After just over a week in Thunder Bay we finally got back on the water and paddled away from Joan’s cabin. We cannot thank her enough for her kindness in allowing us to stay, giving us the chance to rest and the hope that we might be able to carry on. The combination of rest, anti-inflammatories and a steroid injection by the fantastic Dr Wark at her sports medicine clinic settled the shoulder pain down for now. The diagnosis: supraspinatus and biceps tendonitis due to the many and prolonged portages. Another injury for my quite extensive collection.
Our first day back in the boat could not have been better – sunshine, very light winds and flat calm. I was nervous, hyper-aware and not exactly brimming with confidence, but we had to try. Thirty kilometres later, sat on the opposite side of Thunder Bay looking back and having noticed only a few small twinges, all seemed well. But we both had an unsettled night, in part due to the shoulder, but largely due to the novelty of being back out again, listening all night for noises around the tent. I sat on the beach the next morning tired, dejected and about ready to give up. I proclaimed, with tears welling up in my eyes, that I thought I might be done. I pretty much was and thought this might be the trip’s end. But we knew this would be hard. We had spoken about the loss of momentum and how difficult it would be to get that back. How we needed to give it time to make paddling a boat all day, every day, normal again. Yes there’s the delight of waking up to birdsong and splashing clear lake water on our faces; the simplicity of 2 mugs, 2 plates, 2 bowls; the joy of watching otters playing whilst the sound of the Loons echoes across the lake. But then there’s the discomfort of being in the boat for hours; the monotony of the endless paddle strokes; the constant eye on the weather and the uncertainty of finding somewhere to camp. Good or bad, over the last 3 1/2 months these things have become our world. Our enforced break had taken us away from these and plunged us back into the real world. But we weren’t ready for that again yet. After much discussion, more tears, and another cup of tea, we decided I wasn’t done. My wife’s words: “I’ll tell you when you’re done”. Welcome to married life.
The Sleeping Giant
The paddling that day was brief. We managed 10km before a storm forced us into the shore. We eventually found a campsite after first nearly losing a paddle and potentially the boat by not pulling her high enough up the bank in a swell. We were definitely out of practice. The sort of storm after which the bay must be named crackled around us all night with the ground shaking from the proximity the strikes, and the next morning dawned, just, giving us our first taste of Superior fog. Rounding the cape we pulled in to the bird observatory at the end of the Sleeping Giant peninsula and were warmly welcome by Rinchen, the resident ornithologist. Amongst many other things we finally learned who has been singing the first few notes of the Snowman to us since Alberta – a white throated sparrow. We also learned that Rinchen used to live in Cannonmills, Edinburgh. Small world indeed. Continuing on we passed the small village of Silver Islet, once home to the largest silver mine in the world, and camped in a calm bay waiting for the wind to fall.
The Giant’s lover…?
Early the next morning we set out to leave the Giant behind us. This was a significant moment, as for the next 150km there would be no opportunity to quit. There are few habitations and no roads until Rossport. This was us saying the shoulder was good for now, we were going to carry on. We celebrated with over 40km of stunning paddling. Lake Superior celebrated with a full day of wind, but we managed to pick our way through the islands and battled across the gaps to find a suitable spot for the next 3 nights – two days of 20+ knot southerlies were forecast and we were going into hiding.