Circling Lake Superior, Part 4: On a lake, but not the big one

Our kids, Maia and John, swim in White Lake at White Lake Provincial Park in Ontario.
MinnPost photo by Catherine Conlan
Our kids, Maia and John, swim in White Lake at White Lake Provincial Park in Ontario.

ON THE SHORES OF WHITE LAKE, Ontario — For many of us in Minnesota, “up to the lake” is a birthright. But living on the North Shore of Lake Superior, throwing on a swimming suit and lazing in an inner tube for hours in the water isn’t so much of an option. We can walk to a private beach from our house and hunt for agates, and my husband, Matt, likes to see ore boats on the lake because that means more work for him on the railroad, but we don’t spend a lot of time in the lake itself. We’re not familiar with purely recreational lakes.

That’s where we spent Tuesday night, on what our guidebook says is one of the warmest lakes in Ontario. At this point on the circle tour, roads pull away from Lake Superior and bring us into the interior, and so while we have pitched our tent on a lake, it’s not the lake. We miss the waves and rocks, but the kids run down to the sandy beach and wade right in, and in the middle of the night a loon calls urgently minutes before a thunderstorm hits our camp.

Many who have ridden out a storm in a tent say nature’s ferocity makes them feel humble and small. As I lie in my sleeping bag and listen to the rain hammer on the canvas, it is the realization that I don’t know where this storm is going that makes me feel disoriented and lost. There is little wind; there will be no hail to batter our shelter. But something as mundane as not understanding a weather pattern is what tells me I am Someplace Else and far from home.

We have been car camping so far, eating our meals out of a cooler and over a campfire. The first night was a challenge — we didn’t get to the camp until very late at night, when it was raining. The next night we pulled in with plenty of time, and had an early bedtime after swimming in White Lake and having an adventure with a leech. There are many hotels on the Trans-Canada Highway, but we figured a circle tour around Lake Superior required at least some camping.

The campsite at White Lake Provincial Park -- before the thunderstorm.
MinnPost photo by Catherine Conlan
The campsite at White Lake Provincial Park — before the thunderstorm.

We now push even farther away from the lake: Puksukwa National Park is along the lake’s northeastern edge, and there are no roads there. You have to boat in. Then we will angle back to Lake Superior and spend our last night on its shores.

After that, the Soo Locks, where we will spend a couple of days. A hotel, a long, hot shower, and restaurant suggestions — you all have provided some, are there any more?

Earlier chapters: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Bryan McKamey on 06/26/2009 - 10:39 am.

    Be sure to drive up the Keweenaw Peninsula in the UP to Copper Harbor and Eagle Harbor, MI. It is a beautiful drive and the towns are a throwback to what MN’s north shore was before all the (over?)development. If your timing works, the 4th of July fireworks display over the lake at Copper Harbor is spectacular.

  2. Submitted by Catherine Conlan on 06/26/2009 - 08:34 pm.

    The Keewenaw is on our itinerary! Unfortunately, we won’t be there on the Fourth, but I’m looking forward to some of the history there.

  3. Submitted by Aaron Pearson on 06/26/2009 - 08:36 pm.

    This is thrilling for me to read. I took this trip as a 10-year-old with my family and grandparents. I believe we had a tent plus a fairly large pop-up trailer for the 7 of us. It started off rainy on the North Shore but I just recall that week as a magical experience. This time, I’m the one with a 10-year-old (and a smaller one) and we’re renting an RV in August and taking this trip. Should be a bit more comfortable! Tahquamenon Falls State Park just past Sault Ste. Marie is apparently impressive and we’re going to give it a try. I hope to tweet the trip. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Submitted by Catherine Conlan on 06/27/2009 - 10:18 pm.

    Are you going clockwise or counter-clockwise? We didn’t have a chance to get to Tahquamenon Falls…I hope you have a great trip!

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