Lake Superior Provincial Park's Coastal Trail
Note: In addition to this written report, two videos (one extended length) of this trip are available for viewing. Head over to the video page to watch them.
As is widely known by.... well, everyone, 2020's pandemic has thrown a wrench into our ability to move around - locally, nationally, and internationally. Here in alavigne.net
land, that has so far meant sticking quite close to home, as evidenced by the trip reports you see on my website for May, June, and July of this year.
That hasn't meant that I hadn't been thinking about trips further afield. It did force me to look more closely at where we could go within my province (the province of Ontario, in Canada) for something more challenging. My eyes wandered back and forth over the map of the province, looking at various parks and scenic areas, and arrived on a couple of coastal trails along huge Lake Superior. One was in a national park, and one was in a provincial park. Both seemed interesting, but the one in Lake Superior Provincial Park seemed a little more accessible. I put the idea to the usual suspects, and almost to a one, they said yes. Guess they also really wanted to get out and do something bigger.
So where is Lake Superior Provincial Park? I myself didn't really remember off the top of my head before doing research for this trip. It's along the northern shore of Lake Superior, about and hour and a half drive's north of the city of Sault Ste Marie, which itself sits at the very easternmost tip of the lake. It's a fair drive from our home city of Ottawa, but not excessively so: about a ten-hour, roughly 1,000 km drive. Close enough that we didn't need to take a plane.
Lake Superior's Coastal Trail is a roughly 60 to 70 kilometre linear route stretching from the western-most tip of the park at Gargantua Head, all the way down to the park visitor center in Agawa Bay. It dosen't cover all of the park's coastline, but it is a good chunk of it. As you'll see in the details below, we did the most relevant part of the route, trimming a little bit off of the top and bottom ends.
We chose the very first week in August for our trip. I had booked the necessary backcountry and parking permits for our group, we had agreed more or less on our start and end points, and roughly how long we thought it would take. Originally a large group of nine, a couple of last-minute cancellations trimmed us down to seven - still a fairly sizeable backpacking group. For logistical reasons and to keep us a bit spaced out, we elected to drive up in three cars.
I've often been accused of being too focused on getting to our destinations as quickly as possible, and this time, I was determined to make an effort to make the long drive as relaxing as possible. I mapped out all of the nice roadside picnic stops along the Trans-Canada highway between Ottawa and Lake Superior, and we stopped at the majority of them along the way. Often we'd only drive less than an hour before stopping for a stretch and another snack break. We even stopped in Sudbury for a selfie with the Big Nickel.
It made more sense for us to stop and stay in a motel in a town before getting to the park. We therefore drove as far as Sault Ste Marie (a city of about 75,000 on the very eastern tip of Lake Superior) and stayed at a couple of inexpensive motels. We'd already packed our backpacks and organized all of our fuel and shared supplies, so we were pretty much ready to head into the backcountry the next day.