Great Lakes Road Trip

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For the last few years, I have prioritized travel within Canada in order to see more of the country that I have learned so much about (geology, geography, history, municipal water management — the whole bit). This summer offered me the time to take a trip I have been wanting to complete for quite some time: a road trip to each of the Great Lakes in the span of ten days! I was very fortunate that my friend Erica was able to accompany me on this adventure to kick off the summer, sharing in hilarity, simplistic travelling lifestyle, insightful visits with friends and enjoying the natural wonders of impressive water and rock features.

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Our trip started at Lake Ontario and circled counterclockwise, north then west and then south and east towards home, all in ten days.

Lake Ontario

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The photo above was taken right by the Lakeview Water Treatment Plant in Mississauga. We took the fewest photos of Lake Ontario because we were itching to go north!

Our first destination was the Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve – gorgeous trails, Turtle Lake, and the most mosquitoes in all of Ontario. Encountered some swampy areas where my foot got pretty mangled but I managed to save my sandal! Then we stayed the night with my undergrad friends Liz and Kyle in Huntsville.

Lake Superior

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Our second stop took us to our friend George’s cottage near Sault Ste.Marie and the Goulais River right on Lake Superior! It was a beautiful spot for campfires, stargazing and reading on the beach. Although it rained one day we were there, yoga, bracelet making and awesome food and friends made for the perfect day.

From there, we drove the north shore of Lake Superior, one of the most beautiful stretches in all of Canada. We stopped at Old Woman Bay as we headed to Thunder Bay on Canada Day.

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We were very fortunate to spend Canada Day with my childhood friend Heather and her welcoming friends. The following day, I went for a run to the Lakehead University campus where I had spent the summer in 2006 attending Shad Valley. It was so wonderful to explore the campus and reminisce about my time there, everything looking so much the same and my life having changed so much in that time.

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We then visited the Thunder Bay farmers market and went on to hike in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. Although the skies were stormy, we managed to avoid the rain and even capped off the day with a rainbow. Heather, thank you so much for taking time to show us the beautiful city you have made your home. I look forward to visiting again soon!

Next up was our longest driving day, across the border and through Minnesota to Wisconsin.On the way, we saw the American side of Lake Superior in Grand Marais.

Lake Michigan

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We soon arrived at Point Beach State Forest. This was an unexpectedly amazing spot, as it happened to be one of the last available campsites in the state on their fourth of July weekend. The park was a mix of rocky and sandy beaches on the shores of Lake Michigan with beautiful trails and campsites throughout the forest; I highly recommend this spot to anyone wanting to visit the area!

We woke up on the fourth and had a perfect day at the beach, capped off with a run in the forest (where I had a bit of a fall that made my Limberlost swamp foot pale in comparison). Sad to leave, we remembered that Chicago lay ahead and packed up our site in excitement.

We had all of forty hours in Chicago and were determined to make the most of it. This was also the more extravagant stop of the trip, so we set aside veggies and chocolate covered coffee beans in search of excellent eats. After checking into our hostel, we headed out to watch the fireworks at the pier and returned back to plan the rest of our time in the big city.

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A la Ferris Bueller, we filled our day with a mix of must-sees and relaxed wandering, which included a boat tour of Chicago’s architecture, lunch at Au Cheval (yum!), photos at the bean, walks through the Art Institute (which included a very captivating piece that chose our trip song for us), strolls along the waterfront, and sunset drinks on the 96th floor of the Signature Lounge. I can’t wait to visit Chicago again!

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On our way eastward and away from Lake Michigan, I snapped this photo of a sign that encompasses two significant water issues within the Great Lakes basin -algal blooms to the south and lead contamination concerns to the north. Both Toledo, Ohio and Flint, Michigan’s recent and significant water issues have garnered attention that is inspiring actions that will ensure everyone has access to reliable and safe drinking water sources.

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Before reaching lake four, we spent the night in Windsor (thanks Emily) and saw a beautiful sunset over the Detroit River (that’s what I call a Group of Seven tree).

Lake Erie

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Bright and early, Erica and I headed out to see Lake Erie and Lake Huron, thus completing our Great Lakes tour. First stop up – Point Pelee National Park. I had never been there before and was blown away by the size of the park, as well as the variety of birds, insects, and wildlife that lined the paths.

The seemingly still waters with rip currents are visible in the photo above taken right at the bottom of the country.

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We were very picture-happy at Canada’s most southern point.

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Lake Huron

 

We hurried along our way to the last Great Lake of our journey and to meet up with our moms who met us at our honourary mom’s cottage (yay Cathy, Peggy and Laurie, thank you!). Hanging out with them and reciting our adventures from the previous ten days through endless giggles was the best end to the trip imaginable.

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Erica and I have known of each other for years but have only had the opportunity to become friends over the last year. This trip solidified best friend territory for us and I’m so happy we have all of these awesome memories together. Having done mainly solo travelling in the past, and never having gone on a road trip before, we’re going to plan future adventures and intend to recreate this trip in our old age – so stay tuned for that! Thank you for being such an amazing travel buddy Erica, for documenting the trip so beautifully with your photos, and for remembering to take selfies at all of the Great Lakes! And to everyone else we encountered, thank you for being such wonderful hosts and guides – wonderful to see you all!

Oh and of course, I collected jars of water from each lake which I fully intend to keep forever. I arranged the cross-section view of the jars chronologically based on our trip (Lakes Ontario, Superior, Michigan, Erie, and Huron from left to right). The clearest water appears to be from Lake Ontario, with the coldest water in Lake Superior and warmest in Lake Erie. Lake Huron is still my favourite lake simply for nostalgic reasons, but Lake Michigan definitely has a special place in my heart now.

Ultimately, a small, forgotten bag I found in my pocket at the end of the trip says it best:

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