Lake Huron, Canadian Side
Neither Sarah nor I have been to Canada, but we have high expectations. We’re both outdoor enthusiasts and would like to see some bears and moose. On top of that I’m a hockey player and a huge fan of the sport. It sounds like a silly plan to look for somewhat dangerous animals, but what else would you expect from two kids on a camping trip, eh?
The border crossing goes smooth as silk. We pull out our passports, answer some standard questions, and off we go. It’s still early on this gloomy Sunday morning, and the streets are empty as we navigate through our first impression of Canada. I did immediately see a hockey rink and a casino, but the rest looked like any industrial city. Sault Ste. Marie is a big steel town, and we can tell. I don’t know what we expected, but instead of outdoor stores, hockey stores, and little family restaurants, the all-too-familiar faces of Ronald, Tim Horton, Wendy, and Colonel Sanders greet us with big Canadian smiles.
Day 1 – 300 miles
Sault Ste. Marie – South Baymouth – Apsey Lake
We ride east on Ontario Highway 17, the only road that connects civilization in this part of the country. The fact that it’s only two lanes doesn’t mean an automatic traffic jam. A lot of trucks use this only connector, as well as RVs, cars, and a lot of motorcycles. It rains on and off, but the riders up here enjoy the short riding season, even if it means riding in cold rain. The ride to Espanola is straight and flat with tall trees lining the sides. As we get caught in rain again we stop for a briefing at one of the only places open, McDonald’s. Sarah traces Road 6 on the map south to Manitoulin Island, and says, “Let’s see what’s down there!” It’s still early enough for this kind of decision so we saddle up and head south. I’m glad we do. The Whitefish Lake Indian Reserve 6 supplies us with the best scenery so far on this trip. We swoosh through curves, uphill and downhill! Huge, reddish rock formations line the road like a canyon. As we get to the crest we look down and see the road’s path.
Once we cross onto Manitoulin Island in Sucker Creek the clouds turn dark yet again and we race south to stay dry, or at least not get wetter. The ride to South Baymouth doesn’t offer much scenery or curves, but the road is empty. If the ferry arrives there might be some oncoming traffic, but other than that it’s very deserted. Instead of catching the ferry to Tobermory, enjoy the ride through red-rock country to Sucker Creek, then do a 180 and go back north.
Just as we arrive at the dead end bottom of Manitoulin Island the rain finally catches us and soaks us. We find shelter at a park hidden right beside the road. Sarah jumps off the back and runs for cover and pulls some picnic tables out of the way so I can park under the roof. We move slowly, taking off our wet gear and spreading it across the rest of the picnic tables. Sarah whips us up our in-case-of-emergency Ramen noodles in the Jetboil. Thirty minutes later the rain stops, and we’re warm, but still wet, and decide to ride north until we find a nice campground. Little do we know that it’s August Long Weekend, the first of the month, and all Canadians seem to be camping. Exhausted we roll into our last hope right outside of Espanola, Lake Apsey Resort, a small family-owned campground. After a 300-mile day in mostly rain we are so tired we could sleep beside the KTM Adventure, not even paying attention to all the mosquitoes. Our trance is interrupted as two Harleys pull up in the spot beside us. A machinist from Maine and his girlfriend, who are heading to the Sturgis Rally and then to Tacoma, WA, pitch their tent next to ours.