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SUPERIOR COAST

The Sleeping Giant formation as seen across Marie Louise Lake at sunrise in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada.

The Sleeping Giant 30 sec, f/8, ISO 100


Across the waters of Marie Louise Lake, amid a bed of forest, lies a massive rock formation known as The Sleeping Giant. I walked down to the shore this morning to get a glimpse of today's destination - the top of this colossal natural structure. The Giant lies on a peninsula of Northwestern Ontario, jutting out into the waters of the great Lake Superior. This beautiful spot is almost 1,500 kilometres from Toronto - the starting point of our adventure. On an early Saturday morning, two days before I took the above photo, we packed the car - full trunk and back seats - and got onto the highway. The drive to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park would have taken 15 hours non-stop, so an overnight rest in Sault Ste. Marie, a midway point, was on our schedule. The next half of the road-trip would take us to the city of Thunder Bay, bringing us within an hour's drive of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.


Here is our route, as seen on Google Maps. Our province is truly immense...

Drive from Toronto to Thunder Bay (Google Maps screenshot).

It was a mild gloomy morning - a welcome change in the midst of the summer heat. The first couple hours of the drive were pretty familiar, but once we cleared the flat countryside typical to our part of Ontario, the most incredible landscapes started opening up around us. The Trans-Canada Highway took us through hills, mountains, forests, and a plethora of lakes of all shapes and sizes, including the coast of the massive Lake Superior.

Stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway in Northwestern Ontario.

Road to the Northwest 1/100 sec, f/5.6, ISO 500


Two days and almost 1,500 kilometres of road later, we woke up in the city of Thunder Bay, which sits on the shores of Lake Superior. We were now only an hour away from the peninsula which housed Sleeping Giant Provincial Park - where we'd settle in for camp.


I crawled out of bed an hour before sunrise to get a peak of the Giant in the morning mist. My tripod was set up on a hilltop above the city of Thunder Bay, and I snapped a few shots while chatting to locals out on their early morning walks. This was a fairly popular spot.

City of Thunder Bay, Canada at sunrise, with the Sleeping Giant seen across the water.

Bay of Thunder 1/8 sec, f/10, ISO 100


We packed up our bags, picked up a light breakfast and drove out of the city towards our final destination - Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. We had to make sure we arrived at least an hour or two before sunrise - setting up tents in the dark can be challenging - but with some time to spare we stopped for a short hike out to Ouimet Canyon. This gorge is over a mile long, about 330 feet deep and 490 feet across - by far the largest I've ever seen.

Ouimet Canyon in Northwestern Ontario, Canada.

Ouimet Canyon 1/200 sec, f/7.1, ISO 400


The next morning, after a fire-cooked meal and coffee, it was time for our big hike - the top of The Sleeping Giant. The route from our campsite in the provincial park to the top of the Giant and back was about 24 kilometres. We allocated a full day to this, to be safe, leaving shortly after breakfast. A short detour off the main trail brought us out to this peculiar rock structure, known as the Sea Lion, sitting in the waters of Superior. If you're not seeing a lion, don't worry - you're not the first to question the similarity. The rock has eroded over the centuries, and used to resemble the feline creature much more closely in the early 1900s.

The Sea Lion rock formation in Lake Superior, Ontario, Canada.

The Sea Lion 1/500 sec, f/8, ISO 500


Finally, after a long trek though wooded trails, rocks, fields and mushroom patches, we made the ascent to the top of The Sleeping Giant. As we took our last step out of the greenery, we found ourselves standing over these gargantuan stone gates - like a portal opening up into the enormous Lake Superior. The climb was challenging but worth it.

Cliffs and Lake Superior from the top of the Sleeping Giant in Northwestern Ontario, Canada.

Gates of Lake Superior 1/1000 sec, f/7.1, ISO 500


These are just a few snapshots from several days on the road, and walking the forest trails of Lake Superior's coast. Northwestern Ontario is vast and beautiful, with seemingly unlimited wilderness to explore. Whether you're looking for an adventure, or just a place to relax and take in the Canadian natural world - you'll find plenty of opportunity here.

A curious friendly fox on the road into Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada.

Curious Fox

1/640 sec, f/4.5, ISO 500

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