If you have to spend a couple (so far) of days wind bound on an island in Lake Superior, Number 10 Island is a sweet one. There’s a little wooden lighthouse, recently painted in the traditional Canadian colors, white with red trim. The original light is long gone, replaced by a solar powered light clamped to a rail, but folks are doing what they can to preserve the maritime history here.
The island is one of an archipelago of almost 500 comprising the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area. Created in 2007, the area encompasses all of the water, shoals and shoreline from Thunder Cape east to Bottle Point. Dumping, mining, and oil and gas exploration are prohibited in the area, making this the largest body of protected fresh water in the world.
“A Paddler’s Guide to the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area,” by Zach Kruzins and Darrell Makin, published in 2012, identifies established campsites, points of interest and launch sites throughout the area. It says of Number 10 Island that “since this site is a highly visited spot by both boaters and paddlers, and there is not privy site as of yet, human waste has become an issue.” I figured that since the book came out someone might have taken the initiative to deal with that issue.
Indeed, just a few meters from the cobble landing are a couple of recently hand painted “Toilet” signs, with arrows pointing beyond the clearing where the lighthouse stands, to the edge of the woods, where there’s a red box with a toilet seat. An outhouse without the house. Usually this type of “facility” is tucked in the woods out of sight. Here, it’s front and center, with a view of the lighthouse, flashing whitecaps, and the mysterious, roadless Black Bay Peninsula in the distance. There’s an Edwards Coffee can next to the box with, I can’t believe it, a roll of toilet paper in it. Not that I need it – I’m packing my own – but it’s comforting to know it’s there, and someone cared to put it there. There’s also a picnic table, and a cozy tent site tucked amongst the spruce trees. Maybe what’s best is what’s not here: mosquitoes, and bears (I think…)
Highlights on my way here included sighting a moose as I rounded the tip of Black Bay Peninsula. It appeared from a clump of trees on a small island to my right, entered the water about 100 yards in front of me, and swam to the mainland. Other critters I’ve seen are a young black bear which Ruth, Matt and I saw along the highway at the start of the trip; a trio of playful otters one foggy afternoon on the water; a bat warming up the toilet seat for me the other morning; a couple of frogs and snakes. Lots of eagles, a cedar waxwing, loons, big robins, a great blue heron, sparrows, and I’ve heard a great many songbirds.
I also spent a couple of days helping four great guys frame a cabin at Moonlight Beach. The owner of the camp, Jim, offered to let me stay on his property while I was waiting to meet Ruth last weekend, and for a change I was able to repay a bit of the kindness I’ve received from people all along the shores I’ve passed. It was great fun pounding nails and trading stories with Bill, the contractor, and his carpenters Veikko and Chris. Go Denmark! Go Finland! Go Canada!
I’m off to the beach again to see if the wind has died down so I can Go Paddle!