Roadtrip: Destination, Thunder Bay!

Earlier this year, my wife and I decided that we would travel north, to visit my life long friend Adam and his wonderful family. Adam and his wife Karen, left the Toronto area several years ago to head north… like WAY north. About 4 hours west of Thunder Bay, Ontario. If this was Game of Thrones, they would be chilling with the Wildlings, way beyond The Wall.

Did I mention it’s far?

A few of my friends have flown up to visit in the last two years, but I was never able to work out the timing. This year, we started planning dates early to make sure it would happen.

Instead of flying, I thought it would be great if we made it into an epic ~1700km (~1000mi) road trip. This way my wife (Amanda) could see some of what our beautiful province has to offer. Before this trip, she had only been within a few hours in any direction of where we currently live (Newmarket) in Southern Ontario. Sadly, her experience isn’t uncommon for people living in Southern Ontario. Many people don’t even realize that it takes so long to drive to the neighbouring province of Manitoba. Driving also meant we could take the dogs!!

I planned our arrival date at Adam & Karen’s cottage, as well as several hiking stops that I wanted to make. The plan was to take 3 nights to drive up, this way we could stop and do hikes each day to keep the dogs happy and tired. It would also ensure that I could show my wife some of the beauty that our province has to offer. I was originally going to try booking some Airbnb’s for our stays going up, however I wasn’t sure how far I’d feel like driving each day after our hikes. I figured we would just wing it and find roadside motels as we go.

Packed and ready to hit the road!

Day 1: We started with an early morning wake-up, in order to depart for 8 am. Luggage, snacks, and our dogs were loaded into our rental minivan and we hit the road.

Our first stop was in Killarney Provincial Park. We drove down to the marina area, to get some fresh caught Fish & Chips at the marina. Rascal and Abbie enjoyed a splash in the water while announcing their arrival to the local Seagull population. They got some fish & chips too, so only a few hours into our trip and they already thought they had won the lottery.

After that, we hiked a trail named “The Crack” in the park. The trail is named after a large crack in the rocks at the peak, which is several stories tall. The trail was pretty easy for my wife, dogs, and myself to navigate, even though signage was spotty at times. Once we reached “The Crack” though, it was obvious that our dogs wouldn’t be able to get to the top without risking injury. My wife decided to stay with the dogs while I hiked up the last couple hundred meters. Getting to the summit was certainly worth the effort though, as the views were phenomenal!

Beauty as far as the eye can see!

After our hike, we made our way back to the highway and stopped in Sudbury, Ont. for dinner. While there, Amanda and the dogs got to see the “Big Nickel“, which is the world’s biggest Nickel coin. If it sounds silly, it is, but it’s Sudbury’s claim to fame 😛 We made it to Webbwood, Ont. and stayed there for the night.

Day 2: We drove to Sault Ste Marie, Ont. where we had lunch and found a dog park for Rascal & Abbie to stretch their legs. We then headed for Lake Superior Provincial Park, which was our next hiking destination. The park covers 1600 sq. km of forest and shoreline, so you have a wide variety of trail types and scenery. I chose two stops for us in the park, the first being the Agawa Rock Pictographs. This is a sheer cliff face featuring paintings on the rock from past generations of the Ojibwe native tribe.

Our next stop was the Pinguisibi (Sand River) trail, which features a series of beautiful rapids and waterfalls.

Abbie with her arch enemy!

After our hike, there was a quick stop in Wawa, Ont. to see the “Giant Goose”. I think this was the only Goose that Abbie wouldn’t dare to chase 😀

Day 3: Started with a short stop in White River, Ont., which is the home of Winnie The Pooh. Aside from the statue of Pooh the town is easily forgettable, but that didn’t stop us from getting a quick photo or two 🙂

Pic Island, portrayed by the Group of Seven

Then we were on the road again, headed for Neys Provincial Park. This was the smallest of the provincial parks that we visited on our trip, but no less beautiful. The park also includes Pic Island, which was immortalized by members of the famous Canadian artist group, The Group of Seven. While we didn’t go to Pic Island, we did hike along the shores of Neys Park. Rascal and Abbie loved running over the smooth rocks and jumping in and out of the cold water.

 

We finished off our day with what was a highlight of the entire trip for both my wife and myself. Just outside of Thunder Bay, Ont. we visited the Terry Fox Monument. If you are Canadian, you already know who Terry Fox is. For everyone else, Terry Fox was a young Canadian who at the age of 19, was diagnosed with cancer originating in his leg. His leg was amputated and he was given a 50% chance of survival. After learning that if he was diagnosed only a few years earlier, his survival chance would have only been 15% – he realized the life changing impact on medical research and made it his mission to bring more attention to Cancer research.

Three years after his original diagnosis, Terry started his “Marathon of Hope”. The plan was to run across Canada with his prosthetic leg, which was incredibly crude by today’s standards. In April 1980, Terry dipped his leg in the Atlantic Ocean and began running across Canada in hopes to raise money and awareness for Cancer research. Terry ran a marathon (42Km /26.2mi) each day – an incredible accomplishment for any athlete and he did this with one leg! The awkward and painful hobble is now synonymous with Terry’s cause.

After 143 days and 5,373 kilometers (3,339 mi), Terry’s health forced him to abandon his run just outside Thunder Bay, Ont. By that point, Terry had raised $1.7 million for cancer research. Terry later died as a result of a combination of his cancer and a weakened immune system caused by his chemotherapy. His funeral was broadcast on national television, he had become a Canadian hero and a symbol of hope, determination, and strength.

Now every year in schools and towns across Canada an annual Terry Fox Run is held, raising funds and awareness for Cancer research. Being able to see the monument erected in his honour was incredibly moving.

Days 4-7: Were spent with our friends at their cottage, then their house. I’m very fortunate to have a group of best friends that I have known all my life (going all the way back to grade 3). Even though I hadn’t seen Adam in several years, it was like we never missed a day. Spending time with him, his wife, and their daughter was the perfect way to cap off our trip.

The trip home was uneventful, just a long day and a half of driving. We did make one stop though, to catch a sunset in Old Woman’s Bay. It was the perfect image to finish our trip with.