Sunday, June 1, 2014

Days of Moose and Bear

Thunder Bay, ON to Thessalon, ON

I figure that ever trip has to have its worst day and I really hope this was it. Today (Wednesday) was insult to injury with a big dose of four letter words.  It wasn't truly terrible, nothing truly bad happened, but mostly a lot of "Are you freaking kidding me?" piled on top of each other.  I left Kakabeka about 7:45 and my main goal was to keep an eye on the gas tank. The 11-17 is a nice road, though for the TransCanada Highway, I was expecting something more along the lines of I-90. It was pretty empty, except for THE MOOSE along side the road.  I wish I could have gotten a picture of it, but that doesn't happen when you're at speed and you're well past the moose before you figure out that you're not hallucinating.

About 1:00, I'm in Wawa and the sign says that the 17 is closed south of Wawa for emergency repairs. (Turns out there are sinkholes.)  There's a detour.  One thing I've noticed while driving Canadian roads is that they are basically bare of the billboards that pollute American roadways, but that also means the roads here are not as well marked as I'd like them to be. No bright orange signs telling me detour.  So, instead of three hours left on my trek to Sault Ste. Marie, I've got four and a half.  On an old logging road, the nice young lady at the visitor center tells me, but I don't really know what that means.

Okay, I think, that makes for an uncomfortable day, but what's the alternative? I'd already seen some spectacular scenery, granite and gorges and the kind of impact I'd forgotten landscapes filled could have. I've been living on the Great Plains for the last few years, appreciating the scope of distance, so it was necessary to have my senses recalibrated.

When I got to Chapleau, I passed it, thinking that I was okay on gas, but then a sign told me that there would be no gas for the next 120 km, so I turned around and paid through the nose to fill up the tank. In hindsight, that was a very good idea. And so I learned that "old logging road" means narrow, winding, and at turns, terrifying.  I think the scenery, the rivers, the steepness of the hillsides, was beautiful, but I didn't really notice. I was so glued to my steering wheel, hoping that the Scamp didn't bounce off the hitch, that something else catastrophic didn't happen, that I didn't take in as much as I wanted to. I crossed the line between the Arctic watershed and the Atlantic watershed a couple of times and I filed that away, to be amazed at later.

The road was incredibly rough and there's a fine line between going the speed you need to go and not being a hazard to those who are not towing. I really feared for the Scamp, but there would be no diagnostics of any kind until I stopped at the end of the detour. There were literally no places to stop--and without filling up the tank in Chapleau, I would have run out of gas before I got to Thessalon.

I will say that the highlight of this part of the trip was the black bear sitting on the side of the road, another moment of "holy crap, was that a bear? THAT WAS A BEAR!!!" and I couldn't take a picture of it for the same reasons I didn't get a picture of the moose. In my whole life, I've never seen a moose or a bear in the wild--and I get both in one day.

It was 7:45 when I got back to the 17, east of Sault Ste. Marie in Thessalon.  I pulled off the road to get my Good Sam book out of the Scamp to find a campground, if I should keep east or head back towards Sault Ste. Marie.  The handle on the Scamp's door would not work and I was terrified that meant the lock was broken, and there was indeed a moment of the purest panic I've ever felt.  But when I got myself together and took comfort in that it was still light out, that it wasn't raining, I got creative--and found out how easy it is to break into my camper.  Not sure what to do about that...  I slid the window and screen free on the back window--no way I would fit through the side window--and tried to open the door from the inside with no luck. I did get the Good Sam book out and found a campground and bounced my way down another rough road.

The owner was very nice and helped me figure out my door--I have to push in and pull up--and then the mosquitoes descended. Hoards of them. Legions. Mythic numbers. I set the camper up as fast as I could, and the electricity in my site wasn't working, so I hooked into the empty site next to me. The water was not working in either my site or the next one.  I went into the bath house, which was right next to my site, and there was no running water in there either, not in the tap, the toilet, or the shower.  Humbug. Glad I had a porta potty in my camper as well as a jug of water, so it could have been worse.

The best part of trying to get all those mosquitoes killed so the three of us could sleep (and there are still carcasses all over my walls) is the video I have of Galway sitting on the bed, swatting with his paw at the mosquitoes. My mighty mosquito hunter. I turned on the overhead fan for the night, hoping that the air currents would be enough to keep them from landing. And for the most part, it worked.

I have come to the conclusion that adventure via no planning is not for me. I need a route, I need reservations, and on my own, I am absolutely not a fan of detours through remote parts of Ontario. Partly there's anticipation in knowing there's an end to your day, a campsite just waiting for you, something tangible to look forward to. There's no excitement for me in uncertainty. I feel like this requires further thought, but I'm going to feel a lot better about the trip itself if I have a set itinerary and know where I'm going to sleep at night.


  1. Hi Karen,
    I applaud you for being a young, solo, female camper and my husband and I are inspired by your camping blog/journal in your little 13' Scamp, partly because we too just became 13' scamp owners as well!
    Kim and Jeff

  2. I had forgotten to mention in the comment above to wish you safe travels! I am glad that I stumbled upon your blog about a week ago when I was doing some research on 13' scamps since we too just purchased a 13' scamp on CL and are really looking forward to camping in it! Your blog has truly inspired me! Jeff and I are also from MN and since we both still work FT we are weekend campers. Keep up the good work Karen and I'm looking forward to reading your next entry :-)

  3. Hello, hello! And welcome to the Scamp family! What layout do you have? And where will your first Scamping trip take you?

  4. Karen,I just now noticed you replied to the comment I posted 6/3. Jeff & I have a 2005 13' Scamp with the bathroom up front. At first I really wanted the sofa up front but the more I thought about it, I like having a bathroom for the middle of the night trips ( with a door you can close for privacy!) & Jeff appreciates not having to wake up to walk to the camp bathroom with me ; ) our first trip is planned for spirit Duluth, can't wait! We also go to Washinton Island WI (Door County) the end of August. We are planning some trips the end of June & July to some MN State parks also along with some other MN & WI destinations. We absolutly adore our little scamp! We plan on leaving the dinette as a bed since a majority of our time is spent outdoors and on bike trails or hiking!

  5. Up the north shore is an excellent choice for a maiden voyage! There are a few posts on here about my various excursions up there--maybe something there will be helpful?

    I've often wondered about the bathroom options (I have a porta potty, should I need it) and thought that if I were to go that route, I might upgrade to a 16 ft with a side dinette, but it's not something I want or need right now. I love my 13' too much to give it up, for any reason. :)

  6. Hello again Karen- Jeff and I continue to follow your blog and look for new posts on a daily basis now :-) I agree, we love our little 13' Scamp and wouldn't want to trade it in. Maybe someday when we "retire" and travel in the Scamp more frequently we would maybe upgrade to a 16'. I will check your older posts for your excursions to the north shore area. As I mentioned in my comment from today (6/9) at this time I'm only able to post comments annomoysly, so if you'd like to reply via email, I can give you my email address as well?
    Safe travels!