Day 5

breakfast in Rock Island Lodge kitchen go
“Choose it yourself” buffet, in the kitchen at communal table. We join a convivial group of interesting travelers who’ve been to the area before, talking about today’s planned adventures. One of the couples, Kristine and David will join us in this morning’s Stand-up Paddle Board session.

  383 miles/617 km

9 am learn Stand-up Paddle Boarding with Naturally Superior Adventures go
Once fitted with life jackets we walk down to the sandy beach. Properly sized paddles and boards are assigned before the how-to-get-started demo begins. Quite a rush when we are finally able to balance and stand up on the board. Amazingly, it doesn’t go too badly. Only one fall, early on, as we are getting our bearings. The mighty Michipicoten River is very gentle here and for a bit we follow the leader. Soon after, we scatter – confident newbies – able now to appreciate the surrounding land mass. The river estuary, almost circular is ringed by forest that in a few places comes close to the beach. There’s a handsome old boat house on the west shore and a huge sandbar between the river and lake. Doesn’t take long to learn this sport – no wonder so many love it. Hate to quit but time to go.

11 am impromptu concert Rock Island Lodge meeting room go
Turns out Kristine is a chansonniere – writes and sings her own songs, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar. She’s performed on 4 continents including Africa and Latin America and across Canada and is in the area to work on a CD. She favors us with”Lake Superior” a song written when visiting last year. Only one song, but as they say, “Always leave them wanting more!” See/hear for yourself here

noon leisurely afternoon drive southeast along Lake Superior shoreline – Wawa to Sault Ste Marie
Great scenic drive – we take it slow to savor. The coastal road rises, falls, twists and turns in tandem with the shoreline, hills, cliffs and rocky outcroppings. We drive through forest walls that every so often open to reveal a bay, a cove, a beach. We’d heard about Old Woman’s Bay go and make a stop. Rugged 400′ cliff on the south side is said to have the face of  an “Old Woman” looking out over the horse shoe bay. We look – don’t see her. In recent years Peregrine Falcons have settled here. Canoeing and kayaking are popular adventures in these parts. This quiet bay is one of the favorites. Rock collectors enjoy hunting for treasured specimens.

Traffic very light, in fact, very few people anywhere. We pull into Katherine’s Cove, a narrow sandy beach surrounded by trees. Water is shallow and warm, great stop for families – several are on the beach. A boy and his dog run along the shore, some kids play ball, others sun and picnic.

3 pm stop Agawa Bay go
We’d heard of the centuries old Pictographs painted on a 98′ high cliff facing Lake Superior by the Ojibwe people. 2000 years before Europeans travelled on the lake the Ojibwe painted legends, mystical beasts and their history in red ochre, ground hematite rock mixed with fat (animal or fish) using the rock face as their canvas. The styles and variety of images indicate many artists worked here over time. The images visible today are 150-400 years old. The iconic image, “Spirt of the Water”, shown as a horned animal called a “Misshepezhieu”, trademarks the collection.

To reach the Pictographs we follow a rough rocky trail through the forest for 1/4 mile, past split boulders and rock canyons, slowly descending to the lake level. Eventually we pull ouserlves over boulders to make our way to the lake front. Great view from here! To our right, a 98′ tall vertical rock wall intersects with a narrow rock shelf angled toward the water. The narrow rock shelf is our path to view the ancient art. The rock faces smoothed by pounding 40′ waves during storms season are slippery – this crazy dangerous! We step very carefully and very slowly all the while leaning into the wall to hopefully avoid slipping into the water. People have recently died here while trying to see these art works. Ranger on duty, but no safety railings. We live to tell the story. Barely.

Further south we find Lake Superior Provincial Park go and its Visitors Center go. The 618 sq mile park was established in 1944 for the enjoyment of the people of Ontario and to protect a good portion of the Lake’s shoreline. Back then Highway 17 did not exist. This area was considered inaccessible, “the Frontier”, until the ’60’s. The park offers campground and backcountry camping, wildlife viewing, miles of hiking trails, canoeing, kayaking and fishing. The modern, large, well designed Visitor Center has many interactive exhibits to educate about  human history and the natural world of the area as well as a theatre with good films. A nice gift shop and friendly rangers fill in the blanks for us. Welcome stopover.

We need gas and heard tales of a full service gas station at the Agawa Crafts Store go located just after the Pancake Bay Provincial Park go entrance. Sure enough, three red-shirted attendants literally jump-to when we pull up to the gas pump. A flurry of activity – one cleans the front windows and lights, another goes under the hood to check fluids, a third pumps the gas, cleans back windows and lights. They empty trash and ashtry – generally spiff up the interior. Haven’t had such service like in a decade or two.

The Agawa Crafts Store is treasure trove of native goods: dream catchers, jewelry, moccasins, flutes, dolls, leather bags, bows and arrow and the best northern hospitality you can find. The Canadian Carver is next door. Eagles, ducks, totems, bowls, furniture – locally sourced and hand carved. Another shop offers smoked fish – buy theirs or get your catch smoked. Weather forecasting rock is a hoot….with never miss accuracy. For 30 years the same family have been running the complex. Fun stop.

7 pm dinner Lakeshore Salzburger Hof Resort and Restaurant go
We snake along and around Batchawana Bay’s go shore to reach this very tidy Bavarian looking resort and grounds. Tennis courts on the left, ahead a long swath of green terrace overlooks the lake. We meet the matriarch who with her husband started the resort in ’72.  The Salzburger Hof Dining Lounge was added in ’78. It has been on the “Where to Eat in Canada” list for 25 years. Multi-generational groups and couples fill the dining room. The pace is leisurely. We order Schnitzel, Sauerbraten and Hungarian Goulash. German beer to lubricate. Our dinner arrives about an hour later when we are hungry enough to eat our shoes….but it is delicious. Three generations of  the Elsigan family now operate the resort, the authentic German/Austrian restaurant and the Gazebo, their casual dining spot.

stay Delta Waterfront Hotel go
We start our final drive leg at dusk. The sky, beautifully colored by the setting sun, reflects in Batchawana Bay. Ducks are out for a swim. An hour later we’re back in Sault St. Marie and pull up to the hotel to find people everywhere in the parking area. Some wear hotel robes, kids in pj’s or wrapped in blankets sit on the curb, police patrol, fire engine. What is this? Bystanders say a 9th floor false fire alarm required everyone to be evacuated. We stay in the car, wait for the “All Clear”; when it comes, we quickly register and are off to hit the sheets. What a day!

Day 5 photos
photos change automatically – touch thumbnail or number for specific image