bring them back though, part of the cultural tourism you mentioned. We’re wondering if you have any perspective on how that looks for the future of places like Wawa?

It’s tough, right? Cause it is boom and bust and all of these communities are based on resources and resource extraction. There are some big scars on the land, so now do we take advantage of those and say, “Okay, we’re gonna interpret that or, can we reinvent that?” Like what Sudbury is doing with the old INCO [Creighton Mine] stuff. They have a neutrino laboratory underground in the abandoned shafts. It’s this amazing scientific lab now that is collecting neutrinos coming from the universe.

That’s not happening here though. I think that it’s a long transition for community memory to get away from that “We need another mine!” or “We need that next mill!” It’s a tough one. Those industries are kind of going by the wayside and they need to reinvent themselves.

David [owner of Naturally Superior Adventures] is on the cusp of providing a different Wawa. Their jobs are seasonal though, you know but, it does add an extra element to the community. There’s a gentleman in town now harvesting blueberries. That’s renewable, much more renewable than forestry and he’s getting into strawberries and raspberries.

It’s probably the same in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Everyone is kind of going through that... Don’t focus on what people can help you do or what people can help you fund to do. Focus on what you can do and prove that you can do it and that’s when you’ll get surprises.

I did a cultural mapping contract for the town and I really enjoyed it. It got the community to come together to tell us what they think all the assets are of the community. Like, what’s our authentic story? The waterfalls, the mining history, the goose, Lake Superior, the hiking, the hunting, the snowmobile trails. So we broke it down into six different cultural components: natural, history, the tangibles like the arena, the marina, stuff like that. Then the social stuff like the churches, the Rotary Club, the Lion’s Clubs, the support networks, the hospitals. I think people really got a look at how much stuff we have here. But then there’s the other side of the coin, like, there’s a lot of infrastructure here but there’s 2,000 less people paying for that infrastructure. Okay, we can’t maintain all of this so what do we tick off the list and try not to piss off as many people as possible. There are six or seven playgrounds but the population is so small. There are some playgrounds that I didn’t even know about but, there’s like 3 or 4 people that use them.

The commercial fishing industry was huge, fur trading was huge, mining was huge, the harbor was huge. But it’s not there anymore, so what do we do?

It’s probably the same in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Everyone is kind of going through that. But you can’t be worried about stuff you can’t fix. Just try to be positive. Focus on what you do have, not on what you used to have or on what you don’t have anymore. Don’t focus on what people can help you do or what people can help you fund to do. Focus on what you can do and prove that you can do it and that’s when you’ll get surprises.

Such a large part of loving the Lake is recognizing that there are these things that happen to it – mills, mines, industry, etc. – that have changed it irreversibly. But you have to love it as it is and move forward with that.

You will learn the lessons. You can’t just sit in your house and wonder, “Oh, where are all the fish?” It’s all changing. The commercial fishing industry was huge, fur trading was huge, mining was huge, the harbor was huge. But it’s not there anymore, so what do we do? What did we learn from having that? There are abandoned lighthouses… but in Canada the lighthouses aren’t being maintained. The government is maintaining the light and the horn but they’ve asked the public to maintain the buildings. But how are you gonna maintain all of these remote locations? It’s great that there are bed and breakfasts down in the states, there are communities right there, but who’s gonna do that here?

As a historian you’ve studied past challenges of the communities around here. What are some of the current challenges of living up here and, looking ahead, how might that landscape change and affect these communities and the lake itself?

We touched on it a little bit… the economy, right? What is it that will maintain or attract new tax-payers and businesses? I think we’re in an exciting time, a transition time. We’re getting away from those big factories and mines and industries that are massive and can pay huge pensions and benefits. People are gonna have to figure it out on their own but they can do it with technology wherever they wanna do it. Maybe not as much with physical labor but the more with things like teaching online… I work at a college out of Thunder Bay and all of our students learn everything through the computer. So they’re all in a virtual classroom. They get their diploma all without ever seeing their teacher. I think the sky is the limit as far as getting the word out goes. Even places that are remote, all of these communities around here, can get the word out about these kind of tools. Whatever people are marketing, you know, blueberry barbeque sauce. They get it on a website and off it goes.

A lot of these communities were built when there was 5,000 people. Now there’s only 3,000… if that. There’s a lot of infrastructure costs that are hard to maintain.

Certainly the remoteness and the cost of living is expensive. We have six hydro dams upstream but we pay the highest transmission rates in the province. It’s a little ridiculous. A lot of these communities were built when there was 5,000 people. Now there’s only 3,000… if that. There’s a lot of infrastructure costs that are hard to maintain. Plus that mine or that mill aren’t here anymore to pay huge levies to the town. There are five schools but it looks like we’re gonna be closing one of those. So that building is gonna be up for grabs but, who’s gonna move into that? I don’t know. So there’s gonna be another abandoned building in town. Can’t tear it down though because the landfill site is full and we don’t have the money to pay for an environmental assessment to build a new landfill. It’s cyclical. It’s costly. You count on business and industry to be a part of communities but I also think that the new norm is maybe gonna be if you want to live in a remote location you’re gonna pay more in taxes and for hydro and for food but, perhaps the cost of living is less because you have everything within your community. It’s whatever your quality of life is in your mind and what your priorities are. If a community can attract those people that are looking for a quality of life where they are out in nature and they live in a safe community then they might move to a town like this. We have classically trained pianists, some kids in this community that can knock Bach off the table and these professional dancers, it’s so cool. So… don’t knock it until you try it.

We think about this kind of thing often as young folks just out of college, trying to balance work and family and also the place we love and want to live. It can be so much harder to do it in a small, remote town. We have to make a choice between moving 2,000 miles away to take a job in Seattle or settling for something else here so we can be closer to these other important parts of our lives.

Again, it depends on what you want access to. If you want to be close to theater and court orchestra and national libraries then sure. But I’d argue that people need access to this kind of nature more than they realize. You can set up a little feng-shui corner in your condo but if you can’t get out and hug a tree within five minutes then, wow… I think that’s a part of the off-kilterness of human society. People are trying to return to their roots.

I read an interesting article about the difficult time First Nations are going through right now in North America. So quickly they were ripped from their roots. It’s so fresh, it’s still in them. They’re trying to desperately get back to it. But Western culture, over centuries, has left Stonehenge and the Celtic ways and the traditional customs and ways of doing things with nature as a part of your decision-making process. But it’s that much harder for our First Nations because it is so fresh. It’s been taken so quickly.

In closing, do you have a favorite historical tidbit that you like to share with people?

The lake was travel, right? This spot right here was instrumental in settlement because the First Nation was here. They were here because they could go up the Michipicoten River, or the Magpie River. They had their transportation route all the way to James Bay. So when the Europeans came looking for that route they stopped here and the First Nation said “Yeah, we can go from here to here to here.” So they put up a post to trade here. This was the transportation route but you don’t see that as much now because of the highway. But the lake used to be so instrumental in getting back and forth along the water. So when the fur trading post setup here it was the only hub, the only main supply depot until Sault Ste. Marie. So anyone who was anybody traveling across the way would have had to stop here.

So these little pockets of communities are based on where the First Nations stayed. It really became the pockets of when gold was discovered. This became the supply depot for the shovels, the mining licenses, the post office. When commercial fishing started it was because the Hudson Bay Post was here so they got into commercial fishing because they weren’t making a lot of money on fur trade. It’s all connected to the lake. The first discovery of gold was a First Nations person who brought the prospectors here. It’s all connected to the people who were connected to the land and now we’re all connected with the land and the lake.



Increase the Peace

In Conversation with Steve Moloney

After our time in Thunder Bay, Ontario we continued on to camp at a roadside rest stop that we thought we would have to ourselves for the night. Coincidentally, Steve Moloney had the same idea. Steve is walking from the westerly most part of Canada, starting on Vancouver Island and headed to St. John’s, Newfoundland. We sat down and talked with Steve about what it means to travel such long distances on foot, as well as his perspectives on living a healthy life. Below is an edited transcript of that conversation.

Photo from Steve's Facebook page.

Can you tell us a little about what you’re doing and why?

There are two main reasons why I’m doing the walk. The first is purely selfish, I just wanted to do this bucket list thing for five years. I was working a boring job and it just came to me as I was working, it percolated from there. I’m attached to this land so I thought it’d be neat to walk from one coast to the other. There are a couple people that have inspired me. First, Terry Fox. Another guy a year or two later named Steve Fonyo similar type of leg thing, he actually ran the whole thing. And also Forrest Gump. The movie Forrest Gump kind of inspired me as well. He just started walking somewhere, and I like walking. That’s the selfish side of it. And the benefit from it is, it’s a force of will, it’s a huge challenge.

Second, I call myself a bit of a freedom activist. To me walking is an expression of freedom - there’s the old saying, “if I don’t get my way, I’m going to walk.” It is an expression of freedom. I wanted to attach that to my walk to inspire conversation about the importance of freedom. Freedom to me is multifaceted and there are at least a couple key components. One is individual freedom that we have in terms of our inner world. And then there’s the outer world of interaction we have amongst other people. If we’re living our lives full of social anxiety, full of early childhood traumas, early life traumas, then they are holding us back. The more we can work on ourselves to become as healthy as we can and the more we can learn about ourselves, find out about our real selves and be that as much as we can, we get to lead the lives closer to what we want. So that’s the individual side – to get over the fear and anxiety and all the things that hold us back inside.

The intercommunal relationships side of freedom is if we can be friendly with people we can create peace and when we create peace we can create greater freedom. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed if you are really friends with someone - the greater the degree of friendship the greater degree of freedom within that relationship. Because then we don’t have to skirt around and try to hide ourselves, we can actually come out and be honest. It doesn’t matter what we say as long as we say it with dignity and respect. Friends don’t attack friends. Friends are helpful and they want the best for the other person. That is an example of peace. It’s not violence. Violence is when I want you to be a certain way but you don’t want to be and I’m going to force my will through a surrogate or through myself, that’s violence. The peacefulness means that you are ok the way you are. In that way we have a greater degree of freedom. I look at politics. Politics to me is just an expression of a bunch of different people and the way that they’re thinking. It’s always a fight. The extreme of that fight is war and that’s been going on since the dawn of humanity. If we can become more friendly with each other we can increase the peace and reduce that tendency to have verbal or violent war. That’s my input. I just share that idea and ask other people what they think.

Earlier you mentioned the connection between health and personal freedom. Can you speak more to that?

To me freedom is about health. If you look up the word freedom and its etymology it’s actually related to the word love. Love is that connection or that desire for connection. Connection with something real. When we’re healthy as we can, we’re connected with ourselves. Healthy in terms of mental, physical, relationship, spiritual, and emotional health combined. We create a more complete true self. That true self I would posit cannot be anything but friendly with others, at least initially. The attempt has to be made to be friendly. A healthy self does not go attacking others. Someone who is attacking is an emotionally triggered individual. A healthy individual is calm and looks at things, tries to get a picture of things first. They’re not flaring up with anxiety. That individual is more free.

Have you ever heard of that book called Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl? He mentions in there how freedoms can be taken away but not completely – Our attitude can’t be taken away. Our attitude is always ours if we will it to be. That is a very important component of freedom, it’s essential. I think it is core.

Photo from Steve's Facebook page.

As you travel and start these conversations about freedom and health have you had an interaction with someone that has stood out as especially remarkable?

My brother was with me when I started the walk on Vancouver Island. His idea was that instead of taking the ferry we’d kayak across. He’s got this two man [kayak]. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done before and it was really cold. It was a great bonding experience.

He has a group of friends in Vancouver, they have this group, it’s called the Junto Group. The Junto Group was started by Benjamin Franklin and they still exist in certain cities. They talk about deep ideas and what can be helpful. They invited me to share with them about this walk. They had a million questions and to this day I’ve modified my pack on the suggestions they had. Some of the questions they had, I didn’t have answers for but I’ve thought about them and they’ve made a difference on the walk.

The biggest thing I’ve discovered about this walk is self-knowledge. Just getting in touch with self and realizing how powerful the mind is. The mind, though not separate from the body, sometimes seems to be separate from the body.

Could you explain further?                                                             

I actually experienced a walk at night I did, it was 83 kilometers – which would be about 50 miles – straight. The only reason I did that walk was because it was through grizzly [bear] country, I didn’t want to camp, it was getting dark, there was supposed to be a hostel in the bush. It was in Banff National Park. I couldn’t find the thing and had no number. I saw the sign that said 30 kilometers to Banff and I already walked 50. So I walked overnight 30 more kilometers. I got into kind of a zone, it was almost a trance of walking. And it seemed like I had control of dial and I could turn the body up or down. The body had no pain, I could hardly feel the backpack and I walked quickly, just straight. When I got to Banff, I kinda had to bring my awareness back into the body and then I could start to feel the pain in my legs, it was really brutal. I had to take a day off. That’s one thing you learn – the power of the mind is so powerful, it could actually kill the body. It could drive the body to the point of exhaustion. That was very profound.

A friend of mine from Saskatoon, he calls me once in a while and he was trying to encourage me to do something. He said “all you’re doing is walking, you got all kinds of time to spend you should be doing something productive you should be planning something!” I asked him, “have you ever walked 83 kilometers through the night?!” There’s no need to think, it’s such an intense activity as it is. Sometimes I’ll be listening to a podcast and I’ll realize I don’t want this podcast anymore, I just want to enjoy the meditation and not have the distraction. There’s actually music going on anyways with the trees and everything. It’s kind of like a mediation to become aware of the whole body and what it’s doing.

Do you have any experiences from this journey that you’d like to carry on in the future?

Back in Saskatoon I’ve run this discussion group called Coffee Chat for a number of years. Our tagline is “sharing ideas on improving the quality of our life experiences”. I’ve done all sorts of jobs – construction and whatever else. To me what is important is health. So I’ll write a book for sure, I’ve already written a couple of books. All my books are health-themed because that’s the most important thing for me, is health. In fact the origin of the word health means whole. The more whole we can be, the more alive we can be, the more we can know ourselves the more honest we can be. The more in touch we can be with ourselves and those around us. The more we can understand the relationship between emotions and mentality and the physical body and what is this spirituality thing all about. The more clarity I can have on health, I would like to share as insights – not as ultimate truths but more as “hey what do you think?”

I’m involved with public speaking, with the Toastmasters. I try to encourage people who are so inclined to get involved with public speaking. One of the greatest known fears is public speaking. I hope we can challenge fears that are not really legitimate. It’s okay to be fearful of an angry grizzly bear in the bush but the fear of getting in front of a friendly bunch of people and saying a few words is really just the result of some trauma or some innate tendency to not want to be shamed by the tribe. If we can challenge ourselves with fears and realize we can get past them, it helps us to be freer within ourselves.

We Need to Clean This Up

In Conversation with Samuel Pegg

During our time in Thunder Bay, we met up with Samuel Pegg of Infosuperior, an environmental non-profit based at Lakehead University. Samuel had reached out to us prior to the run when he heard about the microplastics research we were planning. As we spent a rest day navigating the biggest city on the lake, he met up with us to talk more about microplastics issues as well as the work he does with Infosuperior. What follows is our edited conversation from that day.

So how long have you lived up by the lake, and what brought you here?

I myself have been here actually about five years – I used to live in Arizona of all places. Which is about as far away from water as you can get. But that’s one thing I missed, I missed the connection to the lake, I missed kayaking, I missed being somewhere that was green. And not unnaturally green. And that’s why I moved back here to Lakehead [University]. We have a program here for water resource science, and I enjoy doing that. I wanted to be back and looking at our precious water resources.

And now you live in Thunder Bay, the biggest city on the lake.

For myself, I’m used to Arizona, I’m used to Phoenix where cities are six million. Thunder Bay is 110,000. For me it’s a small town. I know the lake itself is so spread out and the communities are so spread out widely, but in a way that’s why Infosuperior is working to connect some of these communities to work together on some of these issues. I’m sure you all have seen that on your run so far, as to how big the lake actually is and how far some of these communities are from one another. They’re eight hour drives, let alone running.

So since moving back here five years ago, you’ve been at Lakehead. Can you tell us more about the studies and work you’ve been a part of with Infosuperior?

I started at the college here doing environmental technology. I’ve spent some time there involved with the organization, which works with areas of concern kind of like superfund sites in the US. There are actually areas of concern around the Great Lakes, and I got involved with that as a public advisory committee member. So Infosuperior is kind of developing out of this idea, which is basically historic contamination. [Instead of] ‘we need to clean up this, once we clean it up its done’, it’s more to try to bring together people who are interested in Lake Superior and the stories, connecting it to policy, education, research, and the social aspects that go together with environmental cleanup. Trying to connect people around the lake, and treasure and share the lake, preserve it.

Have there been challenges with this work at Infosuperior?

Yeah, there are always challenges no matter what. For the most part people are excited and interested for it. Our office is in a weird position, in the sense where we represent the public interest and serve the public advisory committee, but we also have the challenge in that we are also funded by the government. So we have to play the role of making sure the public has their voice while kind of having the government message of ‘cleaning up’; so we do get caught sometimes in between. Making sure there is a great public voice, and then the government is [also] able to have their message, and that’s how I see our organization, making sure everyone gets a voice, gets a message, and trying to foster that communication. Because I think communication is the most important thing. And that’s kind of why we have Infosuperior, to foster that communication on the issues that are challenging. Someone somewhere else may have a solution or at least discuss possible solutions.

What are you most concerned about, in terms of the future of the lake?

One of the biggest challenges we’ll face is climate change, and its different avenues and aspects too. Not just warming temperatures, but we’ll be facing rising water levels and increased precipitation, which will require us to build more infrastructure because we have all kinds of decaying and decrepit infrastructure. So that’s an aspect of climate change that’s not really talked about, but I think these connected issues are gonna be the problem, or what’s gonna be the challenge for people to work on. And I think it’s gonna be a big challenge. I think there’s the capacity, and I think people are going to work towards it, but you have to make sure people don’t get burned out. I think people are up for it but it’s that transition between being up for it, and where we need to go. And how much pressure we actually put on it. Once our backs are up to the wall humans can do great things.

Right now Thunder Bay is working on a climate adaptation strategy, and putting in a plan for it. What the timeline is it’s hard to say. Because the more pressure we feel and the more connected we feel to it as an issue, the more likely we are to work on it. If we don’t see it, well it’s not that big of a problem, then we don’t continue to work on it. But if we see the impacts of it, like how Duluth had significant flooding a few years ago… storm water management plans are becoming easier to connect to when people say, wait a minute, we should do something about that. That’s why I think work like this is great because it’s getting people to connect to the issues they need to, and actually being able to work on them. And it’s hard to do with these climate change issues because often times you don’t see the direct impact of climate change, because it happens on a global scale.

So what does climate change look like regionally to you?

You can say climate change will be rising sea levels, but if you tell someone your dock will be underwater in five years, then they can make an easier connection because then it becomes local, it becomes personal to them rather than something that’s a global issue. Most people are like, I don’t care what happens halfway around the world, but once you connect it to them and their dock they start to care a little more. And I think that’ll be the biggest challenge and the biggest connection and the way to go forward, is connecting it to the local as well as the global.

To end on a lighter note, what’s your favorite part about living up by the lake?

The summers. I love it. The midnight sun, it stays light, you can go out at nine or ten o’clock at night. I’ve got a little kayak and I just throw it into the lake and do a little paddling. It’s great to be out at ten in the evening, enjoying the lake. Winters not so much, but the summers are perfect.

“We were going to stop, then we realized you didn’t have a baby”

Weeks 6 and 7 – Pukaskwa National Park to Pancake Bay

We set out from Hattie Cove in a teasing drizzle paired with a sharply cold wind, forlornly saying goodbye to the lake as we headed further inland to follow the highway for the next five days. After a few hours passed we hopped off the road to grab a quick snack and some water, only to realize that somewhere along the way we had lost a water bottle and our day’s portion of trail mix. It was becoming apparent this day was not going to be forgiving. We shouldered on and gratefully the rain abated. The rest of the day passed kindly enough but we were once again relying on unhelpful notes of our past selves to find a campsite for the night. Our plan was to tuck off on a forest road away from the highway, but unfortunately right about the time we wanted to end our day we crossed into the property of the Hemlo Gold Mine. This meant that either side of the road was peppered with no trespassing signs and the loud beeps and crunches of earth-moving machines. After a couple more unplanned and somber miles we found an overgrown path right next to a road dubiously called “Yellow Brick Road”. The rest of the night wasn’t too kind to us either. As we cooked a dinner that we would eventually burn badly, a thunderstorm rolled right overhead. We went to bed wet, hardly full, a little defeated but laughing nonetheless at the absurdity of it all. As each lightning bolt crashed above us the outside of our tent became illuminated and we could see the silhouettes of the dozens of slugs crawling all over our stuff. We dubbed our newfound campsite “Slug City”.

The next day we de-slugged all of our gear and put our soggy clothes back on for another long day of running further away from the lake. Eventually we made it to White Lake Provincial Park and were grateful to spend the rest of the afternoon in a breezy and sunny campsite. There we dried out every soaking article of clothing and gear and settled in for a rest day.

From White Lake Provincial Park we ran the 21 miles to the town of White River, the birthplace, as many signs and billboards told us, of Winnie-the-Pooh. We bopped around town for a little while asking motels if we could pitch a tent in their backyard and were lucky enough to find such a place. As we walked the town’s streets a couple came out of the hardware store and asked what our story was. They mentioned that they had seen us on the road a couple days previously during the rainstorm, and that they were going to stop and ask if we needed help but then realized we weren’t actually pushing a baby in Rig. They wished us well on the rest of our journey, regardless of our status of having a baby or not. 

From White River our next major destination was the town of Wawa. It took us two more nights to get there. Two more nights of camping on forest roads, dealing with hordes of blackflies and mosquitoes, and, of course, more rain. We coped by playing endless hands of Rummy 500 and eating Canadian candy bars. Never underestimate the power of one-third of a shitty chocolate bar.

The next day we were welcomed to Wawa, which means goose in Anishinabe, by a giant sculpture of its namesake. We were excited to be in Wawa because it meant that we could resupply in town, and it also meant we were once again on the shore of the lake. Our destination for the night was Naturally Superior Adventures, a kayak guiding company a couple miles out of Wawa. On our way to Naturally Superior, a small red car stopped on the side of the road for us. Out stepped Dave, the operator of NSA and our host during our stay there. He told us they were headed to a gathering in Wawa to celebrate Canada Day. We changed out of our running clothes, stashed rig in the woods and zoomed off to the festivities. We were glad to spend Canada day in such a Canadian manner: along with current and former guides and employees of NSA we watched films by Bill Mason, a famous Canadian paddler, painter, and newfound hero. Once the sky darkened enough we headed outside to catch the fireworks. At the end of the night we were given a ride to where Rig was stashed in the woods and walked him the rest of the way down to NSA to spend the night. We were giddy and content. Not only were we done with the arduous stretch so far from the lake, but we had also just reached our halfway point. The thought that we were already halfway done with our trip left us dizzy as we tucked in for the night, listening to the soft laps of the lake.

Before getting to the Wawa area we had reached out to a handful of folks asking if they would be interested in sharing their story. Many people were excited to share that place and their lives with us. In the morning, we started off talking with local historian Johanna Rowe. We spent a bright morning drinking coffee in the kitchen of her cabin that sits right at the mouth of the Michipicoten River as it empties into Lake Superior. After our conversation she asked if we wanted to take a sauna. How could we not? We spent the next hour steaming ourselves in the sauna then sprinting into the cold rivermouth and back again. We bid farewell to Johanna to meet up with another kind and generous soul who offered to show us the area, Joel Cooper. Joel met us and asked if we would be interested in spending the afternoon walking the beaches and trails, intermittently stopping in with folks to share their stories. Joel was a superb guide, giving us a run down on the natural history of the area as well as stories of residents along the shore. We spent the afternoon being offered homemade blueberry wine, moose stew, and Finnish chocolate and listening to folks talk about the arcs of their lives with this lake.

We were reluctant to leave after our wonderful time at NSA but, as always, had many more miles to cover. After packing up the stroller in our usual routine, we ran to Rabbit Blanket Lake Campground, our first of four days spent in Lake Superior Provincial Park. From Rabbit Blanket we were planning on spending a night near Coldwater River, a beautiful spot on the Coastal Hiking Trail which runs through the park. Right after cleaning up camp that morning, we were wheeling away Rig and unfortunately snapped off the front wheel. Apparently after six weeks of running, Rig got tired too. After some initial panic we were helped by a kind and patient maintenance worker. It turns out that the quick release bolt that holds the front wheel to the stroller had finally been met with too much stress and broke in half. We luckily got a fresh bolt on Rig and headed out for the day, keeping a close eye on our recently injured friend. That day officially marked our latest start yet as we rolled out of camp at 4:30 in the afternoon. Rig has held up so well the first half of our trip, but can he withstand the rest of it?

We got an especially early start the morning at Coldwater Creek because we wanted to reach Agawa Bay Campground with plenty of time to spare. Our intentions were good but we were once again delayed on the road by a finicky Rig. It was our third flat tire of our trip. This time, however, it wasn’t raining. We fixed the flat and, after coming to a tenuous truce with Rig, headed to Agawa Bay.

The next day at Agawa Bay was very restful as we made heaps of pancakes, stretched our tired muscles, and spent some solid beach time reading and writing. Eventually Joel’s partner, Carol, the head naturalist at Lake Superior Provincial Park, stopped by to say hello and take us to the pictographs at Agawa Rock. It was a treat to have her share her extensive knowledge about the history of the area. She dropped us back at our campsite along with some gratefully-received veggies and cherries. Our trip would not be possible without the help and generosity of folks like Joel, Carol, Dave, and all the others that we were introduced to during our stay in Wawa.

We bid farewell to the wide expanse of beach at Agawa Bay to head further south and, eventually, out of Lake Superior Provincial Park. We were giddy to get our resting place for the night- it was a place we were looking forward to ever since driving around the lake and scouting out the route. We made it to our secret and hidden away campsite off a small nondescript sand road. Once there we made a filling dinner and watched the sunset over the water undergird the overhanging clouds in a swath of crinkled pink.

The next morning we were met, once again, with rain. It’s a wet summer. We packed up camp but couldn’t quite get the gumption to head out to run 20 miles in the rain. We sat under our tarp and delayed the inevitable with hands of Rummy. The rain that scoured the surface of the lake died down to a soft dimpling. We swallowed hard and headed out on the highway. We thought we had said goodbye to most of the storm but as the day progressed, the skies darkened. Eventually we rounded a curve and saw the front of the storm rapidly advancing. The tops of trees bent under the strength of the wind as a sheet of rain came and pushed us off the road. We took shelter under a copse of firs and waited out the worst of it. Once it cleared up a bit, we ran the rest of the way to Pancake Bay Provincial Park in our raingear.

From our spot on Pancake Bay we can almost see the city of Sault Ste. Marie which means another international border crossing. We’re excited to head back into the United States as it means we’ve made it back to the south shore, for which we turn ourselves west, a bearing we’ll hold until we make it back home.