Canoe Tripping to Great Eating

Fine Dining on the Coast of Lake Superior

One of the most crucial ingredients to enjoying a meal is hunger. When we are famished even the plainest fare can be extremely satisfying and a gourmet feast can be positively delightful. Serve that feast to a group of hungry paddlers in the great outdoors and we have the recipe for the ultimate in dining pleasure.

family sitting on rock eating

Meals are served on a warm slab of granite along with the coast of Lake Superior.

Sure we may have rudimentary cooking methods and limited ingredients presented on plastic camping plates, but virtually everything else surrounding a canoe-tripping expedition contributes to the enjoyment of a meal. As we work our way along the Algoma Coast of Lake Superior, I consider all the factors that make stoking our body’s furnace such a pleasurable part of a canoe-tripping adventure.

two couples eating food on camping  trip

Hearty Appetites

We leave Naturally Superior Adventures at the mouth of the Michipicoten River for a five-day trip up the coast of Lake Superior and our group of six adults and two children are focused on propelling our canoes across giant Michipicoten Bay toward Dog River, 25 kilometres up the coast. It’s quick to see how fresh air and exercise contribute to appetite. We are all much more active than usual. In addition to paddling, we spend the warm sunny days swimming in the cold, clear waters of Lake Superior, walking long sandy beaches and rocky points, as well as setting up camp each evening and packing up every morning.

2 people eating food

Even the simplest foods taste great outdoors with Alex Patterson and Justine Glover.

Long days of fresh air and exercise equal healthy appetites but we are also truly spoiled because all our meals are part of the package provided by Naturally Superior Adventures – Lake Superior’s most seasoned paddling adventure company. We all chip in to help our guide, Rupert, prepare meals, but ultimately the responsibility for feeding us falls on his shoulders.

bowls of granola

Rupert tells us that the first evening meal is the easiest with fresh ingredients prepared in advance and assembled on our first night camped along the coast. Gulping down a plate full of spicy chicken curry tossed with fresh peppers and onions confirms the notion that quality food prepared by someone else only seems to accentuate its enjoyment.

Outdoors Ambience

Anticipation is another factor that promotes the enjoyment of a meal, and on this trip, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to observe as food is prepared. Whether it’s watching a pot of oatmeal bubble or coffee perk in the morning, or the evening assembly of chilli fortified with chipotle peppers paired with freshly baked cornbread, watching a meal’s creation is a mouth-watering endeavour.

dining outdoors

Spicy chili and fresh cornbread served at a sandy wooded campsite.

A good example is the warm summer evening spent watching pizzas bake in a homemade oven. The whole operation is led by Alex Patterson, a former paddling guide who is happy to reach back into his bag of tricks. It happens to be the same day that we make the rugged five-kilometre round-trip hike to Denison Falls. Although we leave in the morning the cascading waters of the multi-tiered falls keep us occupied well into the afternoon. On our return, we all pitch in to gather flat rocks while Alex constructs a wood-fired oven with a firebox and smokestack engineered to provide consistent heat around an elevated flat rock cooking surface.

cooking pizza outdoors

Alex Patterson and Finn MacLary preheat the homemade pizza oven.

Alex admits that he used to use a pre-cooked crust but Rupert cranks it up a notch by preparing homemade pizza dough. We all gather to watch the crust rise to mingle with cheese, pesto and vegetables enveloped by the licking flames of the stone oven. To say the anticipation is appetizing is an understatement.

outdoor pizza oven

Nothing like the anticipation of watching food cook to whet the appetite.

Whether it’s charcuterie served on a warm rounded slab of granite or simply reaching into the snack bag to grab a handful of peanuts and chocolate, satiating a healthy appetite within the outdoors ambience of the Algoma Coast of Lake Superior is a pretty good place to be.

mother with children eating breakfast

Laura Mitchell serves up breakfast to her son Finn and daughter Isla.
About James Smedley

Professional photographer and writer James Smedley’s contributions—more than 400 pieces and close to 1,000 images—to U.S. and Canadian books, magazines, and newspapers have earned him over 40 national and international awards. In addition to teaching photography workshops, James is the travel editor at Ontario OUT of DOORS magazine. James has fly-fished for brook trout and arctic grayling in far northern rivers and continues to cast for trout, bass, and steelhead near his home in the northern Ontario town of Wawa where he lives with his wife Francine and daughters Islay and Lillian.


Visit James at

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