This online document is a means of sharing the adventure of traveling on America's waterways with friends and family. Last Dance is continuing to take her crew to historical, natural, beautiful, and interesting places. Enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Lake Superior - First Nation

The indigenous people of Canada are referred to as First Nation.  As with all lands that were conquered by colonizing Europeans, the native populations were moved to selected areas and denied the opportunity to share their culture with their children.  For over a century, Canada would not allow First Nation people to play a drum.  Things are improving.

The Last Dance crew encountered a group of First Nation people, paddling across Ontario on a Voyager canoe.  This group was from the Metis Nation, descendants of the indigenous people and French fur trappers.  They were celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Canada nation by following the trade routes of their ancestors.

They came ashore from the Lake Superior side, climbing up the vertical rock face of Otter Island by the lighthouse.  Conversations were struck up with descriptions of the long, long journey by canoe and the significance of the journey to their heritage.  Their path on Lake Superior was along the eastern and northern shores, like Last Dance, but much closer to shore for protection.  And, they paddle every day, regardless of weather.  As they came through Old Dave's Harbor, they raised their paddles in salute to the Last Dance crew.

They began with twelve paddlers, but the harsh environment and physical stress had reduced their number.  The Metis Nation flag was flying proudly at their stern.

A 2500 kilometer journey in under 3 months is a large undertaking by a group of young people.  The determination, persistence, and stamina required to complete the trip is at an amazingly high level.  It was a moving experience to meet these young men and women.

At Hattie's Cove, there was a Fire Social.  The Pukaskwa National Park is entirely on First Nation property.  The park has many First Nation people on staff and has developed programs sharing the First Nation culture.  It is tradition to socialize around a fire, and a native tea is brewing in the pot.

Important symbols and their origin were shared along with practices that have been developed to show respect for the bounties of nature and other people.

The Last Dance crew was fortunate to have additional instruction into the cultural practices as one of the Metis Nation paddlers was sitting at our side.  The paddlers had passed Last Dance, spending the night farther along the coast in Marathon.  They were given a ride back to the park so they could participate in the Fire Social.  At the end of the ceremony, a spirit could be felt.  It was uplifting, sensual, and peaceful.

The First Nation people can again play the drum.  The youth are working hard to learn the culture and the songs from the elders so that they are not lost.  Drum songs were sung and meanings explained, enjoyed by all at the Fire Social.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Lake Superior - Hattie's Cove - Pukaskwa Park

The water body to the left is Hattie's Cove.  It appears to be a lake from this vantage point, but there is a cut through the ridge hidden in the trees connecting to the cove on the right.  Pukaskwa National Park headquarters is located on Hattie's Cove, the northernmost point of the large, 726 square mile park.  Many hiking trails allow visitors to experience the Lake Superior wilderness, including the challenging 60 kilometer coastal trail.

The ragged shoreline near the park headquarters has scenic trails that pass through many different environments, all in close proximity.  Parks Canada has instituted a new program of placing red Adirondack style chairs at interesting views along some of the park trails.  The pair of chairs at Pukaskwa did provide quite a view.

A dinghy ride was required to enter Hattie's Cove as it is off limits to powered craft and anchoring.  During the exploration of the shore in the attempt to find the small cut leading to Hattie's, the chairs were sighted on a ridge.  The first man-made objects on the shore since the Otter Island Light, 50 miles south.  The first trail hiked brought the crew upon the chairs for a great photo opportunity.

The jagged shoreline of Lake Superior is obvious along the Pukaskwa Park trails as they meander near the water.

The jagged shore had many rocky features, as it had for the entire length from Sault St. Marie.  Then, a beach appeared.  A horseshoe-shaped beach of white sand.  How did that happen, geologically?


Inland of the beach are low sand dunes, similar to what could be found in Florida - a very odd spot along the big lake.  The hiking through Pukaskwa is filled with amazing experiences.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Lake Superior - Pulpwood Harbor

Traveling farther north along the shore of Lake Superior more coves and harbors are found along the coast.  After Old Dave's, the next planned stop was at Pulpwood Harbor.  In the above image, a round top rock was an identifying landmark listed in Bonnie Dahl's guide to Lake Superior, to be kept to starboard.  A shore lined with rock formations, coves, and islands makes for difficult identification of locations, particularly when charts have no detail.

Finally, around the rock island off the round rock formation, the entrance to Pulpwood Harbor could be seen.  The described rock in the middle of the entrance was the indicator which made identification possible.  Pulpwood has been spotted.

A rock islet lies in the middle of the entrance.  Which side?  The paper charts, usually the choice for navigational detail, had none.  The chart plotter had more detail, but lacked any specific depths or location of any rocks, other than the obvious one above water.  Fortunately, information from others who have cruised here before allowed for a safe passage.  There is deep water to be found right of the rock - to the left, a sudden shallowing with many hidden sharp rocks.

A view out of Pulpwood into Lake Superior shows that an island to the left narrows the entrance, providing some protection from the lake when winds kick up.  The sloping rock shores made for easy landing for Bonnie walks and exploring the area.  But, the benefit of anchoring in Pulpwood was not the harbor itself.  A few coves to the north, a long dinghy ride away, Hattie's Cove is host to the park headquarters and hiking trails in the 725 square miles of Pukaskwa National Park, a story for another blog post.

Pulpwood is named after its use during the lumbering era.  Logs were floated into the cove, stored here to be later transported in rafts of logs to pulpwood mills.  There are still large rings drilled into the rock on either side with a long steel cable that was stretched across the opening to secure the logs.  On a calm day, the sinker logs that litter the bottom could be seen.  It was fortunate for the crew that Last Dance's anchor did not catch on one.

The lack of accuracy of the electronic charts was demonstrated again in Pulpwood.  The chartplotter had Last Dance anchored on land rather than in the cove.  Evidence that reinforces the need to have multiple navigation sources and that no one source should be trusted as being correct.  The challenges of navigation are one of the reasons that few boats cruise these waters and these beautiful areas are rarely visited.