McGillivray Creek, Canada - Polarsteps

The day out of Whitemouth transitioned us fully from flat, open prairie farmland into winding roads through Canadian Shield-- the rocks-and-trees-and-water landscape that pretty much covers Ontario. Our back-route was quiet and got quieter as we went along. We got slammed with a thunderstorm in the middle of the day, but happened to be near a picnic shelter in Rennie when it happened, so we had a covered space to wait for it to pass. The town was also home to the Alfred Hole Goose Sanctuary, which is the kind of road sign you don't pass on investigating further. We went in envisioning maybe meeting some sweet injured domestic geese, but the sanctuary ended up being a bygone project to preserve the Canada goose; it's a wetland full of them, and they're definitely doing just fine. This day took us through some kind of horsefly corridor, where for mile after mile the biggest ones I've ever seen swarmed by the hundreds around our bikes, flew in our faces, and tried to land on and bite us while we were riding. Kini is carrying a riding crop on the front of their bike in case of aggressive dogs, which it hasn't been used for yet, but I wish I had video of them waving it at Canada geese, a gang of wild turkeys, territorial red-winged blackbirds, and using it as a fly swatter while cycling this stretch toward Ontario. At the end of the day we pulled off to McGillivray Falls and pitched our tent a short way down a hiking trail. The mosquitoes were the worst we'd seen on this trip, and we were arriving right at the Mosquito Witching Hour; we danced our way through slapping sandwiches together and scarfing them down, trying to keep every body part moving, and stowed our food bags in the backs of the bear-proof garbage cans in the parking lot. Just before we took refuge in the tent, we noticed a big turtle (pictured) at the base of a tree right next to where we were camping; it slept there through the night, too. We had a not-great moment in the night where-- on this quiet road not very close to anything-- there were voices and an engine revving in the parking lot, just slightly down the path from where we were. They eventually left, but neither of us got much sleep; we felt too close to the parking lot and also knew that our bags were there and that we hadn't chosen the best spot to spend the night. There's a bit of an art to wild camping, and a piece of it is avoiding these liminal spaces where no one's around but someone might show up; we didn't nail it that night, but it ended up being a good launchpad for a lot of conversations about how to do it better (and it's been an absolutely necessary skill to hone in Ontario, land of the $50 tent site). -Sara
  1. derailed
  2. 🚲 Bike Jaunt 🚲
  3. McGillivray Creek