Journal of Darren McGinnis - Outdoor Adventurer
Thunder Bay, Ontario to Marathon, Ontario
Last year, with my faithful pug Yoda at my side, I embarked on a sea kayak adventure from Thunder Bay, Ontario and headed south-west to
Duluth, Minnesota. Actually, Yoda is blind so it is more accurate to say that I
was at her side since I am basically just her seeing eye person. From Duluth,
I portaged to The St. Croix River and followed it to The Mississippi River,
just south of The Twin Cities. I then navigated south along the
Mississippi River Channel to 160 km. south of Memphis, Tennessee. At that point, The
Mighty Ole Miss flooded due to rain accumulation and I lost most of my
gear including my 17 1/2' AquaTerra Sea Lion that Wildwaters Canoe and Kayak
Outfitters had been kind enough to furnish me with. My original intention
was to paddle from The Canadian Border to the Mexican Border at Brownsville,
Texas. Unfortunately, my trip was cut short by about half.
This year, Bruce Hyer at Wildwaters and I planned a trip that would entail Yoda and myself heading east from Thunder Bay. We figured New York
City was a lofty goal as far as distance was concerned, so that became my
destination. The first leg of my journey will be to paddle Sea Lion #2,
also generously provided to me by Wildwaters, along The North Shore of
Lake Superior from Thunder Bay to Sault St. Marie, Ontario, 700 km
I left The Thunder Bay Marina on Friday June 6th mainly for the benefit of the media which have been covering my trip. I paddled a few hours and
then met up with my family to spend the weekend together camping at the
KOA just east of Thunder Bay. I departed again on Sunday and while getting
back into long distance paddling condition, took nine days to reach my first
stop at Rossport, Ontario. Since I have friends in Rossport, I intended to
take a day or two off in order to relax, restock, and get cleaned up.
There is no time of the year that is really comfortable to bath in frigid Lake Superior. I figured out a good trick to enable me to have a
luke warm bath that I will share with you. Along the lakeshore, you will
occasionally come to an area that has a low-lying, smooth rock surface.
In these areas, you will find all kinds of trapped water pockets that get
filled by rainwater as well as lake water when the waves frequently come
crashing in. These pockets get warmed by the sun and make excellent
little bathtubs. Naturally, you must have no aversion to bathing with minnows,
tadpoles, and all the other various insects that thrive in pools of
water. It is not that bad though because the right pool should not have water
that is too stagnant and therefore should be void of some of the creepier of
the creepy crawlies.
In actuality, I stayed five days in Rossport because I wanted to attend The Annual Kayak Symposium that is held there. I had arrived on Tuesday
but the symposium was not until Friday through Sunday. I certainly could not
complain about my accommodations during my stay in Rossport. Dr. David
Hurst was kind enough to put me up in his cliffside pool house. My
bachelor pad consisted of a huge deck, hot tub, sauna, pool table, bar, &
hide-a-bed. All the necessities I look for in a good campsite!
From Rossport, I made the short, four hour paddle to Schreiber. I camped out there on the beach that is being developed as a picnic area
by the community. Since the road was just being worked on that connects the
beach to the town, I was able to catch a ride into town by dump truck in order to avoid the 4km walk.
My next stop was Terrace Bay, another four hour paddle. I towed a line the whole way because the weather and waves were permitting but to no
avail. I was using a silver spinner with a rubber leach but did not get a
nibble. Some of the locals in Terrace Bay told me that I should be using a Red
Devil Spoon instead to catch lake trout. That evening, I met up with my
old buddy from Thunder Bay and fellow kayak enthusiast Rod kankanen who was
working in Terrace Bay. We drove back to White Sands Provincial Park near
Rossport and I pitched my tent on his campsite. The following morning, I
was extremely lucky to get packed up just before the torrential rains hit.
There was lots of lightning as well so I decided to get a room for the
night. I also booked an appointment to talk to a reporter from the
Terrace Bay, Schreiber, Nipigon Newspaper, (TSN, ha, ha).
Leaving Terrace Bay, I encountered the largest waves in my experience. I figured I had paddled some pretty big water but nothing has come close
to this. People in big boats were heading back into the little harbor at
Terrace Bay and seemed quite astonished when they saw me paddling out. They were probably assuming that I was going to attempt the 8 km crossing to
The Slate Islands in high winds and 15 - 20 ft waves. I'm not stupid! I was
simply planning to follow the jagged, rocky shoreline in high winds and
15 - 20 ft waves...duh!! In any case, I had no trouble. Admittedly, it gave
me an uneasy feeling to have giant walls of water the height of a house
rolling towards me, picking my twig of a boat up, and gently setting me back down
in a valley of water again. Around supper time, I pulled into Ashburton Bay
where Neys Provincial Park is located. The campground was full of
trailers being Friday of a long weekend. I had a number of spectators as I
inexpertly surfed my kayak onto the beach to camp for the night.
The following day, I made a good size crossing of Peninsula Bay from Pic Island located just east of Ashburton Bay to the town of Marathon,
Ontario. I set up camp right at the boat launch Saturday evening despite
the hordes of seagulls hanging around ready to receive scraps from cleaned
fish. I have been plagued by seagulls the entire trip to date. Being spring
time, the birds are nesting on all of the rock islands where there are few
predators. They protect there nesting areas aggressively and do not
appreciate me paddling into their space. I have been getting dive bombed
every time I paddle near one of the islands. I have been lucky so far and
their aim has been off but to be safe, I pull my Tilley Hat down tight and
do not look up for any reason. The cool thing was when I witnessed an
army of gulls attacking and chasing off a pair of much larger bald eagles that
were attempting to cash in on either eggs or chicks. You would think it
would be no contest but I was surprised to see the punishment the giant
predators were taking as they attempted to swoop in on the island. Three
or four gulls at a time would literally swipe at the eagles, taking beaks
full of feathers with them on each pass. I tried to capture it all on film but
I don't think my disposable, underwater camera is the best equipment for the
task. Hopefully I got lucky and got a good pic.
As far as good pics go, I did capture a bear cub that sauntered right into my campsite like he was king of the world and checked out my kayak
and tent. I would have had more fun with it but was extremely weary of Mama
who must have been close but never did materialize. On another morning, I
emerged from my tent to find a cow and calf moose drinking from the lake
right beside my tent. I figured there was little chance I could get back into the tent and grab my camera before they bolted. As it turned out,
they were not at all afraid of me and continued to watch me with interest as I
got more bold with the pictures I was taking. Finally, I got bored with
the whole thing and wandered down to the lake myself for my morning pee. I
embarrassingly fought off stage fright while trying to urinate with two
moose standing right beside me and rudely staring. Shortly after, they
slowly made there way down the entire beach within a small bay on St. Ignace Island and disappeared into the foliage again. It is times like this that
make it all worthwhile.
After enjoying a tremendous fire works display for a small town last night here in Marathon, I will make my way through Pukaskwa National Park
to Wawa and then on to Sault St. Marie over the coming weeks. Tomorrow being
Canada's as well as my 31st birthday I might add. I will update www.wabakimi.com with another journal when I have finished paddling
Gitchee Gumee at Sault St. Marie. I will figure a way to upload some pictures as
well with my next journal entry so stay tuned for that, cheers, D.
Darren the Kayaker & Yoda the Pug.
1-380 Shuniah St.
Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada P7A 3A6