Leaving the Soo today marked my first long paddling trip and it felt like a whirlwind. Had I packed enough? What would others expect of me? Would I be able to update well on social media? Somehow I managed to turn around from writing my last exam a week ago to being on the water with 300 km of the world’s biggest lake ahead of me. Once underway, steady even strokes pulled me away and I began to notice details of the St Mary’s River that reminded me of past paddles and stories. I peered deep into the clear depths of a calm day and felt at ease. Paddling with a long distance ahead and no other real attachment to the rest of the world is peaceful. It feels like a slow, deep exhale. Most of my vapid worries evaporated away into the hazy horizon and I began to focus on what was to come.

two men posing for the camera while preparing their kayaks

Today we started at a placid bay in front of SKG, followed by an industrial tour through the locks, Algoma steel, and the shipping lane. Slabs of smooth concrete, screeching creaks, smoke, and piles of metal processing dominated the morning. I paddled up close to a freighter that read MICHIPICOTEN. Our end goal somehow manifesting in day 1.

In the afternoon we napped at Pointe Louise; a place that hosts a contentious proposal for wetland development. As I dozed I wondered what this place would become. What had it meant to people? But also it’s other inhabitants—insects buzzing, birds feeding, and fish spawning.

Later we passed rows of newly built or renovated houses. Mansions by Northern Ontario standards. Kids were playing in the water and Pointe Des Chenes public beaches hosted 100s. The water was warm, but still refreshing for beach goers. We chatted with a few folks along the way. Old classmates and friends of friends, retirees, beer drinkers, sailors, floaters alike.

launching a kayak using an accessible launch ramp while another kayaker floats in the water nearby

The day wrapped up coasting into Gros Cap with some welcoming maroon elevation along the horizon. Tomorrow we paddle for Parisienne Island; a 12 km open water crossing to an uninhabited island reserved by the government for environmental protection. This is easily the most exciting leg of the trip and having Joanie and Gary along is sure to be a blast. Oh! And there’s a lighthouse.

Lots to think about day 1. I hope you all enjoyed the day and hearing about our journey.

By: Peter Greve