Lake Superior Coastal Trail Backpack Day 5
Friday, August 7
I once again slept without fly, on the beach, under a calm and starry sky. We awoke to calm waters and yet another clear morning.
As already noted in the description of our campsite from yesterday, we were not far from the cars. And although this was technically "day five of the backpack", we only had a short and flat hike to do, along the Coastal Trail, until we came to highway 17 at the Agawa River bridge. Morning at camp was therefore another un-hurried affair, much like the day before.
Another ultra-calm morning
Although we could have bushwhacked directly through the forest to the highway and then down the highway to the cars, I felt it would be a little more dignified and appropriate if we used the Coastal Trail and exited at an official trailhead. Also, it's probably not a good idea to have seven heavily-laden backpackers creating an ugly herdpath across the noise and nature buffer separating the beach campsites from the highway. So we used the trail.
Flat to the exit
The hike to the trailhead was the definition of an "in the park" (as in, walk in the park) hike. The land around the Agawa river is completely dead flat, and the Coastal Trail is a completely smooth pine needle-carpet path that follows the lake shore. One interesting note, as we neared the mouth of the Agawa River, was a fourth backcountry site (I had given up trying to find the fourth site marked on the map the day before). Apparently they have drawn the little triangle for this one in the wrong place. I wonder if the couple that were forced to move on when they came by our recently-occupied site were able to snag this one....? In any case, the site was empty now.
At our brisk pace, the trail soon turned inland and roughly parallelled the Agawa River, and soon we could see the glint of car windshields and the blue Coastal Trail sign ahead. Although the Coastal Trail continued across the Agawa River Bridge and across more flats to the Visitor Center, we were finishing here.
Delapidated Ranger Cabin?
In all, it only took us about 35 minutes (including a 10 minute wait while I ran back at one point to fetch my phone, which I had left back on the beach near our campsite) to walk from our final campsite to the emergence of the Coastal Trail near the Agawa River Bridge. Barely enough to get the blood flowing. Chris and Pu and I walked over to the nearby Awausee parking lot and fetched the cars. Then, one final victory photo of the group. Congrats to the not-so-famous 2020 Group of Seven!!
Group of Seven Victory Shot
With our hiking stuff packed away and all of us back into our original car assignments, we started the long convoy drive back east (we'd lightly bandied the idea of staying in the area longer, but the lure of getting back home early and doing chores around the house won out). Along the way, we stopped at two foodie places: the Voyageurs' Cookhouse in Batchawana Bay, just south of the park, for some large and fresh and homemade apple fritters, and at the Regency Bakery and Deli in Sudbury, Ontario, where we sampled some of Sudbury's Italian subculture with some genuine porchetta sandwiches.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Backpack Day 5 - click map to view
Lake Superior Coastal Backpack day 5 - Hike Data
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet
So.. Four solid days of backpacking plus a dash of "easy" on either end. 51 kilometres (55 if you count the extra leg we did north of Gargantua Bay) in total. For those keeping precise track, we did not do the 10km stretch north of Gargantua Harbour to Chalfant Cove, and we did not do the 3km stretch south from the Agawa River bridge to the Agawa Bay visitor center.
To be sure, we had pretty great conditions overall, and our days went by fairly smoothly (small face-plants and some sweaty and tired searching for campsites notwithstanding). Now that I've done this route, I can confidently say that it's the most challenging trail I've done in Ontario. But to be frank, that's not really saying all that much. There are any number of multi-day backpacking itineraries in the more rugged or mountainous areas of the country or in the US (say, for example, in New Hampshire's White Mountains) that are definitely more difficult.
Certainly wet weather slows you down and requires more caution - but no more than it does in any rough, rocky terrain. For a multi-day trek, this is a superb outing. The coastal experience is great and full of variety, and even despite the apparently elevated levels of people we encountered, is really not that busy. And the backcountry reservation system gives a certain level of freedom that is refreshing. I think it's a great route. In fact, I'm already starting to think about when we can go and try out the coastal trail in nearby Pukaskwa National Park......
Note: Video sequences coming in October 2020. Come back then....