Day 3

7:30 am board Agawa Canyon Tour Train go to/through beautiful Agawa Canyon go
We arrive at the Algoma Central Railway depot; check luggage, pick up tickets, meet Michael Burtch (Group of Seven expert). He is our guide for this very popular North American rail tour. Since 1952 three million people have visited Agawa Canyon.

We settle ourselves into roomy upholstered coach seats to enjoy this velvet wilderness experience. Recent upgrading of passenger cars added large windows, tinted glass, new carpeting, fresh paint, GPS triggered commentary (in 5 languages), and digital camera to broadcast the “engineer’s view” from an engine mount to flat screen TV’s mounted in the cars. By the way, comfort does not diminish the authenticity of the experience.

People can bring their own picnics on board and some do. We like the dining car service experience so head there for a hot breakfast and to order a box lunch for later. Don’t want to miss any of the spectacular views? Café Coach Service delivers snacks or thirst quenchers to your seat!

Starting at lake level, the train chugs past The Soo industrial heart. Piles of logs, acres of them, stacked 10′ high will soon become paper pulp. In the distance tall industrial stacks can be seen but very quickly city fades to wilderness. Mile after mile, the train twists, turns, skirts pristine lakes and rivers, and passes awesome granite rock formations. At mile 92, we are 130 feet above water on the awesome Montreal River railroad trestle looking down at the power dam. Good views in both directions but looking back lets you see the full curve of the track we’ve just navigated. Tree species change with elevation, the mixed boreal forest seems endless. Under the canopies of the Spruce, Pine, Balsam, Cedar, and Tamarack trees, the Oak, Birch, Maple Mountain Ash, Aspen and Hickorys thrive. Fall colors here are spectacular.

For more than 5 years, Michael Burtch has been researching old archived surveys to identify the Canyon locations in the “Seven” paintings. By now this wilderness area is steeped in his DNA  – he’s hiked and canoed much of it in his quest – and  he knows the painting sites by their mile markers. Michael has ID’d 180 sites so far and a colleague is GPS’ing the finds. A book and a “Seven”- Wilderness Art Trail is in the offing.

Michael brings a volume of “Seven” paintings to prep us and he enthusiastically points out painting sites as we pass them on this train. His commentary helps us make sense of the random world out there, helps us appreciate the sumptuousness of it and through his extraordinary knowledge and vision we are guided to look, to understand, and to take pleasure from the experience.   We are caught up in a special Algoma Country mystique.

  100 miles/161 km 

noon arrive beautiful Agawa Canyon go
Just when we think we’ve seen it all, the train hugs the canyon wall top and begins a 500 foot descent over the next 10 miles into the shallow canyon. 5 miles away we see Lake Superior. At mile 112 we reach the Canyon floor, cross the Agawa River and see Bridal Falls on the right.

The canyon floor, a beautiful park with grassy picnic areas where summer wildflowers bloom with abandon. No bears or moose, just lots of small mammals, song birds and raptors hang out here. Surprisingly the river water is a copper brown color – due to tannin leach from the Cedar trees – but the otters and beavers don’t seem to mind. There are five short nature trails and a climb up 372 steps to a lookout platform with a panoramic canyon view. Can you guess which path we take? On the way down we check out the flora and notice small mammals scurrying around. Michael drinks from the fast clear stream fed by a waterfall. We relax with our boxed lunches while waiting for our connecting train.

2 pm transfer to Algoma Central Railway (ACR) Passenger Train go
The Tour Train returns to The Soo without us. Further north, specifically Mile Marker 206, we’ll connect with a pontoon boat to reach a remote lake resort. We board the ACR Passenger Train, a utilitarian workhorse, transporting freight and folk to the deepest wilderness regions.

5 pm arrive by train at Mile 206, on Wabatongushi Lake, pickup for Errington’s Wilderness Island Resort go
Mile 206 marker. Not a depot, just a stop with a small sign and sun shield roof. To our amazement Al Errington is waiting to greet us. Mounds of luggage required by four couples are loaded into a wooden outboarded fishing boat which takes off the resort, full throttle. Relieved of baggage we get into a large roofed but open pontoon boat. Al pilots for the leisurely 15 minute scenic ride, delivering us to Errington’s Wilderness Resort Island dock, where a very happy dog is wanting to say hello.

Errington’s, the only resort in the remote north end of 10,000 acre Lake Wabatongushi, happens to also be in the southwest corner of the world’s largest game preserve, Chapleau Crown, a 3,000 square mile wildlife sanctuary. Errington’s Main Lodge and cabins, handbuilt of logs, are rustic and very comfortable. Our log house, bedroom, bath, sitting area, also has a front porch facing the lake. Wood fishing boats, canoes, kayaks, swimming areas and nature trails are available. 

6 pm dinner Main Lodge go
Our names on a paper table tent guide us to our seats in the rustic dining area. Large windows on two sides showcase the surrounding lake, trees and flowers. A dinner of housemade soup, barbecued ribs, mashed potatoes, side veggies, and good coffee fortifies us for an evening of nature viewing, wild life photography and watching the sun go down. Three boats full of guests go fishing. Others go stargazing.

7-10 pm take Pontoon Boat Nature & Wildlife Tour go
It is a clear evening, not chilly at the start, but when the sun gets low we wrap in blankets. Al has lived on the lake since his teen years and knows every inch of the lake and islands – he may even be on a first name basis with the bears. He guides the pontoon boat silently into the shallows where we hope to spot a moose. No luck – “Too windy”, explains Al. Tonight there are many water birds and one eagle high in a dead tree. We pull up to an uninhabited island to look closely at the mosses and lichen clinging to the granite. Undisturbed for many years they have attained a size rarely seen. It is sometimes possible to view the Northern Lights from this location. Tonight we can’t but we enjoy the changing views in the dimming light and eventually the sun setting behind the pines. Lovely evening in nature.

stay Errington’s Wilderness Island Resort go
A long eventful day, we’re tired, but the sky is irresistible. We skywatch to the lullaby of lake water metrically spashing on the rocky shore.

Day 3 photos
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