The Solemn Land: Travel Back In Time To An Ancient World Of Beauty

I’m driving along the Trans-Canada Highway up from Sault Ste. Marie towards the smaller town of Wawa, just 225 kilometres ahead. The traffic has thinned, with only the odd logging truck or camper coming down the other lane. There is no city here; it almost seems I’ve travelled back in time to an era before civilization. Here and there are road signs, rest stops, and intriguing little trails that lead somewhere deep into the forest, but there are also long stretches that evoke a sort of prehistoric isolation. On my right is the Canadian Shield, geologically the oldest landscape on the planet, weathered by millennia of ice ages, and grown over, seared off, and grown over again by countless tracts of generated and regenerated pine wilderness. To my left is the Lake: the inland sea, GitcheeGumee, the largest body of fresh water in the world, its far shore off somewhere beyond the horizon – Lake Superior. I’m riding on the edge between earth and water, journeying through geography and history at once. I’m entering Lake Superior Provincial Park.

Coastal Trail

The contrasts, again, are striking. After leaving the Sault – a key transportation hub that links Canada with the U.S., Lake Superior with the rest of the Great Lakes waterway, and Northern Ontario with its Eastern and Southern neighbours – I have passed through the regional outposts of Heyden, Goulais River, and Montreal River, as well as the splendid smaller parks of Batchewana and Pancake Bay. In Sault Ste. Marie are some 75,000 people, who’ve created a bustling local economy that’s centred on tourism and hospitality. Quality lodging chains like the Delta, Marriott, Best Western, Comfort Inn and Super 8 compete with a variety of local indies for accommodation services; eateries of all styles abound, with a noticeable tilt towards Italian cuisine that reflects the Sault’s steelmaking past (and present); fascinating attractions include the strategic Sault Ste. Marie shipping canal and the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre; a busy casino and active sporting and arts scenes are also evident. However,it’s a short drive up the Great Northern Road out of town thattransports meinto the haunting and humbling Group of Seven country.


It’s around here in the 20thCentury where Canada’s best-known artists’ circle were inspired to paint their most iconic works: Arthur Lismer’sIsles of Spruce, J.E.H. MacDonald’s Falls, Montreal River and The Solemn Land, and Lawren Harris’s Beaver Swamp, Algoma, and his brilliant North Shore, Lake Superior. Further into the trip around Lake Superior, the Trans-Canada veers away from the water to the rugged rock and bush past Wawa and White River, thoughthis portion of the drive skirts the very rim of the Canadian Shield where it drops steeply into the vast and ancient pool. Native pictographs from centuries before the European incursion into North America are found along the waterline here, and off in the distance, submerged beneath the cold clear waves of GitcheeGumee, lies the subject of Canadian legend Gordon Lightfoot’s most memorable song: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, the doomed freighter that sank with all hands during a November gale of 1975. Motoring up and down the steep inclines and sheer cliffs as I wind my way north, I also pause to remember a young man who took this same route in 1980 – only the heroic Terry Fox went not by car but courage, on his epic one-legged fundraiser against cancer, the Marathon of Hope.
Pancake Bay
Lake Superior Provincial Park itself occupies an area of roughly 1,600 square kilometres, bordered on the south by Montreal River and just past its northern tip by Wawa. Barely two hours out of the Sault, and chipped as if by some gigantic sculptor with the stunning vistas of Agawa Bay and Cape Gargantua, the Park is an authentic wilderness retreat. There are no motels, snack bars, coffee shops, or souvenir stands here. Visitors to the park, myselfamong them, have come to experience the beauty and power of nature, not a caged or commercialized facsimile of the real thing. From the 21st Century wired world of my home in the city, I’ve logged into to reserve a stay at the park – it’s open from May to October, and campsites range from the basic spots at Crescent Lake to those at Agawa Bay and Rabbit Blanket Lake, fitted with phone, shower, and laundry facilities – and now I’ve arrived in the heart of the Boreal forest on the coastal ridge of the Greatest of all Lakes. A short trip away is the light and noise and amenities of the modern urban life, but right now I’m happy to find myself in these endless woods under thelimitless sky beside that mysterious, fathomless continental sea.
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Events Calendar

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Bon Soo Winter Carnival02/07/2014 12:00:00 AM02/16/2014 12:00:00 AM
Shadows of the Mind Film Festival02/26/2014 12:00:00 AM03/04/2014 12:00:00 AM
Mistletoe and Holly12/20/2013 07:30:00 PM12/20/2013 12:00:00 AM
Group of Seven Awkward Moments11/17/2013 09:00:00 AM01/04/2014 12:00:00 AM
Ice Fishing Derby with Professional Angler Robert Laframboise03/09/2014 12:00:00 AM12/31/1969 07:00:00 PM
Dora the Explorer Live!12/18/2013 12:00:00 AM12/31/1969 07:00:00 PM
ELVIS "1st Diamond Jim Mem Tim E Yes Men"03/08/2014 07:00:00 AM03/08/2014 10:00:00 AM
Lilac & Lavender Festival05/31/2014 12:00:00 AM06/01/2014 12:00:00 AM
Musicfest XX: Bratwurst, Beer & Heethoven06/08/2014 12:00:00 AM06/08/2014 12:00:00 AM
The Great Tugboat Race06/26/2014 12:00:00 AM06/30/2014 12:00:00 AM
Lobsterfest06/27/2014 12:00:00 AM06/27/2014 12:00:00 AM
Interntional Bridge Walk06/28/2014 12:00:00 AM06/28/2014 12:00:00 AM
Group of Seven in Algoma10/02/2014 12:00:00 AM10/26/2014 12:00:00 AM
Carlos Núñez10/03/2014 08:00:00 PM10/03/2014 10:00:00 PM
Nuit Blanche10/04/2014 07:00:00 PM10/04/2014 10:00:00 PM
Ron James10/09/2014 08:00:00 PM10/09/2014 10:00:00 PM
Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap Tour10/14/2014 08:00:00 PM10/14/2014 10:00:00 PM
Redefining our Defiant Spirits10/18/2014 02:00:00 PM10/18/2014 04:00:00 PM
A Novel Dinner10/18/2014 06:30:00 PM10/18/2014 08:30:00 PM
Chef Michael Smith: East Coast Kitchen Party10/24/2014 08:00:00 PM10/24/2014 10:00:00 PM
Chef Michael Smith talks Family Meals10/25/2014 01:00:00 PM10/25/2014 03:00:00 PM
The Beaton Family of Mabou10/25/2014 08:00:00 PM10/25/2014 10:00:00 PM
Cirque Du Soleil Dralion10/29/2014 07:30:00 PM10/29/2014 10:00:00 PM
Brad Paisley11/13/2014 06:30:00 PM11/13/2014 10:30:00 PM
The Grand Slam of Curling National11/19/2014 12:00:00 AM09/23/2014 12:00:00 AM
The Muddy Moose Charge09/13/2014 09:00:00 AM12/31/1969 07:00:00 PM
50 Years of the Beatles - Revolver09/13/2014 08:00:00 PM12/31/1969 07:00:00 PM
Brahms Piano Hour09/14/2014 03:00:00 PM09/14/2014 04:00:00 PM
Group of Seven Train Event09/19/2014 12:00:00 AM09/21/2014 12:00:00 AM
19th Annual Bushplane Days Festival09/19/2014 12:00:00 AM09/21/2014 12:00:00 AM
Yuk Yuks-Pasta and Laughter09/19/2014 05:30:00 PM09/19/2014 09:00:00 PM
Searchmont Music Festival09/19/2014 06:00:00 PM09/20/2014 05:00:00 PM
Music, Magic & Mayhem09/19/2014 08:00:00 PM09/19/2014 10:30:00 PM
Sylvan Circle Tour09/20/2014 09:00:00 AM09/20/2014 05:00:00 PM
Dinner & Comedy Show09/20/2014 06:00:00 PM09/20/2014 09:00:00 PM
Travis Tritt09/18/2014 07:00:00 PM09/18/2014 10:00:00 PM
George Canyon "Decade of Hits" Tour09/26/2014 08:00:00 PM09/26/2014 10:30:00 PM
A Night in Old Vienna09/27/2014 08:00:00 PM09/27/2014 11:00:00 PM
Stuart Mclean and the Vinyl Cafe Live10/05/2014 03:00:00 PM10/05/2014 05:00:00 PM
Ziggy Marley - Fly Rasta Tour10/06/2014 07:30:00 PM10/06/2014 09:30:00 PM
Maestro Ustad Shafaat Khan – Music From India10/09/2014 07:30:00 PM10/09/2014 09:00:00 PM
2nd Annual Java Jamboree, Coffee Tasting Festival10/18/2014 12:00:00 AM10/18/2014 12:00:00 AM
All Hallow's Eve Sault Ste. Marie Premier10/23/2014 07:00:00 PM10/23/2014 09:00:00 PM
Gob at the Rockstar10/29/2014 07:00:00 PM10/29/2014 09:00:00 PM
Toopy and Binoo: Fun and Games11/03/2014 06:30:00 PM11/03/2014 08:00:00 PM
The Energy Opportunities Conference11/04/2014 02:00:00 PM11/06/2014 12:00:00 AM