We were up early on day six and ended up in our fifth park—Neys—by noon. This was our second favourite park of the trip. We ended up staying two nights here as well. Our site was directly across from the beach along the north shore of Superior. Amazing! It was an electrical site and we pitched our mini three-season nylon tent beside a gathering of monstrous RVs. We looked a little out of place, but the view was incredible. We spent our day off washing our clothes and our bodies. Ontario Parks closed their showers due to COVID-19, and there was a big fine if you tried to shower at your site or bathe in the lake. Kristine and I sponged bathed using a red bucket, then followed up with some baby wipes. It stormed again through the night and the morning temperature dropped to 10 degrees Celsius. We rejoiced the ending of the heat wave—until yet another thunderstorm hit.
Neys Provincial Park has an amazing history. It was once a prisoner-of-war (POW) camp for German officers during World War II. England asked Canada to create a series of camps along the north shore thinking prisoners wouldn’t try to escape. A few did attempt to run away but were caught. More immigrated here after the war because they loved the area so much!
Another half-day drive on day seven took us to Lake Superior Provincial Park’s Agawa Bay campground. It was the Sunday of the long weekend and the sign at the gatehouse indicated that the campground was full. It wasn’t. Ontario Parks had lifted their no-refund policy for cancelling a reservation during the pandemic. Lots of people are taking full advantage of it… and lots of others are losing out because of it.
Kristine had been to Superior the year before. It was the furthest north she’d been until now. The bonus is that we got to camp here again. We love the section of shoreline on Superior—even though the park is pretty darn close to the major highway. Kristine also got to pick up her park badge she couldn't get last year. Ontario Provincial Parks initiated a park badge program last year. You must visit the park to be able to purchase each of them, like tying the perfect knot before you’re allowed to get the Scout badge for it.
We set up camp to dry everything out from the past storm, took the two dogs (Angel and Oliver) for a walk on the dog beach and sipped on some whisky with a dehydrated slice of lime around the evening fire. Finally, no rain. But Ontario Parks' wood sucks. It’s always wet, mouldy and hard to split. I have a few pet peeves about Ontario Parks—cheap ice cubes with holes, wafer-thin toilet paper, giant spiders haunting the outhouses—but the wood has to be the worst!
Kristine and I took the camp down in record time the next morning—day eight. We had gotten into a rhythm of stuffing sleeping bags, rolling the tent, placing the gear (and the dogs) in the back of the vehicle like a game of Rubik’s Cube. We skipped cooking up breakfast and made a pit stop at the infamous Voyageur Lodge for their enlarged apple fritters that are the size of your Tilley hat.
The plan to reach Mississagi—our last park on the road tour—was to cut across before Sault Ste. Marie along Ranger Lake Road and take the ever winding Highway #129 that sticks uncomfortably close to the glorious Mississagi River. This road is not for the faint of heart—but if you like roller coasters, you’ll love it. Ranger Lake was closed due to wash outs. Thank goodness for Google Drive warnings. Instead, we took the even more off-beat, twisting and turning Highway #546 north of Iron Bridge and kept close to the banks of the scenic Little White River most of the way. There was not much beyond trees, rocks and rough roadway that resembles a piece of string tossed onto a shag carpet. A full fuel tank and working brakes are life savers here.
Kristine loved the drive but was a tad overwhelmed with the remoteness of it all, the two dogs got a little car sick and I desperately wanted to stop at every pullover area and cast a line for trout. I spent a lot of time here in my youth casting a fly for rainbow and brook trout.
Mississagi had bad mojo the moment we arrived. It was 3:30 p.m. and the previous campers hadn’t packed up and left the site yet. The park rule says you must leave before 2:00 p.m. There was no Park Warden to be seen. It was just a City of Elliot Lake truck roaming around.
Privatization of parks in the north can’t be a good thing. Even if the staff, wearing no uniforms except for various sweat shirts purchased at Walmart with unfitting logos and slogans, did manage to quicken up the loafing and unethical campers, there was so much garbage left behind on the site that it became a bear magnet. No way was I going to sleep there. A total of ten campers and four vehicles were still packing at 4:15 p.m. Kristine lost her patience, the dogs whined from being in the vehicle for too long, and I really started to worry about what was going on in this northern park that I so deeply loved in the past. We got another site, away from everyone and anything. It was a fitting site to spend our last night. The wailing of loons from the lake could be heard, a barred owl hooted from a nearby tree and a soft rain pelted on the tent fly. The atmosphere helped calm our nerves from the day’s negative events and brought back the good memories we had experienced along our northern tour—a road trip we’d do again in a heartbeat.