While I’m still sifting through all of my photographs (I’m about 2/3rds of the way through them) I figured it was time to begin recounting this marvelous experience that was the Northern Ontario camping trip. A trip that began with what can only be described as a lengthy drive, from Toronto to Thunder Bay. This 1,400km and 18 hour drive cannot easily be done in one sitting (although I have in the past, don’t ask poor life choice), so it was broken up into two stints; Toronto to Sault Ste. Marie and Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay. The drive itself is a big attraction of going to Northern Ontario, cruising up Highway 17 you’re treated to magnificent panoramas of the Canadian shield. And of course no road trip would be complete without a stop over at a shady motel, in fact this time around the motel actually had the word “Shady” in it’s title, so you knew what you were going to get…
As I mentioned before, the drive up was just spectacular even if rain clouds followed our journey for most of the way up the Lake Superior coast, they did depart as we entered Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. I’ve only seen photo’s of the park and maps, the scale of it’s size was lost to me. As we arrived to the peninsula, the landmass just kept going and extending further into the lake. There small highway leading snaked around until it finally touched the park borders and then the park sign informed us that there was another 20km to go to the camping area.Sleeping Giant is much larger than the map lead me to believe. But once we arrived we were greeted by of the park’s many black bears who was just rummaging around by the side of the road in broad daylight. That was by no means the last bear we would see at the park, wildlife was abundant as Grebes, loons, ducks, foxes, deer and even Sandhill cranes wandered the park in the search of their next meal.
This trip was purely a frontcountry camping experience, the girlfriend is not yet ready to experience the backcountry of Northern Ontario. Which was a disappointment in some ways as Sleeping Giant has some wonderful hiking trails and vistas that can really only be properly experiences by backpacking in. But we made the best of our situation with a wonderful site right on the shore of Marie Louise Lake overlooking the Sleeping Giant.
We proceeded to spend the next four days day hiking the park’s many trails, and what trails they were! Providing all who ventured with spectacular views of the rugged Lake Superior coastline as the ever watchful Sleeping Giant towered benevolently above. We even climbed to the very top of the Sleeping Giant’s head, a trek that involved about 400 meters of vertical climb in just under 1km of distance. The trek was challenging but the views were spectacular and worth all the struggle and challenge they provided. The terrain was incredibly rugged in places and required a lot of effort to not fall down the steep slopes, climbing over boulders and up hills took it’s toll. But the terrain was not the only danger to be had in the park, on one particular hike we ran into a mother bear and her cub. That was the scariest bear encounter I’ve ever had on a trail as it involved climbing between large boulders up a hill with only one way in and out. There are a few things scarier than seeing a bear appear only about 10-12 feet in front of you on the trail. Luckily for us the mother bear didn’t react and we managed to get out of there in quick order. As I reported the incident to the park rangers, I was informed that this particular bear (as well as many others in the park) is quite accustomed to people and had been responsible for stealing a backpackers breakfast earlier in the day. It pays to be bear vise and bear prepared in the woods, sadly many visitors are not and the bears and learned that people equal easy food.
The time we spent at Sleeping Giant was spectacular and I could go on and on talking about its splendours, sadly I’ve only seen a few. My main regret from this trip is that I spent so little time here, four days was not enough to explore this majestic park. Finally one last thing that should not be missed on a visit to the Sleeping Giant is the Thunder Bay lookout. A spectacular observation point that hangs over the cliffs of the peninsula, overlooking the bay from which it takes its name. There is a observation platform that juts out from beyond the cliff edge, suspending the viewer in thin air form where an unobstructed view is to be hand. The sunsets from this vantage point werewere those of vivid wonder. More photos from Sleeping Giant can be seen here on my flickr account.