Sleeping Giant Provincial Park Trip Report June 7-11, 2012
My flight arrives in Thunder Bay 3:25 pm on June 7, 2012. It is a beautiful day. I hired a car through a limo service to drive me to Sleeping Giant. We hit the road and arrive at the park just before 5:00 pm. I pay me fees and head to the Kaybeyun South Trail Head which will be my starting and finishing point.
I do not waste time here, I take a few pictures and hit the trail. I usually like having camp set up for the night by this time and it will be about an hour and half before I get to the first campsite.
The trail is easy going at this point. There was one area where it crossed a small stream. There was a makeshift bridge constructed which I used carefully. I knelt down and almost crawled across. Balance is not too good with a weighted backpack on. Continuing on, I come across a marker for an outhouse or pit toilet. The park has both. But I could not see any marker for the campsites. On the map the campsite symbol either represents a single campsite but usually a grouping of small campsites. I look around, mind you not too intently and could not find them. (I did find these campsites on day 4) So I decided to move onto the next one. Plenty of daylight still and it wasn't anymore than 1.5 km to the next camping area anyway. And as it turns out I made a great decision. The campsites in this area were amazing. Absolutely beautiful. Wide open with sandy beaches.
I am at ease and relaxed now. This is a day that solo trippers like me dream of. Beautiful weather, a campsite with a sandy beach and I didn't see the need to set up my tarp. I slept under the stars this night which were out in full splendor. I was the only human here also, not another soul around. Which was awesome. But the night brought something else...the deer invasion.
Once the sun went down the deer would not leave me alone. I never experienced anything like this before. They kept on buzzing me. Literally within a few feet of me. Running through my campsite at full speed. First there was one, but eventually the whole herd joined in. At first I thought they wanted me gone and they were doing this to try and get rid of me, but I finally came to the conclusion that they were just playing. They weren't stomping their feet or snorting which they usually do when upset or afraid. It was too dark to see them, unless they were in front of me and I could see their silhouette against the lake in the backround or when they came within the campfires light. Once I saw them jumping around playfully I relaxed. Unlike the rest of the forest, there was a large open area here that gave them the space to run and jump . I started playing too. I would chase them off and as soon as I would return to the campfire they would be back immediately. I fell asleep and they were still running around.
I awoke to sunshine, another great day so far. According to the forecast there was supposed to be rain starting in the early afternoon however. Up to 20mm, so I wanted to get going. As soon as my coffee and oatmeal breakfast was consumed I hit the trail again.
This is where the trail became rugged. After the campsites on Lehtinen's Bay the trail turned into boulders. Though very beautiful, the rocks were covered with moss and ferns, this was tough going. I was climbing up, down and over boulders for about 2 km. It was a good workout. After the boulders, the trail turned back to a nice easy path again until I reached the base of the Sleeping Giant. At this point I had to take the trail over the Giant's feet. I rested before the climb and ate a couple of granola bars here. I knew I would need the energy, I had to rest a couple more times while going up and took a nice long rest at the top also.
After coming down the other side, the trail turns into a narrow footpath that runs through the forest along the shore of Lake Superior. This section of the trail is in need of manitenance. The campsites and firepits really need to be cleaned up and the trail is littered with fallen trees. I was always climbing over or crawling under these obstacles. I passed 3 campsites while hiking this trail and had no choice but to take the fouth one when I came to it. The clouds were darkening and I was feeling light rain on the trail for awhile now. I could tell it was going to get worse.
The rain came in three stages. I never had a chance to collect any dry wood and save before the rain hit. I was still setting up my tarp. The first stage wasn't too bad. Once it let up I could tell there was more rain coming from the clouds. This stage had a little more rain but still not too bad. I collected rain water that ran off my tarp. I was hoping the rain would stop so I could try and collect some firewood. I didn't bring a stove so anything hot had to cooked over a fire. After the second stage of rain it cleared up for quite awhile. I was able to find a generous supply of dry driftwood that was located under some overhanging evergreen boughs that kept it out of the rain. Getting a good fire going was easy now. Which I was thankful for because stage 3 of the rain was the worst. After eating it started to pour. I was very thankful I got the fire going when I did. The rain kept up for a couple hours or so, but once it stopped this time it was for good. Another thing I was thankful for. I could sleep easy.
This morning I had slugs on my sleeping bag. I flicked them off with my index finger. I didn't waste anytime packing up. I wanted to get going. I knew I had another climb this day. I was heading up to a campsite on Norma Lake that was between the two mountains, The Sleeping Giant and Thunder Mountain.
Continuing on, I came across a couple Eastern Garter Snakes. The large female didn't wait around, though I did get one good photo, but the smaller male which was a couple of feet behind her didn't move a hairs breadth. Even when I walked passed him he didn't move. It could have been warming itself on the trail where the sun could shine through the canopy. I was able to get some nice pictures of this snake.
After a couple of hours of the small footpath, The Kaybeyun Trail once again became a nice wide easy going trail with well kept campsites on Sawyer Bay. My trail head, The Talus Lake Trail was close by, so I knew the easy going was going to be short lived. As I relaxed for a bit at a sawyer Bay campsite, a couple that were anchored out in the bay came ashore and we chatted for a bit. I head out again shortly after.
On the way up the Talus Lake Trail the scenery was amazing. Very peaceful and I didn't see anyone. There were quite a few places on the way up where one could collect clear cold running water. The trail crossed a stream quite a few times on the way up or ran parallel with it. There were a couple of places where debris was building up in the stream and causing it to damn up and change direction, which was starting to wash out sections of the trail. Park staff should take care of these before it gets worse. There were also a couple of nice areas where one could set up a tent and camp if the weather turned on you.
After over an hour of climbing the trail leveled out. I was heading for Norma Lake. That was my planned campsite. Before I get there I come to Talus Lake. I find it quite beautiful. I really like the campsite and can see a beaver swimming in the lake. I decide to camp here for the night. Talus Lake is aptly named. The northwestern shore is nothing but huge boulders that have broken off from the mountain over many thousands of years. The talus slope is at least a hundred feet high. And I will be sleeping under the mountain. I notice there are boulders in the lake in front of me. I'm not too worried but the thought of being crushed by a boulder sits in the back of your mind.
After getting camp set up and a fire going, the beaver came ashore and posed nicely for me. I also saw deer at this lake. Plenty of deer in this park. I heard voices coming from the direction that I will be heading in the morning. I let out a loud "Hello!" to let people know I'm there. I always startle people when I'm out there alone. They ask which direction I came from and point the way they are going. They tell me that there is some boulder climbing further ahead that I will come across in the morning. Well I already did 2 km of that, it couldn't be much worse. And it wasn't, about 200 feet. The couple claimed they were far too inexperienced for this trail. I told them they only have 1.5 km to go until they are back to the easy trails, and it was all downhill from here.
After they leave, I am sitting by the fire looking over my map. I hear this clicking coming from behind me. It is from my water bottle. There is a large water strider in there trying to get out. Yes, my bottle is half empty. I drank half the bottle with the bug in there. Too funny. Didn't bother me of course, I just found it amusing.
Once I settled in for the night the damn beaver wouldn't stop. It kept slapping it's tail on the water as close to me as it could get. I say aloud, "I will be gone in the morning!", but it didn't help any. I eventually fell asleep after the beaver got tired of pestering me.
My last day. I had a feeling this day would be relatively easy. Heading out in the morning there was a couple of places where I still had to go up, but I knew I would going mostly downhill once I got past the other two lakes. I traverse the 200 feet of boulders without a problem, but still had to be careful. Besides coffee I never ate breakfast this morning so I took a break at Helen Lake and carved myself up an apple. There was a great area for a makeshift campsite and you could tell someone had set up one before. There was an old fire ring.
I continue on. Once I get past Norma Lake I am going downhill. I come to one part of the trail where it is a sheer drop. I had to drop my backpack over the edge than climb down. It wasn't too high. The rest of the trail is uneventful. I hear many voices as I get close to the Kabeyun Trail. I thought they were heading towards me, but it turns out that they were a bunch of guys climbing the Top of the Giant Trail. One I won't be doing. I did pass another couple today though.
I am back at the Kaybeyun Trail. I decide to head to the first set of campsites near the trail head that I couldn't find on the first night. It takes about an hour and a half to get there but I am successful in finding the campsites this time. They were hidden away amongst the trees. It is still early. No later than 2:00 pm. I can relax today and enjoy myself. Being near the trailhead there was a fair bit of traffic. I exchanged pleasentries with a few folk. A deer wandered through my campsite today. It didn't seem too worried I was there. This campsite was close to the lighthouse that I kept seeing offshore during my journey. I took pictures or it and the cargo ships that kept coming back and forth all day and night. They were a few kilometers offshore but you could still here them rumbling as they went by. I didn't mind this though.
I don't stay up too late. I am getting picked up at 8:30 am and I want to hike it back to the main campground at Marie Louise Lake where I can take advantage of a shower. At about 2:00 am I hear rustling near me and something brush by my head. When this happens you just hope it's not a bear, I turn over and find myself face to face with a skunk. I could have kissed it. Anyway we both startle each other. It turns around so I pull my sleeping bag over my head, but it didn't spray. It started to do it's waddling run away from me, but all of a sudden it turned and started to come back towards me and ran over my feet. It was a very amusing experience. A highlight of the trip for sure. So anyway I go back to sleep.
An hour later I awake suddenly again. This time to rain drops on my face, I didn't bother to set up my tarp. I jump up and start securing everything. Then I decide, what the heck, I am going to pack up and head back to the trail head. There are overhangs there that I can sleep under. So yes I hike back to the trail head at 3:00 am in the dark. Wasn't an issue for me except for where I had to crawl over that makeshift bridge. That was going to be fun in the dark. I did have my flashlight of course. My headlamp batteries died as I was packing up my gear. I wasn't even going to bring the flashlight to lighten my load. I am sure glad I changed my mind. The rain actually didn't last, just a few minutes but I was still glad I walked back to the trail head. Not as far to hike to the main campground now.
All in all this was one of best trips I have ever did. As usual, being solo made for wonderful wildlife viewing.
Things forgotten: Hot dogs, remembered the buns but no wieners. I still had enough food, always bring more than enough food. I used the buns for dipping into my dehydrated meals so it worked out ok.
Wildlife viewed: Rabbit, deer, beaver, skunk, squirrel, bald eagles, mergansers, loons, pelicans, eastern garter snake