Lake Superior Coastal Trail: Gargantua Bay to Barrett Lake (43 km / 4 days)

The Superior Coastal Trail is a beautiful hike along the coast of Lake Superior with stunning scenery. Be prepared for very difficult hiking along boulders, steep hills, cliffs, forests and beaches. Along the hike, you are constantly rewarded with beautiful coastline views of Lake Superior.

Also, be mindful that weather can be a game-changer along this trail and you will roughly travel at an average pace of 2km/hr in good weather. We hiked Gargantua Bay to Agawa Bay Campground (North to South) – the north end of the trail is the most technical and we wanted to be fresh to tackle this section.

Trip Completed: August 2021


Summary

Starting Point:  Gargantua Bay 

Ending Point: Barrett River

Total Distance: 43 km

Length: 4 days

Difficulty: Advanced

Location

The trip is located in the Lake Superior Provincial Park located between Batchawana Bay and Wawa. Highway 17 runs directly through the park. 

Traditional Territory: This route takes place on the traditional territory of the Anishinabewaki.

Maps & Resources

Maps: The Adventure Map: Lake Superior Provincial Park. Also, on the Google Map I created, I have roughly marked the location of all of the campsites along the Coastal Trail. 

Campsite Reservations: Reservations are for an area/cluster of campsites with 1-5 sites per area.

Permits: Permits can be purchased through Ontario Parks Reservation Portal. Select ‘Backcountry’, then ‘Hiking & Horsepacking’, then ‘Lake Superior Provincial Park’ and finally, your desired access point. For this trip, it was ‘Gargantua’. You can pick up the permits at the Agawa Bay Campground when you arrive.

Note: I have labelled/discussed the campsites in number order of how you arrive at them hiking north to south; this is not necessarily how they are numbered on the actual trail. Please reference the Ontario Parks reservation maps to compare which campsites they are. 

Outfitters & Shuttles 

Shuttle: Make sure you call the shuttle services for an exact quote and to organize your booking. This needs to be done well in advance as they can be busy during peak months. Also, note that shuttles are expensive.

Self-Shuttle Option: If you have two cars you can park one at either end of the trail. There is a small parking lot at the Gargantua Bay access point to start the trail. 

Trip Report: Lake Superior Coastal Trail

Day 0: Hamilton/Toronto to Sudbury 

After work, Laura and I started our drive to Lake Superior Provincial Park. The drive was expected to take 8 hours so we decided to cover a couple of these kilometres this night so we didn’t feel too rushed on the first day of the trail.

On our drive, just as we entered Sudbury, there was a huge thunder/rainstorm. Huge forks of lightning and thunder lit up the foggy road to our campsite for the night. When we arrived at our Crown Land spot, the rain had thankfully stopped, however, the forecast did not look promising. After a quick assessment, we opted to forgo the tent and sleep in the car, so we wouldn’t have to start the trip packing up a wet tent. 

Day 1: Sudbury to Gargantua South (2 km)

  • Hike Distance: 2 km
  • Start Time: 4:30 pm
  • Time Hiking: 30 m

I use “slept” in the car as a loose term since there wasn’t much sleeping going on. My Garmin watch clocked a full 3.5hrs while Laura only got 2.5hrs. Needless to say coffee was a priority. We packed up the car and headed to Sudbury for a coffee before our drive to Lake Superior. We stopped along the way for food, last-minute groceries, gas, and more coffee and then met up with a local to gather some rock-climbing knowledge for a future trip later this year.

Since we only had one car, we needed to hire a shuttle to take us from the Agawa Bay Campground to Gargantua Bay where we would start the hike. We used the shuttle services from Twilight Resort located near the Montreal River on Twilight Lane just off of Highway 17.

The cost of the shuttle was $350. We checked in and paid at the resort itself and then met the shuttle driver at the Agawa Bay Campground where we would leave our car. We were less organized then we had hoped and were running behind when he showed up.  We frantically threw everything into our packs (definitely leading to a heavier pack then we had anticipated).

The drive from Agawa Bay Campground to Gargantua Road was 30 minutes along Highway 17 and then another 45 minutes down Gargantuan Bay Road. This road is quite narrow with many turns and bumps. As someone who gets very motion sick, I was definitely not feeling my greatest self when we reached the end of the road. I lay on my pack and recovered while Laura repacked some of her belongings. Then we were off! Keen and naive for what we were about to endure.

We started our hike to one of the five Gargantua South campsites. We opted to skip the first campsite as we were eager to keep hiking. Campsites 2 and 3 were occupied by other campers so we ended up deciding to stay at campsite #4. The bear box is located at campsite #3 which is shared by all of the Gargantua South Campsites and is about a 5-minute walk from campsite #4.

Once we set up camp we had our first of many swims in Lake Superior. The water was beautiful and clear, refreshing but not too cold. We had a lovely warm day; however, it was very hazy as the smoke from the wildfires had settled in around us. We then had dinner of rice and curry on the rocky beach enjoyed the hazy sunset and made a nice campfire to finish the night. We were exhausted from the day’s journey and our lack of sleep the night before which meant we were happy and cozy in bed by 9 pm ready for a good night’s rest before starting a long day tomorrow.

Campsite: Gargantua South Campsite 4/5

  • Pros: Protected from the wind, beautiful view, clear water, easy to collect water, good site for 1 tent (could squish two), easy to find wood for the fire, bear box at 3/5, okay swimming site (rocks are slippery), thunderbox
  • Cons: Small to large rocks forming the beach which can be uncomfortable to sit on, small site for a larger group, hear and see other campers at the neighbouring sites (ours were great neighbours), bear box 5min walk to camp 3/5

Recommended: Yes

Day 2: Gargantua South to Beatty Cove (13 km) 

  • Hike Distance: 13 km
  • Start Time: 8:17 am
  • Time Hiking: 4h 42m

We had been adamantly looking at the weather leading up to the trip and getting regular weather updates with Laura’s Garmin in-Reach. We knew the trail was very difficult on a good day and dangerously treacherous on a rainy day.

We came to accept the fact that the first 3 days of our trip were forecasting lovely sunny weather while the last 3 were forecasting torrential rain. We made a game plan to push the kilometres the first 3 days in order to cover as much of the difficult terrain as possible before the rain hit. Today’s challenge was to get to Beatty Cove. 

We woke up at 7:00 am and were keen to start our hike! We had oats with coffee for breakfast and were on our way by 8:17 am.

Our hike started off through the forest on some lovely flat-ish terrain which changed after 200m to a steep uphill climb (much more representative of the rest of the trail). The majority of the morning was through the forest, across rocks, undulating hills with a few steep sections and some spectacular views!

The entire day was filled with crazy ups and downs, hiking along every sized boulder and along the edge of cliffs. Careful footing is required! The trail is relatively well signed and cleared. We learned very quickly that you have to keep a sharp eye out for cairns to lead your way. We had a snack in the morning around 10:30 am on the side of a cliff with a lovely view, before we entered back into the forest down to some coastal hiking.

We then decided to stop for lunch after the first campsite area we reached called Rhyolite Cove. There were other hikers there so we walked a little further past the beach about 100m and set up lunch on a rock in a lovely little cove which would have been a fun place to swim. We unfortunately didn’t have time to stop for a swim as much as we were itching to jump in the nice cool water. We ate lunch of pita, Noah Martin salami and cheese.

In the afternoon we had the biggest navigational issue of the trip causing a 15min kerfuffle of route finding along the top of a steep cliff. We continued to push our kilometres and made it to the campsites at Buckshot Creek where we had originally booked to stay that night.

Other hikers were at the furthest site south out of the four and we had no intention of walking backwards along the trail so we decided to push our luck and hike a few more kilometres to Beatty Cove which we heard had beautiful beach sites. We hiked past Buckshot Creek which had a nice bridge to get over and through the very dense forest. We had our fingers crossed that there would be an empty site and thankfully when we arrived at Beatty Cove only 1 of the 4 campsites were taken! 

We arrived at camp around 5:30 pm that day. We picked a lovely site, set up camp and enjoyed a nice swim in the water. Our feet were very sore and unconditioned to the ankle-twisting boulders and rocks that consumed the trail. We drank 4L of water each throughout the day and had regular snack breaks as dehydration and heat stroke were a worry. We were drenched head to toe in sweat.

After we were cleaned up and relaxed we made pasta dinner on the beach. The bear bin was missing its pin for the locking mechanism so we got creative with come carabiners that did the trick and headed to bed. 

Campsite: Beatty Cove Campsite 1/4

  • Pros: Great swimming, nice beach, good size campsite could fit 3 tents, 3rd tent site is farther back in the woods, good coverage for tent and spot to hang tarp, bear bin right near the site (each site had a personal bear bin so did not need to share with anyone)
  • Cons: No thunderbox, sites close together (would see and hear neighbours), okay campfire pit in the forest no view of the lake, have to wade in the water to fill bottles 

Recommended: Yes

Day 3: Beatty Cove to Coldwater South (15 km)

  • Hike Distance: 15 km
  • Start Time: 9:36 am
  • Time Hiking: 3h 18m

It had rained throughout the night so we were very happy to have put the tarp up over the tent so the tent and bags were dry as we packed everything in the morning. We left camp slightly later since we waited for the rain to stop before heading out.

The day before we had quickly realized just how treacherous and dangerous this trail could be in bad weather. Breakfast was oats and coffee.

We started the hike going through one long stretch in the forest, after which it was mostly boulders along the coast as we weaved in and out of shorter forest sections. The best term to describe it is coastal clambering and scrambling up steep sections of rocks. The rocks were quite slick because they were still wet from the rain. This made for slower progress and slippery travel.

We continued to drink lots of water throughout the day with regular snack breaks and were again drenched head to toe in sweat. Our clothes from the day before had not fully dried out, although that mattered little since I started sweating again 30 seconds into the hike.

We had a snack at Sand Spit campsite which was a very cute campsite. It has a small private beach with some wind protection as there is a large rock island just out front of the beach. This would have been a very private and cute campsite and there were nice logs along the beach to sit on as well. We did not go into the forest to check out the tent spots or if there was a thunderbox or bear box.

We also saw the people who had camped beside us at Beatty Cove and stopped and chatted with them a little bit along the trail. They were very nice people, and they were headed out for the day at Orphan Lake exit and coming back the next day at the Barrett River access so we may see them there again.

We then continued along the coast for some more forest hiking and coastal clambering. We reached Baldhead River where we decided to have lunch at one of the Baldhead North campsites. At Baldhead River, just past the Baldhead North campsites, you enter the forest and hike up towards the Orphan Lake Trail. There are many small rapids along the river so it is easiest to hike up to the bridge to cross and then back out to the coast. The river isn’t very wide however it was too deep to wade across. You then walk for about one kilometre along a small pebble beach to reach Baldhead North campsite. 

The Baldhead South campsite is where we had originally booked to stay for the night. To get to the campsite there is a bit of a steep climb up the rocks which were very slippery because of the rain. The campsite has a thunderbox and lots of room for 3-4 tents. The view was not great and water access was far and difficult as you had to climb up and down the steep rocks to access the water at the pebble beach. It also wasn’t an ideal spot for swimming. It would be an okay campsite, if I had other choices I would not stay here.

The weather looked threatening so we decided to put up the tarp ASAP, which turned out to be a very smart idea. Seconds after it was up it started to rain so we huddled under the tarp with all of our things to make a game plan. There was one bar of cell service so we were able to look up the weather. Again, it did not look promising. It told us that the rain would stop within the next hour, Day 4 was going to be beautiful sun and then days 5 and 6 were going to be torrential downpours with thunderstorms. We then had a chance to check Ontario Parks to see which campsites were still available so we could have a better idea of where we would most likely be able to stay if we were to push on. We sat for 1.5hrs under the tarp making a game plan which involved hiking to Coldwater to camp for the night. 

We departed Baldhead South at 3 pm when the rain finally let up. We started our hike up the very steep Baldhead Mountain which is actually not bald and is filled with bushes and trees. There were sections along the hike where you had spectacular views of the lake. The Baldhead hike is a steep uphill climb to a rolling up and down/flat-ish middle section and then a very steep down. The very slippery rock made this process extra demanding.

It then led onto more coastal clambering which was VERY slippery and hard with the newly wet rock. We made slow progress along the beach until we reached a pebble beach that led into a forest section for another km which was relatively flat, especially compared to the steep sections of Baldhead. We were then spat out on the real sandy beach where the Coldwater River runs into Lake Superior

Along this beach, you can start to hear people and see the cars on the highway. There is an access point here where you can access the Coastal Trail. The nice sandy beach went on for about a kilometre. You are able to duck into the forest and up to the road to cross the river. However, the crossing was very short so instead of adding the extra distance to cross at the road, we decided to change into our sandals and wade across the river.

At the deepest part the water came up to our knees (we are 5.8-5.9′ tall). And despite the name of the river the water was actually quite warm. We continued down the beach and ended up camping just past the beach at Coldwater South campsite on the point.

We set up camp and then went for a quick skinny dip. Our feet were in incredible pain and the cold water of the lake felt so nice. My feet were SO hot all the time and throughout the night I couldn’t cool them down, they felt like they were swelling and growing by the minute.

We enjoyed making dinner on the rocky outcrop and watching the smoky sunset in the clouds. We got early to bed as we decided to get up at 5:30 am the next morning to start hiking by 7:00 am in order to cover as many kilometres as we could manage on the last nice day on the trail. Rain and thunderstorms were imminently in our future.

Campsite: Coldwater South Campsite 1/3

  • Pros: Many spots for a tent, had a bear box, thunderbox, easy water access, great sunset views, very private, had a picnic table, nice fire pit
  • Cons: Poor swimming (could walk back to the beach for a nicer swim), very wavy swells come into the cove, the coastal trail goes right through the site, buggy

Recommended: Yes

Day 4: Coldwater South to Barrett River (13 km

  • Hike Distance: 12 km
  • Start Time: 7:29 am
  • Time Hiking: 3h 58m

This morning we got an earlier start to make the most of the warm sunny weather that was forecasted for the day. We had a quick breakfast of cliff bars and departed Coldwater at 7:20 am. The hike started out with lots of technical terrain, full of ins and outs along boulder fields.

The boulder fields felt never-ending and stretched on for over 1km in some sections. We put our heads down and continued to hop from rock to rock knowing there had to be an end at some point. I genuinely don’t know how my ankles and feet were still keeping me upright by the end.

We came up to the beautiful Robertson Cove campsite. This is where we had originally planned to stay for this night but had decided to push further. After seeing what a beautiful site this was, I was disappointed not to have stayed here. Definitely worth coming back to. From what I saw as we walked past, the campsite was quite large and it had a nice firepit and thunderbox, and there was a small sand beach that connected a small island to the mainland. Many choose to camp along this beach.

We met fellow Coastal Trail hikers who had stayed at Roberson Cove that night and exchanged pleasantries as we itched to get to the next destination. We were going to have a longer break which included making pancakes at the Katherine Cove picnic area. 

We made it to Katherine Cove picnic area by 10 am and quickly got to work preparing our little picnic bench for the pancake-making feast. We forgot to bring oil. Never again will I forget to bring oil. Our sad disappointing pancake experience quickly unfolded before our eyes. We tried to cook the pancakes over the small camp stove in a pan however they continually got stuck to the bottom of the pan and the “pancake” would turn into a warm burnt dough ball. We picked away at the dough ball slightly and planned the next section of our route. Quickly abandoning our pancake-making fiasco, we cleaned up and continued on the trail again. 

The next section of the trail promised to be more forgiving terrain. We started the hike through the forest again which was quite flat and were then spat out onto a very long beach that lead us to the Sand River.

The rolling waves brought me into a humble trance allowing me to temporarily forget about the pain and blisters on my feet. This would be a beautiful place to swim.  We walked passed Bathtub Island, a popular swimming destination. We were just dying to swim especially in the blazing heat of the day. We had little time to rest as our goal was to push the kilometres while the sun was still shining.

The Sand River is a wide rapid filled river and required crossing over the bridge along the road. We hiked up to the bridge which was down to one lane because of construction. Weary of the traffic we crossed the road hoping to find an alternative route. In our delirious state, we started to hike through the construction site under the bridge until we reached an impasse.

Realizing our mistake, we quickly turned around and walked back to the road where we had so clearly missed the sign saying “HIKERS, RADIO FOR CROSSING“. We picked up the radio and called for help crossing the bridge. The very nice construction worker came out and proceeded to stop all traffic while we walked across the road. It truly felt like the royal treatment. 

We continued back into the forest and along another stretch of beach. This led to the ever-familiar ankle-breaking coastal scrambling. Never in my life did I think I would have a favourite size boulder to walk across. After already spending 3 days on the trail we were beat.

The next section was a long forest portion with steep ups and downs. At this point, we were over 10km in and thought these hills were going to be the end of us. Both of us knew if we stopped walking at this point there would be no way our feet and morale would allow us to get back up to continue. We put our heads down and trudged on through this section. The thought of lunch was my only motivation.

We were finally spat out onto another beach where the Barrett River ran into Lake Superior. We hiked along the beach to the small mouth of the Barrett River. The river was very narrow and someone had placed a log to walk across to the other side. We had decided that this was our resting point for lunch.

We climbed the sand dune to the furthest south of the Barrett River North campsites. A good thing to mention here is if you are booking Barrett River South campsite, the campsite is another 2km down the beach. There was a nice picnic bench at this campsite so we sat and ate lunch here. The group of people who we had met earlier on the trip (Day 2) had entered back in here at the Barrett River access point. 

Everything hurt at this point. I was scared to take off my hiking boots because I was pretty sure my swollen feet wouldn’t fit back into them. We packed some food into our bellies and lay down for a good rest knowing we had another 5 km to cover. After 30 minutes I started to not feel well and made a run for the thunderbox (thankful this campsite had one). I will spare you the rest of the details.

Feeling horrible I crawled back to the picnic bench where Laura lay. This spot on the trail was our last place to escape to the road, otherwise, we would be committed to another two long days on the trail. My wonderful hiking partner took one look at me and made the decision I don’t know I could have made.

She gathered superhuman planning powers and orchestrated an escape to the Agawa Bay Campground. The group we had run into previously was camping out on the beach enjoying the sun. Laura had stopped to say hello while I was unsuccessfully trying to keep my lunch down. She came back with the news that one of the people in the group actually had a car here and was planning on leaving tonight and would be happy to give us a ride back to the car. After hearing the news, an overwhelming sense of sadness and relief overcame me. There are many questions that arise in these moments but the one that seems to stand out is: Did we make the right decision?

We got our ride back to the Agawa Bay campground, to our car where we dumped everything in the car and I finally took off my hiking shoes to assess the damage. I honestly wasn’t so sure they were going to come off, they were so formed to my feet which were caked in sweat, sand, blisters and duct tape (a good trick to help prevent blisters). Our next plan was to find a place to camp for the night.

The Agawa Bay Campground was full so we decided to drive to Pancake Bay to car camp for the night. Pancake Bay is known for its beautiful beach. Here we enjoyed a lovely campsite equipped with a picnic table and campfire. We ate, laughed, and told stories while sipping tequila by the bonfire. Then we curled up in bed for a wonderful sleep.

Editor’s Note: This is where the Lake Superior Coastal Trail – Gargantua Bay to Barrett River Trip Report ends. However, Stephanie has included details on what she and Laura did for their remaining two days. I’ve kept these days below as I like how it showcases that things don’t always go according to plan!

Off the Trail – Day 5: Pancake Bay to Mississaugi Provincial Park

  • Hike Distance: 13 km
  • Start Time: 11:00 am
  • Time Hiking: 4h 42m

This morning we had a wonderful sleep-in and a leisurely morning of coffee and oats. We departed Pancake Bay around 11 am just as it started to pour with rain. We decided to make our way toward home, taking our time and exploring along the way since we still had 2 days left in our trip.

Our first endeavour was to see if we could find Batchawana Falls. We started off down a logging road, meandering around the giant potholes, large rocks and precarious hills that are characteristic of a logging road. About 14km in we were greeted by a large mud puddle followed by a steep uphill. We were 2km away from the falls at this point. We decided that it was not worth getting the car stuck.

Normally we would have parked on the side of the road and hiked the last two km but the torrential downpour combined with the idea of putting our hiking shoes back on was very low on our list of things we wanted to do. We decided to turn around and continue our drive back to Chippewa Falls which is just off Highway 17. 

Chippewa Falls is the middle point of Canada between the two coasts along Highway 17. This was a much more reasonable task in the rain and we were able to hike right up to the waterfall – it was absolutely beautiful. It seemed surreal that you could find this right off the side of the road.

Across the road was the Chippewa Restaurant and Store which was calling our name. We had a huge lunch of pancakes, eggs, toast, peameal bacon and hash browns. There wasn’t a crumb left on our plates. The restaurant is a very quaint family-run diner with a wonderful local feel and has amazing food. Our waitresses were so lovely and impressed with our appetites. The Chippewa Restaurant is a must-stop in the area.

After we finished our food all I could think about was my hurting feet in my sandals. I unstrapped my shoes to loosen them and the waitress exclaimed “Wow, your feet are so swollen!” My feet were swollen like balloons and the sandal straps had left distinct marks on my feet, pitting edema. I had realized this last night by the campfire and thankfully my first aid kit had ice packs. I ended up sleeping with icepacks on my feet, although the temporary cold didn’t seem to affect their condition. I told our waitress about our hard hiking endeavours and it turned out our waitress was a retired ICU nurse and urged me to elevate my feet as soon as possible which I did as soon as we were back in the car.

Our journey then turned to exploring the climbing world of Algoma. We made great connections and met nice people who showed us around to some of the local spots. Laura and I are planning a trip back to paddle the Little White River (see trip report here) and do some rock climbing.

As it was getting later in the day we decided to find our next camping spot for the night. Our plan was to drive to Mississaugi Provincial Park and drive a portion of the Little White River along the way to see what we would be getting ourselves into for the next trip. We drove up the river through the relentless rain, gathered helpful information and enjoyed the beautiful drive.

Little did we know this trip was not done testing our limits. The check-in process at Mississaugi took 45 minutes as the internet system was very slow due to the bad weather. Once we arrived at our campsite for the night, the whole campsite was on a 45-degree angle. In a tired state, we decided we were going to make this work – we had overcome much more difficult hurdles this trip than a slanted site, however annoying it may be.

We pitched the tent on the most level-looking piece of ground we could find. The car camping sites are quite clear of trees so it was hard to peg out all of the sides of the tent perfectly. We had checked the weather which only predicted a 40% chance of rain overnight so we may be safe in our slanted tent from the rain (This was a huge misjudgement). We then cooked dinner and called it an early night as our bodies were still catching up on sleep and rest. We got cozy in our sleeping bags and were off to sleep at 10:30 pm.

At 1:00 am I woke to water dripping on my face and loud cracks of thunder. Laura was sitting upright in bed by the time I realized what was going on. Due to the slant of the ground and difficulty pegging out the sides of our tent, there was a small 4inch by 4inch section of the outer fly that was touching the inside causing it to soak through and rain on my head inside the tent. We quickly evaluated the situation and came to the realization this storm was not stopping any time soon and I was not going to be sleeping here while it was raining on my face. We decided to make a quick dash for the car. We were ending this trip just how we started it, sleeping in the car… After running all of our things through the rain, we were both wide awake and watched the thunderstorm through the sunroof while we ate snacks until 1:30 am. The storm lasted another hour and eventually let up around 2:30 am when I finally drifted off to sleep.

Off the Trail – Day 6: Mississaugi Provincial Park to Home

We slept as long as our uncomfortable aching bodies would allow us in the reclined front seats of the car which was about 7 am. We made a quick coffee and oats for breakfast and started to make our way back home, eating lots of snacks along the way and enjoying the beautiful drive back.

Reflection

This was definitely a trip to reflect on. You will typically find me in a canoe but every once in a while, I throw on a backpack and make for the trails.

Hiking North to South: We decided to hike Gargantua Bay to Agawa Bay since the terrain was the most difficult on the north end we wanted to be fresh to tackle the difficult sections. There is also something nice about showing up at the visitor’s center where there is always quite a buzz of people to end the trip. I would recommend hiking the trail this way.

Escape Plan: An important planning activity that Laura and I do for every trip is knowing our escape routes and it has come in handy on more than one occasion.

Booking Campsites: This was the first year that you were required to book campsite areas. Before you would just be issued a permit for the backcountry and camp wherever made the most sense that day. I understand that in a time of a pandemic, parks may be required to monitor sites more closely which I appreciate. However, as you may have noticed reading the trip report, Laura and I did not stay at any of the original sites we had booked and we were not the only ones. The trail is very weather dependent and booking sites do not allow you to accommodate the everchanging forecast. This could leave hikers stranded on difficult sections of the trail in bad weather. Thankfully for us, there were never any issues staying at a different site – there was always space available and everyone was very welcoming. We even had other hikers offer to share their site however we decided to hike further to the next one. There are also many unofficial spots that you could camp at along the trail in an emergency. 

Leaving Early: One of the bigger reflections on this trip was our decision to leave the trail early. Could I have pushed on? Absolutely. Both Laura and I are those crazy people who love to push ourselves to test our physical and mental capabilities. Knowing if we could get to the end of the trail wasn’t a question we had.

The one we needed to really think about was, why do we do this? I could sit and speculate forever as to why my body reacted the way it did; not enough food or water, did I eat something bad, was it the water, we will never know. We sat there feeling unwell, our feet screaming in pain and wondering if our ankles or knees could continue to hold up along the endless boulders knowing there was severe weather in the forecast. Is this fun? When you enjoy pushing yourselves to the extreme there can be a fine line between what is fun and what is safe. We made the best decision we could have with the information we had. I am incredibly proud of us for making the decision we did – it is definitely not an easy one.

As we drove through continual rain and thunderstorms for the next two days our decision to escape the trail settled in a little better. In the end, we completed the majority of the Superior Coastal Trail in half the time we had planned. 

Having these experiences makes me reflect on why do I do this? I love nature, exploring and feel a calling to the wilderness. There is something that runs deep through my veins drawing me to the outdoors and that sense of adventure. I want to see the beautiful lakes and rivers, stop and observe wildlife, play in the sand and water and be present in these moments. This trip truly reminded me why I do what I do. With my head down at my feet so focused on trying to put one foot in front of the other I missed some of those moments. That’s where my line is and, on this trip, I found it. I don’t do things just to say I’ve done it. I do them for me and to spend time with those I care about most.

The Superior Coastal Trail is absolutely beautiful and I would go back in a heartbeat. It is definitely not a trail that is worth rushing through. Next time I definitely plan to take a little more time to enjoy the sights it has to offer.


Author Bio

Trip report written by: Stephanie Rider

I grew up on an island in Muskoka, spending days canoeing, hiking, swimming and exploring. I have enjoyed canoe tripping my whole life and am an avid outdoor enthusiast. My passion for the environment leaves me with the motto to not only follow leave no trace principles but to also leave nature a little bit cleaner than when I found it. Through my trips, I hope to highlight this point and help educate others on sustainable outdoor etiquette. I love writing about my adventures and hope to provide insights, inspire and encourage others to explore nature!

Trip Blog: Tripping and Tequilla 

Instagram: @stephrider

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