Lake Superior Coastal Trail Backpack Day 4
Thursday, August 6
Given the long day and late arrival the previous evening, and given that we were now not that far away from the end of our backpack, we completely relaxed the wake-up time, sleeping in as long as anyone wanted. Breakfast and pack-up was also similarly relaxed. Last night's still, clear weather had persisted into the morning. It was calm, clear, and noticeably warmer than it had been for many days.
We were ready to hike out at a leisurely 10 a.m. By my reckoning, we had less than 8 kilometres of actual distance to cover before reaching Agawa Bay. Agawa Bay is where the visitor center and the southern end of the Coastal Trail is located (although to be fair, the visitor center itself is a few kilometres beyond the near edge of the bay). So, in summary, we didn't have all that much distance to cover, and we weren't feeling rushed.
Morning at Peninsula Camp
Breakfast, Peninsula Camp
We retraced our steps along the peninsula's coastline, back past the canoers' campsite (waving hi and saying that the camping had been great), then rejoined the Coastal Trail. we turned right, continuing our journey south.
The terrain was pretty rugged through here, and there were non-trivial ups and downs along with a few bouldery forays near the water. The lake scenery (when we were near the lake) was especially nice: lots of cliffy islets and little coves and bays. I'd venture to say this stretch provided some of the prettiest views of the backpack.
Forty-five minutes of reasonably strenuous hiking brought us to Sinclair Cove. There is a car access point and boat ramp here, so we began to see lots of non-backpackers: canoers, kayakers, and other sorts of boaters. We hiked up the ramp and across the parking area to regain the Coastal Trail on the other side.
A bit of inland topography
Continuing past Sinclair Cove
A few more hundred metres of forest trail brought us to a major junction - the side trail to the Agawa Rock Pictographs, one of the most significant attractions of the entire park. Needless to say, there were a lot of more typical tourist visitors here, walking the half kilometre trail from parking lot to pictographs. We decided to take a small detour and join them. Seeing the pictographs would be cool.
Ojibwe Interpretive Plaque
There were many interesting interpretive plaques as we descended to the pictograph wall, which is situated just above a bedrock ledge that slopes disconcertingly into Lake Superior. If the waters were high or rough, it would be pretty sketchy to walk along this edge to see the pictographs. Today, however, the weather was calm and the lake waters were pretty quiescent. There were thick self-rescue ropes dangling into the water every so often, attesting to the fact that someone probably takes a slip into the lake every so often.
Maritime Pictograph Viewers
The star pictograph of the whole set is actually not that far along the sloping ledge. It is a striking figure of a spiky-backed animal, apparently a cat figure known as Mishipeshu, a.k.a. the underwater panther or the Great Lynx. Mishipeshu is a powerful creature in the traditions of the Anishinaabe, the Ojibwe, and other nations of the Lake Superior area.
After viewing the pictographs along with about 30 other nice-smelling tourists, we climbed back up the access trail to the Pictographs parking lot. A very nice, very clean bathroom was a welcome stop here.
Nice Bathrooms Break
After our bathroom break, a non-obvious, non-marked bit of Coastal Trail led a few yard into the forest to an actual Coastal Trail sign. The sign promised a 6-hour hike time to Agawa Bay, which was now 7km away. We were doubtful about that estimate, and theorized that perhaps it was such a severely harsh estimate to dissuade the casual jaunts of unprepared tourists at the Pictographs parking lot. I mean, we'd been along a lot of rough trail by this point. How hard could it really be?
Continuing on past the sign, the trail led through a descending stretch of woods to the coastline a little ways south of the pictographs. There were some fine viewpoints here, complete with high cliffs and clear, emerald-green waters.
Pretty Pessimistic Estimate
As it turned out, the coastal trail through here was pretty rough. Rough, but interesting: we soon began twisting and turning and climbing through an impressive set of boulder caves, each more interesting than the next. There were brief stretches of scrambling, too, where we had to make a couple of moves requiring hands and feet. Nothing exposed nor particularly difficult - just a bit on the strenuous side.
The cave and scrambling sections went on for quite a while - I'd say maybe a kilometre's worth of trail in total, and that kilometre was fairly slow, taking us a good 45 minutes. Then we began traversing along the top of the headland near Agawa point, and things smoothed out substantially. There were some very nice open traverses 150 feet feet above the elevation of the lake here, giving us some excellent views of the blue expanse and of the clustering of the nearby Agawa Islands.
Beautiful Agawa Islands View