Kelly’s write up of cycling Lake Superior! Click here to read Michael’s write up of biking Ontario.
Lake Superior is friggin’ huge!
Cycling Lake Superior was one of the highlights of our cycle trip across Canada. It’s the largest freshwater lake in the world, and has some stunning national and provincial parks, and I’m sure some amazing hiking. We spent 10 days cycling Lake Superior. We cycled 7000km and only covered about a third of the entire route around the lake. To put things in perspective, 700km is like a return trip from London to Paris.
The day we left Thunder Bay and headed north to Nipigon it rained. On top of this we had a terrible head wind, there were construction work for about 60km and there was next to no hard shoulder, which meant we were pretty much cycling in the road of a busy highway. It was not fun! And, it didn’t feel particularly safe. We had our lights on the whole time, but still I’m not sure we were that visible. The issue was, we had nowhere to get off the road, and so we had to keep going. 110km later and we finally rolled into Nipigon at around 8pm. The raining was still not letting up. We decided to screw the camping, and treat ourselves to a motel.
As it turned out, earlier that morning, before the rain started, Michael found an iphone on the side of the road. As luck had it we were able to return the phone to the owner. And, he gave us a $60 reward. That reward would be our cheap motel, which was actually pretty expensive for a motel ($90 – that’s our budget for 3 days), but the owner did give us a huge thermos of coffee and we managed to dry all our gear out.
We woke the following day to find the rain had stopped and the sun was making an appearance – woohoo!
After we had finally packed up, it was already a late start, but we decided to check out the town and grab a coffee. When we finally started cycling Lake Superior that day it was almost lunch time. The ride from Nipigon to Marathon was supposed to be hilly, but also very scenic. Straight away I realise we underestimated just how hilly this section would be.
The previous day we were shivering in the rain, today we were sweating, climbing up hills in direct sun. The kilometres were slowly clocking up. We had planned to do about 90km that day, but only managed 75km, and by the end of the day we were knackered. That night we camped at a picnic spot, right on the lake. It was one of the best spots we had camped all trip.
We took the following 2 days cycling to Marathon fairly easy. Allowing ourselves time to stop and enjoy the views and also not to burn out. The ride was challenging, but the scenery made the blood, sweat and tears all worth it. For me, cycling this section of Lake Superior was more difficult than cycling in the Rockies. Finally we made it to Marathon, and stayed with a local guy, Lloyd.
From Marathon the cycle got easier – or we got used to cycling steep gradients.
It felt like we flew to White River, and we arrived nice and earlier. Enough time to chill, have a shower, relax and eat a shit load of food. Apparently there had been a lot of bear sightings, so we were on extra alert. I was sure we would see a bear at some point around Lake Superior – we never did.
The next day cycling was just as good, and we arrived at Wawa at a reasonable time. In Wawa we meet a guy, Zoltan, outside the supermarket who invited us to camp in his garden. He actually ended up going the extra mile and setting up his trailer tent for us to stay in. The generosity of people during the cycle trip, never fails to amazing. People are genuinely amazing! Anyone that thinks otherwise should hop on a bike and go on a cycle tour – within a couple of weeks I can guarantee you would have experienced unbelievable hospitality and kindness from strangers.
Cycling Lake Superior Provincial Park
Cycling Lake Superior Provincial Park was one of the highlights of our cycle across Canada. It is definitely up there with Bow Lake and Banff National Park. We took our time cycling through the park to enjoy the beaches and vistas. One night we camped at Sinclair Cove – it looked like we were on a tropical island paradise. It has to be one of my favourite campsites (though I write this while we’re camped at a picnic spot, next to a stinky drop toilet).
I had to keep reminding myself that it was a lake and not an ocean. I love the ocean and often miss it when I’m travelling. What I’ve discovered is how awesome lakes can be – swimming in a lake feels refreshing like a cold bath, you can drink the water, it doesn’t sting your eyes and there are no sharks.
We only had 2 days left of cycling Lake Superior before we reached Sault St Marie, and finally got a rest day off the bikes. I had been told there was a steep incline into Sault. Other than that it should be pretty easy going. We decided to take it easy and set up camp on the beach to enjoy the sunset. We got chatting to some people, and a local told us we would get moved on if we camped on the beach in this area. Complete bumper! Ian, the owner of a local RV park, came to our rescue, and let us camp in his RV park for free. This is just another example of the unbelievable kindness from strangers that we experienced throughout the cycle tour.
Sault St Marie
Finally after almost 2 weeks we made it to Sault St Marie, where 2 amazing warmshowers’ hosts, Juanita and Jeff, greeted us. We spent a couple of night exchanging stories, drying out and cleaning our gear and recovering, and eating some amazing meals, with our awesome hosts.
There is a bike store in Sault, called Velorution that has a free campground for cyclists. We decided, we had to spend at least one night at this campground. Unfortunately, there were no other cyclists staying there the same night as us. We’re in the tail-end of cyclists crossing Canada, so we tend to miss most of the cyclists, but it was still an awesome set up, and we were thankful for the extra rest day.
Already it has been over 2 weeks cycling through Ontario, and we still have 850km before we reach Canada’s capital, Ottawa. That means we would have cycled over 2000km in just Ontario. Ontario is just crazy big!
If you’re planning a cycle trip, you might find cycle tourists’ non training plan handy!