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Hiking the Awausee Trail Lake Superior Provincial Park

By Alex Verdun

Hello friends.  This is the account of my hike On Tuesday October 18th, 2016.  It was written in December 2016 and today I thought it would be fun to try and post it on my blog – as my first real entry.  The videos are all pretty short – less than a minute – and are intended to give a better visual than the still photos can provide.

I hope you enjoy it.

To the folks at Lake Superior Provincial Park, first let me express my enjoyment and appreciation for Lake Superior Provincial Park!  It is a beautiful park and I wish I lived closer so that I could visit more often.  Twice this year (2016) I’ve had the privilege of going through the park – as I drove from London ON to Winnipeg MB.  Visiting the park was a large part of the reason I drove instead of flying.  Following is the story of my hike on the Awausee trail.

On Tuesday October 18th I was in the park and decided to hike the Awausee trail.

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It was a fun 20 minute hike up to the first lookout, on a nice fall day.

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It had rained the night before and along the way several parts of the trail were small running creeks.

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Video 1

The trail up to the first lookout follows a creek for part of the way.

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I was thankful that the blazes are blue – with so many colours all around and leaves covering the trail, it made them quite visible.

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The trail was quite steep and the trees were mature and tall.  Such a majestic place, very inspiring.

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Video 2

After about 20minutes of pretty much pure climbing I reached the first lookout 120m above the parking lot.  The view was awesome.

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Video 3

Since it was only 10:15am and I was feeling good about the climb thus far I then decided to hike the rest of the trail – thinking to myself – this I should be able to hike this in another 2 hours, and be done in time for lunch.

The trail continued a steep upward climb, following the stream.

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There continued to be lots of water on the trail, very pretty and my boots were keeping my feet nice and dry.

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After a while the trail came to a steam and continued on the other side – there was no means to cross over the water at the trail location.  This crossing was a bit of a challenge – glad for good hiking boots when jumping from rock to rock.

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Next came the second lookout!  Being much higher up (300m) the view was much more expansive.

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The whole island was now visible.

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The highway is that black line near the water and the parking lot where the trail starts in also visible.

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With the leaves mostly gone at the top of the hill, walking along the trail provided awesome vistas.

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Then came lookout 3… WOW.

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And lookout 4!  What a beautiful expanse of colour and texture.

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And there in the distance are the wind turbines.  This was a rather unexpected sight in the midst of all this natural beauty.

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An impressive rock face framed the distant valley (3 versions)

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The descent has now begun and once again the trail became a stream…

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The trail flattened out and then crossed another stream, with a nimble jump it was crossed with ease.

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Now a much steeper descent began.  This is where my knees started to express an opinion about the amount of work they were doing.  Thankfully stopping to stretch every now and again really helped.

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In places the trail was barely visible with all of the leaves on the forest floor.

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After a short while the trail crossed another stream, with no means provided to assist with crossing over the water – the trail merely comes to the edge of the fast running water and continues on the other side.  How can I cross this one?

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After some consideration I decided to “bushwhack” upstream looking for a narrower place to get a cross safety.  A spot was found where I could jump across a narrow deep and fast flowing spot.  Then bushwhack down the far side and back onto the trail.  Glad that is over – but it was not to be – this was just a “foreshadowing” of things to come.

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Now the trail followed a stream downward – a very pretty place to be.

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Presently the trail and stream merged and the water was running between roots of a tree – looking like it was up on stilts.

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Now came the second challenging crossing – about twice a rough as the first.  This is the upper crossing of the stream shown on the map.  VIDEO 6

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I think this log used to be part of a bridge that is long washed away…

Again I decided to bushwhack upstream until I found a manageable spot to cross.  This time it was a much longer trip up and back – as the stream was large and fast flowing.  I considered this log – but it was too high up to use my walking sticks for balance.

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Video 7

Another 50 yards or so up steam through very thick brush and found a log that worked for a bridge.

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Video 8

This time my stress levels had risen quite high.  The fast water would sure take me down if I lost secure footing and with the vertical slope along much of the waterway a fall could be devastating.  Hiking alone in this scenario is not the wisest.  Who knew what challenges would come across my path – literally!

The bushwhacking was also taking its toll on my energy and consuming a significant amount of time.  It was now after 1pm and I had planned to be back at my van by now.  And, I was only about the halfway mark!  Look how thick the brush was along the waterway:

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At last I was back to the trail on the other side of the crossing, looking back at where I had started.

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By this time I was wondering what the bottom end of the creek would be like…  Anticipation was starting to bring some concern to me.  There was no turning back at this point – for the vertical climb was taking its toll on my knees and I hadn’t seen any trail markings for the revere direction.  It would be a greater challenge to go back than to proceed – even with the fear of the lower crossing ahead!

The decent continued…

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Until at last the trail leveled out… It was a lovely walk in the woods again, so peaceful and relaxing…

I walked briskly to make up some time.

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However this “relaxation” was not to last long.  The largest crossing of the day lay ahead, the lower crossing of the stream shown on the map.  Funny, I didn’t notice the line of the trail stop at the water’s edge – like the trail does…  I guess lines can fly over water more easily than humans can.

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My first thought was – you’re going to get wet to crossing this one!  And indeed I did.  The main question was how wet would I get?  Would it be a controlled crossing or would I stumble and be in serious trouble.  Having climbed up 300m and now back down again my legs were pretty much like jelly.  Plus all of the extra vertical and effort for the bushwhacking in the previous two crossing – I was now wondering how this would turn out.  Would I need to call for help?  By now my cell phone battery was down to 1% – it would not be able to make a call.  If I made a mistake – no one would find me for at least a day or two.  Not a good scenario – and if I were injured and wet – maybe it wouldn’t turn out so well for me.  I was very concerned.  Knowing how far upstream I needed to travel at the upper crossing of this stream – I was really concerned over how far I would have to bushwhack this time to get to a passable crossing.

The photo below is what I saw, looking downstream from the trail at water’s edge.

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In case I did not make it back to the trail – I decided to put three arrows made of sticks pointing in the direction I went bushwhacking up stream.  The leaves on the trail made the arrows almost invisible – so after taking this photo I scraped the leaves away and replaced the stick arrows on a cleared of spot.

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Indeed the trip upstream was formidable, and consumed about ½ hour.  I was hopeful for a crossing spot at this island – since the flow was separated – however – I could easily get onto the island – getting off on the other side was a different story – with a steep bank beside it.

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At last the crossing spot came into view.  There was a log across the creek – not a walkable log but solidly across a relatively flat section.  The water was fast flowing and up to just below my knees in depth.  I approached the water on the upstream side of the log – so the water pressure pushed me up against the log.  Very carefully, only after the other foot was solidly placed and soundly supporting me did I lift my first foot to take a step forward.  Very laboriously I proceeded across the creek.  The cold water felt refreshing on my legs and feet, and at last I was across.

Now all that was needed was to pick my way back down to the trail.  This side of the creek was much tougher to navigate with some very steep banks.  In a couple of places I needed to retrace my steps as the path I was making ended into a drop off to the water below.

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And then – I was back at the trail on the other side!  The trail was a wide nearly level smooth path.  What a lovely walk – even with wet pant legs and boots.  I was so thankful that I didn’t slip during the crossing and get the core of my body soaked.

VIDEO 9

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Now the lingering though was there – I crossed two large streams at the top of the hill – and only one so far at the bottom.  Is there one more major challenge ahead?  The trail started to  get wetter and wetter as I walked along.

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The forth major crossing was now underway – but unlike the others – the water was not moving very fast – and I walked through it like a child paying in a large puddle!  Since I was already wet – this crossing instilled no fear in me – on the contrary it was actually fun to splash through the slow moving water.

Then came a long stretch of trail without the familiar blue trail blazes – the trail was wider here – with a pair of ruts visible in places… It made me wonder – did I wander off the hiking trail onto an ATV trail? Where are the blazes?  This was time to check the map (I had taken a photo of the map with my camera) and get out my phone compass (which despite having only 1% battery worked!) – was I headed in the right direction?  It looked like I was – so I continued along the trail.

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With more small stream crossings and water on the trail it was an interesting walk.

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And then a very interesting sight – a bit tough to see in the photo – but the stream running along the trail came to an end and went underground! VIDEO 10

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At long last – after a kilometer or more a trail blaze came into sight, what a welcome sight!

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Then the trail loop was closed!

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And finally – at 3pm I was back at my van – tired, hungry, thirsty and ALIVE.

And a new appreciation for the meaning of the details on the map…

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I had planned what I would do when I returned to the van.  First I wanted a drink – by now I was rather thirsty.  Next a couple of granola bars – to settle my stomach a bit.  Then time to change out of my wet jeans and boots.  It sure felt good to have dry legs and feet again.  By now the temperature was getting cooler and I was feeling a chill.  I also took a few minutes to plug in my phone and send a text to let my wife know I was safely back at the van.  Of course she wondered what that was all about 🙂

Now it was time to hit the road again.  I was headed to Dryden about 900 km to the west – where I had booked a room for the night.  You know you are in the wilds when the first corner on the GPS is 555km ahead – notice my predicted arrival time!

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Thankfully the traffic was light, there was a time zone change and most summer road construction was complete, so I made good time.  When I got to my room that night (early the next morning actually) I was very tired and slept very soundly.  A perfect end to an adventuresome day!

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Hi to all who pass this way!

Hello all,

Getting set-up here for some reason – like being signed -up so I can respond best to Becky’s blog

http://beckyinliverpool.wordpress.com/

Maybe I’ll get to writing things some day.

Do you ever let your mind go blank? or are you the type that is allways mulling things over in your mind?

Would love to hear from you.

bye for now,

Alex