North Shore of Lake Superior in the newly designated Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area.
Monday July 20
Departed Rochester with Dan a little after 7 am. We had a long drive ahead of us. We camped at a drive in campsite on National Forest land in Michigan for the first night. Nothing spectacular. It was buggy though. We both had tick creepiness at night.
We awoke early to get back on the road. A quick breakfast of some raisin bran and stopped for coffee on the way. We finally arrived in Rossport, Ontario and found the outfittters where we would get a map. He wasn't in, and calls by a number a of locals yielded no results. We “bought” the map from his bulletin board. The kid at the public launch was very helpful. We didn't get his name though, more on that later. We paid the $5 and launched out into the harbor and the few islands within it. The water was choppy and we were loaded down with gear and food. Not much freeboard left. We spotted a kayaker off to the east and we paddled over thinking it might be the Outfitter. It wasn't; just a guy out fishing. He mentioned the conditions were a little rough. This description fit both his fishing results and the wind and waves. We paddled around the islands in the harbor and headed towards Little Lake Harbor on Wilson Island. As we approached one of the first islands, Dan spotted a black bear at the water's edge. We inched closer and he climbed out of the water and scrambled into the woods. This sighting would be a harbinger for the wildlife we would experience.
As we headed South with Quarry Island to our right, the westerly winds were bouncing back off the cliff faces causing additional choppiness. The waves from the winds and reverberations coupled with our gear laden boat made for and adventerous crossing of Nipigon Bay. We floated into the harbor; in this area, the little bays on the islands are called harbors. Apropos as they provide safe shelter for boats when the winds are not favorable. With a lot of open water, there is plenty of fetch for the waves to build. Stories of paddlers disappearing, never to be found, shipwrecks and the like abound on the Lake they call Gichigumee. This little harbor would be our home for the night. The downside of blocking the wind, is it allows the bugs to flutter about. This was often the case once inside the trees.
Dan went a fishing early in the am while I started on breakfast. He caught a nice sized brook trout (they call them coasters or speckled here). At 15 inches, it was big for us. The size requirement for speckled in these waters is 22 inches! There is no restriction on Lake trout except for the 1 per person daily limit. Off on to the water we would troll for lake trout and Dan landed the first one for the trip. We would get fish almost every day. The conditions seemed a lot better than the previous day, so we headed south towards the big lake, passing by Minnie Island on our right and then to Battle Island.
As we came around Battle, the boiler from the Shipwreck Ontario came into view. Most of the ship had been recovered for salvage, but a few remnants remain giving paddlers pause as to the power of the lake. As we rounded the edge of Battle island, the waves and reverb created increased choppiness. I was pulling hard on my paddle; something I would regret in the coming days. I tried to steal glances at the rocks and cliffs as we passed. During this 1.5km stretch I started to wonder, “What the hell have I gotten myself into. I could actually die out here!” I was curious as to Dan's thoughts. As a very experienced paddler, I had put my faith in him. There were times throughout this voyage I thought about asking him about that stretch; I will at some point. As we made our way across the southern exposure of Battle Island, the lighthouse came into view. This signaled the western point and we made our turn into Simpson Channel. Once around the bend, the island provided some respite from the wind and waves but the 3 km channel still allowed some waves to build. At least we didn't have to paddle into it and deal with the reverberations. We crossed over from Battle to the narrows between Harry and Minnie Islands.
Once in the protected waters behind Harry, I felt a sigh of relief. A little fishing and exploring. We spotted a marker on the point and we went to check it out. It was a survey marker. We would see a few of these over the course of the next week plus. I also found a dried up black trumpet mushroom in the woods. An old “cabin” was also discovered on Harry Island. We would see it again. We made our way around Harry Island to the beach and made camp. Dan cooked up some Lake trout, we ate, paddled a bit more, and relaxed. We ate dinner out on the point away from the bugs. Sunset comes late in these parts and we found ourselves having dinner at 8:30-9pm and still going to bed with the sun still up. At times we would see a sunset. The moon was a waxing crescent and would grow as our trip progressed. Plenty of birds around too.
The conditions were not conducive to crossing Simpson Channel (a 3 km crossing in open water) and after yesterday's adventure, I wondered if Dan was being a bit more cautious. We opted to circumnavigate Salter Island. We fished along the way and soaked in the beauty of the rock formations. Around every bend was another sight to behold; the changes in the geology would never cease to amaze us. Small cut-outs into the cliffs, the rock switching from basalt to conglomerates to the sedimentary layers of the ancient lakes and rivers. Even the beaches would change from red sand, punctuated with the black basalt cliffs to one side and then the reverse. Black sands with conglomerate boulders accenting the beach. The constant changes told the story of the volcanic and seismic events of the area. Throughout our journey we would comment on how every geologist should visit. It was stunning. The photos tell the story of what we saw, however they do not do it justice. We made our way around Salter, stopping to take photos and fish. We made camp on Minnie Island. This was a nice site, with views to both the west and east. Both sunset and sunrise could be seen. Little wood, except for spruce, so we paddled across to Salter and filled the canoe with driftwood to cook on.
The winds were still not right to make a big crossing of Simpson, so we headed into Chubby Harbor to do some fishing. The lakers were in shallow and we had a good run. The fog rolled in and made for some new paddling. The air was oddly warm as the fog came over us. The warmer air must have condensed as it cooled closer to the water's surface. The lake water was in the low 50s. The locals said it was a result of two long cold winters. It had been up to 70F at this time in years past. The unusually cold water made for some cold bathing. The cold water temperature also added the extra element of safety considerations for our crossings. At these temps, getting dumped out in open water would be serious. The likelihood of being able to swim very far was slim. Hypothermia would set in quick as ones energy depleted. We brought our neoprene suits but so far had not worn them. PFDs of course were always on. With our daily limit reached before snack time, we headed though the fog back to Minnie. With some milk and cookies by the shore we watched the fog lift and soon a boat came by. With a wave, they came ashore. A few local fisherman out for the day. They stooped to cook up some sausages for their lunch. We chatted a bit and they told us of two canoeists who had went around to the South side of Simpson Island and were never seen again. They said the bodies were never recovered. We weren't sure of the veracity of the story, and wondered if it was a local way of telling us to be safe. In any case, they also mentioned the Harry Hilton. This was the cabin we had seen the other day on Harry Island. It was built over 100 years ago, and fell into disrepair. In the late 80's, some locals spent, time and energy fixing it up for use as hunting camp. It is there for all to use, much like lean-tos in the Adirondacks. But as a cabin, the amenities are far greater. Locals still come by to do maintenance, cut and stack wood. They were in the process of installing a new chimney pipe for the wood stove. With a weather report of a potential rainstorm coming, we opted to go the “Hilton” for the night.
At the cabin, which was about 15' square, we made lunch (venison stroganoff). We made enough for a family of eight and we killed it. Dan cooked up the daily catch and we stowed it in the cooler for the next day's lunch. Of course Dan would eat a little of it first. I had told him how my father would pluck out a cheek of the fish to serve to Nina. He then began to call me Nina as he cut out and gave me one of the cheeks. This would be a running joke for us, as well as us saying “good coffee honey” to each other as this was something he would say to his wife when she made him coffee at home. With the coming rains, we set up bug nets (mostly to keep mice off of us) in the bunks. The rains did come, but not the storm. We had read the log book which went back to 1986, and the Harry Hilton had provided many shelter from the storm. There were stories of snowmobiles falling though the ice, or boaters getting socked in. There was worry that the Canadian Parks Service was going to remove the cabin as the Conservation Area was being created. Talks of petitions and getting the cabin labeled a historic site were also mentioned. As both Dan and I work together on Lean2Rescue, we commented on we understood the thoughts of those who spent so much swat and effort to maintain the structure. As luck would have it, we were visited by one of the guys who helped with the maintenance. Most wrote in the log about how they would return. Dan wasn't sure if many would. I was quite certain that this was a trip of a lifetime for me and it would be unlikely for me to ever get the chance to see this area again.
The winds were favorable, so we loaded up the canoe to make our way across Simpson Channel and out again onto Mother Superior to see the souther coast of Simpson Island. This is one of the most popular paddling destinations for sea kayakers in this area. As large as Simpson Isldand is relative to the others we have stayed on there are not may campsites. With one exception, they are all on the southern exposed shore. We made our way our from Harry Island approaching the lighthouse on Battle. The fog was in, but there was little to no wind. The crossing of Simpson Channel was long, and the soreness in my elbow was beginning to be uncomfortable. Dan gave me some pointers on my technique. I have been paddling a canoe since I was a little kid, but my technique was flawed and these long days of paddling and hard pulling were beginning to cause tendonitis. Some small changes which would take a little time to get the muscle memory and I would be able to paddle longer and more efficiently.
Simpson Island is a gem. We read about the volcanic basalt dikes and other geologic formations such as grottos, and columnar basalt. Over the next day and half we would see all these and more as we paddled the coast of Simpson. We stopped into some of the many harbors, including McKay Cove where we took a long lunch and nap. While it was getting to that time anyway, the winds had changed. So we headed into the cove for a break. It was possible we would be wind bound and need to spend the night. Hopefully we would not have to spend too long here. While being a “camp rat” has its own special enjoyment, there was still much to see.
The water was warm here, likely due to its protected nature and the stream flowing in. So we took a dip. We also walked the beach looking at the different rocks and flowers. There was a tent platform in disrepair as well as an old telephone box which housed a log book. We signed in ate fish and took a quick nap. The winds seemed to change so we poked the bow of the canoe out into the open lake and found it suitable for travel, for the time being. Not long after we continued down the coast, we could make out what appeared to be rain in the distance. Dan put on his suit, and then pulled over to a rock for me to dig mine out. We forged ahead and the rains came. A little at first, and then some more. Winds picked up a bit too. It was still nothing like the chop as we cruised passed battle Island in the days prior. We made it to Woodbine harbor, the rains seemed to have subsided, but as quickly as the weather can change we knew it to be a good idea to make camp. The morning was foggy, and then turned to blue skies with nary a breeze. Then winds and rain. The weather seemed to change as often as the geology. Woodbine harbor was not nearly as nice nor used as McKay Cove, but it was home. There were moose tracks along the beach. Dan consulted the map to see what we would be able to do the next few days and still have some margin for error in case we got wind bound. I had a flight on Thursday and while it was still 5 days away we wanted to be safe. He determined it would not be possible for us to go around St Ignace which was even larger than Simpson, but we would still cross the Moffit Strait and visit her SouthEastern islands and eastern shore as we made our way North.
We awoke to the sunrise and set out early. The water was a little choppy, but not at all like we had dealt with before. We moved in and out of the shadows of the islands for shelter and the columnar basalt came into full view. We pulled into one of the separations and climbed out. From close up, one could really make out the hexagonal shape of these deposits. The extended like stairs allowing us to reach to the top of the structure and look out over the rest of the lake. We had paddled past basalt dikes and these seemed to be the exact same rock, but the geometry was so very different. Again, the constant changing of scenery. Something new to behold at every turn.
We crossed Moffit Strait and into the islands of St. Ignace. We fished a bit and then noticed a cliff on one of the islands. Upon closer inspection we then spotted a peregrine falcon who was not too happy we were there. Her mate also began to make a ruckus and Dan spied the nest on the side of the cliff. Zooming in with the camera we could just make out the hatchling in the nest. No wonder mom and dad were so upset. We gave them their space and headed on our way. We fished in and out of the coves of St. Ignace and then noticed an otter, and another. They seemed curious of us. We paddled, fished, had lunch and crossed back over the Strait at the narrows to Camina Island where the map showed a campsite.
Camina Island was actually a series of a few islands, and we found the site at a narrows between two of them. The landing was not particularly great, nor did the campsite seem that awesome. The map also showed one on the mainland of Simpson less than 1 km North so we took a chance on it. No sooner than we started towards Simpson, Dan spotted a brown mass towards the shore. Wait, did it just move? Could it be... a moose? We inched closer. It was indeed. I got out my camera and started taking pictures every 20 seconds or so. Small antlers came into view and then he turned and sauntered out of the weeds and back up into the woods. What a day for wildlife. The falcons, the otters and now a moose. I didn't mention the bald eagles because we would see them almost as often as we saw the herring gulls (sea gulls). How awesome is it when seeing bald eagle is as commonplace as seeing gulls.
We found the next campsite, and it hadn't been used in a long time. It was overgrown and trees had fallen into it. Fallen trees were everywhere. Travel through the woods was almost impossible. It was like a spruce rainforest with moss and fallen logs under your feet and spanish moss hanging in the spruce which was still standing. At some sites a game trail or old hunting trail were somewhat passable, but blow down was everywhere. We would later hear than an invasive species has killed off all the balsam fir trees a few years back and thus many of the tree carcasses we encountered were the result.
We went back to the Camina Island campsite since there wasn't another for many miles. While we were not happy about having to paddle against the wind to get back to where we rolled the dice, the silver lining was seeing the moose. After setting up, and taking a swim the site turned out to be quite nice. Cooked up some more fish and watched the sun begin to get lower. It seemed to hover at the same distance from the horizon for those last hours, never appearing to get lower. Dan would be paddling in Alaska in a few weeks and I mentioned the days would be even longer. A few different types of insects, mayflies and another I didn't know appeared hovering over the water where we had swam. Dan tossed a lime into the water for a bit, and then it was bedtime again.
As amazing as the southern exposure of Simpson Island was, it surprised me that the north side would also be as spectacular. Again, the constant changing of the geology. Not just the different rocks, but how the weather had also changed them. More grottos, and even some columns. Pebble beaches with such colorful stones which would make a child's bag of marbles appear plain. We had a long way to paddle today, but didn't want to miss any of this.
We continued around Simpson and then turned south down her channel. We had to cross again and headed to a narrows. We kept an eye out for potential places to make camp even though there were no official sites. If the winds changed and we had to make camp, we wanted to know a close safe exit from the water. We didn't need it, and made the crossing without fanfare. We were now following along the shore of Salter Island again, but from the opposite direction as a few days ago. We considered making camp at the beach on Harry Isl again but noticed some kayaks so we chose to continue to Battle Island and camp in the cove and hike the trail to the lighthouse. The boathouse for the lighthouse caretaker was also in this cove. With camp set up and fish being prepped a boat pulled up to the launch and let out a mother and daughter pair so they could hike up to the lighthouse. We saw them when they returned and then we headed up the trail. It would be neat to look down at the waters which had caused me some angst a few days ago. They were much calmer now. We also were able to walk along much of the rocks and beach of Battle's south side. The rocks here really showed off the variety and how the weather and other forces have changed the landscape.
We contemplated going around Battle Isl again, but the winds made it not wise. We would cross the Wilson Channel instead in the fog and check out its harbors and shore. Using a compass and the sun to keep our bearings, we poked out into the “darkness of white”. The winds were from the south so we knew we wouldn't get blown out to sea, and they weren't creating very big waves. It is an eerie feeling crossing big open water in the fog. We stopped every once in a while to listen for the waves hitting the island to our south which would signify us getting closer to Wilson Island. It didn't seem to take too long, I wondered if I was getting more efficient with my paddling strokes; less effort but more power (and sustainable over distance). We pulled into a harbor, explored and fished a bit. Then Dan noticed he wasn't wearing his PFD. It was left over at Battle island. Not wanting to cross the channel again with out it, he contemplated putting on his neoprene suit for “some buoyancy”. I had my ccf sit pad he could also jam under some clothing. Not sure if it would be enough. Also with the water temp as cold as it was, would it even matter that much out in the open water. We paddled into Little lake Harbor and spotted a boat. A man with his two sons were cooking up some breakfast. They had been fishing the day before and offered us a cup of coffee. Dan inquired if it they would be heading towards Battle Island at all to retrieve his PFD. The conditions were such that it wasn't likely, but they gave him one of their extras and it would get returned to the Outfitter. It turns out that Chris, the father, was whom Dan had spoken to earlier and had called the outfitter for us. His son, Peter was the helpful soul at the boat launch. With a PFD, coffee and some information about the next islands we set out. I told Dan about the concept of trail magic, and trail angels. Chris and his family appearing within minutes of Dan needing a PFD was surely magical and they were his angels. In the days ahead, Chris, Peter and Wyatt would head out to Battle Island and retrieve Dan's PFD which we would then get when we returned to base.
As we headed out of Little Lake Harbor, some grottos came into view just as Chris had told us. Along with them was an arch, one which he said has graced magazines and brochures extolling the area's special views. We Pressed on to Copper Island. I thought we had to cross another channel, and I suppose we did, but it was so narrow it hardly felt like it, although the winds were starting to pick up and we had some decent sized waves. Nothing like the rollers we experienced on the open water of Mother Superior. Some of those were impressive. If wind was also involved, it they could have been downright nasty. Apparently a few cabins tucked behind Barr Island were spared the purchase of Wilson island by the Conservation group.
Copper Island would be our second to last night out in these amazing islands. It was hard to believe it had been over a week since we had been paddling around. We had tons fo food left, as we had fish almost everyday. Not just to supplement meals, but more than a meal in itself. A piece of yesterdays fried trout on a warm english muffin with some mayonnaise is divine. A cold beer to go with it and shared with fantastic company... it just doesn't get any better. But today would be our last full day on the water. I said to Dan, I don't mind if we go slow and fish.
It took a while, but we eventually found where the lakers were hanging out. Dan landed one, and it would be enough for our last night. The rest would be released and spared the grill or skillet. That is until I hooked another decent sized one and the lure removal was such that it injured the fish. We now had two; much more than we needed and they were both decent sized. We paddled around Channel Island. Like the other islands before, Channel did not disappoint with her geology. The layers in the cliffs chronicled the eons and the ledge we floated above showed these cliffs continued under water to untold depths (well the map said upwards of 70 meters). I could only imagine what the layers obscured by the water held.
As we came around Channel Island, the winds really started picking up. As the shadow of Quarry ceased to provide cover we thought about trying to get to the harbor we stayed in the first night, or turn and make the crossing to Joe Indian Rock. We opted for the latter, but this would soon prove to be unwise. The winds were caused some big waves, and capsizing was a distinct possibility. We had to push against the winds and try to find a safe place to land. As we rounded Channel Island a cove appeared which looked promising, but the landing would be on rocks getting pounded by the wind. Not much safer than the open crossing. Around the next point was deep cove, as we ventured into it, a campsite appeared. With a soft beach landing. The cove was so deep than the waves barely penetrated. This site was little used as the fire pit had dandelions growing in it. We (read Dan) prepped the fish and I started the fire. Dan estimated we had over 2 pounds of cooked fish fillets when all was said and done. While he was cooking, two kayakers pulled in. We shared some info about the islands and they shared info about the weather. We had just about perfect weather for over a week and now with one night left and only a few kilometers to get back to the truck it was possible we would get stuck in this cove. Well at least we had plenty of fish to eat.
Thursday July 30th
The winds seemed to subside as the sun departed as we went to be, but during the middle of the night some serious winds came whipping through the cove all the way back in to where the tents were set up. I had accepted the fact I would likely miss my flight. Having had this many days away from Emily, getting stuck out here for who knows how much longer might curtail any longer trips for me for quite a while. There was nothing I could do, so I went back asleep. I heard Dan rustling about and inquired as to the conditions. He said it looks like we might be able to make the crossing. We packed up fast, but the winds began to grow. By the time we pushed out, I thought to myself, this isn't a good idea. As we pushed into the rollers and the white caps grew, I turned back to Dan and asked, if we should be doing this. He either didn't hear me over the wind, or ignored my concern (possibly to make me feel more at ease). We only had a short section of really bad before the crossing and the winds had shifted just slightly enough the Quarry Island provided shelter from the brunt. By the time got over to Healy Island, we were protected enough to make a soft landing and have breakfast on the beach. While enjoying coffee and Dan with some of the leftover chicken soup (not only did we have copious amounts of fish the night before, we also made a huge pot of chicken noodle soup) the winds appeared to subside a bit. And then it looked like it might get clear. A mother Merganser and her brood stopped by to visit.
We headed out and it was calm enough at least in these protected waters for us to shoot the gap between Quarry and Healy Isles and also to explore a bit. Even so, we still made it back to the truck two hours ahead of schedule. We swapped PFDs with Peter who was again working at the Marina and headed to Thunder Bay. We stopped at on overlook to view where we had just spent the last week plus.
An amazing trip. One for the memories for sure. While I tried to write about what I saw, even with the photos it cannot even come close to seeing this spectacular area in person so close up. Just last month the Canadian Parliament created the Conservation Area as a legal on paper management area. It is possible that with the increased exposure this act will increase the number of visitors. We saw so few people while we were out I was astonished that an area so beautiful would get so few visitors in the prime paddling season. The guide book mentioned that the sparsely populated area, social connections were extremely important to pass along information and for safety. Those looking to for solitude will indeed find it, but the local culture is to not stay away from others but instead to drop in and visit to pass along the vital information, or to provide a cup of coffee and an extra pfd if needed. As trips go, this truly was a 10/10. At every turn was another mystery and surprise. I am saddened by the fact, I may not ever get to experience something as breathtaking again. I hope everyone gets a chance to have their trip of lifetime.
Dan's journal: Superior 2015 Log Left home 6:15 AM after sleeping poorly. Arrived at Russ’ house in Greece around 7:20. He was 100% ready, and we quickly loaded his gear and took the Parkway west. We had a quick border crossing of 15 minutes total at Sarnia. At We picked up my new paddles at Outdoors Oriented just as they opened, and got fishing licenses at a WalMart conveniently right nearby in St. Catherines. Neither of us felt like pushing into the evening, so we camped a little before sunset by a pretty pond on National Forest land I’d found at exit 359 off I75 in Michigan. With the interstate no longer detoured to send traffic further west, truck noise was more than I would have preferred, and at the far corner of the pond we picked up a couple of ticks. I didn’t sleep too well, again. Next time I might best scout the area across the interstate that I’d noticed on Google Earth. The next morning there was a detour at exit 379 in the course of which I saw one road through some pines that looked promising, further from I75 than the pond. We were on the road by 6:30 AM and had a quick border crossing. We tried to buy some milk for coffee on the trip and could not find regular milk anywhere. Have to buy that in Michigan next time. We arrived at Superior Adventures in Rossport around 2 after going to Dave’s house first, the only address I had. We stopped at a nearby house and got directions to his shop in the village. I had emailed him about when we’d arrive, but he wasn’t there to sell us the maps he’d assured me he had. A young man at the Government Dock tried to email photos he took of nautical charts to himself so he could print them for us, really wanting to be helpful, but just as he was working on it a cable guy who’d been working on a nearby house and also helped us by calling Dave and leaving a message that we were there, came and had to work on the Government Dock cable connection, and the young man had to stop. We took a map Dave made and laminated from his bulletin board and left him a note that we’d waited and would pay for it. It only showed part of the area I wanted to explore, so the guide book would have to do for the rest. I was nonplussed by Dave’s letting us down. But everyone else seemed super nice. We paid $5 Canadian to launch. We were packed before 4. It was sunny, maybe 70 degrees. I figured to bypass Joe Indian Rock, as it was noted to be a busy campsite, and go a little further, so we headed past Chanel Island to Wilson Island. It was a little tense crossing to Channel because a west wind had stacked up some waves and we were loaded. With beer. In case of an emergency like, well, thirst. The scenery was pretty nice en route, the water moderately clear. We camped at Little Lake Harbor at Wilson Island, a beautiful, sheltered little pond through a narrows off the main lake. The water wasn’t quite as cold as on the main lake. The site wasn’t bad, but wasn’t spectacular, the view to the water a bit obstructed by trees. We were really glad to be there after the long drive and rough water en route. It was a challenge getting ropes situated to hang food, as most trees were small, and spruce were dense. It took a while, during which Russ got the rest of camp set up and gathered some wood. We dipped. Not awful. Russ made Bratwurst with potatoes, peppers, and onions which we had on roles. I’d forgotten mustard, the only thing I’d forgotten on the whole trip. Delicious nevertheless. Schools of small fish rose out in the harbor. A few followed the Little Cleo, but I could not identify them. We paddled out of the harbor and I trolled for perhaps half an hour across to Channel Island and back without a hit. I slept well, finally. Fish were occasionally rising past the far side of the channel, well out from shore. Seiche was moving water in and out of the harbor, creating a good current, but that’s not where they rose. I went fishing as Russ made a breakfast of French toast casserole with sausages and maple syrup. Wow. Nice that we both care to eat well. In the shallows past the entrance, on a small Little Cleo I got a 16-17” brookie. We finally packed and left under bright blue clear skies. It was a little cool, but got up to perhaps 70 as the morning progressed. We went to a beach site on the NW side of Wilson Island that was nice. We crossed to Minnie Island trolling, and I got 3 lakers around 21” en route, 2 on a sinking Rapala and one on an orange Michigan Stinger spoon with a big split shot ahead of it. The wind was from the south or west, not bad. We continued to Battle Island, saw the huge boiler of the Ontario (a wreck), and continued around to the south shore, and headed west along it. Wave action built as we went along, and became intense by the time we got to the west end of the island, so as we rounded the point we couldn’t enjoy the view up the dramatic cliff to the lighthouse. We angled NE to get out of the wind, and then had a somewhat tense crossing with the wind coming from behind us as we made our way to the narrow gap at the east end of Harry Island, beyond which lay sheltered waters. We were much happier when we got through that gap. We checked out a cabin a short way along Harry Island and went to a very beautiful site halfway along Harry by mid afternoon. The wind stayed too strong to ty to get to Simpson Island, so we se up, relaxed, and napped. We cooked the trout, and Russ made some delicious wraps. The brilliant sun in our faces all afternoon got a bit old. The wind changed to east .We paddled to the bay across the way, fishing, but got no hits. We went all the way down a long bay and back, and were passed by a tour boat of sorts as we left. This may have been “Old Man’s Pocket” bay. It was a cold night for the light bag I had. We rose moderately early, and Russ made another big breakfast. The wind picked up early, from the SE, so it was again too rough to cross to Simpson Island. It stayed strong enough that the south shore of Simpson would have been too rough. So we circumnavigated Simpson Island, which had great rocks. Water clarity was very limited. It was a bright blue day until about 6. I got one laker of about 20” and one of 15”. We had one with pasta salad by Russ for lunch. We stopped at the Minnie Island site, which was open, not bad, but buggy, then no bugs after we paddled off for wood, when it got cooler. We’d struggled to decide whether to head back to Harry, too tired to decide. We stayed. Bugginess later had us regretting that decision until they backed off. Russ was a great travelling companion, relaxed, doing a lot of the work, amenable, and a good sense of humor. He sat loose in the boat, which is so loaded our efforts have only a modest effect. We tried Russ’ phone, as he bought minutes good in Canada, and got weather information, but it used 3% of battery power in just 10 minutes. I was getting disappointed at the prospect of not getting to Simpson Island, as we had too much time, if we didn’t, to spend on the islands close to Rossport if we couldn’t paddle the outer coast. Nothing to do but see what the wind does. Maybe we’ll just fish harder. Spanish moss was everywhere at all the sites. There were very few motor boats. One from town by Paradise Island doing the aforementioned tour. The lake was sheltered in front of the Minnie site. A lot like Quetico lakes, of medium size. It became flat calm by 7 PM. For the future, taking a cooler with ice and beer reduced freeboard a bit much for rough conditions on a trip like this. The next day was overcast, the wind was still SE and strong enough early to prevent crossing to Simpson. We went to Chubbie Bay, also marked as Chummie. You pick. I got a little laker at the end, then 5 more to 20” off a shallow flat. Fog rolled in, and it got cold. We went back to Minnie for a snack. Three guys in a motor boat came right in and made a fire with the wood we’d left. We considered staying again, but they mentioned the cabin on Harry, locally known as the Harry Hilton, was open for anyone to use, and that rain was expected. We set out along the shore in that direction and fished with no luck en route. They told us about Coasters, the brook trout of Superior, which have to be 22” to keep. Oops. They roam Superior without apparent pattern. Rain started as we approached the Harry Hilton. We stayed there, which was fine. We made a fire outside when the rain let up. We each read through one of the logs that went back to 1986, and shared interesting or funny entries. A boat with one of the regulars came in and told us trout were sometimes caught from shore at the point right by the cabin. I got one there. We made a big venison stroganoff and polished it off easily. We drank beer and some scotch, and I cooked two fish from this AM. We went to bed late—after 10. We woke early the next AM, to a nice day with no wind. We had a quick oat breakfast and headed to the south side of Harry and on to Simpson, not fishing. There were some leftover rollers, but no wind. There was a little light fog. The water was clear and cold. Simpson’s cliffs were awesome. We went into Mourn Harbor, stopped partway in, bathed, washed clothes, and then continued all the way in to look for pike briefly. Water clarity was poor way in. There was no wind until just after Beetle point around noon. Trout were chasing minnows on the surface just outside the point before McNab #1. We also saw a splash or two later in the day, but had no hookups casting where we saw splashing. We had a huge brownie each at McNab #1 with NIDO powdered milk, my first time trying it. Good stuff, tasted rich. I got a trout just outside McNab #2. The wind, out of the west, picked up between the two McNab’s. We stopped at McNab #2, which had a gorgeous view, and decided to hang out while the wind blew just around the point. Over the next few hours Russ spent some time getting a sign with the name of the site to stay up, hanging it from a rope between a couple of trees, and I cooked pesto and cooked a fish. We had some beer and took a nap. Finally the wind seemed to diminish, its direction less WSW, so we headed out. There were some rollers around the first point, but no chop. There was a beach landing a mile off, in case it got rough, so we went for it. It was not bad, though some rollers were decent size. We could always see a next place we could get off the lake if necessary, so we kept on. We ran into rain ¾ mile before Woodbine Harbor, and had to stop at a little island with a little residual swell for Russ to get his raingear. It didn’t rain long or hard, and became partly sunny. There was nice light on the far shore of Woodbine Harbor. We got to the site there, which proved a bit buggy, but ok, with a nice view and moose tracks on the beach and lots of hair on the path. In front of the site the lake was calm, with a loon or two. I tried without success, to catch trout at the mouth of Woodbine Harbor. The water was warmer and not so clear. We spent some time looking at the map, planning out the next few days. St. Ignace Island was too big to circumnavigate. Oh well. We woke before dawn. Skies were clear, and it was cool. There was some SE breeze already. The bugs weren’t too bad. There were 5 loons way out in front of the site. We had a quick granola breakfast with coffee and headed out. The wind died. I got a couple of modest laker so spoons at the mouth of the harbor to the west. The rocks were gorgeous en route, with columnar basalt. We stopped in a slot with it on both sides for photos. It seemed far to Grotto Point, but there was minimal wave action, so it was a great ride. We saw a couple of eagles. We cut across to Beede Island, which had dramatic cliffs, then on west to the next island, which proved to be surprisingly far. We saw peregrines making quite a fuss at our approach to the cliffs of an island, and spotted a nest in the cliff. We took pictures and moved on. Very cool. We decided not to continue west, heading down Ignace Harbor, picking up just 1-2 modest lakers. Wind from the SE picked up, so we decided not to go all the way to the end of Ignace Harbor. We crossed easily and went to a site across from Beede Island that proved quite buggy. We ate trout with onions and mayo on crackers, had a beer and a brief nap at the water’s edge, and headed north along the shore of St. Ignace, fishing without luck for a while, then continuing without fishing. We saw three otters. We crossed back to Simpson, and got to the Cebine Island site that didn’t seem very nice. We headed to the next site marked on Dave’s map, and en route saw a young bull moose. Russ got photos at 80 yards before it went into the woods. That next site hadn’t been used in years and had deadfall all over: it was totally unusable. We returned to the Cebine Island site, which proved sunny a bit warm, and not too bad. We dipped, cooked, had beer, and hung out. Little fish broke out front as mayflies mated before sunset. The fish would not hit the small Cleo. Tired, we went to bed before sunset. We’d covered nearly 18k. The sunset was nice. We rose early in fog, with wind from the SSE already, but not strong. Temperature was mild. A quick pack up with coffee and granola. We headed out with a tailwind, going north around Simpson. It was windless on the north side, very nice, with beautiful bluffs, changing rocks, and multicolor cobble with lots of red and mixed rocks. I didn’t fish. Fog backed off to the distance. We could see the top of the hills on the mainland. We paddled a long way pretty steadily. There were small places camp could have been made periodically, lots of short gravel beaches. We rounded the SE corner, with bluffs/cliffs periodically, cobble beaches periodically, some headwinds, but not too bad. It became choppy, a few splashes into the boat. The wind was ESE enough that Battle Island and Salter sheltered us from the main lake. There was a nice beach site at the vase of the big bay on Simpson, where we stopped for a brownie and NIDO. Yum. We set out and across the channel, the wind having moderated, so it was not too rough. We were happy to get the crossing done. We fished heading south, catching nothing for a while, then a couple of nice ones on the Nitro, then a couple on spoons by the last point. We saw a couple of people on the site at Harry, so we pushed on to the site on Battle Island, both tired from paddling so far (21+K), and hungry. It was a nice enough site on Battle, buggy away from the beach. We had a quick leftover lunch, and 16 oz beers, napped, set up, and headed for the lighthouse. We stopped on the south shore for a cobble beach walk and photos. We had fried laker for dinner. Yum. It was a very cool evening, but the night was only moderately so. Russ heard a deer snort in the dark. Tuesday, before I rose, the wind, out of the east, was shaking my tent. It was foggy, with a cold breeze. Up before dawn, we had a quick breakfast, packed up, and headed east along Battle Island. The wind and waves weren’t bad when we reached the end, so we headed SE into the fog. We heard waves on the island before Wilson, and turned N, but the sound seemed no closer 200 yards N, so we turned SE again and got to Wilson. We fished a bit and got a laker on a spoon. We explored the bay on SW Wilson, got a good laker just before the narrows. Almost to Small Lake Harbor I realized I hadn’t had my life jacket on all day. It had been by the boat with Russ’ at Battle Island, and we just left it there. No way I was going to do that crossing back to Battle for it. At Small Lake Harbor, a gorgeous site, there was a boat and three campers. We stopped in, and were recognized by Chris, Dave’s neighbor who’d given us directions to Dave’s shop. He was there with two of his sons. We asked if they might be going to Battle and could retrieve my life jacket, and they said they might, and would leave it at Dave’s if they did. He then gave me a life jacket they had that was extra, and was even my size! He also gave us coffee with Rye in it. Nice! Our spirit’s buoyed, we headed on and took lots of photos of an arch and grotto just around the corner. Wind and waves built a bit, but not really bad. We passed through a very quiet narrows en route to Copper Island, passing a cabin in the narrows, and two others nearer Copper. The site on Copper was ok, narrow beach with a nice view. But buggy near the woods. Not so bad a couple of yards out. Weds, July 29th, we were up early on Copper. Breakfast, coffee, packed and off. Initially overcast, breezy out of the ESE, it became sunny during breakfast. It was too breezy to tour either side of Copper, so we fished our way along the south shore of Wilson. I got one good laker. Russ missed three that came off or just followed, in one spot. The wind was pretty strong. The water was clear and cool. We came to Channel Island and crossed at Kingcome Island to Channel. Chris had recommended we do so for the scenic pink/orange cliffs of Channel, 25’ high with black bands of rock that were spectacular, a highlight of the trip. There were pink/orange shelves under water 2’ below the surface dropping cliff like into black depths. Interspersed with other bluffs and gravel beaches. It was sunny through this stretch. There were long 18” swells crossing from the E at times, but we were pretty sheltered from the wind. Near noon we rounded the northernmost part of the island looking for a site shown there on Daves’ map, but not the guide book. We kept going. Breaking waves (whitecaps in the channel ahead as we worked to the west along the shore, not seeing the site). We started to cross to the site at Joe Indian Rock, but within 70 yards the waves were getting too big, so we returned to Channel and decided to go for Little Lake Harbor. Waves near shore were fine until we got to a place where they weren’t fine any more. We kept on, and got way past where we expected the site to have been, going through the biggest, steepest waves of the trip so far, but we had lots less weight in the boat and were ok. And there was a site in a narrow cove that looked like the waves should roll right down and smash the shore, but they didn’t. The landing was calm. Plants were growing in the fire ring, so it’d been a while since others camped there, but it was a nice site, with two good tent spots, back in out of the wind. We had leftovers with a big fish fry. Yum! The wind continued to rage down the channel way out in front of the site all afternoon, with lots of whitecaps. We started to wonder about tomorrow, especially after two kayakers came by and said it was forecast to be windy tomorrow too. Russ had a plane to catch. We had a beer and a nap. The wind quit after 7, with no whitecaps. We started to have hopes for the AM. Thursday AM we got up early. There had been some stiff wind during the night for a little while, but it wasn’t too rough—just a few whitecaps, the wind still SSW. We decided to bust out before breakfast and packed quickly. By the time we launched, the whitecaps were back. The first quarter mile was rough, especially initially, with what looked like 3’ waves. We went less than a mile and crossed just W of Joe Eagle Rock. We headed west to the gap between Quarry and Healey Islands, but stopped just before it at a quiet beach on Healey. We then looked for the site on Quarry, shown on Dave’s map but not the guide book, which was crappy. We followed sheltered shores back to Rossport, going to the park east of the village at the highway. I hiked back for the truck and found my life jacket as promised by Chris. We got packed, and got Russ to the airport after a trout lunch in front of a grocery store in Thunder Bay. What a great trip.