Lake Superior Provincial Park is one of my favourite places. The lake itself is brilliantly clear, the water clean enough to drink unfiltered (provided you’re drinking it well away from shore). The shoreline is dotted with uncountable warm coves to swim in (August), few bugs (again, August), and breathtaking views, but… I’m entirely biased. This landscape is home (I grew up in the area) and both Steph (the girlfriend, now wife) and I were employed by this park while going to school. Steph as a Natural Heritage Educator and myself as an Interior Ranger.
Working as an Interior Ranger at Lake Superior Provincial Park came with some great experiences; one day our crew flagged down the Agawa train, rode a boxcar with the doors wide open, got dropped off at the Agawa Falls with a chainsaw and cleaned the trail as we hiked out. Then there were the multiday treks where we’d travel (portage, by canoe) through the interior of the park, self sustained as we assessed trail conditions, and explored old decomposing fly-in / hunting camps, and houses from decades gone by. I hiked all but one trail my first summer there. Man, I wish I had a camera back then. Anyhow, back to the topic of this post. This past summer we retraced our footsteps as we hiked Lake Superior’s Coastal Trail.
The Coastal Trail is about 65km, but we chose our favourite stretch – the 25km stretch between Gargantua Harbour and Orphan Lake. This portion of the trail is affectionately referred to as the “rugged” part, but “rugged” is an understatement. Most of this stretch of trail is off camber as you follow the exposed Canadian Shield along the shoreline and when the trail’s not threatening to toss you in the lake, then it’s ankle wrenching boulder beaches with rocks ranging from fist size rocks to the size of a cube van. There are no man made structures to assist in the undulating climbs, and the blue trail markers are few and far between (cairns mark most of the trail). Many times our route (well… usually MY route) would lead to a dead end, I’d scratch my head, Steph would roll her eyes, and then we’d spot a trail marker up on a distant bluff. If a storm unexpectedly kicked up you’d basically be stranded. Walking on wet lichen covered rock or bushwhacking your own route through the dense trees in search of higher ground with a backpack for 25km is sure to get you hurt. Good news though; it’s really difficult getting lost with the world’s largest freshwater lake on your side. The going may be slow, but the views, geology, and orienteering keep things interesting. This is my favourite hike, I highly recommend it.
View more photos here.