05 Wawa, Ontario to Soo, Ontario

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Wawa has always had a subliminal draw. Small town with the large Canada goose statue in the middle of northern Canadian wild, one of those places you know about, would like to see, but never expect to reach. A place that deep down inside you know that visiting would be part of an adventure. It was.

“Don’t start up the river until we come down to guide you. There are some tricky spots,” came the response on VHF when be called Buck’s Marina. Brad Buck himself came out to guide us in. Even with his help we touched the soft sand bottom and mushed to a complete stop 50 feet short of the gas dock. A few tossed lines, good engine work by Ruth and a little muscle power by the shore people got us tied up 100 feet short of the diesel pump and a pumpout.

The dock boy hauled diesel in jerry cans. Brad Buck and I screwed around for an hour or more to jury rig pumpout hoses. I supplied duct tape to seal leaks and we finally got our pumpout and then got settled in at a slip. If we had been in a hurry, they would have used their portable system they can transport by boat. As I said, getting to Wawa would be an adventure.

The next morning we started by dropping one of the camcorder batteries into the water. I retrieved it later by diving for it. We got the bikes out for a ride into Wawa, about 4 miles away according to the marina people. We elected to take the back road route on the gravel road to stay off the Trans-Canada highway. This route had steep up hills-we pushed the bikes up and had screaming wild rides down using a lot of brakes. Forty minutes into the ride, we got suspicious and stopped a car. As we suspected, we missed a turn and were on the wrong road. We backtracked and ended up on the Trans-Canada highway. It’s only two lanes, but it was uphill all the way to Wawa, so there was a hill lane. Again we had to push the bikes part of the way, but for the most part, we were able to ride. Our 30 to 40 minute 4-mile ride, ended up taking almost 3 hours.

Wawa is nice. We checked out the Canada goose statue, it needed a little touch up paint. Climbing around on some old mining equipment  on display in a park was a kick.  If the stuff were in the States, it would be all fenced off with warning signs to defend against lawsuits.  As always in a small town we went grocery shopping and managed to pack a week worth of supplies into the basket we mount on the back of my bike. Our legs appreciated the 4-mile downhill coast back to the marina. That evening we walked back up the road 1.5 miles to a little restaurant and had an unexpected outstanding meal.

Brad Buck is interesting. He related some of the history about the area. We learned that the road linking Wawa with the outside world had not been completed until the 60’s. Before that, it was boat, or fly to get out. Brad provided a marked chart showing the river channel, and went over it with me, so I felt confident about getting back down the river without a problem. As we started out the next morning we were a little concerned when we noticed the river was lower. Going out we touched once and had some anxious moments when the depth sounder showed 0.5 feet under the keel. I rode bow looking for shallow spots and we got out without further problems. Yes, Wawa is an adventure.

I suspect we may have had our most unusual mail delivery. We anchored at Warp Bay that is just around the corner of Cape Gargantau. It’s seven miles to the nearest road. We dinked in and went hiking. When we returned, we found our mail sitting in our dink, custom delivered by kayak by Linda and Steve. They were in the processes of setting up camp a little higher on the beach.

We had a grand reunion, talking late into the evening. The next day, L&S brought muffins fresh baked from their camp stove out to the boat to have with the pancakes Ruth cooked for breakfast. We then took the dink and kayak of a trip over to Devil’s Warehouse Island. We explored the cliffs and a small cave on the island, then went over to Wilde Island, where L&S proceeded to fix macaroni and cheese for lunch from the provisions they carry in their kayak. Dinner was pork chops cooked on the grill aboard. Later we went ashore for a campfire. It was a wonderful two days.

Linda and Steve headed north and we continued south pulling into Sinclair Cove. It added another factor to our harbor-rating dilemma. The cliff we worked our way around to get into the small harbor was huge. Once anchored, we had the imposing cliff to study.

We dinked around the cliff to see the Indian pictographs on the cliff face. Then we went back and hiked the very rugged trail down the cliff and out at water’s edge to see the pictographs up close. They had ropes hanging off the rocks and a ranger standing by to help get anyone who slipped and fell in back out of the lake. We loved the hike, the pictographs and the uniqueness of the harbor.

As we headed south again, the weather turned gloomy matching our mood. We were both sad that we had to leave Lake Superior. It had been a wonderful time. We talked about changing course and heading back north to spend a few more weeks. However, we knew there are new things, so we kept heading for the Soo.

Our last night on Lake Superior was in Goulais Bay. It was a place to anchor, a huge bay, some protection from the wind as long as it didn’t shift and no charm. Just a place to rest. Lake Superior gave us one final taste of fog as we headed for the Soo. As we closed on the freighter channel, visibility closed to 500 feet and we were again on radar and running the GPS route I’d put in the previous night. We also listen to Soo Control and the freighters on VHF and knew there weren’t any freighters in our area. Halfway down the St. Marys River, the fog lifted and we had a bright sunny day as we locked through the MacArthur Lock in front of all the tourist watching from the observation platform.

We spent a month on Lake Superior and covered 780 miles. We loved every minute (well maybe not the thunderstorm.) Lake Superior is now on our list of places we have to go back to. Right now it’s on the top. Overall we’ve now traveled 1275 miles and have been out for two months. What a wonderful time.

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