The Great (Lakes) Escape – Off-Roading on the Coast

The Great Lakes are the largest body of freshwater in the world with a surface area bigger than Texas and with shorelines that pass through Ontario, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.  This Great Lakes road trip was inspired by the Great Lakes Circle Tour.  Our tour consisted of three legs: Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, and lastly Lake Superior.  This is the final leg of our Great Lakes adventure.

Day 4 (August 13, 2018)

When the dogs and I finally crawled out of the tent in the morning, I looked around as I really had no idea what kind of site we had picked in the dark when we arrived at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.  The site was quite large and on top of a ridge, meaning that the neighbour at the back of the site was far below us at the bottom of the hill.  As I stretched, I noticed movement across the road while a woman was preparing breakfast.  I had to do a double-take when I saw a cat walk across the table to nuzzle her.  People think I’m crazy for taking three dogs on road trips but I soon learned that this woman and her son were moving him to Alberta and she decided to bring her cat along for the trip.  That is something that even I wouldn’t consider.  We stood and talked for so long that Piper actually snuck back into the tent and I found her curled up on my sleeping bag.  Talk about a diva.

I made a round of morning coffee as I broke camp, forgoing our usual morning walk around the campground since I knew that we would find plenty of places to play in the water so we would get our exercise later.  The dogs climbed into the car as I was loading the trunk as though they were telling me to hurry up.  Well guys this would go a lot faster if you grew thumbs.  Just sayin’.

Our first stop after we left the campground was in Nipigon at Edgewater Restaurant for lunch.  The curry lamb burger was highly recommended by the staff so I ordered one to go with some fries.  Even though they have a large patio and no one else dining, the dogs wouldn’t be allowed to sit with me at the tables.  Luckily there was a lookout just up the road so I took my container and drove there to eat.  The parking lot was under construction but there were still a few picnic tables in the shade and we had a lovely lunch, stopped for a few photos, then headed back out on the road.

For anyone that thinks that it’s easy to get the dogs to pose for group photos, I would like to present Exhibit A:

Fun fact: Over 300 streams and rivers empty into Lake Superior, the largest being the Nipigon River in Ontario.

Lake Superior has lots of rest stops and random parking areas along the shore which means that there are plenty of opportunities for walks on the beach and you know that we took advantage of many of them.  For the most part, Jack just stuck next to me and there are only so many photos you can take of the top of his head.  I had wanted to visit Pukaskwa National Park since we would be driving past it but the powers that be decided that now would be the time that they closed the only road into the park for maintenance.  

As we drove south,my mind turned to figuring out where we were going to spend the night.  We could drive straight through until we got home which made for one very long day or we could stop and camp for one more night since the skies were clear and the weather was amazing.  As we approached Lake Superior Provincial Park, I figured that I would let the park make the decision for me: if sites were available, we would stay there and if not, then we would drive home.

Fun fact: Lake Superior has it’s own tide.

There are two active campgrounds in Lake Superior Provincial Park: Agawa Bay and Rabbit Blanket Lake.  I’ve stayed in Agawa Bay and it is still ranks as one of the best sites I have ever stayed in as it was right on the beach.  I’ll never forget looking out my tent and seeing the beach right there; as in so close that I could reach my hand out and touch it.  However, I was not surprised to learn that the campground was almost completely booked with the only sites still available were next to the Trans-Canada Highway.  I made the mistake of taking one of those sites before and it was awful.  Then the staff told me there were lots of sites open at Rabbit Blanket Lake campground.  The campground is on an inland lake and doesn’t immediately have the same appeal of Lake Superior but there were several sites that they said were good ones and when staff says they’re good sites, you better believe them.  After some brainstorming, we picked a site and I drove over.  I also grabbed a bag of firewood; since we were there so early, it would give us time to sit and enjoy a fire.

My site was massive!  It even had it’s own driveway that curved off the road and provided some cover from anyone passing by.  Even better, a slightly overgrown path led from our site to Rabbit Blanket Lake below us.  It was a perfect place to let the dogs swim and play before we returned to our site.

After we finished exploring the lake, the dogs curled up on their blanket as I made my dinner of ramen noodles, tended to the fire, and enjoyed the warmth of the evening.  The dogs were eager to climb into the tent before me and even though I was tired, I fought the urge to snuggle up with them right away.  This was our last night and I wanted to enjoy it for as long as I could.  Finally, barely able to keep my eyes open, I joined the dogs in sleep.

Day 5

Apparently I did a really good job of tiring myself out as it was quite late before I woke up on the last day of our trip.  I seemed to have finally gotten into the habit of making coffee while breaking camp and soon I had the pack loaded in the car and on the road with a steaming cup of goodness.

The first order of business was to find a suitable place to let the dogs out for a run and a play.  As I was driving south on the Trans-Canada Highway, I noticed a track that ran between the road and shore so I thought that if we followed it we would find the perfect place to stop.  The funny thing is that a track can look really level and smooth until you’re actually on it and then you’re suddenly reminded of the fact that a Corolla does not have a lot of ground clearance and was never intended for off-roading. I found myself laughing like an idiot at the thought of getting the car bogged in a patch of sand because I wanted to go to the lake.  It seemed like it took forever but eventually we found ourselves facing a sign for the Coastal Trail.  The dogs were in heaven, especially Leo who found himself a thick band of white sand to roll in.  Piper was soon splashing in the waves and Jack was content to wade in the shallow water since it was a bit too rough for lounging.  Once they stopped running around like crazy dogs, we went back to the car.  The track seemed almost worse on the way back to the highway but with a whole lot of luck we were back on the road.

There’s one place near Batchwana Bay that I like to stop every time we drive past.  I have no idea where it is and the only landmark to that gives any warning that we’re getting close is a particular billboard.  If anyone ever takes that billboard down, I’ll likely never remember it.  Luckily, that hasn’t happened yet and we stopped there for another play.  It didn’t take long for the dogs to ignore the water and sit to watch me walk.  With the beach of smooth rocks, it’s not the easiest place for my seniors to walk and it tires them out quickly.  Once we got back to the car, they barely waited for me to open the door before they were trying to climb in.  I’m not the only person that likes this place: last year we found the beach had been littered with rocks painted pretty colours with happy messages.  This year we found a hat that was just begging to be in a photo.

We continued along the shore until we came to the outskirts of Sault Ste. Marie and the end of our trip around Lake Superior.  From here, we would be travelling along the north channel of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.  When we arrived in the town of Spanish, I stopped for some fish and chips at Nibbler’s.  The walleye dinner was a bit expensive but the portion size made it almost a meal for two.  The dogs were so tired that they barely pestered me for any of my food.

Fun fact: Georgian Bay on Lake Huron is large enough to be among the 20 largest lakes in the world which is impressive considering that Georgian Bay is not a lake.

The last stop of the trip was in Sudbury and the Big Nickel located on the grounds of the Dynamic Earth Science Museum.  We happened to arrive after the museum had closed which meant free parking.  Woohoo.  Few things suck as much as having to pay for parking when you’re just stopping to take a photo and then leaving.  Since my dogs are professional posers, our photo stops are usually quick which was perfect in this case since it was really hot and with not much shade once you moved away from the nickel.  We gathered in the shadow of the car and I gave them all water before we piled back into the car to finish the drive home.

Fun fact: Built in 1964, the Big Nickel is a replica of a 1951 nickel to show the wealth that Sudbury had contributed to Canada.

Finally, at 10:42 pm on August 14, 2018, we returned home.  Over the span of five months, we followed the shores of all five Great Lakes, passing through one province and eight states.  It is mind-boggling how different each lake is from each other and that within a few hours, you can go from stark rock faces to verdant fields and orchards.  All of that was something to consider as I sat on the couch with a demanding cat happy to see her Piper had come home while Jack mounded his blankets up for a sleep and Leo sucked on his teddy’s nose.  As always, it was good to be home.

Click here to join the trip from the very beginning as we set out to drive Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.

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2 response to "The Great (Lakes) Escape – Off-Roading on the Coast"

  1. By: Maxx Trails Posted: October 31, 2018

    When I was a kid our cat always came camping with us. Love the photo montage of the attempt at a group shot of the dogs 🙂

    • By: adventuredawgs Posted: November 1, 2018

      Maybe if I get a bigger vehicle I’ll try and bring the cats too. Maybe. Possibly. 🙂 That series of photos makes me laugh just thinking about it, the little monkeys.

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