It doesn't get much more Canadian than this! Imagine yourself dropped into the middle of a Group of Seven painting, surrounded by the red, orange, and golden hues of autumn's brilliant display. The rocky shores of Lake Superior underfoot and the quiet calm of remote trails affording endless views across a body of water larger than many countries. At over 82,000 square kilometers, this Great Lake boasts the largest surface area of any other freshwater source in the world, containing 10% of the planet's fresh surface water. Our paths lead us along rugged Canadian Shield and some of the most scenic sections of the Trans Canada Trail network, including the Casque Isles footpath and the Kabeyun Trail to the 'Sleeping Giant' - one of the highest points in Ontario with some of the most classic fall views. A highlight of our adventure is a 2-day excursion by traditional voyageur canoe (or by kayak, depending on group numbers) to Battle Island and its historic lighthouse, where we enjoy a quintessential campfire and a night under the stars amongst the protected waters of a National Marine Conservation Reserve. On a clear night, we may even enjoy one of nature's top performances - The dancing lights of the Aurora Borealis.
A group transfer is included from the airport in Thunder Bay to our accommodation on the shores of Lake Superior, just east of the Sibley Peninsula (drive time approx 1hr). The group will stay in solar-powered red pine and cedar cabins with indoor facilities and have free use of canoes and kayaks on site. On arrival, or the next morning, there is an option to participate in a short, guided paddle. Dinner is provided by our hosts this evening and we enjoy a casual evening briefing before settling in for the night.
Our guides prepare a tasty breakfast before we pack up our lunches and head out for an iconic hike in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park - to the Top of The Giant. The park's name comes from the silhouette of the volcanic rock formation (it looks like a sleeping giant). The Ojibwe legend explains that the giant is the spirit 'Nanabijou' who turned into stone when white men tricked the first nations into revealing the huge silver deposit located at Silver Islet at the top of the peninsula. The hike is challenging at 22.4km round trip with a 290m elevation gain, but the rewards are well worth the effort with rugged coastal terrain, beaches, coves, and unbeatable views from the top.
After breakfast, we drive 2 hours to Rossport where we load up our Voyageur canoe* and head out on the water. The Voyageur canoe was crucial to Canada's historic fur trade and the annual flow of goods westward to the native peoples and furs eastward, ultimately for aristocratic Europeans. Our Voyageur canoe is a fibreglass/foam core replica of the 36-footers used historically on Lake Superior. Five feet wide and very stable, it handles wind and waves well and carries a generous amount of gear - perfect for less experienced paddlers.
Our destination is Battle Island which got its name from a skirmish between local Ojibway and soldiers marching on Superior's winter ice to quell a western Metis rebellion. The Battle Island lighthouse was built in 1877 to guide boats into Nipigon Bay, but its light couldn't penetrate a summer snowstorm in August 1899 and an 181-foot steamer ran aground on the Island's eastern tip. A hundred years later, another Superior storm smashed the lighthouse's beacon 120 feet above the lake.
On arrival at Battle Island, we set up camp and hike approximately 2km to the lighthouse where we have a chance to meet Bert the lighthouse keeper and tour the lighthouse. We dine under the stars tonight and fall asleep to the sounds of waves crashing on the shore.
*NB: Should we have a confirmed group of less than 8 participants, we will use two-person sea kayaks for the paddling excursion.
We enjoy a quiet morning at our island camp, then continue paddling the sheltered waterways of the Rossport Islands - The largest archipelago on Lake Superior. The islands provide not only protection from the elements, but are also rich in wildlife and beauty, making this a favourite spot among paddlers. This area contains unique, ancient rock formations as well as pristine waterways, shipwrecks, beautiful beaches and historical cultural sites, receiving the recognition of Parks Canada who have designated the archipelago a National Marine Conservation Area. This afternoon, we return to Rossport Marina and transfer to a cozy inn for the evening.
The Voyageur Trail Association is working to build a continuous wilderness-style hiking trail all the way from Sudbury through Sault Ste Marie to Thunder Bay - A distance of approximately 1100km along the north shores of Lake Huron and Lake Superior. One of the most spectacular (signed and groomed) sections is known as the Casque Isles Trail (also designated as part of the Trans Canada Trail). This rugged 53km footpath stretches from Rossport to Terrace Bay, passing old gold mines, suspension bridges, fossil deposits, trappers' cabins, and caves adorned with pictographs from ancient First Nations peoples.
Our plan today is to access the trail mid-way through so we can enjoy the lookouts at and around Mount Gwynne (260m above the lake). Our lunch spot is sure to come with a view - On a clear day, we should have a 360 degree view of the Slate Islands, Rossport Islands, and nearby towns. Dinner and overnight back at our inn.
The trail's name comes from early 19th century geologist John Bigsby's appraisal of the lake's north shore from atop nearby Pic Island. Casque meaning 'helmet' in French, describes the shape of the tall islands sporadically placed along the hilly shoreline. Today, we enjoy a more coastal section of the trail from the eastern terminus near Terrace Bay. This part of the trail is most frequented by locals and for good reason - The rolling coastline with raised boulder beaches, shallow bays, and Lyda Bay Lookout all make for a very enjoyable and scenic excursion. Time permitting, we will make a side trip to Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park for a short, easy hike to another incredible lookout over the 100m-deep/150m-wide gorge.
At the end of our day, we make our way back to accommodations near Thunder Bay (2.5 hours) to settle in for our final evening and reflect on our Superior adventure.
There are no meals or services included today, but the hotel is only a few minutes away from the airport in Thunder Bay. Enjoy your view of Superior from the skies as you travel onward.
Per Person, Twin Share