As we were packing up the RV on September 22nd, we saw two of Edie’s neighbourhood deer go by. We did not book ahead any of the campgrounds for the way home so we could be flexible to stay wherever our route took us. We had decided to take Highway 71 down to Highway 11 and head East instead of taking the Trans Canada back so we’d have different scenery. On the first night we stayed at Rushing River PP and we got some great shots of the leaves changing colours. A lot of the photos in this blog will be about the fall colours as we seemed to time the leaves changing perfectly on this trip. We ran into Bill and Shelley (who had gone on the boat trip on the Red River with us) in the campground as they were heading to meet up with family and stayed at Rushing River that night. After dinner we did a walk around campground to check it out. It was our first time staying at Rushing River as normally they close earlier in the season. Due to COVID they stayed open later in September and may stay open later in the future.
The following day we decided to camp at Sioux Narrows PP which wasn’t very far away so we spent the morning doing all the hiking trails in Rushing River (6 kms for the Beaver Pond and Granite Knoll trails, 4 kms for the Pine Ridge and Lower Rapids Trail). Here are a few fun facts about the Granite Knoll trail:
- The granite knoll is an example of a dryberry batholith which is a 2.6-billion-year-old rock formation that is very common in the Lake of the Woods area.
- The scratches in the granite show the direction of the glacial advance.
- Rushing water polished the granite making the smooth rounded hills.
- In this area they have found pottery, flint chips, a copper arrowhead, a musket ball, and small trade beads which help tell the story of the aboriginal people meeting with the European explorers or traders.
- On the granite knoll we saw lichen and mosses as they are adapted to living on the harsh nutrient poor rock.
It was a very nice day for the hikes.
After lunch we chatted with Bill and Shelley before they headed out and then we did the Pine Ridge and Lower Rapids trails. This meant we were a little late for the 2 pm check out but the park was not busy, so it was not an issue. The trails took us down the south side of the rushing river and back along the north side.
Sioux Narrows PP was only 46 kms away so our drive was short. Since the nighttime temperature was going to be good (meaning we did not need our heater), we picked a non-electric site so we would have a view of the lake. We had parked sideways on the site to have our door facing the lake but the campground host freaked out and told us we had to park on the gravel because we would “wreck her grass”😉 Before dinner we explored the campground did the viewpoint trail north of the beach area. This PP was not quite as nice as Rushing River.
The following day we decided to stay at Caliper Lake PP which again was a short distance away (56 kms) so we decided to do the Boreal Trail near Nestor Falls on the way. This trail was listed as moderate difficulty in the Alltrails app as it covered 7 kms and we did 181 m of elevation. There were some muddy, root covered and rocky sections to contend with. This trail was also listed as a cross country ski trail in the winter, but I could see that would be quite challenging. We were glad we had brought our poles along for this hike.
When we arrived at Caliper Lake we again decided to take a non electric site since they were in prettier locations along the lake. The ranger said we could fit in to site 28 and with much effort I was able to pull into that site but it was impossible to get anywhere close to level so we gave that up and chose site 81 which was the very last site on a hill overlooking the lake. We enjoyed a relaxing afternoon and evening in our secluded get away (no campers anywhere around us).
We emptied our tanks and topped up our water before leaving Caliper Lake and started the 277 km journey to Quetico PP. First, we drove south on highway 71 until we reached highway 11 where we started heading east. Our friends (Danny and Janice) daughter (Jennifer) was getting married on this Saturday and they were streaming the marriage live on YouTube so we stopped along the side of the road and used our cellular data connection to stream the wedding when it was happening. It was the next best thing to being there and we were very glad we were able to see the service. As we drove east we continued to have beautiful fall colours to accompany the drive. Our pattern of picking non electric sites to have the better views worked again at Quetico PP where the ranger gave us her favourite spot which was #14 with it’s own private view of French Lake. We enjoyed some champagne to celebrate Jennifer and Phillips’s wedding.
We decided to stay 2 nights in Quetico so we could do the hiking trails the next day. We did just over 16 kms covering French River Portage and Falls trails, Camp 111, Baptist Creek, and Teaching Trail. The French River Portage was one of the most difficult passages, up until the mid 1800’s, for settlers that were heading west, then improvements were done to the route. The elevation differential from where the French River dropped over the falls and down to the subsequent rivers and lakes was quite significant. We saw a few people on the French River trails but no one was on the other trails we completed. The campground was pretty well cleared out by Sunday night.
On our way out of Quetico PP we stopped to do the short Paul Kane hiking trail. He was an artist in the 1840’s who painted many scenes along the Canadian transportation route linking eastern and western Canada and one of those paintings was done here of the French River Rapids. One of the coolest things along the trail was a wooden culvert from the 1930’s or 40’s that went under a logging road and it still had the steel compression straps wrapped around it. Quetico was a forest preserve from 1909 to 1971 when it became a Wilderness Class Provincial Park.
Our destination this day was Rainbow Falls PP near Rossport which was 340 kms away. We had stayed there before but we liked it so wanted to return. The electric sites in the campground were all booked so we reserved a nonelectric site and it turned out to be one of the very best sites in the campground. Along the drive we were just blown away by the fall colours.
We also took a 22 km (return) side trip out to Quimet Canyon PP, which we’d been to before. I was hesitant to do this as we had crossed the time zone so lost an hour of time and I didn’t want to arrive at Rossport in the dark. We made it a fast trip and it was so incredibly worthwhile! The fall colours were absolutely spectacular, and we even got a few glimpses of sunshine peaking through the clouds. I am so glad Sharon talked me into taking this side trip.
There are two theories about how Ouimet Canyon was formed. It is believed that molten magma created a layer under the surface rocks and then cooled. The first theory says that during the last glacial period the weight of the ice caused the hardened magma (diabase) to slip 20 to 40 metres east thereby forming the narrow canyon with straight sides. The second theory says that the glacial meltwaters went down a crack and tunnelled through the softer rock below which eventually collapsed the diabase forming the canyon. Either way the current canyon walls have vertical joints, so erosion eventually severs off large rocks which build up in the bottom of the canyon. Some columns will have rock pinnacles and then you get formations like the west wall one called Indian Head. I think you will find these photos breathtaking and you will want to add Ouimet Canyon to your travel bucket list. The canyon is beautiful anytime of year but the fall colours add a whole other layer to the experience. It is just too bad that they don’t have a campground anywhere in this park.
We carried on with our fall colour drive and arrived at Rainbow Falls PP where we checked in to site R23 which was the most secluded of the non-electric sites and right on Lake Superior! We enjoyed a few glasses of wine while watching another spectacular sunset on Lake Superior.
We got an early start the next day as it would be a 432 km day to go from Rainbow Falls PP to Pancake Bay PP. This is our favourite section of this drive as it passes through Lake Superior PP. We had stops at Aquasabon Falls and Gorge, White River to see Winnie the Pooh, and Old Woman Bay picnic area. As we headed further south the fall colours changed from the yellows to the reds and oranges. Pancake Bay PP (over 500 sites) is absolutely massive in comparison to Rainbow Falls (around 35 sites). We picked an electric site at Pancake Bay as the nighttime temperatures were starting to be cooler. It was raining when we setup camp but when it stopped we walked along the beach. That night we played cribbage and Sharon beat me by 1 point!
The next morning, we walked around the campground to see the fall colours before heading out. This day we drove 285 kms to get to Chutes PP with our first stop being at Chippewa Falls. I have included a picture of the falls when we went out to Winnipeg and another one from the way back so you can see the dramatic difference the fall colours make. We were very lucky to have timed our trip back so well to match the prime colour change time period. After Sault Ste. Marie we found a chip wagon along the side of the road and stopped for a Jalapeno Burger and some fries😉 After we checked in at Chutes PP we went for a hike to see the lower and upper falls, getting caught in a very short down pour.
Our last day was our longest one at 525 kms to reach home so we did not take too many pictures that day. We did see a faint rainbow near Flesherton so that brought us good luck to return home safely.
This concludes our 5-week trip to Winnipeg and back. Here is a link to show our route, although large sections were the same on the way there as on the way back (https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=1ZbrEjbjpbfh901e-xucpt3Pw5MZUOzcv&usp=sharing). It really was a fantastic trip with 7 new Provincial Parks visited, lots of quality time spent with Edie, Brian and Susan, MTB riding in 2 new parks, 5 new tourist locations visited in Winnipeg, and the best fall colours we have ever seen along this route! We were so glad we took this opportunity to take this trip before the second wave of COVID arrived. I hope you have enjoyed reading about this trip as much as we did putting it together. It will likely be a long time before we have another travel adventure to share, until then, stay safe and healthy.