With a week of visiting friends & family behind us, it was time to continue towards Northern Ontario. Adam went to school in North Bay and I had been to Sudbury once, but other than that, Northern Ontario was going to be completely new to us.
Originally, we were planning to drive from Long Point to Sault Ste. Marie on Monday the 26th. However, Adam’s mom had convinced us that this would be a bad idea. When we were planning our trip, we didn’t consider that Monday morning traffic heading towards Toronto would be crazy. Combine that with the fact the drive would be almost 800km we had to switch up our itinerary. This was the first of many changes to our itinerary that we would experience while travelling in Northern Ontario.
Instead of leaving on Monday to head to Sault Ste. Marie, we left Sunday to beat the traffic. We also decided to cut the drive in half rather than driving all the way to the Soo. We had two options – Parry Sound or Sturgeon Falls. Adam kept going on about how Parry Sound was the home of Bobby Orr but Sturgeon Falls was close to where he went to school in North Bay. In the end, we opted for Sturgeon Falls.
We met Adam’s parents and grandparents for lunch at the Husky in Bradford before departing for Sturgeon Falls. The best comments of the lunch went to Adam’s grandfather, who said, “who serves hot hamburger without fried onions?” and “how much do you guys know about where you are going?” After we assured them we knew about the earthquake risk and tsunami potential in Tofino we exchanged some hugs and off we went.
On our way to Sturgeon Falls we sang songs, ate Husky butter tarts and looked for wildlife. One of the drawbacks of towing an RV is that you can’t stop and pull over if you see wildlife like you can with a car. Although plenty of people do it, it can be super dangerous.
We didn’t get to Sturgeon Falls until almost 5pm. When we arrived we were both quite exhausted from the drive. Thank god we decided not to go to Sault Ste. Marie. Part of the reason that we decided to stay in Sturgeon Falls was because Adam wanted to show me around North Bay. As we arrived in Sturgeon Falls, our level of energy was just too low and neither of us wanted to leave the campground.
We ended up staying at the Sturgeon Falls KOA which is lovely. They have a river which runs alongside it. We took Bella down for a little swim in the water while Adam and I sat on a dock and watched the sun set on another day.
Sault Ste. Marie
The Soo was another place that Adam was looking forward to on our trip. Adam has some friends that live in the Soo area that he hasn’t seen in at least 8 years. During the drive, I almost cried, but for good reason. Not far from Sault Ste. Marie, we were driving and saw a little black bear walking on a dirt road off of the highway. It was a special moment. Seriously. Almost cried.
After setting up at the Sault Ste. Marie KOA, we went for a lovely pizza & wings supper at Jen and Lincoln’s house. Also there, we met up with Adam’s college friend Erica, her man Matt, and their new little baby Rowan who was just a month old. Jen and Lincoln’s baby Linden was also in attendance along with their large cat that weighs almost 30 pounds.
After a good visit, we headed back to the KOA and had a good nights sleep. We entertained the idea of staying around an extra day in the area to take the Agawa Canyon Train Tour. The famous train travels through 385 km of forest leading to a canyon. At this time of year, the fall colours during the trip were supposed to be incredible. However, because of the long summer, the trees had only just begun to change and most were still green. Even though we would have like to have done the tour, we opted to continue on with the trip to our next destination.
Wawa – The Town with 3 Giant Geese
The drive along the winding Trans-Canada Highway to Wawa was filled with mountains, trees, rocks, waterfalls, rivers, and beautiful views of Lake Superior. Adam accurately remarked that it felt like we were driving through a Group of Seven painting. It was stunning.
As we drove north, we saw many signs for the Agawa Indian Crafts & Canadian Carver store. All the persistent advertising worked and we pulled in. It’s a lovely stop with lots of room for RV parking. The shops were filled with gorgeous carvings along with other artistic crafts. The one thing you have to get if you ever make this stop is the butter tarts. These were the best butter tarts I have ever had in my life. Usually, when I eat butter tarts I just eat the filling with the spoon and pass on the tart. Not with these tarts. They were beyond delicious.
Back in the truck and driving towards Wawa, Adam read to me about how Wawa got its name. He likes to use a CBC narrative voice complete with dramatic pauses when he reads such material. It’s entertaining. Wawa is named after the Ojibwe word “wewe” which means wild goose. Now knowing that interesting piece of information, it’s not shocking that Wawa is known for its giant goose statues.
When we got to Wawa and drove around, we discovered that the town has three large geese statues located at various points. The Giant Goose of Wawa goes back to 1960. That’s when the final link of the Trans-Canada Highway was completed linking Wawa to Sault Ste. Marie. Because Wawa is a tiny spot, one local decided that the village needed something to force people to stop instead of passing through. Since 1963, the Giant Goose has stopped millions of visitors who have made the goose one of the most photographed landmarks in North America. Oddly enough, we didn’t see any Canadian geese while in Wawa.
We couldn’t visit Wawa without having ice cream, so we headed to Young’s General Store. It seems that Chapman’s Ice Cream has a good representation throughout Northern Ontario. I had a scoop of Chapman’s Orange Pineapple while Adam went with Cookies and Cream in a waffle cone. Young’s General Store is a fun stop. They also have the original Wawa Goose on their property. Inside the store, you’ll find all sorts of souvenirs and gifts along with a giant barrel filled with pickles. Adam was quite grossed out by this as a self-proclaimed picklophobe.
After eating our ice cream and visiting giant geese statues, we went to Magpie Falls. It’s quite a drive down a bumpy, pothole-filled gravel road. The drive reminded of us the crappy New Brunswick roads we frequented while living there. The falls are an impressive 75 feet high and 125 feet wide that plunge into a gorge. You can sit under a pavilion on a rainy day and just watch the impressive falls. There is also a trail that leads down and then up to the mid-point area of the falls. I went with Bella up this trail while Adam took photos.
At one point, I could see Adam and I yelled, “Hello! Adam! Hey, Look!” I was thinking that he could take Bella and I’s photo from below. All Adam could hear was my yelling and he couldn’t decipher any of the words or see me. Worried that his lady and more importantly his chocolate lab could be in danger, he started taking off quickly up the trail. My stomach sunk.
He thought we were hurt or something and he was hurrying. It was raining and slippery and he was carrying his expensive camera. I started taking off back down the trail. The look on his face when he saw me. Oh my, I felt horrible. I was so sorry. I apologized profusely. He was just relieved we were both ok even though he was out of breath. With that little bit of excitement behind us, we went to some smaller waterfalls and a beach.
To me, Lake Superior feels like it is an ocean. The waves are big, even when it is calm. I had just spent a week in Long Point on another one of the Great Lakes – Lake Erie. It didn’t seem near as big or strong as Lake Superior – which it’s not. Lake Superior is deep, cold, and unforgiving while at the same time, stunningly beautiful. This is the lake that took down the Edmund Fitzgerald and hundreds of other ships. Bella did not attempt to go in Lake Superior. I’m thinking our chocolate lab is an ocean dog, because we couldn’t keep her out of the Atlantic when we were in PEI.
The drive from Wawa to Thunder Bay is long and picturesque. Up to this point, since we had left PEI, we hadn’t seen that much wildlife. We had seen a couple of deer, some bald eagles, and the one black bear. We had expected more, especially since we were in Northern Ontario.
Not long after departing Wawa, we saw a truck ahead of us stop and start to back up along the shoulder of the road. The activity seemed strange and forced us to slow down. Then we could see what the occupants of the truck had stopped for. Along the opposite side of the road was a gorgeous wolf. It was just standing there frozen as it stared at the vehicle that had stopped to witness it. Because we couldn’t pull over or turn around, we continued on but did manage to snap a picture with our phone.
One of my favorite stops along the way to Thunder Bay was in White River. There is a statue of Winnie the Pooh – the bear that inspired A.A. Milne’s “Pooh Bear”. Winnie was a black bear that was purchased in White River for $20.00. His owner then took Winnie over to England where he lived in a zoo. I’m not a huge fan of zoos, but I was an avid reader of A. A. Milne when I was a child. This is a good little stop to rest your legs and get gas if you need it in White River.
Our first night in Thunder Bay we went into the city and ate at the Sovereign. At first, we were going to bypass it. On the outside, it looked to be a “dive.” This is not the case. When you walk in, you notice how cool the spot is. There is great art on the walls in the dimly lit room. They also have a selection of VHS movies on a shelf which they play over the bar. There is also a huge craft beer selection and a unique menu.
We have started ordering and splitting our dishes to give each of us maximum exposure to new food. Adam had a duck poutine with Thunder Oak curds. I ordered a Zesty Chicken Sandwich that was breaded with Doritos. Both dishes were good, but the highlight of this meal was the dessert – mini doughnuts. There were three different, fresh made doughnuts to try. There was maple bacon, coconut lime, and apple miso cinnamon. We were both intrigued by the maple bacon doughnut but ended up not being that impressed by it. We really, really loved the apple miso cinnamon doughnut. We could have eaten a dozen of them…each.
Terry Fox Monument
That night we also made a stop at the Terry Fox monument. If you’re Canadian, you know who Terry Fox is but if you’re not Canadian, here’s a quick rundown. Terry Fox is a Canadian who at the age of 18 was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. As a way to raise money to help for cancer research, he started running the Marathon of Hope – a coast-to-coast run from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Victoria, BC. Each day during the Marathon of Hope, Terry would run 26 miles on one leg as he had lost the other one to cancer.
Sadly, Terry never completed his journey. He succumbed to the nasty disease that filled his body and retired from his courageous marathon just outside of Thunder Bay. Each September, Canadians across the country join together for the annual Terry Fox run. It’s a fundraising event that carries Terry’s legacy and dream to raise money for cancer research. To this day over $650 million has been raised in Terry’s name.
Today, in Thunder Bay, there is an incredible monument dedicated to Terry. The beautiful monument points westward – the direction Terry was running during the Marathon of Hope. The monument is also in a beautiful park that overlooks Lake Superior and Sleeping Giant Provincial Park in the far distance.
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
The next morning we made our way to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. If you are wondering why they call this park the Sleeping Giant, it’s because of a mountain formation that looks like a sleeping giant laying on top of Lake Superior.
I decided that we wouldn’t take Bella. I was worried she would hurt our chances of seeing wildlife. There had been reports of bears in the park and I could 100% imagine her seeing a bear, resulting in barking and carrying on. It ended up being a wise move to leave Bella behind as we did see bears.
We did a couple of the smaller trails in the park but by far the highlight is the Thunder Bay Lookout. As we drove along this dirt road in the park, we saw 2 bears, grouse, and rabbits. When you get to the lookout, it takes your breath away. The look-out is a platform that is made of wood and then sturdy metal slats. You are 1,200 feet high. We were the only ones there and we spent a lot of time just looking out over Lake Superior while watching bald eagles hunt for fish.
Thunder Bay KOA
For our stop in Thunder Bay, we stayed at the Thunder Bay KOA just outside of the city limits. After hooking up upon arrival, we sat around for a couple of hours before leaving for dinner. When we came back, we had no power. We checked the breaker outside which was still on. We then checked our fuse panel and found the flipped fuse. We flipped it back on but a few minutes later it flipped again while we were barely using anything for power in the RV. This made us believe that we had a bad site as we’ve read online about that being common. Instead of worrying about it too much, we went to bed deciding to deal with the issue the next day.
The next day, with sunlight on our side, Adam used his multimeter (an RV must) to test the power coming from the power source. 122v is pretty normal, so why were we blowing a fuse when we weren’t even using much power in the trailer?
We went to the office at the KOA and spoke to Mike who came to have a look. He did a quick test with his multimeter before deciding to replace the fuse and the plug. Afterward, we attempted to run some of our appliances and the fuse still blew. Now both us and Mike were perplexed. Eventually, he used another meter that read the amps being drawn by certain circuits in our fuse panel. He found that one of the circuits was drawing almost 20 amps even though we had nothing on. He called this a dead short and plugged the circuit for us.
It was just a temporary fix and will have to be checked by a dealer down the line but it allowed us to still use all our normal appliances with no issue. We later discovered that we have two outlets in the RV that are not producing any power for whatever reason which is likely tied to that issue.
We can’t thank Mike enough for taking the time to try and diagnose the problem for us. We discussed amongst each other how he could have easily said, “Hey – not my problem,” and left us hanging. We appreciated him taking the time that he took out of his day to help us. Thanks, Mike!
Home One Day?
Northern Ontario made an impression on us. So much so, that I would consider spending an entire summer somewhere in Northern Ontario, working & RVing. It’s absolutely beautiful. Watching the wildlife for an entire summer would be spectacular.
Departure Time/Location: 9a Long Point, ON
Arrival Time/Location: 6p Sturgeon Falls, ON
Total Distance: 572km
Next Stop: Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Departure Time/Location: 9a Sturgeon Falls, ON
Arrival Time/Location: 4p Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Total Distance: 410km
Next Stop: Wawa, ON
Departure Time/Location: 9a Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Arrival Time/Location: 1p Wawa, ON
Total Distance: 239km
Next Stop: Thunder Bay
Departure Time/Location: 9a Wawa, ON
Arrival Time/Location: 5p Thunder Bay, ON
Total Distance: 464km
Next Stop: Winnipeg, MB