Last week as I passed into the province of Ontario I re-entered a world of trees, lakes, and hills. I also found myself with a new cycle companion: Toby, a bright eyed and optimistic aspiring physics teacher from Edmonton. The past week has, in a nutshell, been a quest to find the best (free) campspots in Norther Ontario, eat the most delicious food that we can cook or buy, and cycle over 100km a day. Life has been good :) Northern Ontario is pretty wild; there's really not much between towns (which are spaced a good 60-80 km apart) except small lakes, rivers, and the occasional waterfall. I totally dig it. My one major gripe in the world revolves around the constant heckling from the thousands of flying critters which share the same atmosphere as I. Sometimes I feel like I'm in a blood donor clinic. Stupid mosquitoes. Also, the shoulder pretty much disappears for much of the Trans Canada Hwy, forcing me to give the award for Canada's least cycle friendly roads to Ontario.
So I'll give a quick rundown on the places we've slept over the past week. Toby sleeps in a hammock, me in my hubba tent, so our tenting spots must fit certain requirements to ensure we both sleep soundly (namely the presence of trees and the presence of dry flat ground).
Our first awesome spot was on Jackfish Lake, near Borup's Corners (which basically consists of a bulldozed hotel, a bright yellow snack shack, and a smattering of homes alongside the highway). We ducked off the highway, wandered down a little path behind some large boulders, and found ourselves on grassy little jetty pointing in to the lake. While we cooked dinner down by the water on some rocks, we listened to the call of the loons and watched truck traffic pass by, oblivious to our presence. I started the next morning with a quick dip in the lake.
Next spot: English River, in the backyard of some folks who ventured up from Florida for the summer. We were pretty much done for the day after clocking 130km, and wanted to get off the road before sunset. "Hey, take a look at the nicely manicured lawn. I wonder if we could camp there?" So we moseyed on over, riding around the NO TRESPASSING sign and knocking on the door of the small cabin on the property. I heard voices, and a short tanned man wearing a t-shirt with three wolves on it answered the door.
"Hi there, how's it going? Umm, so we were wondering if we could pitch a couple of tents, well, a tent and a hammock, on your property for the night."
The man's name turned out to be Larry. He not only permitted us to camp on his property ("go ahead and pitch your tent out yonder by that seagull") but brought us some of his wife's home cooked Italian sausage and zucchini pasta for dinner. We dined on the rickety dock down on the water, watching in awe as the sky changed colour over our heads and reveling in the delight of having a belly full of warm food. Fireflies flickered past our seated figures as we watched, completely mesmerized.
The next night we found ourselves cycling in the company of five other cyclists. We ended up setting up a hobo camp down under the power lines in an abandoned and overgrown gravel quarry in Shabaqua Corners. A roaring fire, seven bikes, six tents (one hammock), a couple bottles of wine and some Moosehead lager made our vagabond cycling camp a pretty happening place. Not to mention the beautiful sight of the milky way floating above our heads.
The next couple nights we couchsurfed with an awesome girl named Ayla in Thunderbay, then we found ourselves camped in a construction lot on the way to Ouimet Canyon. The sunset over the tiny reed filled lake was out of this world, but the 6:00am wake up from the workers arriving at the site was abrupt and unsettling. The canyon was definitely worth the detour though; totally rad! Apparently the snow doesn't melt in the bottom of the canyon until the end of summer and so all these bizarre arctic species grow down there. Coolio.
Then, we found ourselves cycling into darkness and failing to find anything larger than a 6 by 6 patch of grass and a picnic table on the side of the road. Out of curiosity, we pedaled up an old paved road with was blocked off from the hwy with a pile of rubble. The forces of nature had taken back the road, which lead to a bizarre undeveloped cul-de-sac with a view of the lake at the top. So we camped there, listening to the sound of howling canines through the night.
Ahhhh, running out of internet time. The rest will have to come later. Last night Toby and I were too lazy to set up our sleeping quarters so we crashed on a bed of moss, under a roof of stars on the shores on Lake Superior. This pretty much topped any camp spot I've ever been to, ever.