Family Fun In & Around #TheSoo

Driving cross-country and thinking of skipping Ontario? Here's why you shouldn't. This family found some fascinating roads into Canada's past, and its rich natural beauty.

We recently took a family trip by car from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan to our home in Ottawa. At first, I was nervous that the trip would be punctuated by continuous demands of "Are we there yet?" and hour after hour of uninspiring scenery.   

I could not have been more wrong. The scenery all along the route was quite beautiful. Things got jaw-droppingly gorgeous once we hit Rossport, Ontario. We were treated to kilometre after kilometre of landscapes that were straight out of a Group of Seven painting. Still more beauty awaited us in the Sault Ste. Marie area.

Our first stop of the day was at Aguasabon Falls and Gorge. We followed the trail and could hear the waterfalls before we saw them. Soon enough, it was easy to spot the waterfalls, which have an impressive 100 foot vertical drop. It was even more amazing to learn the rock face was over 2.6 billion years old.

Our son, David, teased me that every photo we took, I was standing about two metres away from the fence. Heights aren’t really my thing. My wife Sandy got into the act, playfully encouraging me to come a bit closer.    

On the way back in the parking lot, we encountered a lady who couldn't go see the Falls due to mobility issues. We showed her our photos of the Falls, which she greatly appreciated. 

We were finished at the Falls and hit the highway. After a few hours, we arrived at Lake Superior Provincial Park. We stopped at the Agawa Rock Pictograph hiking trail. The pictographs are thought to have been created around the 17th and 18th centuries by the Ojibwe who came to record dreams, visions, and events.

The trail offered enough challenge that David was satisfied, and Sandy and I felt comfortable as well. David loved climbing over the rocks and squeezing between small rock precipices. David always likes to take the road less travelled, while Sandy and I live by the motto: take the pathway well-travelled!  

We arrived at the Lake Superior shoreline, but did not make it all the way to the pictographs as the water was somewhat turbulent the day we visited. On the way back, we found a narrow pathway in between two ledges. Descending the rock steps, it felt like a secret passageway to another world. I am always amazed by the beauty nature can create.  

Once back from the trail, it was getting later in the day so we made our way to our hotel, Water Tower Inn, in Sault Ste. Marie. The front desk person was very friendly, and we were soon off to sleep in our comfortable beds.  

The next morning, I was about to cross something off my bucket list. I love everything about train travel. The relaxed pace, smells, anticipation. The Agawa Canyon Tour Train is one of the great train trips in North America. 

We arrived at the station early to pick up our tickets. Everyone made their way to the passenger loading area as the train came into the station. We took our seats and relaxed as preparations were made for departure. I find there is an ease of conversation between strangers on the train that you do not find in any other mode of travel. As we pulled away from the station, the train was filled with friendly chatter about our upcoming journey. 

I appreciated that everyone was given a guide so we knew where we were. Also, there was an audio guide that played intermittently throughout the train, giving useful information about the sights. A few of the highlights included spectacular vistas of Lake Superior and a thrilling ride across a train trestle bridge. 

Soon enough, we were at the Agawa Canyon Park. We had an hour and a half to explore the park. We chose to do the Talus Trail as it took us by three waterfalls. The first two were the North and South Black Beaver Falls. Both were not extremely large, but beautiful. The third waterfall, Bridal Falls, was spectacular. People were lingering taking selfies and group photos. We got in the action, taking at least 10 photos. We also signed the guest book and were impressed by addresses from around the world. We spent the rest of our time slowly making our way back to the train. We had a nice rest stop near the river, where we snacked on apples and just took in the scenery. 

We heard the woot of the train whistle and knew it was time to board again. The next few hours were spent with enjoyable conversation as we put smartphones away. The glow of a digital screen was replaced by lakes and trees. We pulled into the station tired but content from our day’s journey. 

After a brief rest and supper, we all wanted to relax in the swimming pool and hot tubs at the Water Inn. We enjoyed the outdoor hot tub that was landscaped like a tropical hideaway. Once we were finished outside, we went straight to the indoor pool to cool off. This cycle was repeated a number of times.  

The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we hit the road, where most of the conversation focused on our adventures. Looks like we will be returning to the Soo and surrounding area in the near future!

About Stephen Johnson

Stephen Johnson is a writer based in Ottawa. He writes mainly about family travel and has contributed to magazines including Ottawa Family Living and Fifty-Five Plus magazine.

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