This is a motorcycle trip from the end of May in 2009. The destination was the Chapleau Crown Game Preserve, a nature park with beautiful scenery and many wild animals including black bears. A good trip deserves a trip report which always brings back good memories. This trip was on my 2009 Suzuki V-Strom DL650 which I bought shortly before this trip. A maiden voyage exploring the rugged and always captivating northern Ontario.
The weekend started with meeting up with a fellow V-Strom rider in Mackinaw City. He was heading up from southern Michigan to his parent’s cabin in northern Ontario and it seemed like fun to explore some of the back roads. The bridge and the Upper Peninsula were crossed quickly and the ride in Ontario took us over Ranger Lake Road. It’s a gravel road making a shortcut between Sault Ste Marie and Highway 129 leading north to Chapleau. It’s a scenic ride but there are many ruts and holes in the road and the loose gravel made it a bit challenging at times. So after 70 kilometers of dirt road, you’re glad being back on asphalt again.
The loop from Sault Ste Marie following Ranger Lake Road to Chapleau, Wawa and back tot he Soo is about 400 miles or 650 kilometers.
Ranger Lake is beautiful and very quiet. It is not on a main road, and not many traffic comes by here. There are several places to stop and enjoy its beauty and silence.
I was invited to stay at the the cabin for a few days but I felt like moving on and explore on my own. After a nice dinner, we said our goodbyes and I continued on to Chapleau. Mind you, I never met these friendly people before and their hospitality was heart warming.
This sign is a short distance south of Chapleau and almost a mandatory picture stop.
I was thinking of continuing West but decided not to make too many miles and explore the Chapleau Crown Game Preserve. From their website:
At a time when true wilderness is fast becoming a rare commodity, the Chapleau Crown Game Preserve is a true treasure for all nature lovers and recreation enthusiasts. Encompassing 700,000 hectares or 2,000,000 acres, it is the largest Crown game preserve in the world. It offers a remote and natural setting which is easily accessible by rail, gravel road, or for the more adventurous, by canoe or aircraft. Wildlife viewing is exceptional and it is not unusual to see animals living their lives oblivious to any human disturbances.
Fur bearing and game animals are protected in the Game Preserve through a ban on all hunting and trapping. As a result, wildlife populations are plentiful and through migration serve to replenish nearby areas where hunting and trapping are encouraged. This was the Ontario Government’s original purpose for creating the preserve in 1925. At the southern tip of the preserve Chapleau serves as the gateway to this vast area. Forest roads lead to lakes and rivers, access points, canoe routes, wildlife viewing stations and at the very centre of the preserve Missinaibi Provincial Park.
This place is huge and the loop road (165 km) only shows a small area of the entire preserve. There are many side roads so it can take a few days to explore them all.
After seeing the bear sign near the entrance of the park, I figured there would be a small chance of actually seeing one. But after about 20 kms into the park, the first one crossed the road right in front of me. These black bears are not huge but they still weigh about 150 – 250 lbs on average and are bigger than the average person.
There are not many other visitors in the park so roads are quiet and they are in good condition for most of the way.
I saw about 12 – 14 bears during the day. Because there is now hunting allowed, most of them are not shy and can have rather curious bahavior. When I was taking this picture, this one actually came slowly towards me. I wasn’t sure if he/she was just being friendly or saw an easy opportunity for lunch. It’s one thing being able to jump in a car but a motorcycle not facing the right way for a quick escape is a different matter. I think this was the fastest I was able to turn around my motorcycle ever.
I enjoy camping with a tent and have done this many times in Northern Ontario. You can camp in the Preserve but I don’t think I would do that anytime soon with so many bears around. It doesn’t happen very often but they do attack and kill people. While it is a very small chance, it would be a bad day if it would happen to you. A story from CBC news: Black bear kills woman camper north of Chapleau, Ontario
Keith Scott, a bear expert with the Ministry of Natural Resources, said such attacks are “very rare. There’s only been four fatalities in Ontario through black bears dating back to about 1978,” he said. “This one in this particular case, it’s early in the investigation, but it appears to be a predatory-type bear. These bears have learned to and often prey on humans.”
On a side road to a picnic area and canoe launch.
There are many lakes in the park. It is a relaxing feeling being 75 kms away from any civilization and the sounds of nature are just breathtaking. No engine or other human noises and the only sound you hear is the wind in the trees. I could live here. It was pretty cool and a little bit windy so there weren’t many mosquitoes or black flies out. Or maybe it wasn’t really the season yet because many of the trees hardly had any leaves on them. And this at the end of May. It’s a short summer season up here.
There was another bear on the side of the road, probably wondering what that funny looking motorcyclist was doing. He or she didn’t look too hungry or agressive so it seemed safe to stop and take a picture.
I spent about 7 hours in the preserve and still wanted to make it to Wawa that evening. The next morning, I spent a few hours exploring the area and taking some more pictures. Overnight low temperature was about 40F / 5C so it was a bit of a chilly start.
Warming up with coffee and an apple fritter at Tim Hortons in Wawa. This is a Canadian chain of coffee / lunch places throughout Canada and they also slowly make their way into the USA.
It is a short ride to the shores of Lake Superior. There is a First Nation (aboriginal people in Canada) reservation on Michipicoten Bay.
The ride back from Wawa down south was uneventful and a bit chilly following the Lake Superior east shore. There weren’t many motorcycles out except for a group of 3 cruisers and a tourer with 2-up. There also was a lone loaded-up BMW 1200GS heading north. There are certain waves to other motorcyclists for when you pass 100 a day. You lift your hand from the handlebar and stick it out a bit. There are also waves with a lot more meaning to them. These are waves with enthusiasm and effort, only given when you haven’t seen another type of motorcycle like yours for days, often riding in the middle of nowhere. It’s a wave between like-minded individuals, pursuing the same desire to ride.
You lift your arm up high and your hand makes an actual single waving motion. This was one of those waves. It’s like you’re saying “I don’t know you but I am wondering where you came from and where you’re going. I bet you have some great stories to share.”. All this in a wave that lasts for seconds. It gives you reassurance you’re not the only loner riding in this place on a cold day.
A rest stop with a view of Lake Superior on the way back from Wawa. Northern Ontario is an amazing place with beautiful rugged nature and will always be one of my favorite places.