Toronto>Manitoulin>Thunder Bay>Lake Superior Park>Timmins>New Liskeard>Toronto
Left Friday after work and returned Tuesday night for 3600km in about 4.5 days and we camped along the way.
Gas in Toronto was around $1.30/litre and gas along the North Shore was routinely $1.40/litre. We payed as much as $1.45/litre...
Caught the ferry to Manitoulin and spent the night at Green Acres Trailer Park
which is located on the north end of the island in Sheguiandah. There was a large group of Harley riders that all had made reservations for the ferry (and I hadn't) so I was a bit worried I wasn't going to get on, but they had 3 spots left for bikes in the end. I always like the ferry ride and it was a really nice and hot out, but cooled down immensely by the halfway point of the ferry ride. Campsite cost $23 and I was really close to the water, but not right on the water as there was a deep beach and all the RV's had the beachfront lots. The folks here were nice and the place had a small restaurant that served decent food. I wanted someplace quiet because I was low on sleep and expected a long day of riding the next day.
Sunny and roasting hot in Tobermory, but cloudy and cold on the water. A view from the Chee-chee-maun:
Just up the road from the Green Acres was this cool little sawmill on some old gravel backroad:
There was a beautiful sunrise in the morning at Green Acres:
Day 2: Met up in Espanola with Ron, who's with another Strom rider and we made a run up the Trans Canada to Iron Bridge (just before S.S.Marie) and then took the #129 north to Chapleau. I had read very good things about this highway and all I can say was it was really boring. I mean like mind-numbing boring. For me at least. The southern section of it was good, but it was all fresh gravel so it was really soft and wet for about 20km. As soon as the gravel finished, the straights between the curves started increasing while the curves themselves became pretty sedate and the scenery in between didn't make up for it. I mean I like nature and all, but the roads were just endless conifer trees with the occasional lake thrown in for good measure. I found myself falling asleep and pictured that the prairies must be this bad but without all the trees or lakes....or curves for that matter... Maybe I just had really high expectations of this road or maybe the gravel during the most twisty part of it kind of ruined my hopes of rounding off my tires a bit. Just before the trip I had a new rear tire put on and wanted to make sure it got properly worked in. These roads were just going to square them off. Anyways, we headed west along the #101 to Wawa and I also thought the #101 was boring. Once again, it's the kind of stuff that's currently good for leisurely Sunday cruises or pre-Bill 203
riding, but it left me feeling like I was riding really far to get to the good stuff - hopefully not an urban myth. But that's okay, because sometimes it can be worth it and it's about the journey anyways....
We camped in a park called Pukaskwa National Park
very close to Marathon, Ontario and I liked this place. There were some nice trails around for some deserted hiking with great views of Lake Superior. It was $25 to camp and they let us pitch two tents on one large site which was nice. They also didn't charge us the separate admission fee to the park because we arrived late in the day around 7pm. We pitched our tents and about 5 minutes later it started raining heavily so no campfire that night. The only thing I didn't like about this place was that the sites were sand, which meant that now after the rains, the sand was in everything and would be a while until it dried out to shake off. Also some animal ate one of my bags of trail mix that I happened to leave out on the picnic table.
Bike starting to get a bit dirty:
The view of the beach off the Pukaskwa Park where we camped:
We woke up in the morning and it was nice and sunny, so we decided to go for an early morning hike. The trails were really nice and the views were spectacular - all within 15 minutes of the campgrounds itself (even though the hiking there can get pretty rough and go on for days the deeper in the park you go). As luck would have it it started raining while we were ending our short hike, so we hightailed it back to the site to pack up our gear before the heavy rains started. Nothing like packing up your wet tent and belongings and stuffing them into your drysack for an even cure.
Because of the rain it was also colder and took a while to warm up. We made our way over to Terrace Bay and by that point in time I was wondering where the lake was. I knew from looking at the map that we had gone through much of the interior and had yet to go through the areas with the best views so I was patient. The Trans Canada along this entire stretch is 90kmh but few police so speeds were a bit higher. The winds were pretty strong at a few points approaching Terrace Bay and with the bikes fully loaded, they were like big sails in the wind almost getting blown over. Still the road was nothing technical like I had imagined. Just really long sweepers that were more about cruising than exhilarating. We had a brief lunch stop in Terrace Bay and then went on towards Thunder Bay. Just a short distance away from Terrace Bay is the Aguasabon gorge and falls
which was a nice stop. It's a really short walk to the viewing platform and worth the visit. The ride from Terrace Bay to Nipigon is where the best part of the Trans Canada was for me so far. Huge sweepers matched with really awesome views of Lake Superior. The sky cleared up, the temperatures rose, the heated gear turned off and the ride was fantastic.
The Aguasabon Gorge and Falls:
A view of Lake Superior and the steeds:
When approaching Thunder Bay, there is the Terry Fox Memorial on your right. I was looking forward to seeing this because his accomplishments were astounding. Wikipedia
actually has a really good read on him if you don't know much about him. So when we got to the memorial we stayed there for a bit, took a break and relaxed for about an hour and then headed back along the Trans Canada to try and make it back to Wawa to spend the night.
I thought the Terry Fox Memorial was very tastefully done and beyond the statue is an awesome view of the lake:
A view of the lake from one of the scenic lookouts. I liked that the railway is down there in the back ground - a 74hr train ride (Toronto to Vancouver) which I took several years ago, and the views are incredible:
The ride back was even better and the weather got even warmer and the views with the lake on our right were even better. We didn't quite make it back to Wawa, but did make it out to White Lake Provincial Park
. There is some really nice spots here and a few that are right on the waters edge - one with it's own private driveway to the site (site #86 if you go), making it very secluded. Camping here was $31 each but they put the two us us in one site again and didn't charge us the admission fee so it was all good. I liked that this campsite didn't have sand as the tent pads and instead it was just woodland floor (hemlock, spruce and fir needles) so it made it much cleaner for camping.
Anyways, we left the White Lake Park and went for breakfast in White River which is not too far from Wawa. At the breakfast place which is the only one and right beside the only gas station, we were told by the waitresses that White River is known as the coldest place in Canada where it got down to a recorded -72. They also told me it gets down to a sustained -40 for over a month every winter. So I got home and looked it up and what a bunch of b.s. - it's all their fancy marketing to buy their gas at $1.45/liter. However, their breakfast was good and it is the home of Winnie the Pooh if that makes up for anything.
So we then headed down the east coast of Lake Superior towards Sault Saint Marie, and the views were once again breathtaking. The water was this awesome infusion of greens and blues and the waves were crashing all over the place. The sun was out and I felt like I was a kid at the ocean. The water also looked really clean and was very clear - you could probably see down for 20 or 30 feet if it wasn't so windy. The picture below is a really good hidden (re: free) camping spot right by the lake that Ron knew of which was just off the Trans Canada, but hidden enough that you were all alone with Superior.
Just south of Wawa, we went to a place called Old Woman's Bay where there is a really nice big beach and nice views of the water. I went down to the water expecting it to be really cold like everyone says, but it was warm. Definitely warm enough for a swim - And there was a guy swimming too. It was likely this warm because it's really shallow there and being a secluded bay it was hotter than other parts.
We left The Trans Canada just a bit north of Sault Saint Marie to head north again on the #556, also known as Ranger Lake Road. The first 30km of it is a nice paved road that has lots of fast sweepers on it which I enjoyed a great deal and will lead you almost to the Searchmont Ski Resort. The second 80km section of the road is gravel. I've ridden gravel before, but not 80km straight, but my leader was good and so we lowered the tire pressure and headed for it (mine was too low at 18psi on the front and 22psi on the rear by my own doing and fully loaded with gear) I could feel my tires were a bit too low, but it was still way better than riding fully aired up. The road was good fun and I almost went into the ditch a few times by overusing my front brake among other things, but by the end of it, I felt much more confident on the loose stuff.
If you are not scared of gravel, then I highly recommend taking this road followed by going south on the #129 down to Thessalon. After Ranger Lake road we aired up our tires and headed for the long boring ride up to Chapleau again. It lived up to my expectations this time and was just as boring as the first time. From Chapleau we headed east along the #101 to Timmins which was more of the same until we got to the #144. We headed south on the #144 and tried to bush camp but it was getting late and we weren't finding any spots. We decided to camp at The Cache Campground
on the #144 just south of Timmins. We didn't pull in until it was getting dark around 8pm and the lady at the desk said we were nuts to be tenting it because it was supposed to be going down below freezing at night. I didn't mind tenting it but she offered us a cabin for the same price as a tent spot so we took it. Turned out to be a good decision because it saved us ton of time from having to set-up and take down and also we woke up to heavy frost on our bikes and the road. They had a nice view of the lake (Kenogamissi) and the sunrise was fantastic with the fog coming off the lake.
From here the riding got much better. We headed south along the #144 to meet up with a Highway (#560) that would take us over to New Liskeard. The ride on the #144 south was awesome because of the many elevation changes and the heavy fog and frost that morning. There were many times where we would drive right into the the base of a fog induced rainbow. There were also many times that the fog would sit at the tree canopy line, so the road was super clear all the way down, but you couldn't see above the trees. When the sunlight hit the fog, it made roads and trees turn orange and glow all over. Really magnificent and something I've never seen before. It was too cold to stop and try to photograph it. Heavy fog was all over the place until we made it to the junction of the #144/#560. We had a great breakfast there and then the fog lifted and the temperatures warmed up a lot.
We headed east on the #560 which is a highway most riders would enjoy. Very fast sweepers, almost no traffic at all to speak of and beautiful smooth pavement for almost the entire stretch (140km). We crossed into New Liskeard and then headed around the top of Lake Temiscaming and then rode south along the Quebec side of the lake (#101). The pavement here was also really smooth and little traffic. We stopped at the bottom of the lake where the Quebec/Ontario border is and rested on the little island or whatever of Kippawa on the Ottawa River. I was told the pulp mill there is/was one of the largest in Canada and at one point the air in the area used to be a yellowish/orange from all the sulphur discharge and smelled like a big fart, but with environmental controls, things have seemed to have gotten better there.
Then we headed down to North Bay where we parted ways. It was great riding with you Ron and I look forward to doing it again. I continued down the #11 and was planning on doing a run of the Muskoka's before coming home. But apparently they are widening or straightening the #11 up there and the traffic was a dead stop for 30 minutes and backed up for as far as I could see. Note: Why do cars keep their engines running when at a dead stop for literally 30 minutes?
Then we moved about 200 meters and then stopped again for another 20 minutes. I said F this I'm going back up north to find a detour and did just that. My detour involved some great gravel roads in the area south of Trout Creek and then I took the #520 over to Magnetawan. This was a beautiful highway with fast sweepers again and super smooth pavement. In Magnetawan, I headed south along the Old Nipissing Trail back to the #518 near Seguin Falls.
If you are not scared of gravel and like heavily twisty roads, then the Old Nipissing Trail is a blast to ride. There is a section just south of the #520 that is paved and it's about 20 km of much-better-than-Southwood Rd#13-goodness (ie no frost heaves or sand in the corners), with zero traffic. Then it gets into the gravel and then it gets into the hard sand, all the while still maintaining that heavy twisty, hilly awesomeness. Lot's of really interesting cabins and buildings which I read later on where some of the pioneers and settlers buildings and stuff. Add to that a run up the #518 to Sprucedale, followed by the south run down #2 Ravenscliffe and my ride felt like it had appropriate the appropriate closure it needed. By the way if I didn't mention it already, Old Nipissing Road