> T81A: 1981 Pukasaw Hike <))) (select) File:T81A, select pics. Update: 2020-04-26.
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1981 Pukasaw Hike <)))

Vacation 81 - Pukaskwa National Park. In August, 1981, Merle and I go on a hike to Pukaskwa National Park conducted by Nature Canada. The description in the advertisment says intriguing things about "the overwhelming presence of the inland sea." So we pay $290.00 each for two tickets to seventh heaven (Group of Seven heaven, that is), pack our camping gear and head north through Parry sound, Sudbury and Sault St. Marie.

81-08-22 - Superior shoreline. North of Sault Ste. Marie the heroic quality of the landscape is a real surprise. Someone used to looking at parking lots and highrise apartments everyday is apt to come unstuck with the spaciousness of it all. And by the way, the first two clips in the synchro-sound show were re-recorded in 2006 to improve sound quality. Those that follow were recorded in late '81 or early '82, about 25 years earlier. So this is an excercise in audio as well as photo archaeology. See T81A.AVI or T81A.MP4 for the movie version of this show with sound.

- Lake Superior shoreline. Here we see for our first time as Ontario residents, stunning views of a long coastline. The background hills rise from blue water and stretch onward to the limit of visibility.

- Beach at Pancake Bay. In the days of the fur trade, eastbound voyageurs would stop here on their last night before reaching Sault Ste. Marie. By this time food would be running low and they'd be reduced to eating pancakes, so they named this Pancake Bay.

81-08-22 - Wawa Goose. Watching over the road to Marathon, the Wawa Goose is the patron saint of northbound travellers. Frankie Lane had a hit song, years ago, with the line: "I must go where the wild goose goes ..." We take the hint and go.

- Marathon, view of pulp mill. The pulp mill at Marathon: That mountain in the background was a landmark to travellers sailing or paddling along the coast in the days of the fur trade. The town and mill lie on the shore of Lake Superior, off a side-road from the Trans-Canada Highway.

- Marathon, pile of pulp logs. To the traveller of today, the piles of pulp logs and the smell of sulphur are more likely to be the landmark. Heron Bay, just a few miles east of Marathon on the Trans-Canada Highway, is our rendezvous point with the Pukasaw hiking group. But we decide to go on a bit further to find a park with a good beach to spend the night.

81-08-22 - Merle on beach, Neys P.P.. Neys Provincial Park is about 20 miles west of Marathon. We camp here our last night on the road before leaving on the hike. It's worth the few extra miles of driving. The long sandy beach has picturesque, half-buried piles of logs. Everything is conveniently set up to help the novice layabout brush up on beachcombing skills. Your first assignment is to recline horizontally, head pillowed on a piece of driftwood, while you concentrate on the finer things of life.

81-08-22 - Merle and red flowers, Neys P.P.. See how easy it is to get carried away -- to a tropic land of brilliant flowers and gorgeous sunsets?

81-08-23 - Heron Bay wharf. Next morning, we go down early to the Heron Bay wharf and stroll around inspecting the local merchant marine. This pier is at the mouth of the Pic River. The tugboats exist mainly for the purpose of towing log booms from the mouth of the river to the mill at Marathon, a short distance up the coast. Our transportation to the starting point of the hike is that luxury liner down at the far end.

81-08-23 - Merle on boomlogs, Heron Bay. While we wait for the group to assemble, we take turns impersonating dockside riff-raff. This character is a pretty unconvincing example. Someone told us these boom logs actually came from the west coast. The local trees, supposedly, never grew this big, even in the early days of lumbering. The giant timbers are chained end-to-end to form a floating barrier which will keep the pulp logs together while being towed across the open water of Lake Superior to the mill in Marathon. After loading the tugboat with backpacks, we begin a rough trip of several hours down the coast. To me the sky looks ominous.

81-08-23 - Merle in launch, Fisherman's Cove. Arriving at Fisherman's Cove, we enter a narrow sound and heave-to. The tugboat's launch, which has been towing in the wake, is hauled alongside and loaded with backpacks and hikers. At the tiller is Captain McCuaig, owner of the tugboat. In front of him, some Shanghai-ed passengers soon to be marooned on shore. In two trips, everything, including 10 hikers and all their gear, is ferried ashore and dumped on the beach while our troopship waits in deeper water. Then Captain McCuaig heads back to Heron Bay, abandoning us to our fate.

81-08-23 - The NatCan hikers, Fisherman's Cove. The setting has a magic resonance. The sun has just penetrated the coastal mists revealing an unexpected harbour, hidden from passing ships by steep cliffs. We stumble ashore on wobbly sea-legs and then, joyfully, the noise and fumes of the tugboat are gone, replaced by instant tranquility. No other signs of life except the gulls and we castaways. Behind the trackless sand lies a dense wall of forest. We might be explorers, colonists, a party of marines come to quell the locals, or transported convicts, for that matter. I suspect that one of us, was all these things rolled into one. ... Did I say the sand was trackless? Well it was, when we first set foot on shore.

81-08-23 - Merle and birchtree. Merle is thankful to abandon her sailor's life on the bounding main. Here at last is something solid to cling to and relief from the rolling and pitching of the open water. On our first night out, we camp in the woods at this very spot. We have to, we've taken the wrong direction and walked south instead of north for about 4 hours until the mistake is finally admitted by our leaders. Exemplary characters, I hasten to add, but apparently unaware that, on a west-facing coast, if you have the water constantly on your right hand, then you MUST be heading south.

- Reindeer moss. We're exhausted and make camp in the woods about a quarter mile from the nearest water. After tapping into the emergency supply of wine to keep up morale, we sink into beds of reindeer moss like this.

81-08-24 - The group, hiking north. The next day we retrace our steps back to the point of disembarcation. The mistake is worth it, because it means spending more time at Fisherman's Cove.

81-08-24 - Merle swimming, Fisherman's Cove. Of all the things we enjoy, the best is swimming from deserted sandy beaches. Though the water is icy, days of hot sun and sweat of the trail drive us into the waves at the slightest excuse. And later we sit on the beach to dry off and think deep thoughts about pine trees, rocks, water, sand and sun.

- Silver tree root. This tree root must once have had a tenacious grip on some rocky ledge. Imagine it whirling round and boring it's way into the sand like a corkscrew.

81-08-24 - Fisherman's Cove. Fisherman's cove has two beaches, separated by a peninsula. This is the southern one -- we decide put up our tents on the northern side where the trail comes down to the water.

81-08-24 - Fisherman's Cove. With nothing to do for the rest of the afternoon, some of us climb up the cliff that walls-in the north side of the beach. Strenuous hallooing by the climbers at the top is audible below, because somebody comes out of a tent and thumbs her nose at the show-offs up on the heights.

81-08-24 - Scott Wilson, Fisherman's Cove. Rebuffed, we take to meditating on the splendid view to the south. This is Scott Wilson of Parks Canada who is accompanying us part way.

81-08-24 - Fisherman's Cove. From the extreme end of the headland that protects Fisherman's cove, you can see both beaches at the same time. The camp is located on that strip of sand at the left. Our blue dome tent is just visible on the beach.

81-08-24 - Beach campsite, Fisherman's Cove. This is our portable village and movable main street. That's our tent at the left.

81-08-24 - Merle, Scott, Fisherman's Cove. Round the firepit, some of the hikers work up their acts for this evening's campfire-cabaret.

81-08-24 - Kevin clowning, Fisherman's Cove. Our leader, Kevin O'Donnel, practices his comic "Drop-the-Pants" routine. The women keep calling for encores.

81-08-25 - Merle, blueberrying. The next day we set off north on the trail to Oiseau Bay. Looking back toward Fisherman's Cove, I catch Merle in the act of lagging beind to eat wild blueberries and stop to join her. ... The view is typical of the coastal portions of the trail: an alternation of rocky headlands and sheltered coves. We're tempted to clamber down for a swim, but we have to keep up with the others.

81-08-25 - The Group, a thin line. The group presses onward, a thin line of explorers plodding into the unknown.

81-08-25 - Shoreline view. We pass this unknown bay containing several nameless islands. Someone wonders if we could cross over by going down to the end of the point, wading part way out, and then floating the packs across the deep water on a log. No reason at all to go out there. You would simply arrive on another rocky shore and be left looking back at your original starting point. But the futility of the project doesn't in the least take away from the urge to explore uninhabited islands.

81-08-25 - Shoreline view. We descend from the top of the cliffs to the beach at Oiseau Bay. When climbing uphill, the group tends to string out when everybody goes into low gear. Going downill, as you can see here, the opposite happens. We coast along in neutral and the group bunches up and walks on each other's heels.

81-08-26 - Troll-bridge. Parks Canada has done its best to provide a good environment for the local wildlife. Since this bridge has very little water under it, we judge it a cosy habitat for the Lesser Pukasaw Troll.

81-08-26 - Suspension bridge. But this one, which we use to cross the White River just to the north of the Oiseau Bay campsite, stirkes us as a bit too luxurious even for the most pampered hikers.

81-08-27 - Suspension bridge, Willow River. Over the Willow River, we find a more spartan structure, with wire netting along both sides to keep hikers from falling off the tightrope into the water. None of these streams would be impossible to wade in August, but deep water might hold us up in the spring.

81-08-26 - Trail. We have constant surprises along the trail. One day we're heading down to the shore through this cleft in the rocks. It's been a hot tramp over the sun-baked cliffs and what do you think a pack of tired hikers will do for rest and recreation? More rock-hopping, naturally.

81-08-26 - Bouldering. This twenty foot precipice provides challenges for the most adventurous bouldering enthusiasts. A few of us simply rest up on the rocks below and encourage the others. That's Merle in the dark shirt going strong for the top.

- Rockscape with white flowers. Mind, you don't fall down into the canyon, Merle. That hydrangea bush in the middle looks like it's a long way down.

81-08-26 - Shoreline view. Of course, if you only want to soothe tired feet, there is always the clear, cold water of Lake Superior ...

81-08-26 - Shoreline view. And interesting rocks to inspect while wading.

81-08-26 - Trail. Back on the trail again, we walk through an enchanted forest. The earth is carpeted with low, ground-hugging bushes and reindeer moss so tidy, it looks like a garden. But there's no sign of the gardener.

81-08-26 - Maggie, abandoned cabin. Perhaps this is the ruin of the gardener's cabin, conveniently located beside the trail. Maggie, our alternate hike leader, suggests that this piece of real-estate should appear in the advertisment as a "handy-man special".

81-08-27 - Pukaskwa Pit area. At Shotwatch Cove, the trail crosses a field of rocks the size of bowling balls. Their uniformity is peculiar enough, but there's more to see ...

81-08-27 - Pukasaw Pit, Shotwatch Cove. We soon locate several Pukasaw Pits, unexplained conical depressions among the rocks. Merle is sitting about three feet down in this one. No one seems to be positive about their origin. Probably left by the local Indians long ago. Looking on, second from the left and far right, are two south-bound hikers we meet on the trail.

81-08-27 - Beach scene. Another fine sandy beach, another blue sky. When will it all end? Don't those clouds seem at least a little ominous? No, eh?

81-08-27 - Derek beachcombing. With an hour to spare before dinner, I lie on the beach working up a course of studies for an advanced beachcoming seminar this fall. I've already assembled a few of the required study aids: a good text book, a sandy beach and a log to rest the head while seeking spiritual guidance. How to get all these study aids back to Toronto, that's the problem.

81-08-27 - Derek beachcombing. My fellow students want me to gather firewood but I'm too busy absorbing mystical knowlege.

81-08-27 - Merle, beachcombing. Ah, here's my first pupil, preparing to write her entrance exam to the academy of higher beachcombing. Poor thing. Shanghaied by a tugboat captain, abandoned at Fisherman's Cove, route-marched by fanatic hikers up the coast and, finally, stuck on a beach in the middle of nowhere. What a fate.

81-08-27 - Dining area. This is our hike leader holding a pot over the fire. Needs a touch of Spic-n-Span, Kevin. Every beachcomber in the vicinity turns up for the feast. In the background is our headquarters tent, brought along in case anyone gets rained out and has to come creeping back to Kevin and Maggie for shelter.

81-08-27 - Sunset, L. Superior. As we face the setting sun, the beach leads away to a rocky point jutting out into Lake Superior.

81-08-27 - Sunset, L. Superior. Some of us hike out there and and sit watching the downward progress of the solar orb toward the horizon.

81-08-27 - Silhouettes, Sunset, L. Superior. I too have an urge to witness the exact moment of impact. An energetic sprint down the beach gets me there just in time to watch the sun plop beneath the waves. The vapour trail is courtesy of CP flight number 81, cruising at 37,000 feet, non-stop from Vancouver and now only 45 minutes from landing at Toronto. Somehow, the rat race seems much further away than that.

81-08-28 - Ht. of land, N. of Willow R.. Next day we cross the height of land to the valley of the White River. Here the trail meanders inland across high and dry ridges, then passes through stands of birch, already showing autumn colours. A premonition of winter sends a chill through my wanderer's heart -- the end of summer, the end of our vacation, the end of freedom for another year.

81-08-28 - Upper Chigamiwinigum Falls. But soon we descend into damper, more summery climes, reaching Upper Chigamiwinigum Falls on the White River. Getting across at this point would be impossible without a bridge or a long detour upstream. Kevin is dashing over the rocks to find the foamiest part of the falls to refill his canteen.

81-08-28 - Merle, U.C. Falls. It looks cool enough right here beside Merle. ... With water bottles filled, we take to the trail again to find a campsite for our last night.

81-08-28 - Campsite, Middle Chigamiwinigum Falls. At middle Chigamiwinigum Falls, we find a perfect spot. Merle and I put up our blue dome tent on a sand bank that would be inundated at high water in the springtime. Behind the tent is a sand hill that would be an island. Close by, in a wet place behind the tent, enormous moose tracks, big as dinner plates, and wolf prints as well. As an rank amateur in the wildlife field, I sincerely hope we don't get stepped on in the dark by a near-sighted ungulate fleeing from canis lupus rampant.

81-08-28 - Campsite, M.C. Falls. The rest pitch tents closer to the falls, and to each other.

81-08-28 - Maggie's "space blanket". Maggie unfolds her new-fangled space blanket. With that reflective golden shimmer, it looks more like something about to take off with a swoosh across the sands and go into orbit.

81-08-28 - Rushing water. Merle and I go for a walk to see the falls. We pick our way along the rocks at the edge of the river ...

81-08-28 - Middle Chigamiwinigum Falls. with the sound of rushing water getting louder and louder ...

81-08-28 - M.C. Falls. and finally becoming a roar.

81-08-28 - M.C. Falls. We enter an area swept by mist, where conversation is impossible and the presence of surging power inescapable.

81-08-28 - Merle, M.C. Falls. Merle climbs up to get a better look.

81-08-28 - Merle, M.C. Falls. I step back to get a more scenic view of Merle. On the slab beside her, is a shallow depression which looks like the imprint of a giant's back. Perhaps it's a couch for the guardian spirits of the place, or perhaps ...

81-08-28 - Merle, M.C. Falls. To me this looks a resonant spot to celebrate the rites of spring, with the accompanyment of raging water, the occasional eagle scream from high above. But, unfortunately, it's a little late in the season temperature wise, and, anyway, we're in a direct line-of-sight from camp.

81-08-28 - Derek, M.C. Falls. Another truly inspired, but impractical, idea has to be filed away for more research and development. That rocky altar might be cold and damp but think of the sanctity of it.

81-08-28 - Merle, crawfish shell. On the way back to the campsite, we find a cast-off crayfish shell, bright purple -- a consolation for innocence retained.

81-08-29 - Suspension bridge, Lower C. Falls. The next morning we go over our last and most exciting susension bridge. This is the only way to get across the the river we've been camped beside. Merle skips out to the middle and begins to bounce up and down, testing the resilience of steel cable.

81-08-29 - S. bridge. I look carefully each way before crossing: down the river ...

81-08-29 - S. bridge. up the river ...

81-08-29 - S. bridge. and into the river -- right through the floorboards. The way is clear so I get up my courage and cross.

82-08-28 - Group, M.C. Falls. Here's the entire group assembled at the falls -- a never-to-be-repeated sight. Our leaders are in the back row: Kevin is wearing the green hat; Maggie is on the right. ... We arrive at the highway leading to the national park campsite at noon. Hitching rides back to the Heron Bay docks where we've parked our cars, we prepare to go our separate ways. Meeting civilization again is a shock: video games, cash registers, highway traffic ... As we come out of the roadside eatery where we have a final meal together, it begins to rain. The deluge is so severe we have to pull off the road and wait it out. See? didn't I tell you all along it looked like bad weather ahead?

81-08-27 - Sunset over L. Superior. But we've forgotten something. Isn't that one of our group out there, still sitting on a rock overlooking Lake Superior and watching the sun go down ... Editing History: 06-01-16 added "gra" tags t81a1.wav | transcribed tape, no edits t81a2.wav | with noise reduction. First 2 slides, muffled sound. replace? 07-05-01: Finished picture edits. Spotting for dust on slides. 07-05-06: Renamed sound files to match picture numbers, also t75a.ptf. Tested show, no missing sound files. 10-03-19: Edited out references to old tray files, eg T81... Moved pic dates to correct field. Fixed a few greeny complexions. Scratch at the bottom of most pics. Could be removed, labouriously. Retested the show. 14-02-13: Adjustments to start and end to facilitate screen recording. Eg. need brief black screens to facilitate movie editing. somehow, have to clip off the messy start up and termination keyboard business. 15-02-12: Created first HTML version. No sound. TIF title slides have to be PhotoShoped to produce standard JPEG thumbnails.

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