From Sault Sainte Marie to Wawa, where we stayed last night, proved to be one of the finest scenic drives we have ever experienced. The Lake Superior Provincial Park covers 1,600 square kilometres of evergreen forests, rivers, lakes, craggy escarpments, roaring waterfalls and tumbling rapids and above all, the little coves and panoramic vistas of the brilliant blue “Shining Big Sea Water”. Lake Superior lives up to its name!
We took our time, stopping frequently to explore and take photos, so only got as far as Wawa, which is, as the Lonely Planet describes it, a town “in the middle of nowhere”! The places visited on the journey included the Chippewa Falls, which is the half way point on the Trans Canada Highway, from coast to coast, as well as Little Rabbit Lake and the Magpie High Falls near Wawa. The Trans Canada Highway, by the way, is not a big motorway as some might imagine, for the most part it is a single lane carriageway, smaller than most European A roads. It is delightful and easy driving.
Wawa means “goose” in the Ojibwe language, so named because millions of geese rest by
the shores of Lake Wawa on their seasonal migration. Lake Wawa is one of thousands of lakes that surround Superior: this is truly a lake district. The sun was shining, the temperatures had warmed up a bit (although there is still quite a lot of snow amidst the trees) so we decided to camp! Oh! Such folly!
We found a beautiful pitch beside the River Magpie, famous for its waterfalls, with its own picnic table, fire pit, and a grassy little knoll to pitch our bivvi on. The loos were basic but OK, but the washing-up sink was surrounded by a pile of shovelled snow so we couldn’t access it and the water in the sinks was icy cold anyway. No electricity but we did have wifi. We were the only ones camping in a tent. Other travellers nearby were in huge campervans or towed big trailers behind giant pick-up trucks. Anyway, we bought some firewood, lit a great fire, heated up a can of soup and enjoyed a cosy camp supper with crusty bread and some naughty Danish pastries (we had stopped for a lunchtime meal earlier in the day so we didn’t need much). Our sleeping bags
were cosy, and despite the dramatic drop in temperature one gets at night here, our cheap little Decathlon travel tent was fine.
At 5 a.m. this morning, going out to the loo in the dark was like embarking on a polar expedition and at 6 a.m. the rain started. It was torrential and freezing, forcing us to retreat soaked and shivering, to the car. We couldn’t light a fire as hoped, to make tea for breakfast, we couldn’t easily do anything. Between the torrents there was just heavy rain, so in the latter periods, little by little we retrieved our belongings, took down the tent and headed into Wawa for breakfast. Plans to camp another day and hike to see more waterfalls further up the Magpie were thus shattered. Such is travelling. Sometimes it all works out fine and other days are not quite so good.
Today is cold, wet and miserable. We drove just 90 kilometres from Wawa to White River where we are now, drying out ourselves and our gear in a motel room. White River, population just 1,000, is very small but has one special claim to fame, apart from its stunning location north of
Lake Superior on the White River: this little logging town, folks, is where Winnie the Pooh came from! This afternoon we went out, braving the elements, to visit the Heritage Museum and Winnie the Pooh Museum up the road.
The Heritage Museum is full of interesting artefacts from the Canadian Pacific Railway, which was the only way to get to White River until 1969 when the Trans Canadian Highway was built. The latter is still the only road that links these far-flung communities together.
The Winnie the Pooh memorabilia, collected from all over the world, is absolutely charming. On August 24th
, 1914, Lt Harry Colebourn, a military veterinary surgeon from Winnipeg, Manitoba (who came to Canada from Birmingham, England when he was eighteen) was on a troop train bound for England. The train stopped at White River and there on the platform was a trapper with a tiny black orphaned bear. Her mother had been shot by hunters. Harry bought the bear for twenty dollars and called her Winnie (Winnipeg). She travelled with him to England, to Salisbury Plain where she became the Regimental Mascot. When Harry was called overseas, he left Winnie in the care of the
London Zoo in Regent’s Park. Christopher Robin visited the zoo frequently as a child and fell in love with Winnie, Winnie ‘the Pooh” as he called her. So, his father A.A. Milne, wrote the stories and the rest is history. Winnie died in 1934 and a statue of her stands at the gateway to the London Zoo. Her statue is here too, in White River, where she came from!
The lady curator of the museum was amazed that we hadn’t seen any bears yet. She said there were a lot about at the moment, but fortunately they are not being a pest in town as they sometimes are! She was also amazed that we had slept out under canvas in Wawa at a time when the bears are hungry! OMG! Well, we would LOVE to see a wild bear.
Our day today started out miserably but is now progressing on a high note: we have just returned from seeing two huge moose in the forest. After leaving the museums we drove out of town a little way, slowly with the hope of seeing some wildlife. The first moose jumped out and lumbered across the road (there
are warning signs everywhere) but the second allowed us to slowly approach and get some good photos. One has to take care, they will either get frightened and run away or alternately, get nervous and charge the car. Neither happened and this moose happily allowed us to take his photo! Maybe later we might see some of Winnie’s descendent relatives! It is always such a privilege to see wild animals; we considered ourselves very lucky today with our moose sightings!
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