Site 23

The sun says it is early afternoon but our bodies are exhausted. The drive tired us and now we sit at a vast empty site with a lot of gear to set-up. “At least the weather is cooperating,” I explain to my husband. Looking at the bright blue lake and clear blue skies, even he can’t be grumpy right now. “I guess this won’t be so bad,” he says. Perhaps he spoke too soon.

It turns out my backpacking tent is smaller than I remember. This is itself is not an issue, unless of course you’ve packed a queen size air mattress to sleep on. My husband glances at the brand new box and says, “um, did you notice you need a plug-in to blow this mattress up?” Oops. This is going to be a problem. Before panic sets in I realize we’re at a campground with electrical sites, so somehow we’ll figure that part out. This still doesn’t solve the issue of the mattress being about 4-6 inches too wide for our tent, though. We resolve to the fact that we’ll be sleeping with our tent doors open.

After pondering our conundrum of electricity for a few minutes, we also come to realize that we’ll never fit the mattress through the door, either. We crack a beer and sit on the picnic table. It is then we discover two things. The first is we have a converter in the car to make our cigarette lighter an outlet. And two, our tent (especially given its size) is very mobile. Within minutes we have our mattress in the tent and our tent next to the car. Life is good.

Once our tent is set-up we begin the long-drawn out process of making dinner. On the menu, fresh asparagus we picked up at a farmer’s market in Michigan, hot dogs, beans and of course, plenty of s’mores. One problem—we’re missing some vital utensils to make this meal possible. In particular, spoons, something to remove the beans from the grate and something to cook the asparagus with. We improvise. What we lose in flavor and convenience we make up for in volume. The asparagus is amazing. The beans manage to get off the grate (thanks to Steve’s Gerber) and Joey enjoys plenty of burned hot dog ends.

After dinner we sit around the fire not saying much. After all, we’ve spent the last 100+ hours together. Instead, we watch the fire and listen to the waves lap against the rocky shores. It is in this moment I realize two things—this is what makes Lake Superior so great and two, I am one of the luckiest women alive. We soon decide to turn-in. Things quickly get interesting for several reasons. The first is, a two person backpacking tent does not actually sleep two adults and a dog comfortably. Two, Joey doesn’t like the tent. I think she thinks we’re crazy. We soon persuade her in only to discover that the open doors present a problem. Within seconds she’s jumped out the other side. This game goes on for a while until we finally leash her until she passes out at our feet. The only problem, no matter where she lays, she’s laying on us. This is going to be a long night. We pop some sleeping pills and soon exhaustion wins out. We awake the next morning, early but refreshed and ready to continue our journey… sans any more camping.

Our plan for Day 7 is quite simple. We’re rounding the most northern part of the lake and making our way towards Thunder Bay. Along the way, we’re stopping by Canada’s longest suspension bridge. We also plan to shop in Thunder Bay and do some sightseeing. By early morning we’ve made our way to Eagle Canyon Adventures where Canada’s longest suspension bridge awaits to be crossed. It is $20 per person to walk across the bridge. I’m skeptical of the fee but we pay it anyway. It turns out the bridge is in fact long… 600 feet long to be exact. And, there are not one but two bridges for us to cross. I’m not a huge fan of heights. I’m less of a fan of feeling suspended in air, hundreds of feet above a canyon. But, I grin and bear it. The sun beats down on us as we make our way across.

As we approach the other side, we see the zipline. This is a new attraction to the park. The zipline extends down the canyon, over the river and ends hundreds of feet below. It looks absolutely terrifying. We watch several people make the plunge, including two women who are driving to Alaska. Again, our journey seems to short compared to those we’ve encountered on the trip. After much debate we opt not to do the zipline. Having done one in Mexico, it seems excessive. And frankly, a little to heart stopping for me on this hot, humid, sunny day.

By lunchtime we arrive in Thunder Bay. Here, we head to Bay Street which caters to Finlanders. It turns out that Thunder Bay has the largest population of Fins outside of Finland. We enjoy a lunch of Finnish pancakes at The Hoito. Hoito, which means care in Finnish, has been operating since 1918 and is one of Canada’s oldest cooperatively owned restaurants. Plus, the food is amazing and reasonably priced to boot.

We spend the afternoon perusing Thunder Bay’s shopping areas and eventually check-in at an overpriced Super 8. To compensate for our lackluster accommodations, we decide to end our last full day on the Circle Tour with a celebratory dinner at the Keg Steakhouse and Bar. OMG. It was some of the best food I’ve had in a while. In particular—the tempura asparagus and sweet peas in sweet, fried goodness that melts in your mouth. The meal seems like a perfect end to our final full day of travels.

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