Archive for September, 2009

A crazy move day

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Today was the day we moved our “stuff” back into our house.

We had not really planned it to be so crazy, but in the end, that is what happened. We had booked a cube van through Dymon Storage, with the thought that we could take half of our stuff out of storage, and leave most of the heavier stuff for professional movers – or a few strong friends. When we arrived, and asked for our $99 van, they gave us the 5 ton rather than the cube van. The van had enough room for all our stuff and then some. So, we took advantage of the larger van and began loading everything.

Since we had not planned on moving everything, it was just us. We moved midweek and decided not to ask for help. Our friends were busy with work and moves of their own anyway. After four hours, we managed to load up almost everything from the storage locker – the only thing we left behind was a hide-a-bed couch and matching chair which we planned to sell. We filled the truck to the back door, but unfortunately didn’t get a photo of everything crammed in.

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The 5-ton van in front of our house.

Knowing that we only had the van for a finite amount of time – more than we had booked, but much less than we thought we might need – Becky put out a call on Facebook for anyone who might be able to help us unload some stuff. Fortunately, our plans to unload to the garage and main floor meant that unloading was not taking as long as we expected. By 5:00 p.m. a couple of friends arrived to help out (thanks Siobhan and Eugene) and we finished the unloading by 5:30 p.m. What an exhausting day!

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Our garage full of stuff.

Becky gave up all thoughts of making our first dinner in the house, and we went out for our first Lone Star Fajita fix since we left home. They are still delicious.

We can’t believe we did it all in one day, and mostly by ourselves. This shows us that we are much stronger than when we left home – there was no way our soft pre-departure bodies could have managed moving so much in so little time without injury. Of course we will have some sore muscles for a couple of days, but that is to be expected.

We also can’t believe just how much stuff we own. We lived quite happily for over a year with just what we could carry on our bikes – how could our stuff fill a large moving van?

The reality of being home has not really sunk in for either of us yet. We have been so busy with getting this move done, that we have not really had time to think about it. A lot of our friends have been busy with various things like moving and getting married, that we have not had a chance to see many of them yet. Perhaps as more people come by to visit and say hi we will start to feel the reality of being home.

If you are in town and haven’t seen us yet – (this post is almost a month after the fact) – please give us a call and drop by!

Home Sweet Home

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

We took our time riding the familiar roads that brought us home. Distances felt odd to us – things are much closer than we expected and yet the ride felt slow and took longer than we had thought it would. We stopped in Kanata for lunch at the Phu Yen – a Vietnamese restaurant that we both frequented when working in Kanata. Naturally, Scott saw several people he used to work with and had a brief chat. Everyone wanted to know how long we had been home, and were quite confused when we told them “We aren’t home yet!” When we pointed outside to our loaded bikes, they understood.

We made a stop by the main Nortel campus to get a few photos while it was still Nortel. It has been a landmark in our lives, so we thought it an appropriate photo opportunity on our way through. Becky was surprised by the lack of activity – we saw about five people the entire time we were there.
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Us with the Nortel tower in the background.

Our final stop before arriving home was to pick up our storage locker key and our mail from the last year. This meant that we were riding through a part of town we would normal not bike around. The streets were busy and construction slowed traffic, but the mid-day drivers seemed nice enough.

We arrived home to a warm reception from our friends Kevin and Ali. They biked to our house to meet us, and Kevin took some amazing photos of us as we made our final pedal strokes down the street.

Scott and Becky arriving home!
Arriving home

When we opened our door, and were quite puzzled to find a bunch of food in the fridge. Then we checked the cupboards, and found even more food. Eventually we figured out that our neighbours had stocked our fridge and cupboards with enough food for several days. Thanks so much Pete and Darlene – you guys are amazing!
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A fridge full of food! We have such amazing neighbours.

63 km, 3h 50 min, Arnprior to Ottawa

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The Power-full Ottawa Valley

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

The weather changed dramatically during our last night in the tent. It started off with thunder storms and the warm humidity of summer. By morning, the humidity had dropped but so had the air temperature. It was cloudy and cold and remained so all day, with the high temperature of only 12 degrees. We were reminded why we wanted to leave Canada by mid-September last year, and glad we were almost home.

Becky was  mentally struggling during the ride. Being on the side roads away from traffic was nice, but it was also rather boring and the grey skies added to her glumness, making every pedal stroke a challenge. Shortly after an early lunch stop, we were pulled over by a lady with a camera. It turned out she was a reporter for the local Cobden newsletter. She interviewed us and then gave us some homemade apple sauce and tomatoes fresh from her garden. Her kindness put us both in a much better mood, and made the rest of the ride pleasant, despite the cold grey day.

Riding down through the Ottawa Valley, we saw that it is not only the centre of political power in Canada (the home of the Federal Government), it also has a variety of different sources of electrical power. As we followed the Ottawa River, we passed several hydro-electric dams, the site of Canada’s first nuclear power plant (Deep River) where the precursor to the CANDU reactor was developed, and the current nuclear plant at Chalk River. It was the source of a large percentage of the world’s medical isotopes, but has been shut down due to safety problems – an overview of the problems.

A bit later, we rode past what is claimed will be Canada’s largest solar power farm. We we don’t quite understand why prime farm land in the Ottawa valley was used for a solar power farm. We didn’t think we were exactly in a sun-belt, but apparently West Carleton is quite sunny!

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Farming solar energy in the Ottawa valley.

Our last evening before arriving at home was spent visiting our friend Susan, her daughter, and her two dogs. Scott joined Susan as she taught a yoga class that night at her new yoga studio, Hollow Tree Yoga. It is a beautiful studio, and the first dedicated space for yoga in Arnprior. He enjoyed his first yoga class in years – it felt good to be doing something different from our usual morning yoga routine.

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Susan and her two dogs Jerome and Hamish. Yes, Hamish is a giant dog!

106 km, 5h 50 min, Pembroke to Susan’s house south of Arnprior

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Beautiful view looking down the Ottawa Valley.

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See the matching signs?

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Nuclear power in Deep River – the trees have all grown in and up such that the scenic lookout isn’t that scenic any more.

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Following the Ottawa River

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Our journey down the Ottawa River began at the top of Lake Temiskaming, the source of the river. In order to avoid highway 11, we choose to ride along the Quebec side of the lake. Upon entering Quebec the roads were immediately nicer. For the first time in weeks we saw a consistent shoulder. The rest areas were also a definite upgrade, most having running water although not always potable. All the rest areas we passed would make excellent sites for wild camping.

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Nice shoulders on Quebec roads.

The one disadvantage to riding along the Quebec side was that the roads were not flat. At times the hills were just as bad at the hills around Lake Superior. They made the ride more interesting, often providing pretty glimpses of the Lake, but also slowed us down and ensured that we were tired by the end of the day. Our first day after Barrie’s place we had hoped to ride 120 km, but only made 98 km. With the shorter distances and decreasing daylight hours, we soon realized that our goal of arriving home on September 15 was no longer realistic. We officially re-forecast our arrival home for September 16th.

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Beautiful views of Lake Temiskaming. In the north, there were farms along the shore, but further south the landscape was wooded, similar to Gatineau Park across the river from Ottawa.

We spent one night in Quebec at the beautiful Bannik Campground in Ville-Marie near Fort Temiskaming ($26). The campsites were set in a nice treed area, the showers were clean and warm, and they had laundry facilities.

The continued ride along Lake Temiskaming reminded us very much of riding the along the Gatineau Parkway just across the Ottawa River from home. The hills certainly reminded us of Gatineau, and reinforced that we would not be getting home on Monday as originally planned.

By 5:30 pm, we pulled into the town of Temiskaming at the southern tip of the lake and did a final re-supply – fresh bread and fruit. Our plan for the next day was to take the shortcut along highway 533 directly to Mattawa, saving us 80 km and avoiding North Bay. We first heard warning about the “back-roadness” of this highway from Isabelle at Barrie’s place. In Temiskaming a cottager also warned about the road. Both commented on the narrow road, limited sight-lines and crazy drivers, so we were a bit concerned what we were getting ourselves into.

With the warning of the road, and no campground nearby, we decided to ride out to the rest area near the intersection of highway 101 and 533. This would allow us to tackle highway 533 on Sunday morning and hopefully avoid the worst of the traffic. The rest area turned out to have a nice creek/river flowing next to it and a treed area behind it, allowing us to rinse the sweat and road grunge off our bodies and set up camp with a little bit of privacy. Other than being a bit too close to the road, it was a perfect free camping spot.

Becky went for a quick dip along the shore of the river without incident, but when Scott went for his dip, he was surprised by a car pulling in, and driving toward him. At this point he was standing completely naked in the river, balancing on one foot and attempting to dry off. Fortunately, it was after dark, and the river bank was high enough he could duck below it. The car parked well away, and he was able to finish drying off without further issues.

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Making breakfast at the rest area near the intersection of highways 101 and 533.

Our strategy of riding highway 533 on a Sunday morning worked out perfectly. It was indeed a “back-road” in that the quality of the tarmac was a significant downgrade from highway 101. In most places there was no yellow line, and the shoulders were made of loose sand and big rocks. On the plus side, there was very little traffic, and the route was very pretty, giving us many glimpses of small lakes through the mature forest. It had lots of ups and downs, only letting us average 15 km/hr, so by the time we arrived in Mattawa, we were ready for lunch, and to be back on a better road.

At Mattawa we rejoined highway 17, and would remain on highway 17 until Pembroke, where we could get off of it for good. The traffic was quite a bit lighter and more polite than we feared, making for a pleasant ride. Our map showed several towns on highway 17 that turned out to just be a few houses or resorts and had no services (Deux Rivieres and Bissett Creek). We unfortunately passed these as Becky was craving her afternoon ice cream break. Just as we had given up hope, a gas station / convenience store appeared in Stonecliffe and ensured Becky did not miss her day’s dose of ice cream.

We stayed at the Morning Mist Resort ($21) in Stonecliffe. They were definitely more accustomed to RVs than tents, but were very friendly and welcoming. Their sites were huge and they had a nice covered picnic shelter where we could plug in our laptops and check email while cooking breakfast :).

As Becky was taking down the tent, she lifted the tent by the poles and shook out the dirt from the bottom of the tent. This was our normal routine, but just as she was about to put  the tent down, she heard a CRACK! The tent was now looking quite lopsided. After further investigation, she discovered that one of the poles had snapped at the join. Quickly she removed the tent releasing any pressure on the rest of the poles. Fortunately, Scott was able to make a temporary repair using one of the hose-clamps he has been carrying. It is nice that we weren’t carrying the hose clamps the entire trip for nothing! We don’t recommend this as a permanent fix as the clamp has rough edges that could cause a rip in the fly – but it was good enough for our one remaining night of camping.

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Broken and temporarily repaired tent pole.

We had an easy day riding into Pembroke. From here, we would be riding the back-roads home – no more highways. Pembroke was also our last night camping. We stayed at the municipal Riverside Campground ($21) which had adequate facilities – it felt more like camping in a sports fields than a campground. We were glad for access to a table in the laundry room, as it started to rain just as Becky was preparing dinner. After dinner, as Becky was sitting in the tent with lightening and rain all around, she was reminded of our journey around Lake Ontario last June. It was appropriate that our last night in the tent would be so similar to our first!

113 km, 7h 20 min, Bannik Campground, Quebec to rest area

125 km, 8h, Ouest-Duhamel rest area to Stonecliffe

84 km, 4h 30 min, Stonecliffe to Pembroke

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We saw these crosses all along the Quebec shore of Lake Temiskaming. We’ve never seen crosses like this before, but we assume that the ladder, hammer and pliers are a reference to the tools used to crucify Jesus. Can anyone confirm?

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Lunch by a small lake East of Lake Temiskaming along highway 101 in Quebec.

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Welcome back to Ontario!

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Our first sight of the Ottawa River. Almost home!

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Railway bridge across the Ottawa River.

 

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High speeds, steep hills, and soft gravel don’t mix – ouch!

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Barrie’s place, being on the top of a ridge, meant that upon departure, we had to decent a short but steep hill. The gravel on the hill was a little soft, such that yesterday Becky chose to climb it by pushing her bike rather than riding it. Somehow, Scott suffered a little amnesia this morning and forget that the road was very soft near the bottom. He had an enjoyable ride down the hill until he hit the soft stuff. Becky, with her hands firmly on her brakes, looked up to see Scott slowly oscillating: back and forth he went, before finally falling over in a cloud of dust and crunch of gravel.

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Lots of loose gravel on these roads.

After a thorough examination, Scott was diagnosed with a few scrapes on his knee, a small chunk out of the palm of one hand, a bruised butt, and very bruised pride! Fortunately both he and his bike survived, however the seat got another dent from the handlebars, the front sprocket and chain tube filled with sand and the utility bar cracked – good thing we don’t regularly ride at night, since he now has no place to attach his front light.

Our advice: slow down descending hills when the gravel might be loose!

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Scott’s scratched up knee – ouch!

After a brief cleanup of bike and rider, we were on our way again. Fortunately the rest of the day was much less eventful. We crossed into Quebec, Scott said goodbye to his faithful utility bar at the Notre Dame du Nord tourist info, and we ended the day at La Bannik; a nice (if expensive) full-service campground near Fort Temiscamingue.

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Goodbye utility bar!

98 km, 6h 50min, Kenabeek to Bennik Campground in Ouest-Duhamel

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A warm shower without a shower

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

We left Timmins on a beautifully sunny morning. The rest day in Timmins must have been good for us, as the bumps in the road did not bother us nearly as much as previously. Shortly after a nice lunch break and a bit of road construction, we were flagged down by a car who had pulled over. Brent, a Warmshowers host from Cochrane, stopped us to say Hi and offer us a bottle of water. We had a brief chat at the side of the road. At one point, he asked us if we were travelling two – which we found especially amusing since Friedel and Andrew were staying at our place in Ottawa that night. Of course we replied with “no, we are goingeast!”, which he initially though was a bit redundant given our direction on the highway.  It was too bad we were not going through Cochrane, as it would have been nice to visit with Brent longer. If you are transiting Ontario via highway 11, do consider stopping by and visiting him.

We had planned to camp at the rest area near Swan Lake; however, just before the rest area a campground appeared. In Timmins we decided to splurge for campgrounds for our last few days in Ontario, so with the prospect of a warm shower, we opted for the Swan Lake Campground ($22). The owners were very friendly, and the facilities were quite nice. One of them explained that they were not listed in the Ontario Campground book because it would cost them over $400 to register. We found the book to be useless as very few campgrounds are actually listed in it!

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We are now back into farm land.

The next day, we had arranged to spend the night at Warmshowers host Barrie’s “log house” in Kenabeek. We had no idea what to expect, and were delighted when Barrie rode out to meet us. He led us through various farm roads onto a ridge, then into the middle of a beautiful forest.

Barrie lives in a beautiful log home surrounded by forest, with a small stream running out the back. The house is off-grid, so power is provided either by his hydro generator – when the stream has enough water – or by a backup diesel generator. He has running water which comes from the stream and he gets his drinking water from a natural spring elsewhere on the property. When we arrived, his hot water heater was broken (and had been for several years), so if we wanted a hot shower, we were out of luck. Fortunately, we were more than happy to exchange that hot shower for a swim in a small lake nearby. We all hopped into his old VW van and drove down the road following some narrow pathways – that only a local could navigate – to be presented with the most beautifully picturesque small lake, completely surrounded by forest. We only wish one of us had thought to bring a camera! We thoroughly enjoyed a swim in the silky smooth water.

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A small peek inside Barrie’s home.

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South wall of the house.

After our swim we enjoyed a narrated walk through the woods. The forest on Barrie’s property had burned almost completely in 1920 and was allowed to grow back naturally. After the fire, it began as almost 100% jack pine, but is now about 20% jack pine with a mix of other species. The jack pine is a determinant tree with an 80-90 year lifespan, so as the older trees die they are replaced by different – indeterminant – tree varieties.  In a natural forest the jack pine only grows after a large fire, but forest companies seed with jack pine in their “managed forests” because it grows quickly and can be harvested in only 60-80 years.

To end a perfectly delightful afternoon, we enjoyed some of the best squash soup we have ever had. Barrie’s friend Dada (an Ananda Marga monk)  made the soup using vegetables from Barrie’s huge organic garden. We were also joined by Isabelle, a cycling friend of Barrie’s. A wonderful evening of conversation and yummy food.

In the morning, we were able to do our regular yoga routine in the main room of Barrie’s house. He has hosted yoga retreats here, and he and Dada each do their own morning yoga practice, so the house was used it <grin>. Breakfast was a wonderful meal of quinoa and ground nuts, made exactly how we liked it (because we each mixed our own). Becky really enjoyed the Eastern Ontario taste of real maple syrup – we must be getting close to home! Becky was also delighted when Barrie offered her some coffee and he pulled out her favourite Kicking Horse Kick Ass coffee. Unfortunately, the coffee was whole bean and the coffee grinder required power. This problem was quickly sorted by walking with the coffee grinder up to the garage to start the diesel generator.  Perhaps a bit much just to grind some coffee, but it made Becky very happy.  She can’t think of a better way to start the day than good food and yummy coffee.

114 km, 6h 50 minutes, Timmins to Swan Lake Campground
92 km, 6h, Swan Lake Campground to Kenabeek

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Timmins – A mining town

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

We received a warm welcome in Timmins from Charles and Mary Gazzola – the parents of one of Scott’s university friends. We spent two nights at their place while they ensured we were warm, clean, and well fed. We can’t remember eating so much yummy food in such a short period of time! Charles also drove us around town to see the sights and run a few errands – a wonderful break after two weeks in our tent.

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Welcome to Timmins! It is appropriate that the backdrop to the sign is an industrial plant, if not a mine. This is the Grant Forest Products Oriented Strand Board mill, which has been closed since 2006 due to a contract dispute.

Timmins is a gold mining town through-and-through. As the price of gold fluctuates, so does the job market in Timmins. Whenever there is a significant increase in the price of gold, older mines are re-visited as it becomes economical to recover the smaller pieces of gold. The people in town are accustomed to mines opening, closing, and moving. They recently moved the golf course in order to re-mine the land underneath it, since it had been built on the tailings of a previous mine. They have moved many homes as the land underneath them became a valuable source of gold. It is the nature of a mining town, that the mines – which equate to jobs and the livelihood of the town – dictate the shape of the community.

Timmins is also proud to be the birthplace and former home of Shania Twain (before she got famous and moved to Switzerland). To honour her success and in the hopes of bringing tourists to Timmins, the town built the beautiful Shania Twain Interpretation Centre in front of the Timmins Gold Mine Tour. Unfortunately, the Centre was built on land that is now suffering from sink-holes due to the underground mining. It is also scheduled to be re-mined. It is somewhat appropriate that you must drive through an open pit mine in order to visit the Shania Twain Centre. Apparently, it does not draw the large number of tourists the town had hoped. When we drove by, the parking lot only had one car in it – the Shania Twain Centre SUV!

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The empty Shania Twain Centre parking lot.

From our perspective, the Gold Mine Tour sounded much more interesting. The “gig” with that tour, is that they dress you up in old fashioned mining outfits before taking you down into an old mine shaft. It would be worth it just to wear the clothes and get some fun photos!

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Tailings from one of the active gold mines.

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The picturesque McIntyre Headframe, a landmark that defines Timmins. The wreath on the headframe was made by a metal-working class at the high school.  When Becky first saw the headframe, she thought it was a grain elevator!

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Scott and Becky with the statue of Mr. Schumacher. Mr. Schumacher was a philanthropist and philosopher. To this day, his estate gives Christmas gifts to all the kids at the Schumacher school.

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The Porcupine (a suburb of Timmins) Miner’s Memorial. This is beside what was a lovely park with ball diamonds, which was dug up a few years ago by an Australian syndicate looking to re-mine the tailings. That was par for the course, but unfortunately there was no money put in escrow for rebuilding the site after the mining, and the syndicate found nothing of value, so just gave up and left. It’s now a weed-filled field. Hopefully Timmins City Council won’t make that mistake again.

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The Hollinger Mine tour, behind the Shania Twain Centre. Unfortunately, the tour was not running on the days we were in town.

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Becky with Charles and Mary. Thanks so much for such a wonderful welcome in Timmins!

Thinking outside-the-box and another continental divide

Monday, September 7th, 2009

The highway 101 from Wawa to Timmins was a mixed blessing. The road had very little traffic with some sections of nice new pavement, but also had some sections of construction, 25 km of loose gravel, and lots of frost heaves – scrambling your brain with a not completely regular thump-thump-thump. Next year, this should be a beautiful road for riding!

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Not so nice gravel road.

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Beautiful scenery on a nice sunny day – makes up for the road conditions!

We had not really planned on crossing back into the Arctic Watershed on this journey, so we were taken by surprise when the sign appeared shortly after the Shoals Provincial Park. On our day of lasts we had thought we were finished with all this divide stuff – but alas, we crossed back into the Arctic watershed, and now are guaranteed at least one more divide when we cross back into the Atlantic Watershed in order to follow the Ottawa River home.

Wild camping for three nights with Martin and Nadine filled us with confidence in our abilities. We spent the afternoon doing laundry and stocking up in Wawa, then proceeded to head out of town with the plan of finding a nice quiet camping spot for the night.

When the rest area on the map did not appear, we pulled over onto a boat launch at the Eastern end of Lake Wawa and made dinner. It was picturesque and relaxing, but also too close to the road for camping – especially on a Friday night.

Further down the road, we found a side road that opened onto a gravel pit that was surrounded by trees and ATV pathways. We chose a spot above the pit along one of the sides. It provided us with a view of the gravel pit and surrounding areas, however the area was rather rocky – so we thank the Thermarest Gods that our sleeping pads work well when spread over gravel. Becky did not want to camp in the pit because it felt too much like being inside a fish bowl.

Having picked a spot for camping, we were off to the treed area looking for a place to hang our food. This turned out to be much more painful and stressful than either of us liked. After over an hour of tossing random things into trees and not being able to get a clear line, Becky suggested we just leave the food 100 meters away from us in the middle of the gravel pit – it was late, and our attempts at hanging were not improving with fatigue and darkness. On the walk back to the tent, it occurred to Scott that we could just hang the food over the edge of the gravel pit. Well D’uh! We should have thought of that much sooner. The process turned out to be rather simple and was easily achieved by Scott while Becky set up the tent. We certainly should have thought of “hanging” from the ground level well before considering hanging from a tree.

It was well after dark by the time we crawled into the tent. With our food safely stowed and us camped well off the highway, one would think we were in for a peaceful night. And we were, until 4 a.m. when some random folks on ATVs came thundering into the center of the gravel pit (glad we were not camped down there). They must have caught sight of our food bags with their headlights and upon further inspection saw our tent. We heard:

“Is that a tent?” “Wow”
“Those must be cables over there, we shouldn’t f**k with them”

We’re guessing that the reflective patches of our food bags caught their eyes, appearing to hang in mid-air over the side of the gravel pit. We’re glad that discouraged them from riding that edge, since the path went right past our tent.

After a couple of loops around the pit, off they went. We heard the bumble bee sounds of distant ATVs a couple more times before things were quiet for the rest of the night.

We awoke to a crazy layer of fog, which made it impossible to see the bottom of the gravel pit. The fog meant we couldn’t get a quick start in the morning, as the roads would not be safe. In addition, it meant that everything was wet. Rather than pack up and run, Becky went berry picking – she had noticed a bunch of raspberry and blueberry bushes near the entrance to the gravel pit. For breakfast we enjoyed a feast of fresh berries atop our hearty oatmeal.

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Making breakfast on a foggy morning.

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Wonderful fresh berries.

Our lunch stop lined up nicely with Potholes Provincial Park, a tiny day-use nature reserve with parking, pit toilets and a trail to the potholes. It was a lovely place to stop for lunch – the trail was rideable for the first 300m, so we walked the last bit and had a lovely lunch beside the burbling creek and the water-carved potholes which give the park its name.

That night, we pulled into Shoals Provincial Park with the plan of just having dinner there. However, our dinner preparation took longer than planned and the lake was nice and warm, so we changed our plans and set up camp at the park. Again hanging our food became a challenge. At the park there were many more trees that presented much better options than in the gravel pit (the brush under the trees was cleared, making it much easier to wrap the line around trees); however, our two tree approach was proving to be not nearly as simple as we first thought (we must have been lucky the first two times we tried it). One issue was that we really did not have a long enough rope – we’re missing the three meters we left stuck in the tree near Thunder Bay! Eventually, we did manage to get the food hung between two trees, but not nearly as high up as it should have been (within reach of Scott if he stretched). Fortunately, we were in a provincial park and didn’t see any “habituated bear” warnings, so did not worry too much about it.

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Sunset at the Shoals Provincial Park.

For our final night before arriving in Timmins, we decided to camp at a park rather than wild camp. The whole act of hanging our food was causing us both too much stress and frustration at the end of the day. We headed toward the Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park but came across the Red Pine Lodge first. They had a beautiful campsite right on the water. It was on the edge of a trailer park with a fair bit of activity, so there was no worry about food storage – we could just leave the bags in our vestibule for the night. After a wonderful hot shower (our first since Aug 31, so it felt rather luxurious), we crawled into our tents and promptly fell fast asleep.

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Woodpecker at the Red Pine Lodge campground. 

86 km, 5h 45min – Gravel Pit to The Shoals provincial park
141 km, 7h 45 min – Shoals Provincial Park to Red Lodge campground at Ivanhoe Lake
117 km – 6h 30 min to Timmins

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Scott enjoying a beautiful day.

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Becky preparing to climb another hill.

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Wild camping with new friends

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Shortly after leaving Gravel River, we ran into Lee, a cyclist from Australia riding to Vancouver. We pulled over and chatted for about 15 minutes and exchanged information on the road ahead. He mentioned a nice place for lunch in a picnic area just after Rossport – and he was right. It was a beautiful spot right on Lake Superior, which would make a beautiful wild camping spot if you don’t mind being close to the highway!

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Our beautiful lunch picnic spot.

We stopped for lunch and enjoyed some of Lake Superior – we used (boiled) lake water to make our noodles. We also took that opportunity to dry out our wet tent and tarp since our camping spot didn’t have any morning sun. Just as we were finishing lunch and getting ready to go, a couple of other touring cyclists pulled up. Martin and Nadine have been on the road for 6 years, and are into the last 9-months of a round-the-world bicycle and canoe tour. They have cycled over 85,000 kilometers and spent several months canoeing in various parts of the world. Very adventurous!

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Scott chatting with Martin and Nadine.

Since we were heading the same direction, we hopped back on our bikes and enjoyed several hours of conversation. After many days on the road, it’s wonderful to have new people to talk to for a while. When we came upon the Tourist Info Centre in Schreiber and discovered free wifi, Scott and Martin immediately sat down to do their daily Internet tasks. At one point there were all four of us sitting on a bench – Martin and Nadine sharing their laptop and us with ours. We must have made a truely geeky sight. After a brief break, we were back on the road.

Since we were having such a great time together, we decided join forces for a few days while our paths intersected. Given their long journey and ultra low budget, Martin and Nadine almost always wild camp. We would wild camp for one night now and then, but generally we stayed in campgrounds when they presented themselves. Wild camping is definitely cheaper, but requires a little more organization and forethought (at least for us). We normally don’t carry enough water to wild camp, so we needed to plan ahead. Camping with others would make it easier for us, but going for so many days without a campground (and shower) would also be a stretch (especially for Becky).

When wild camping, water is our most critical resource. Unfortunately, in Schreiber, Scott got distracted by the Internet and forgot to fill his water bladder – leaving us without enough water for cleaning. We were OK for cooking, but would not have enough to wipe the salt off of us at the end of the day. For Becky, this is critical, which meant that we had to find a wild camping site with access to water for cleaning. A trick we were reminded of later was to carry some baby wipes, for those times when water isn’t readily available and cleaning is necessary. The wipes are also handy for cleaning up dishes when water is limited.

Fortunately, a river with a pullout appeared just as we were contemplating where to camp for the night. A couple in a car had pulled onto the trail just before we pulled in and they too were looking for a spot to put up their tent for the night. It turned out that following the road brought us to a nice clearing where we could all set up our tents and there was a path leading down to the river (a little steep, but still accessible).

While the girls set up tents and prepared dinner, the boys went to find trees to hang food for the night. Scott and Martin compared methods – giving us one more way to hang food, which required only one tree and less line.

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Martin, Nadine, and Scott enjoying breakfast at our campsite.

Our second night together was spent camping just outside Neys Provincial Park. Rather than hanging our food on two separate trees, the boys setup our food to be hung from the same line (with two pulleys and pull lines, but only one base line). This required only finding one “ideal” tree – much less painful.

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All our food bags hung on the same tree. Probably a total of 30-35 kg!

For our third night, we decided to stop a little earlier and find a nice location near a lake. Thanks to Scott’s GPS, we were able to find a road with a small patch of lake access about 1.5km down the road. There was no sign of the lake from the road, so without the GPS we likely would never have found it. We saw no signs of life as we set up, so we were able to enjoy skinny dipping in the lake, but later we heard ATVs in the distance – hopefully we didn’t give them too much of a show. The next morning some cottage owners passed us by as we were drying our tents out on the road. Fortunately we could move them quickly!

The view over our little lake in the morning
The view over our little lake in the morning.

Becky giving Scott a haircut with Martin's battery-powered beard trimmer
Becky giving Scott a haircut.

Nadine giving Martin a haircut
Martin carries a battery-powered beard trimmer for haircutting, and Becky and Nadine both used it to provide much-needed haircuts.

At Wawa we sadly had to say goodbye. We were heading east to Timmins, but Martin and Nadine had an invite to Interbike in Las Vegas where they were to showing off their well-worn Vaude panniers at the Vaude booth. We wish them well, and hope we will be able to visit one day, wherever they end up.

If an opportunity to camp with other cycle tourists presents itself, we would definitely recommend it – even if it is only for one night. Each time we camped with others, we made great new friends and we learned and shared several new tips and tricks. Everyone does things differently, and not everything works for everyone, but there is always something new to learn.

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Becky still can’t believe we did not think of this one ourselves. Martin and Nadine had the same 14-speed Rolhoff hubs we did. They added two chain rings in the front and just manually changed them based upon the terrain. We could have saved much pain and been able to ride a little faster if we had thought to just add the second chain ring. This is definitely a modification we will make when we get home!

89 km, 6h 10 min – Gravel River to Steele River
112 km, 7h 20 min – Steele River to White Lake
96 km, 5:50 White Lake to McCormick Lake
42 km, 3h 15 min McCormick Lake to Gravel Pit (between Wawa and Hawk Junction) – near Ghost Lake

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Becky sitting on top of a picnic table at a not very nice rest area. This rest area did not even have outhouses. It was just a pull out on the side of the road with a picnic table and garbage can – which sadly many people chose not to use!

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A beautiful view of Lake Superior.

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A beautiful and huge mushroom. When walking through the woods at night, these mushrooms stand out so much that they almost glow!

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Nice rest area for a dinner stop. Scott was originally attracted by the bikes on the pole. The rest area is provided by the town of Manitouwadge, a former gold mining town reinventing itself as a tourist destination.

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Riding a little later at night than we usually like to. Notice how our triangle signs seem to glow in the dark!

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Becky and Nadine making breakfast on our second morning.

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A nice posed shot – no we don’t normally ride three abreast!

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White River – home of the bear that inspired Winnie the Pooh.

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Notice how we all have mirrors?

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Approaching Wawa.

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Becky and Nadine sitting under the Wawa goose.

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