Backpack Day 5: Fish Harbour to Hook Falls
Friday, July 30
We managed to agree on another early start today - our fifth day in the Pukaskwa Wilderness. This was not just because of the weather forecast (there was a chance of rain in the evening), but because today was to be our longest day of the backpack: a long trek up the coast and then a significant jog inland. Final destination: a campsite along a major waterway, a fair ways inland from the coast. Our park map estimated 16 kilometres, but we planned for 18, just in case. And hence the early start.
Our group's campcraft skills have improved over the last few days, and even though we have gotten up a bit later than our last early-riser day, we are ready to go at roughly the same time, at 7 a.m. Bravo to all!
The first part of the day is another section with a lot of actual coastal hiking. In sections between Fish Harbour and Morrison Harbour, it is quite reminiscent of the coastal scrambles of nearby Lake Superior PP: dramatic cliffs, notches and bluffs that one must negotiate, sections of awkward boulders and sections of smooth, polished bedrock. Very scenic, and you can imagine the intense surf, wind and rain that must periodically pound this coastline to keep it as barren as it is.
In between the sections of coastline are some inland bits that are actually quite nice. There's a scenic bit of bedrock highland that - because it is not far from the coastline - offers grand views. And there's another section of trail that leads tidily and perfectly through ankle-high shrubbery. And there's another section, made especially beautiful in the early morning sun, of a stand of skinny fir trees with a beautiful thick spongy carpet of moss covering nearly every inch of ground below.
The amount of coastal scrambling gradually diminishes and the amount of time spent inland increases as we make our way north. After Shotwatch Cove, the trail stays entirely inland, although over the top of the high open bedrock sections there are some nice views lake-ward to a distant blue horizon. We cross another extensive section of ancient shoreline, rounded boulders weathered gray by thousands or hundreds of thousands of years without wave action.
An extended period of semi-open hiking is encountered between Shotwatch Cove and the Willow River. The trail leads across this terrain, with many stretches of bedrock slabs. There are a lot of little steep ups and downs and twists and turns. It is rather interesting to hike, although more strenuous than a straight-and-level trail.