Yukon Trip - Days 1-3: Belleville to Manitoba

May 26, 2013 - Day 1

It was really happening.  I always get excited when I start a trip but this time it was different.  I wasn’t just going on a trip - I was driving to the Yukon!

I had loaded my vehicle the night before, filling it with too many clothes, too much camping gear, and enough peanut butter and canned food to keep me fueled until at least Alberta.  I was astute enough not to bring a cooler.  It’s just too easy for the affliction known as “ice worry” to harshly interrupt the perfect serenity of a solo camping trip.

I left Belleville at 6:42 AM and according to Google Maps the drive to the Rabbit Blanket Lake campground in Lake Superior Provincial Park was going to take 11 hours and 12 minutes.  That gave me lots of time before dark!  My overhead kayak cast a strong shadow on Highway 401 as it guided me westward.  I adroitly dodged a couple of deer carcasses near the shoulder and continued.  My journey into the unknown radio stations of central Ontario was underway!

I stopped for gas and a break south of Parry Sound and ate lunch at a rest stop on the Spanish River east of McKerrow, Ontario.  My first recorded birds greeted me warmly at the rest area - a robin, ring-billed gull, and chipping sparrow.  I was hopeful that the north would yield more unusual species than that!

I had my iPhone hooked up to my car’s speakers as I searched for a gas station and according to the bubbly voice on the Google Maps app, I was approaching “Salt Saint Mary”.  I’m not sure who pronounces Sault Ste. Marie that way, but okay.  I’ll go with it.  I gassed up in the Saint Mary and was anxious to get to the campground as I departed.

I knew I was in northern Ontario when I saw a moose south of Pancake Bay.  A young male casually strolled across the highway right in front of me, a good reminder to pay attention and not run into anything, especially something bigger than a Smart car.  I arrived at the Agawa Bay Visitor Center at 5:30, only to find the parking lot empty and the center closed.  No problem, I didn’t really need anything there anyway.  On the bright side, the deserted surroundings allowed me to add chickadee, white-crowned sparrow, junco, and hermit thrush to my bird list.  I finally arrived at the campground at 6:17, selected a site on the water, and enjoyed a fine dinner of beans, chicken noodle soup, and fruit.  It was exciting to realize that I was more than 1000 kilometers from home and was only going to get further away!

May 27, 2013 - Day 2

My excitement carried over to the morning and allowed me to get up with my alarm at 5:00 AM.  However, excitement was replaced with a stark realization that it was darn cold.  I suspect the overnight temperature was around -3 degrees Celsius, cold enough to make early morning metal-touching a no-no.  I took some pictures of the lake, put on my kayaking gloves, and launched my kayak directly from my site.

 Rabbit Blanket Lake,  Lake Superior Provincial Park , Ontario, Canon 7D with Canon EF 28-300mm @ 28mm, 1/13s @ f/8, ISO 1600

Rabbit Blanket Lake, Lake Superior Provincial Park, Ontario, Canon 7D with Canon EF 28-300mm @ 28mm, 1/13s @ f/8, ISO 1600

I quietly followed a pair of loons as they toured the lake searching for breakfast:

 Common Loons on Rabbit Blanket Lake,  Lake Superior Provincial Park , Ontario, Canon 7D with Canon EF 28-300mm @ 135mm, 1/400s @ f/8, ISO 1600

Common Loons on Rabbit Blanket Lake, Lake Superior Provincial Park, Ontario, Canon 7D with Canon EF 28-300mm @ 135mm, 1/400s @ f/8, ISO 1600

My hopes for a “moose in the mist” shot were dashed but I was thankful to notice an American bittern on the shore.  It scurried away but not before I got some photos.  The darkness required ISO 6400 but I was still pleased:

 American Bittern, Rabbit Blanket Lake,  Lake Superior Provincial Park , Ontario, Canon 7D with Canon EF 28-300mm @ 300mm, 1/5000s @ f/5.6, ISO 6400

American Bittern, Rabbit Blanket Lake, Lake Superior Provincial Park, Ontario, Canon 7D with Canon EF 28-300mm @ 300mm, 1/5000s @ f/5.6, ISO 6400

I had decided not to drive anywhere on my second day so that I could take sunset photos at Gargantua Bay.  Instead of driving, I opted to explore the Wawa Sewage Lagoon.  Sounds like fun, right?  It was a great spot!  I added two life birds (Wilson’s warbler and mourning warbler) but the rarest species was a marbled godwit, which should have been further west.  Can’t it read a map?

 Marbled Godwit, Wawa Sewage Lagoons, Ontario, Canon 7D with Canon EF 500mm, 1/5000s @ f/8, ISO 1600

Marbled Godwit, Wawa Sewage Lagoons, Ontario, Canon 7D with Canon EF 500mm, 1/5000s @ f/8, ISO 1600

 Marbled Godwit, Wawa Sewage Lagoons, Ontario, Canon 7D with Canon EF 500mm, 1/2500s @ f/8, ISO 1600

Marbled Godwit, Wawa Sewage Lagoons, Ontario, Canon 7D with Canon EF 500mm, 1/2500s @ f/8, ISO 1600

I returned to my site for dinner and headed out afterwards for Gargantua Bay.  On the way, I noticed that there were still snow piles near the park office!

The road to Gargantua Bay is a about 16 kilometers of winding and bumpy gravel but it’s usually worth the drive.  I wasn’t especially pleased with my sunset photos at the time, but they ended up being fine:

 Gargantua Bay,  Lake Superior Provincial Park , Ontario, Canon 7D with Canon EF-S 10-22mm @ 10mm, 1/8s @ f/22, ISO 100

Gargantua Bay, Lake Superior Provincial Park, Ontario, Canon 7D with Canon EF-S 10-22mm @ 10mm, 1/8s @ f/22, ISO 100

May 28, 2013 - Day 3

I awoke at 6:22, ready to start my second day of extensive driving.  My goal was to get somewhere near Dryden and my only planned stop was at the Terry Fox Memorial in Thunder Bay.  I’m a huge Terry Fox fan.  He selflessly ran 5373 kilometers over 143 days, basically a marathon a day!  Best Canadian.  Ever!

  Terry Fox  Memorial, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canon 7D with Canon EF-S 18-200mm @ 24mm, 1/8000s @ f/11, ISO 1600

Terry Fox Memorial, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canon 7D with Canon EF-S 18-200mm @ 24mm, 1/8000s @ f/11, ISO 1600

I ended up making it to Sandbar Lake Provincial Park by dinner and decided to camp there.  Among the singing redstarts, I noticed an interesting sight in the campground:

 Bear Trap, Sandbar Lake Provincial Park, Ontario, Canon 7D with Canon EF 28-300mm @ 28mm, 1/400s @ f/8, ISO 1600

Bear Trap, Sandbar Lake Provincial Park, Ontario, Canon 7D with Canon EF 28-300mm @ 28mm, 1/400s @ f/8, ISO 1600

I didn’t think much of the bear trap until I watched the sunset on the empty park beach.  There were bear tracks everywhere!  Later on my trip I learned that a man had been attacked by a bear at the park.  I guess the trap was there for a reason!

There was a pair of barred owls in the campground.  I went to sleep and prepared for Manitoba as the owls called their familiar “Who cooks for you?  Who cooks for you all?”.