While I am writing this and frequently since I think about how much I miss Missinaibi. Is that why they named it that way “miss”inaibi? We went last year in the first week of August for a quick three night trip. I only wish I had planned it to be much longer.
How do you get to Missinaibi Provincial Park? Well there is the quick way. You drive from Toronto to Wawa then cut across to Chapleau, then… that route is about 800 kms
Or.. the infamous Alice way, the long way aka the scenic route! My way takes about 1000 kms but you go through some pretty spectacular scenery on Hwy 144 past Sudbury through Gogama, then down Hwy 101 through Folyet then in to Chapleau, then down the twisty 80 km forestry road to the Provincial Park. You will be welcomed by a very small park, and super friendly park staff. Many people use this as a starting point for a trip up the Mighty Missinaibi River through to Peterbell and on to Moosoonee. The end of the river spills in to James Bay! But for us we were there to scout the area (for a potential river trip someday) so we stuck to touring just one side of this very large lake. We had two sites booked: one at an island and another on the way back from the Island to the park entrance
Back to why I chose to check out this park, nostalgia. My dad worked for CN when I was a baby, in the 70s! :) In the family photo albums there is a picture of me as a baby sitting outside with my dad amongst some very rustic scenery in the middle of nowhere in front of a cabin. This place is called Dunrankin. As the crow flies it is about 20 kms from Lake Missinaibi. Apparently when I was young my dad got stationed at this siding for one of his jobs, common for him at the time as he was a signal maintainer. There is nothing at this siding other than a beautiful river, a house and a cabin, well that was in the 70s. I don’t think there is anything there now except the river. But back then it was a place for railroaders to hang out when they were working. If you google Dunrankin, Ontario you might get really lucky and find a picture of the train on a bridge, posted by a Shawn Leask! You also might find out about a story of a train collision at the site.
Anyways, knowing that Missinaibi was close by to this Dunrankin I wanted to check out the area. Get as close as I could get without being dumped off a train or taking a river in though those are likely very viable options! Some day I might try!
The 12 hour trip from Toronto to Missinaibi was the first part of this excursion. Driving my little Chevy Spark with my boyfriend and my special tripawd doggie, Presley. We got to Missinaibi Provincial Park where we had a site in the campground booked for the night. You know you are in bear country when every site has its bear locker. Keep in mind this trip had me unusually nervous as back in 2005 a lady doctor and her boyfriend camped at the back country sites in Missinaibi had a run in with a bear that didn't end well. When we arrived at the gate I asked the warden about that story. The warden was probably very young when it happened, if yet born, but he told me that the story as far as he knew was a bear had been hanging around their site. The couple packed up to head for a new site. The rangers figured the bear did follow them as they traveled in their canoe, maybe they were unaware. The couple set up at a new site but the bear had followed them and attacked the woman. Unfortunately she died. The ranger advised that in a case like that, never mind moving sites, you should abort the mission. A predatory black bear is dangerous, thankfully rare! Bears in general though are not rare in this country. Chapleau is famous for being a big game wildlife sanctuary. So they are there!
Back to our trip, we enjoyed a restful evening with no problems in the campground. We got up in the morning and picked up our rental canoe, cheers to this park for having a very reasonable rental rate! It was super sunny when we set off on our mission for a 20 km paddle to the island. As always the trip has to start with something that makes me question my sanity. Maybe about 20-30 minutes into our lovely paddle we look behind. Incoming, a huge black storm cloud. My poor boyfriend, I turned to get a picture. It’s the coolest picture because it looks like he better paddle for life, which truly we did!
We paddled hard. Remember Missiniabi is a lot of rustic wilderness. Some of the shoreline is rock face, you can’t get off it. So finding a spot isn’t as easy as it would sound. I always tell people to be sure to get a topographical map to plan your landings. Because you can’t climb a rock face! We lucked out and found an escape. Not quite on time but close enough, and got our first good drenching. The water came down in sheets. So we laughed. And we laughed. The storm was quick and uneventful otherwise. So back in the boat we go, on to the falls!
We paddled to the falls, seemingly escaping more ugly storms. The falls were beautiful. We decided to pull over at these falls and have a little lunch. If we didn’t pull over for another dump of rain to come. Like drenching wet , sheets of rain! So much so we had to bail out the canoe! Ha, ha right. Welcome to tripping! The storm passed and the sun came back.
Another good paddle.. But then as we were approaching where Missinaibi forks the wind came.. And the waves started getting nasty! But we had to get to the site. Again, there aren't a lot of options for pulling over. So there we were paddling across open water to the island, and it wasn’t pretty! It was quite the fight. In one of my blogs to come you will read about another similar incident where I had sworn off of island sites forever. But I don’t learn! At the trip planning stage I had seen pictures of this island site and the sand beach. I wanted it. And on a map things don’t seem that far away! Even though I do measure it out. I know.. I know.. I know..
We finally pulled up to the side of the bay where you approach our site. On that side it was very quiet. Oh, we were so relieved to see that shore and campsite. Our arms were jello from the momentum we had to keep across those big waves. Imagine nobody else was paddling, wonder why?
We pulled up our canoe so grateful to be here. The first thing I did was strip down all my clothes, and do a running entrance til I fell into the water. The sand beach was phenomenal. PS. I don’t pack any unnecessary items on these trips. Since we are alone in the wilderness on these trips, who needs a swimsuit? The water, the sand beach, the remoteness, super surreal! We could, so we did, set up camp in our birthday suit. Why not, who was gonna tell..
While we were setting up camp we found something that looked like a cross, I had to wonder if this was a memorial to that doctor that had died, was this the site where she died? You may wonder how a bear gets to an island? But black bears are great swimmers! So my crazy very active mind couldn’t clear that imagery for the rest of the trip.
The evening on that site was spectacular. One of my favourite camping sites so far, until the next one. The next day we paddled again, on super rough water, this time about 10 kms. Taking lots of breaks to keep our wits about us. You know there was nobody else canoeing that day, I wonder why? Our next site will be one of our favourites if we ever go with a group. It had great tent pads, up on a nice rock, and two distinct sitting areas each with a distinct view of the lake. One westward and one eastward. That night in the tent I was having trouble sleeping. My boyfriend never has trouble falling asleep. He is out as soon as he zips up his sleeping bag. I tried to sleep but instead my active mind listens for every sound out there. I mean for the most part I can identify the sound of a tree crashing, and a loon, but there was suddenly this sound. This tick, tick, tick, tick. I had no idea what it was but what if it was a bear??? Right!!! So with a screech I had my boyfriend jump out of his bag to check things out. No bears, just some really odd insect that makes a ticking sound! To this day we laugh about that! We enjoyed some incredible scenery there that day just lazying around. Enjoying being there in the middle of nowhere, not a soul around because well nobody else was paddling that day and not many people head up that way anyways! It's remote.
That next day paddling out my boyfriend was so hungry. We packed food, but of course we had planned on fishing which we didn’t get to do much due to the weather. So in the early morning we headed back to the falls where I was sure there would be fish. We didn’t have much luck except for that one time, when Stephan got a bite. Oh we were so hungry and so excited to eat that up!!! I offered to help pull in this perfect little lunch size pike that he had hooked. I know better than to not pull up a pike without a net. They have sharp teeth that cut through lines with no trouble. But nah, I grabbed the line and went to lift our lunch out of the water. If the line didn’t snap. Curse!!! Our lunch swam away. It was like watching your last chance meal swim off in slow motion and you just sit there helplessly unable to do a thing about it. It feels like you will never see food again! We continued on, paddling back slowly and sad about our lunch. We bumped into a couple fishermen who had done that river run to Peterbell. They come up regularly to the area. They were surprised at how this stellar fishing water wasn't so stellar, for whatever reason. We paddled on to another island site and made a quick lunch of yummy canned ham and pasta with a sprinkle of my dehydrated green onion for flavor. It was ok, but it was no fish fry!!
We were going to keep paddling but we decided to cut our trip short as we were next headed for the north shore of Lake Superior.
But let me tell ya, not a day goes by that I don’t think about how I miss Missiniaibi. I highly recommend it! I will be back....
We had a good rest. On the way out I took the 101 into Wawa from Chapleau. Though I grew up north of there for some reason, I had never taken that highway. Let me tell ya, I can’t wait to take it again! The view is out of this world. As I always say the closer you get to Lake Superior the tougher it gets. I am so fortunate for where I grew up! It’s funny but the terrain around Lake Superior, though truly rugged, is comforting to me. Only on account of familiarity. I know it’s going to hurt. I expect it, and that kind of familiarity and respect for the wilderness is empowering!