Giving Back to Lake Superior: 3370 Field Explorations with L.U. Rec students 2011

So for the third time I made my way up to Thunder Bay to instruct for the 3370 3rd year field explorations course. It was another great group of 3rd/4th year students from the Outdoor Recreation Parks and Tourism (ORPT) program at Lakehead University. Having such an affinity for the north shore of Lake Superior, Thunder Bay and the ORPT program, this course is definitely one of my favourites.

It was funny how i was looking to rideshare as I always do up to Thunder Bay and my good friend Aaron ran into my parents at the Dundas Cactus Festival and mentioned how him and his partner Jess┬ájust got back from traveling in Norway and were planning on driving up separate as they were meeting Jess’s parents north of South River to use their VW van while they searched for a new place to live. I knew they were coming back but didn’t think it would fall in place so well. It worked out well for Aaron and Jess to pick me up in South River, drive to where her parents were and switch their stuff over so they could take their time in the VW bus up to Thunder Bay and I could get a head start in Aaron’s subaru.

This felt so good to drive solo along the lake. I made a stop to touch base with my co-istructor Bryana in Wawa who was worked with Naturally Superior Adventures. It was actually my first time at their site by the mouth of the Michipecoten River and it was a beautiful morning. I went out for a nice paddle around the bay and then continued on with the drive. I stayed at my friend Darrell Makin’s newly built cabin right on Lake Superior at Jackfish Bay (click here for link for pictures and stories about Darrell’s cabin at Jackfish). I went for a nice morning paddling there too out to Cape Victoria with Scot Kyle, one of Darrell’s only neighbors at Jackfish who happened to be out there when i was. It was so great to get out paddling on these beautiful mornings. It really helped clear my head and prepared me for a great trip. For those of you who don’t know Darrell, he is a super fantastic human being and is also the main co-ordinator for the field explorations course and is co-authoring the guidebook for Lake Superior with me.

The students this year chose to focus their group project on service learning by “giving back to the lake” as much as possible. We all took part and worked together doing as much as we could along our way. We built a new thunder box, cleared trail, fixed axes, rakes, made nice signs and whatever else needed to be done at a variety of sites along our route
Our trip started in pouring rain on the beaches of Terrace Bay (known more locally as Hydro Bay). For the most part we had really good weather which made for high group morale.

We hiked both mount Gwynne and Mount St Ignace as we paddled through Rossport Islands, Simpson Island, St Ignace Island, and Nipigon Bay. We finished our trip in nice sunshine playing intense games of “Bunny Bunny” at the mouth of the Jackpine River. (click any of the photos below for links to the whole album)
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Fall Sailing – Isle Royale and Victoria Island Chain, Lake Superior September 13th to 21st

Fantastic Sailing trip with my friend Mac on his 38ft C+C along with friends Krista Patterson and Natalie Chaylt. We sailed nearly 250 nautical miles in about 10 days. Lots of sunny skies and good winds! I never typed up my log for this trip But Natalie on the trip did a good job. You can visit her blog here for the story (just keep clicker newer post to go to next day).

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Early Spring Swell on the Big Lake

First day of the sea kayaking season occurred today off the township of Silver Islet on Lake Superior. I woke up a little bit hesitant looking out the window to slightly overcast skies and a current temperature of 0 degrees celsius. The marine forecast was 20knots diminishing to 15 in the afternoon. So i knew we would be in for a bit of wind and swell. Also the weather network said it was only suppose to be a high of 9 degrees celsius. All these factors did not make me particularly over-motivated or excited to get out as i usually would be to paddle on Lake Superior. My friend Karina’s determination and the fact that I had my exceptionally kind and awesome friend Darrell’s truck and use of his boats for the weekend, i thought we’d better get out.

When we first arrived in Silver Islet and we saw the continuous white caps and spray coming off the marina dock. We got out of the truck and felt the breeze and how cold it was. My couchsurfer Serena came out with us but didn’t want to paddle so we said farewell to her as she hiked out to the sea lion to get some reading done. Instantaniously the sun came out and we were a whole lot more excited about getting out there… even if it was a bit windy. We scouted around and saw that most of the bay wasn’t too bad so we geared up in our neoprene, boots, gloves and wetsuits and other warm and water-protective layers and were off. It is very important to have the right skill level, experience and equipment to venture on the lake, especially this time of year.

Surprisingly, I believe this was the earliest in the season i had been out on Lake Superior. The sun felt so incredibly nice but was the water every COLD!

We had to continuously take our neoprene gloves off to warm our hands and get the feeling back in them. It was a similar feeling to the so called “screeming barfy’s” you get when ice-climbing, the pain that is sometimes extreme enough to make you barf. In this case it definitely was nowhere near that bad.

We paddled completely around the bay in the more sheltered area before venturing off into some bigger swell in the exposed waters.

Although it doesn’t look it, there was a good 1.5-2 meter swell out there once beyond the shelter of the small islands. There were lots of breaking waves… I noticed some that would have been nice to surf but decided to lay low since the water was so freakin cold and am recently getting over a minor shoulder injury. Got too many great trips in the season to come, just not worth risking further damage to my shoulder.

As we paddled in our friend Andy and another guy who was the son of the owner of Thunder Country Diving were all geared up in extremely thick neoprene to go out for a dive.

Silver Islet is a great little community, unfortunately the store was closed as it is a mostly seasonally operated May through September. They serve amazing corn chowder and biscuits, a great treat for anyone who makes the trip out here. Silver Islet is also home to what was once the richest silver mine in the world! Click here for a historical time-line.

All in all we had a great day and look forward to the many more paddling adventures to come!