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Lake Superior Provincial Park Coastal Trail - Ontario, Canada

by MulderX  
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Journal of Lake Superior Provincial Park Coastal Trail (Katherine Cove to Gargantua Harbour)


The Trail:

Overall the Coastal Trail in LSPP is quite a unique experience.  You will spend more time moving from rock to rock than is comfortable for most people and if it is wet, there are sections of the trail that will go from a nice perch to a dangerous slide in no time at all.  Others on the web have written that due to the rocks they were concerned with sprained ankles, but for me I was much more worried about broken ankles or wrists from an unexpected fall, than a simple roll of the ankle on a small rock. 

Following the trail you’ll find yourself spending time looking for the blue diamond trail markers but more valuable are the small piles of rocks indicating where the trail might continue along the rocky shoreline or dive back into the forest. After a while you develop a love hate relationship with the rocks, leading the way as painfully as possible.

The great thing about the trail though is that you will have some of the most spectacular views of Lake Superior that there are and even the surrounding area if you climb to the 360 degree views.  This was one of my complaints about the trail though.  The maps are more like “general directions” rather than a detailed map.  Most campsites are there, but not all and there are a couple more that don’t seem to be marked on the map, plus the 360 degree views aren’t part of the marked trail and there wasn’t a clearly marked side trail for either of them on the northern part that we did.

The other thing to keep in mind is the campsites.  Most are right on the beach, which sounds great, but during our trip most of the beaches had crashing waves which made sleep a luxury that was restless at best.  Keeping in mind LSPP is on the east end of the lake with winds generally out of the west, you will want to choose your campsite carefully to try and avoid this.  If you can, get campsites on the sandy beaches, not on the rocky ones as there seems to be generally less wave action there.

Finally if you are planning on doing just the northern section of the trail, as we did, I would recommend coming in at either Orphan Lake or Coldwater River.  These access points skip some of the more tedious sections between Katherine Cove and Orphan Lake.  Don’t worry you will still get your fair share of rock hopping.

Friday September 3, 2010

Location: Travelway Inn, Sudbury Ontario

Weather: High: 19.5C; Low: 5.4C; Mean: 12.4C

Distance Traveled: Drove Toronto to Sudbury

Commentary:  Arrived at Sudbury ahead of schedule, however discovered that Crazy Horse had gotten a flat tire on his way from the Capital, which delayed him until after midnight.  Sleep was a luxury for the weak. :-)


Saturday September 4, 2010

Location: LPSS, GPS Location

Weather: High: 11.5C; Low: 7.2C; Mean: 9.3C; Drizzling Patchy Rain.

Distance Traveled: Drove Sudbury to LSPP.  Hiked 4.6 kms in 2:15

Commentary: Arrived late at Katherine’s Cove for the start on the Trail at about 4 pm (2 hours behind schedule due to the flat tire from Friday night, which was fixed in Sault St Marie).  Conditions were generally cold and wet.  This did little to dampen our spirits, however the wet slick rocks that we were climbing over quickly gave us a taste of what we were in for over the next few days requiring 2 hours to get four and a half kilometers on fairly level group.  After arriving at camp for the evening, making a fire, eating and settling in, we cracked open the meal of the trail, three 12 ounce Angus aged for flavour steaks brought from Toronto by Sicilian.  I hadn't realize how well you could cook a steak over an open fire on a stick, although hots spots are bit tricky.  We were battered through the night by the waves crashing on the shore not 20 meters from our tent.  This was also the coldest night by far on the trail.  Sleep was a luxury for the weak. :-(


Sunday September 5, 2010

Location: LPSS, GPS Location

Weather: High: 15.3C; Low: 3.4C; Mean: 9.3C; Cloudy with Sunny Periods

Distance Traveled: Hiked 14.2 kms in 8:55

Commentary: Started out this morning with low expectations for the trails ahead, however we were quickly surprised by the best hiking weather of the trip and the 2nd best section of trail.  Quite a bit more time was spent on “real trails” rather than constantly stepping from wet slippery rock to wet slippery rock along the shore line.  Some beautiful pictures were taken along the way from the great lookouts that we came across during these travels.  Also, this is the day which we passed back and forth with another hiker who came onto the trail at Coldwater river and we spoke to several times along the trail.  Crazy Horse was getting frustrated with his new hiking boots and their (his) inability to stick to the wet slippery rock resulting some scraps and bruises.  This was also the day which we took the wrong turn on the trail, during which, Crazy Horse got stung by a wasp (or 2).   You will want to be careful to maintain the trail looking for the little piles reassuring of rocks. In the end though, camp on Sunday night was the best of the trip, with a good location and great spot for the tent, back in the woods a bit, sheltered from the noise of the waves crashing on the beach.  Sleep was a luxury for the weak. :-)


Monday September 6, 2010

Location: LPSS, GPS Location

Weather: High: 18.4C; Low: 9.0C; Mean: 13.7C; Sunny with Cloudy Periods

Distance Traveled: Hiked 10.7 kms in 7:35

Commentary: Started out the morning in high spirits for the day ahead, little did we know what was ahead for us.  With an expectation of a quick hike to the Gargantua Harbour area we started out on the beautiful morning.  This idea was short lived however as the easy trails from the previous day were quickly replaced by scaling of cliffs and rocks on a level which is almost unreal.  At times we were going almost straight up and down the side of a cliff with very little forward motion to show for it.  However, this afforded the best scenery of the entire hike, with some views of Lake Superior which have to be seen with your own eyes.  We also spent more time than other days making sure we were actually on the trail.  This seemed to be party due to the scaling of the rocks which were no longer conveniently following the shoreline and our snafu the previous day which wasted between 30 and 45 minutes.  Sicilian and Crazy Horse both waned very badly during this day and we quickly dropped into the first available camp site in our finishing zone.  Later we moved to a second site which was a bit better laid out, but like the first night was very close to the water with waves crashing on the beach.  We may have moved the next day if we knew what was in store.


Tuesday September 7, 2010

Location: LPSS GPS Location

Weather: High: 18.9C; Low: 9.9C; Mean: 14.4C; Sunny morning, Afternoon Rain and wind, lots of wind.

Distance Traveled: Hiked 22.1 kms in 7:40

Commentary: As we were not moving camp on this day, Crazy Horse decided to stick around the camp and lick his wounds and dry out his gear from the previous night’s rain.  Sicilian and MulderX both headed off to Devils Chair on the day hike to see what the area had in store.  By far the easiest and best marked trails on the coastal trail are in this area, with good markings the whole way to Devil's Chair.  The morning hike on the way there was nice with good weather and a cool breeze, but during the afternoon hike back the air began to noticeably cool and the wind began to pick up.  Although we made the trip in a speedy time with the good trails and cool air Sicilian's knees were a mess by the time we arrived back at camp at 4:30 pm and he was hardly able to walk. On top of that rain was coming down and the wind was howling though the campsite with 3+ foot waves crashing along the beach.  We got a fire going, but the wind had the effect of bellows on a fire keeping the flames stoked constantly and blowing embers into the forest.  Thanking the air wasn’t too cold.  Sleep was a luxury for the weak :-(


Wednesday September 8, 2010

Location: Toronto, ON

Weather: 15.3C; Low: 5.9C; Mean: 10.6C; Spotty showers for the drive home

Distance Traveled: LSPP to Toronto, Ontario

Commentary: Woke up a bit early in the morning, ate and got to the car early.  Drove to Agawa Pictographs and walked down to see some of the items.  Due to the winds from the previous day the pictographs were not entirely visible to use though.  Drove to Sudbury and had lunch at Buzzy Brown’s Sports Bar.  Said our goodbye’s to Crazy Horse and finished the drive to Toronto.



After last year’s fiasco, I realized that I had to redevelop my gear strategy quite a bit, both for lighter weight, some new equipment which needed replacing and taking things that were actually “necessary”.  So for this year I ended up with some new items:

  • Sleeping Bag to replace crappy old one that I have had for 10 years (http://www.ems.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3655530&cp=3677338.3737362.3705267)
    The EMS bag easily kept me warm on the coldest night which was down to around 0 degrees Celsius, and had me half out of the bag on the warmest night at around 10 degrees Celsius.
  • New clothes for hiking like pants and t-shirts.
    Mainly this was to replace cotton models and I can say that I am amazed at how well these nylon and/or wool items work, if you do a lot of hiking they are well worth the investment.
  • Leaving a lot of clothes behind that I took last year.
    Whew did I take too many clothes last year.
  • Camp Footwear
    This year I managed to take my Crocs since they are light and I had enough room in the backpack (see backpack below)
  • New Tent, mainly to get a better tent than the Canadian Tire special and one that doesn’t leak (http://www.eurekaeurope.com/en/tents.php?group=3&product=73)
    This generally worked out great, the Wabakimi 2 tent is actually a real 2 person tent (yes we slept 2 in it), with a full rectangular form factor and 2 vestibules.  The tent also kept us dry through the 10mm of rain we had, not a lot, but enough to soak Crazy Horse during the trip.
  • New cookware, mainly for weight savings (dropped over 1 lb of weight for this) (http://www.mec.ca/Products/product_detail.jsp?PRODUCT%3C%3Eprd_id=845524442419961&FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=2534374302696309)
    The cookware I ran into a bit of snag with such that it is a bit small for my stove, somehow this will need to be adjusted for before the next trip otherwise I could be going hungry for a night by accident
  • Much better packing and selection of necessary food.
    Mainly this year, just being better aware of how much food I was likely to eat during the trip.  Still a little too much, but not a lot like last time. 
  • A platypus water pack (http://www.mec.ca/Products/product_detail.jsp?PRODUCT%3C%3Eprd_id=845524442625477&FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=2534374302699815)
    This works really well on the trail, but opens the problem of what to do when you get to camp as you don't have your pack any more and the mouth piece is problematic.  A solution must be out there.
  • Lithium Batteries instead of NiMH or Alkaline for my general equipment (GPS Tracker, GPS and Camera).
    This really stems from my issues last year with NiMH batteries and the cold.  Anybody who has used rechargeable batteries in the cold knows the don’t work well and will lose their charge completely in a couple of days (of non-use).  During listening to the Practical Backpacking Podcast series (http://www.practicalbackpacking.com/blog/) one of the interviews mentioned that lithium batteries don’t suffer from this issue and on top of that only weight about ½ as much as NiMH batteries.  I can report that they are absolutely correct.  Energizer touts the batteries as lasting longer, but this isn’t really the case, they just work better when you don’t have a recharger around, especially in the cold (http://www.energizer.com/products/lithium-batteries/lithium/Pages/lithium-batteries.aspx)


All of these things ended up bringing down my pack weight to under 35 lbs, considerably better than last years weight of ~45 lbs.  I was also able to identify a few other things I can leave behind next year, but I did go a bit overboard and it identified a few things to deal with before the next trip.

  • Backpack – I now know my pack is too big at 70 liters.  The most I really need is a 60 liter pack (if that).  This wouldn’t matter much except that I am lugging around about 3 extra lbs for the big pack that I have.  Low priority to change, but an item to think about.
  • Food - Still trying to work out the whole food thing, although much better than last year I still had too much and need to work out some of the kinks in the system yet.  Of note the peanut butter and honey are great calorie items, but don't deal very well with the cold.
  • Clothes – I left non-essential clothes at home this year and went a bit overboard, there are certainly a couple of things I will be taking with me next time.
  • Medical Kit – This really needs to be fleshed out next year properly.  I ended up with a bad cut that really required stitches, and thankfully Crazy Horse and Sicilian had enough items between them to get me through, but next year I need to be better prepared.
  • Sleeping pad – I have been depending on a cheap sleeping pad, which has served the purpose, but the trail tore it to hell this year so a replacement is in order…hhhmmm…what to do?




Photos: See all pictures and videos from Lake Superior Provincial Park Coastal Trail
Trip Info
by MulderX
September 04, 2010
Trip Location: Lake Superior Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
Length: 32 miles
Duration: 2 days
Activity: Hiking
Trip viewed 7,164 times
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