Day 45 – Clifftop blueberries

After a ridiculously late sleep-in that we blamed entirely on the one-hour time change from Ignace to Thunder Bay, we woke up just in time to catch the free breakfast at the Day’s Inn (Waffle machine! And this time I didn’t mess it up). After a slow-paced pack-up, we headed off on our mission to outfit Mike with a more weather-appropriate riding jacket and new riding boots. On the way, as he shifted down at a stop-light, I could see daylight through the hole in the flapping sole of his left boot. A quick visit to the Harley-Davidson shop found a nice light-weight armoured jacket, and the Thunder Bay mall took care of the rest — as well as a fast and furious food-court lunch.

We were on the road north by 1:30pm, heading up highway 11 to Greenstone to meet local tourism maven Lee MacOdrum and hike the 1.2 billion year old Pijitawabik Palisades. The stunning precambrian cliffs form a deep valley — almost 500 feet high — with highway 11 and various small lakes tucked into the curves in the basin, about 30km south of Beardmore. The trail, built by Geraldton Community Forest and the Municipality of Greenstone, is a little challenging, starting with a fairly steep couple of kilometres, although they are tempered with wooden staircases in two sections. But once the hardscrabble is over and you’re up on the plateau, all that heavy breathing is worth it. Wild blueberries grow rampant along the trail, and the views of the winding valley and hazy cliffs in the distance are spectacular. There are four open lookout areas along the clifftop, where you can sit on the flat rock and enjoy the views. I spent most of my time nose deep in blueberries.

The trail continues another 3 or 4 km through lush bracken to a small cascade of icy cold runoff that plummets down the cliff-face to a pool below. There is a turnoff that loops around to a small lake, but as we started fairly late in the day, we didn’t have time to check it out. Lee mentioned that the trail is a great full-day excursion, tackling the cliffs in the early morning before the sun is at full power, spending mid-day picking blueberries in the shade, and then whiling away the afternoon swimming in the lake before heading back down as the day cools off.

As we headed on up the highway, the cliffs were bathed in the orange and purple glow of the setting sun, as they have been for over a billion years. Mind-blowing.

We arrived at the Poplar Lodge Park campground on Lake Nipigon just as dusk was falling. Alexe and I went for a twilight swim in the glassy dove-grey cove, small rocky treed islets stretching out as far as we could see into the darkness. After more physical exertion in one day than all the other 44 put together, we had a low-key dinner of tailgate Habitant Pea Soup and saltines with peanut butter and plain old passed out.

Tomorrow — Fighting forest fires in Geraldton!

Photo by Alexandra Sawicki
Rucksacks courtesy of Lee Kennard, Mayor of Ignace. “You Otter be in Ignace!”

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