The Top of Superior, The Long Way: Part 2

From Group of Seven sites to a heartwarming community effort on wheels, the second part of Kendall Wright's epic journey of the Grand Algoma motorcycle tour.

Kendall Wright's epic journey of the Grand Algoma motorcycle tour begins here.

The Grand Algoma - DAY 3

We woke early, packed up our bikes, and were greeted by Brian and Nick of Wawa Tourism for an interpretive talk and tour of the town and the surrounding area.

Young's General Store is a must when in Wawa

Our next stop, Young’s General Store, sees 30,000 people visit annually. Amazing! When in Wawa, I highly recommend stopping in and getting a massive pickle from the barrel. Pickle in a bag! It’s also a great place to find authentic souvenirs from local artists. I picked up a few pairs of locally made moccasins for my parents and my baby niece.

Next, we followed Brian and Nick south on the Trans-Canada about 10 minutes from the iconic goose monument to a dirt road off of the highway.

After crossing a beautiful waterfall, we arrived at Sandy Beach. The first thing we saw was the Sandy Beach Learning Pavilion. It tells the history of the early settlements and subsequent relocations over several hundred years of Michipicoten First Nation and its ancestors. It is worth taking a look and read through.

At the site where A.Y. Jackson's cottage once sat

The beach lays on the shores of Lake Superior, where Group of Seven painter A.Y. Jackson’s cottage once sat. As I stood on the sand looking out to the islands that lay in the distance, I was brought back to when I was an elementary school kid taking that class trip to the AGO and my first introduction to the powerful images of the Group of Seven. Where my imagination soared, I could see the familiar landscape portrayals of the Group in real life.

How mesmerizing to see it in person. Waterfalls crossing at Magpie River, dirt roads, and scenic views—I could spend all day exploring this rugged landscape. I encourage you to do that.

On to the next destination

We said goodbye to Brian and Nick and as we were heading back to the bikes we had the luck to cross paths with Dianne Whelan. This incredible woman was on a journey by canoe, portage, and hike on the longest trail in the world, the newly opened Great Trail.

We had the wonderful opportunity to talk to her about her travels and her decision to make a very drastic lifestyle change. She's now in a documentary about reconnecting through a journey connected to the first founders of this land. You never know who you will cross paths with up here. The most interesting people with incredible stories. You can learn more about her journey here.

Having been gifted with meeting such inspirational people, we decided to explore the dirt roads in the surrounding areas. We came across Naturally Superior Adventures in a tucked-away spot. They offer canoe and kayak tours, as well as training in stand-up paddling, wilderness first aid, and more. What a great place to do it!

Lake Superior Provincial Park

We ventured South on Highway 17 to explore Lake Superior Provincial Park. The whispers of Bill Mason’s canoe adventures through the Ontario wilderness crept into my head as we rode the windy ride towards the park.

Skipping stones at Old Woman Bay

Old Woman Bay is a great place to have a stretch and walk down to the water's edge. As we collected stones to skip in the lake we saw Dianne in the distance, canoeing to a far out island in the distance. I gave her a silent farewell as she continued her spiritual journey across our great land.

Katherine Cove and the Agawa Rock Pictographs

As soon as you enter the park the temptation to explore are endless. We decided to take a little hike at Katherine Cove. Walking the water’s edge, climbing over rocks and beach, we found a wonderfully private rock bath where we jumped in for an icy dip. We didn’t encounter anyone on our hike. It was like it was made for us.

Rocky shore of Katherine Cove

Ten minutes down the Trans-Canada, and still in Lake Superior Provincial Park, we arrived at the Agawa Rock Pictographs. The name in Ojibwe is Mazinaubikiniguning, which means "the adorned rock on Agawa Lake.”

This is a must as you travel through the park. The pictographs are on sacred land of the Objiwe people. They are said to have been created around the 17th and 18th centuries, depicting dreams, events of the time, and possible visions.

The images have endured through some of the harshest of elements over the centuries. That being said, please respect and preserve the pictographs. Do not touch the paintings.

The rocky hike to and from the Agawa Rock Pictographs

The hike is rugged, descending 30 metres (98 feet) through beautiful cracked boulders, cliffs, and stunningly beautiful forest. The slanted granite cliff’s edge featuring the pictographs is only reachable if weather permits. Lake Superior, the biggest of all the great lakes, can be very unpredictable and very dangerous.

Walking toward the ancient Agawa Rock pictographs

That day, Andrew and I were graced with not only glassy water but again, no one else around. You can’t help but feel the power of this land. This is the time to put the phone and camera away and simply breath into your surroundings. Find the soothing and commanding presence this land offers.

This painting is hundreds of years old

The Best Schnitzel You’re Ever Going to Eat

We arrived late to our next stop, the Lake Shore Salzburger Hof Resort. Two Austrians, Ann and Ralph Elsigan, opened its doors in 1972. Currently run by the whole family, and still committed to authentic Austrian food, they continue to spread the love in Batchawana Bay.

Arriving at the Lake Shore Salzburger Hof Resort with big appetites

Despite the unrelenting rain pouring down on us as the sun set on Lake Superior, I couldn’t help but have a sense of calm. We rode down the dirt road to the resort and were greeted with lively banter and warmth as we walked in.

We were told it’s the best schnitzel around, so Andrew and I ordered one each with a cup of the house-made split pea soup. The soup tasted just like my mother made it—chunks of ham and hearty veg. The cranberry jam on the bread tasted like the inside of a cranberry pie. We felt at home, most of the people eating were bikers too.

Tasty comfort food at the Salzburger Hof

“You know this place is good because it’s busy and it’s out of the way,” Andrew explained. The drive in is about 6 km from Highway 7, then another 2 km down a dirt road.

We were full and happy. With a break in the rain, we figured it was a good time to do the 10-minute ride along Batchawana Bay to our accommodations for the night, the Voyageurs’ Lodge & Cookhouse. This lodge is cozy and rustic. Right off of the highway with a gas station and so close to the restaurant. Pretty convenient.

We throw our bags on to our comfy queen-sized beds and let the rain put us to sleep.

The Grand Algoma - Day 4

Fully awake and ready to get back on the road

We woke to the sounds of a group of motorcycles leaving the gas station around 8 am. Andrew and I made our way to the cookhouse for breakfast. The food was amazing. People don’t mess around up here with the portions or quality of food. Not only that, but the service is splendid. Our server was so lovely, telling us: “There’s just something about the Soo and this area—after so many years I had to come back. This is home.”

Breakfast at the Voyageurs' Cookhouse & Lodge

I picked up a book about adventures in the Canadian north at the little souvenir shop next to the cashier.

Full and content, we made our way back to the room and packed up the bikes. As we were filling up at the gas station we had a chance to talk to a local, who gave us some smoked trout to try! I love the camaraderie and strong community that exists up here. Everyone supports one another.

We said our goodbyes and set off down Highway 17 to the Lake Superior for a quick dip. The sun was hot and we had the beach all to ourselves again. What a treat.

Chippewa Falls

About 13 km east on the Trans-Canada from the Voyageurs’ Lodge lies Chippewa Falls. We spent about an hour playing on the beach, swimming, and taking photos, then walked down to the falls and found a good spot to eat that smoked trout. This is a great place to have lunch and soak up the views.

I could spend all day playing at Chippewa Falls

As we travelled south, Andrew and I didn’t want the adventuring to end. From Chippewa to Sault Ste. Marie is about 55 km. So rather than the direct route down the Trans-Canada, we decided to take Highway 552 to what it had to offer for scenic views. Let's just say you won’t be disappointed with any roads you take up here.

Posing on Highway 522 before heading into Sault Ste. Marie

By the time 3 pm rolled around, we decided it was time to head back to town. We had to pull over at a corner store and wait out a 45-minute blast of rain. This far into my Algoma trip, I just had to laugh at the rain.

Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre

The Fokker Trimotor at the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre

The Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre is a not-for-profit charitable organization dedicated to preserving Ontario’s rich bushplane and firefighting heritage. This was an incredible display of how important bushplane aviation is to the Canadian communities. There is a 3D theatre showcasing an amazing film about how wildfires are fought in Ontario. It comes with lighting, sound, and effects throughout the film, making for an incredible interactive adventure, more like a ride than a movie!

Inside one of the amazing planes at the museum

We walked over to the former Ontario Provincial Air Service hangar at the edge of the St. Marys River. It was the end of the night so we were fortunate to have the museum floor manager, Mitch, talk with us about the different planes that were on display. He went into depth about the Noorduyn Norseman bushplane, aka the Thunder Chicken. This plane couldn’t be more Canadian. Ask Mitch to tell you about the moose hide and the air intake boot. I was shocked at how spectacular this museum was. We spent hours reading about our Canadian planes that were instrumental in fighting fires all over the province.

Canada’s first female astronaut, Roberta Bondar, is originally from the Soo. She has her own display devoted to her and her mission to space.

Close to dinner time, Andrew and I noticed that there was a brewery right next to the Museum. We headed over to check out what they have to offer. Northern Superior Brewing Co. makes delicious brews right in town. If you’re looking for a local brew, I recommend picking up a six-pack here.

Northern Superior Brewing Company headquarters. Photo: Marc Smith

Dinner time was fast approaching and we’d heard of a great BBQ joint in to town. S we rode across the old district of the city to Low & Slow Smoked Fusion BBQ. Located at the edge of town, this place is a great stop for the hungry rider. We sampled the meat platter and got stuffed! 

Full and content, we rode through town to Quattro Hotel. This place is not situated in the heart of town, but is easily accessible to and from the airport. The rooms are clean and large; it’s a great place to stay if travelling from the airport, and a great jumping-off point to other motorcycle tours in Algoma like the Island North Tour, the Grand Algoma, or the epic Lake Superior Circle Tour.

Comfy digs at Quattro Hotel in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

We checked in with the friendly staff and got settled into our room by cracking open a Northern Superior brew. We ended up taking a walk around the area and found a legion that was celebrating its 60th anniversary. I love legions for their music and dancing. Andrew and I were the youngest people in the joint by about 50 years. The folks were dancing the night away. We reminisced about Lake Superior and the epic roads we encountered north of the city.

The Grand Algoma - Day 5

The Algoma Ride for Autism

Showing off the BMW R nineT Scrambler at the Ride for Autism

On our last day, we participated in what I have to say was a major highlight of the trip. For the sixth year running, the Algoma Ride for Autism brought together local riders to raise funds and awareness for the Algoma Autism Foundation, helping people on the autism spectrum in the region. To see the locals come together in support of such a good cause was truly moving, and was a tribute to the strength of community spirit that made the whole trip such a pleasure.

Family fun before we take off for the ride

I think it’s so important to take time for yourself, and I won’t be the first person to say that connecting with nature is one way to really awaken the inner wisdom and power that lives inside all of us.

Combining beautiful landscapes and the power and freedom of a motorcycle, with the laughter and companionship of friends, and meeting new and interesting people along the way, makes the perfect formula for reconnection and liberty. It’s also closer than you think, a motorcycle playground in our own backyard. 

Staying grounded and mindful doesn’t just leave us when we return home. We can come back to the busyness of our lives and chose to bring that awareness to, our work, our commute and our daily routines.

Travel can allow the noise to settle down and allow our consciousness to become clear. To understand that there is beauty in all places.

Sit quietly. Soak in the beauty of our land. The motorcycle is a tool to reach ultimate presence. Find the breath of Lake Superior find peace within nature and yourself. You just never know who you will meet in the North. There is always a story to unveil.

To all the locals in Algoma County who we passed along the way, your encounters at restaurants, our quick dialogues, and laughs made this trip so rich and fulfilling.

Next time you think about hitting the road, grab a few friends and try roads less travelled up in Algoma County—you won’t be disappointed.

About Kendall Wright

Kendall loves riding the open roads of North America and attending motorcycle events year round. Exploring also means lots of camping and she can be found sleeping in her hammock after a long day of riding. With a home base in Toronto, she spends her free time enjoying the back roads of Ontario with her friends. It's all about good times and finding the next adventure.  

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