Beyond (south of) the Barrett River, the coastline and the Coastal Trail had had enough of giving us an easy ride. The terrain returned to something similar to the roughness we encountered on the first day of our backpack - lots of steep little ups and downs, some coastal scrambling, and more energy-sapping coarse beach hiking. It was very beautiful, mind you, but still, the kilometres were piling up and the energy levels were flagging. Our group clearly wanted to find a spot and settle down for the night.
Hiking across high ground
Soon we began to reach the backcountry sites we had targeted on our map. And one by one, we could come around a corner or push a branch aside to peer into the site and find it....occupied. Then, we came across a site that was free.
Unfortunately, it was a very marginal site, especially for our large group. It was going to be cramped and uncomfortable.
At this point, our campsite quandry precipitated the largest debate so far on our backpack: stay, or continue. The especially-tired amongst us didn't care that the site was marginal. Stopping was the most important thing. Others wanted to push on for something nicer, but of course, at the risk of finding nothing free. There were a few more indicated backcountry sites before reaching the frontcountry zone near Sinclair Cove. After that it was a long, long stretch before the next set of backcountry sites. If we were going to find something free, it would have to be one of these next few (sites).
It even came down to the point of myself and Chris hiking ahead for a bit, alone, to scout out possible sites in the little cove we were in. But, there was nothing, and we soon turned back and returned to the rest of the group, who were waiting patiently back at the marginal site.
Another tiring coarse beach
The pusher-on-ers eventually won out over the lets-camp-here-ers, although the descision margin was razor-thin. This was a 51%-49% type of decision. Could have gone either way.
With the decision made to push on, our group wearily hoisted packs back on and plodded on. The Coastal Trail was quite rugged here, and combined with our now 15+ kilometres of elapsed distance, everyone was starting to feel pretty bushed. And after the letdown of passing another site that was occupied, I started to think outside the box.
There was one final site, situated on a narrow finger of land. Beyond that there were no more sites for a distance that was not practical for us to consider. And as we knew by now, there was a good chance (more so than not), that this final site would be at this point (in the day) occupied. Once again I remembered the park rule about the allowance for informal camping, so long as there was good justification and as long as we could do so without undue environmental impact.
Scanning the coastline at a particularly nice viewpoint, I noticed that the little finger of land that hosted the final campsite had quite a lot of exposed bedrock, especially at its tip. I took a few photos with the biggest telephoto I had with me and then carefully examined the resulting picture at maximum magnification on my camera's display. It did indeed seem like there was quite a lot of flat bedrock on the tip of that peninsula, probably more than enough to host all of our tents. The question was.... could this spot be easily accessed without excessive bushwhacking or impassible cliffs?
We laboriously (remember, this section of Coastal Trail, especially at the end of a long day, is fairly taxing) made our way around the rugged coastline. As expected, that final campsite on the map had indeed been occupied (by a couple of canoe-ers), and I was ready to implement my exploratory journey to the bedrock peninsula. We explained to the two campers and excused ourselves as we crossed by their campsite on the way. They seemed dubious that we'd find anything. In the back of my mind, though, I knew I had seen lots of good, flat rock. Question was, could we get to it....
Chris was turning out to be quite the "forge-ahead-er" on this hike, and he agreed to come scout with me. We initially chose the north side of the peninsula, which turned out to have steep slopes and was bushy. And as I started to round a final corner to the end of the peninsula, my heart sank a bit when I was confronted with a steep 40-foot gash in the peninsula, and water crashing through it. Totally unaccessible?
I wasn't 100% sure that the end of the peninsula was actually an island, for I could not see all the way into the gash separating me from it. I had to get around, higher, through some trees, to actually look down on it. I called back to Chris and laboriously worked my way up to a better viewpoint.
To my relief, I saw a small pebble-beach bridge from me to the final piece of the peninsula - *and* an easy way to scramble down to it. That meant we could indeed get to this point, although my bushwhack thus far had been grubby and difficult. I called to Chris that I was going to explore the other side of the peninsula to see if the going was any easier.
As it turns out, it was easier - much easier, in fact. Nothing more than a walk along solid bedrock in much the same way that characterized much of the Coastal Trail. In other words, nothing out of the ordinary for our crew. I hustled back to where they were patiently waiting and informed them that it looked good - we'd be able to get to the tip of the peninsula without much difficulty.
Chris and I guided them along the southern edge of the peninsula to the pebble-beach bridge connecting over to the final bit of the tip. I could sense weariness amongst the group, but also perhaps a touch of resetment that I was pushing them onwards. Or perhaps they didn't really believe that this fabled flat-tipped peninsula endpoint existed, and that we would just have to turn around after coming all this way from the trail.
Beautiful Bedrock Platforms
In any case, I had everyone wait at the pebble connector beach while I took a quick look ahead with Chris. A minor scramble followed by a few metres of herd path through a patch of trees brought us to the end of the peninsula. And there, spread out before us, were acres of Canadian Shield granite. It projected out into the lake, and beyond which blue waters stretched away to the horizon in many directions. Other little craggy islands dotted the near landscape, and the slanting late-day light accentuated shapes and colors. It was quite shangri-la like. Shangri-lake, if you will.
Beautiful Bedrock Peninsula
We went back to fetch the others and encourage them to come the final few metres. Even with our positive review of the site, I still got the sense of reluctance. I have to admit feeling a bit miffed about that.
Everybody's mood improved noticeably when they saw that, yes indeed, this would make a fine campsite. We each found a nice little flat spot for our tents -- mine further away and closer to the lake. It was a beautiful, calm, warm, sunny evening. The only downside was that there were a lot of mosquitoes here. After wandering around the peninsula for a bit, it became obvious what the source was - several little depressions in the bedrock had caught water, forming little still pools perfect for breeding mosquitoes. A stiff breeze would have taken care of these little pesty buggers, but tonight's weather was perfectly calm.
Even though it was now 8pm, there was more than enough sunlight left to have dinner and get things organized before dark. Being an unofficial location, there was no fire ring, and no backcountry toilet, so no fires, and in general we avoided excessive bathroom activity - all the better to minimize our impact here.
With dinner out of the way, a few of us sat on the glacially-scoured bedrock closest to Lake Superior and watched the sun as it sank below some distant islands. This had not been the hardest day from a trail difficulty perspective. However, the length (17 km, our longest day so far) and the fact that the roughest hiking had been at the end of the day - both of these factors made this (in my opinion) the most strenuous day of the backpack thus far.
Once Again, Incredible Clarity
After a beautiful sunset, we got to hanging our food, and turned in for the night. Given the completely clear skies and lack of wind, I decided that going without a fly was a safe option, and I'd be the recipient of any nice lake breezes and be able to do a little star watching from the comfort of my sleeping bag - all while being nicely protected from the swarm of mosquitoes here.
Fly-less Twilight Tent View
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Backpack day 3 - click map to view
Lake Superior Coastal Backpack day 3 - Hike Data
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet