Spring Ice Kayaking on Lake Superior

With all odds against me—can't swim, despise the cold, and not coordinated—reluctantly I had an amazing Monday ice kayaking Lake Superior with Such a Nice Day Adventures.

6:45 am rolled around as early as any other Monday. However, on this Monday in particular, I shot up and out of bed with ease. Not an ounce of tiredness to be felt. This was to be the most enjoyable Monday working for Superior Country yet—which is a high mark to beat considering Mondays are our “Foodie Mondays” where we indulge in home-cooking from a selected staff member. What could possibly beat homemade pasta salads and cheesecake? Undoubtedly, the answer is a grand adventure ice kayaking Lake Superior with Such a Nice Day Adventures.

Photo evidence that waking up early was well worth it, we had endless smiles and laughs throughout the day.

After layering till I resembled the Michelin Man, I grabbed my sunglasses, water, vape and was off! I picked up my Executive Director (Dan Bevilacqua) at 9:30 am to begin our adventure. The beginning of any good Canadian adventure starts with coffee—Tim Horton’s specifically, of course. A vanilla iced coffee for my millennial self and a decaf double double for Dan. At 9:45 am exactly, we crossed the Nipigon Bridge heading east towards Rossport, right on schedule!

Coffee acquired and a grand adventure underway.

Along the drive we admired the vast beauty highway 17 had to offer, despite the morning being rather moody and foggy, there was still endless beauty along the lakeside. We arrived at the quaint little community of Rossport at 10:30 am. Upon driving through the community over to the Nicol Island causeway we got a true sense of serenity, Rossport is a truly unique destination. Considering we arrived rather early, Dan and I sat lakeside continuing to admire the beauty of Lake Superior from land before taking the daring step onto the ice and then water.

Dan: "I wish it was sunny out, would be better for photos" Brooke: "I'm moody often and people like me, moody days are enjoyable too."

Guided kayaking with Such a Nice Day Adventures

At 11:00 am we met up with owner and tour guide of Such a Nice Day Adventures, Zack Kruzins. After an introduction, we headed up into the Nestled in Nature B&B where Zack is based to suit up and get prepared for our day. Even with my three layers, there was still more to be added. Of course, an ice kayaking trip onto the big lake requires some serious gear, not only for warmth but for safety as well. Zack kindly fitted Dan and myself a wetsuit each, as well as neoprene over-socks and water shoes. The following 15 minutes consisted of Dan and I hilariously struggling to get into our gear, a truly comedic sight.

When putting on a wetsuit a moment (or several) need to be taken for photo ops.

We headed down to the beach, gathering the kayaks and paddles, as well as our final layer… life jackets and kayak skirts. For me, venturing onto Lake Superior in any shape or form is daunting when you can’t swim - never mind the additional factor of kayaking amidst the ice breakup - luckily enough, Zack was great at assuring me that I’d be safe, and he’d aid me in anyway needed to ensure comfort and reduce my anxiety. Once comforted and confident, we each grabbed the straps at the bows of our kayaks and carefully walked onto the ice dragging our kayaks to the open water. The ice, although thick enough to hold us without danger, had broken up into various pieces, resembling a broken-up puzzle. In a couple spots we had to hop over from one sheet to another before getting to the edge and to open water, the whole ice crossing from shore to open water was roughly 30 feet – to me, it seemed like half a marathon in all honesty.

Depicted above: a terrified Brooke stepping onto the ice and a hysterically laughing Dan.

Dan sat into his kayak, stretched the skirt around the seat opening to eliminate water coming in and grabbed his paddle. Zack hopped into what would be bone chilling water with ease (thanks to the wetsuit), grabbed the bow of Dan's kayak and pulled him off the ice and into the water. After a few initial waddles left and right, Dan found his balance and paddled out. Darn, my turn. I sat in my kayak, fitted the skirt, and prepped myself for a plunge off the ice into the water. Zack carefully pulled me out past the ice, and encouraged me to relax and find my center of balance. When he released his stabling hands off the kayak, I found myself not to be nearly as tippy as anticipated. Oh dang, okay, alright… this isn’t so bad. Before I even had the chance to turn my back to see how Zack gets himself off the ice, he was already paddling up behind me. Okay let’s go! I was eager to go now, feeling ambitious, a bit more confident, and adventurous as ever.

Depicted above: a slightly less terrified Brooke and a majestic Dan.

As we ventured out between Nicol Island and Boone Island, we could see the frozen over channel between Quarry and Healey Island, although it was clear we wouldn’t be able to paddle between them, Zack introduced us to the idea of hopping up onto the thick ice before continuing out. With just a few rapid strokes of the paddle, he gained enough momentum to fully position his kayak up onto the ice from the water. I doubt I can do that, but might as well try. Although I did not make it up completely, I did manage to gain enough speed upon my approach to the ice to get the front half up and on the ice for Zack to pull me up. Dan then followed, we took a short vape break—a necessity for Dan and me. A quick couple comforting puffs and back into the kayaks up on the ice we sat. Well darn, I should’ve turned my kayak around, I thought as my stern was facing the water rather than the bow. Zack is going to have to turn my completely around. Before the thought finished running through my head, I was swiftly coasted backwards into the water. Shocked, but safe, and rather surprised at my balance capabilities... paddling on we went. The day was still gloomy, fog was heavy, traffic running along the lakeside highway could only be heard, the vehicles swallowed out of sight by the fog, however, the beauty was not at all lost.

Photo proof I can beat Dan in a paddle-off any day.

We directed west, navigating between Quarry Island and Whiskey Island. The wind was blowing from the west, head on, the waves increased slightly, paddling required more effort than it had within the protected bay. As we peered out, heading south along the west side of Quarry Island, balance became essential as the rolling waves approaching the side of the kayak caused the “tippy” feeling easier than when they rolled head on. The moody complexity of Mother Nature made her presence known through the heavy blankets of fog, mainland to the north was unrecognizable through the low hanging clouds of grey, evidence of land to the West and south were also indistinguishable. All to be seen was the towering cliffs of Quarry to our east side that we followed along. "Look! A peregrine falcon!" Zack called out. We admired its swift glide along the cliffside as it screeched out its eery calls. Formations of blue ice became visible along the edgy shore of the island, as we neared the ice, I couldn’t help but admire the soft appearance the solid ice formation encompassed, caused by endless rolls of waves rushing over and off the surface.

I get it, the waves don't appear that big, however when in a kayak, they feel a whole lot bigger.

Along the south side of Quarry, we opted for a stretch break. The south side delivered a little more coverage from the wind, making it easier to land ashore without battling the waves. Once on shore, we stretched ourselves out, took some time to capture some images and live videos, then our venture continued. On the southeast side of Quarry, we dipped into the island's bay briefly, Zack showed us a beaver house which became the extent of my interest in the bay. Beavers? Nope, let's go, I don’t mess around with beavers. Onward we went, again.

Dan attempting to paddle away from me unaware I am holding him in place.

We gazed upon the frozen over channel between Quarry and Healy Island from the opposite side from where we started. Along the shoreline of Healey Island, broken up sheets and chunks of ice floated aimlessly, promoting the opportunity to make the paddle that much more interesting. Zack had propped himself up onto a thick, lonely floating sheet to stand up on to capture some shots. He treated smaller ones as speedbumps, coasting up and over them in swift and seemingly effortless motions. At the mere end of Healey, we took advantage of the newly open passage to the other side of the island. The passage was rather shallow but easy enough to navigate through.

Someone sponsor me, I'm borderline model material even when terrified for my life.

On the last stretch heading northwest, back towards our original point of launch, we were gifted with the best conditions. Although no sunshine, the water was still as glass. The only ripples disturbing the flat sheet of water came from the wakes behind our kayaks and the plunge down and up from our paddles. Soon after, elegant rings of water droplets formed around us as a light rain cast over, not harming our enjoyment. Tranquil. All I could think of the moment, Zack spoke of the admiration he has for the area and Rossport in particular amongst our paddle, in this moment I understood why. The lack of wind, the calm glass-like water, rolling sheets of fog over the natural escarpments, one couldn’t deny the beauty held by Superior.

Example B of my borderline model material capabilities.

As we approached the ice coming up to Nicol Island, I was relieved to be able to stand and stretch for the paddle did take a toll on my core, but to say I wouldn’t do it all over again is a far cry from the truth. To paddle the grand Lake Superior will now become an annual activity – at the very least.

After 12 km and just shy of 3 hours, our tour was completed!  We landed, brought the gear up and waddled up to the B&B, it was time to strip away the layers! Getting into them was hysterical and difficult, getting out was the same, but finalized with a weightless feel of relief – in a good way.

Taken at the end of our paddle - smiles for miles!

Foodie Monday at the VOY

By this time, me and Dan were aching to take part in our Foodie Monday. Zack suggested The VOY, located just a few kilometers east up highway 17. Sold! Let’s go! We all hopped in the truck with nothing but food in mind. The VOY is a rather new location to the community of Schreiber. Well, I’ll be dammed. I muttered upon entering. Showcasing beautiful natural light, cozy booths and table settings, a chalkboard full of menu items, the venue was nothing short of updated and pristine. Dan and I took full advantage of our Foodie Monday, The VOY not only met, but exceeded expectations on their dishes.

My Foodie Monday celebration meal - a Taco Bowl from the VOY.

Ready for a nap, but still having to return home, Dan and I parted ways with Zack, ensured we’d be back again (as I had already begun making plans to do so) and headed west, back to Nipigon. All said and done, we both were left feeling ample admiration for Lake Superior, for Zack and his passion for Such A Nice Day Adventures, and grateful for the region we call home. I have spent a lot of time on and around Lake Superior but can admit she continues to impress through every new experience I have, regardless of weather conditions or activity. With the helpful guidance of Zack and the confident company of Dan, I had undoubtedly the best Monday at the office yet.

About Brooke Russell

Born and raised in Nipigon Ontario, Brooke spends her time fishing, hunting and trapping with her guiding mentor Bobby Bearman. She is an avid lover of Northern Ontario and ready to take on any adventure year-round—whether it be hiking, canoeing, and camping in the summer or braving the cold snowshoeing and skiing in the winter. She has a passion for sharing memories to inspire others to fall in love with the north.

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