Allright, so this picture has nothing to do with Pukaskwa National Park. This is in the town of White River, Ontario which is the last town before Pukaskwa if you're headed west. (From the other side Marathon is only about 20 km away). So White River is best known as being the place where a Canadian soldier on his way to World War I stopped to purchase a black bear cub. Naturally the thing a person needs most on the way to war is a black bear cub. Either way he named it Winnie (after Winnipeg) and then proceeded to leave it in the care of the London zoo during and eventually after the war. A certain Mr. Milne came along, his son was taken with the bear and named his own toy bear Winnie and you can probably figure out the rest. There's not a whole lot to do in White River except stop at the A&W / service station and get gasoline since you never know when the next service station will come along in these parts. Once you've stopped there, you might as well come take a picture of this statue, right?
Pukaskwa (pronounced like the last two letters were reversed) is an enormous wilderness area along the northeast shore of Lake Superior. The developed area is a tiny enclave just inside the north border of the park. The vast expanse of the wilderness to the south can be accessed by canoeable river, sea kayaks along the lakeshore, or hiking on the one long trail into the interior. This is Hattie Cove, an inlet off of Lake Superior and namesake of the park's campground.
The campsites here are nice and secluded for the most part. There are two loops, one of which is rarely open. Since our visit was off-season (the actual high season seems to run from mid-July to the end of August), ours was one of three occupied campsites. As campsites go, it was incredibly quiet and had short hike access to both Hattie Cove and a beach on Lake Superior. As camping experiences go pretty much everything went wrong. Intense rain during the night worked its way through our rainfly forcing mid-thunderstorm emergency repairs. Once we got around that the high winds came and caused further problems and finally the frequent lightning was so close that we had to take shelter in the car. That's ignoring the assorted wildlife problems which we'll get to. Apart from all that - we'd highly recommend camping here.
This is one of several beaches north of Hattie Cove but still within the park boundaries. Lake Superior looks really calm and placid here but the driftwood piles are a small clue as to its true nature. There are several hiking loops out of Hattie Cove and one very long trail to the south.
If you visit during mosquito season, we'd highly recommend sticking to trails along the lakeshore where at least you can get some reprieve from them. We feel we know mosquito-infested areas pretty darn well and Pukaskwa ranks right up there behind the Everglades in terms of mosquito annoyance. The good news is that the weather at Pukaskwa is usually quite cool so wearing long sleeves and long pants is not a hardship.
Horseshoe cove is the closest Lake Superior beach to the Hattie Cove area. The island out there has a pretty massive seabird rookery on it. The beach here isn't a bad place to come and eat if you're trying to escape the insects. We would've eaten down here more often if we weren't also trying to escape thunderstorms.
Caribou are easier to find in other parts of Canada but there are some in the park. They're easiest to see from a sea kayak since they frequent the waterfront areas and also the small offshore islands which they swim to for protection from wolves.
There are some very old igneous rock formations in the park. There are also some newer rock formation called Pukaskwa Pits. These are subtly rearranged rocks which generally form small pits or walls. They were created anywhere from 2000 BC up until 1750 AD and their purpose is not entirely clear. The park does not advertise or locate these on its maps to help preserve them. We've been to enough parks in enough places to realize that, while this is a sad commentary on park visitors, it's probably a necessity. In any event, moving cobblestones is prohibited.
This is Halfway Lake. It's a nice loop trail north from Hattie Cove. The lake is prime wildlife viewing, notably for moose. Did we see a moose here? Of course we didn't. If we had, you'd be looking at a more interesting picture of a moose in wetlands instead of just mooseless wetlands. We did encounter at least one large mammal which we never got a clear look at. Could it have been a bear? Absolutely not. We'll get to that part momentarily. The only wildlife we definitively identifed at Halfway Lake were the several hundred mosquitos that followed us around waiting for our repellent to wear off.
The trickiest bit about hiking Halfway Lake is the lack of blazes or cairns. Most of trail crosses exposed rock. The trail is most obvious where there are connecting bridges or stairs built out of wood. The long expanses of open rock make it somewhat challenging to figure out where you're supposed to be.
Is this a bear? Well, we certainly thought so. It walked across our campsite, investigated the campsite next to us and then set about mauling the 'bear-proof' trash can further down the road. We took about two minutes of video of this happening (from a safe distance). Since the ranger had asked us to report any bear activity, we got in the car and drove up to the headquarters. As soon as we left the campground we spooked another black bear which ran across the road a few feet in front of us. The park office was empty so we reported it the next morning. In the process of filling out the bear report (why doesn't the bear have to do the paperwork?), the ranger told us that there shouldn't be bears in Hattie Cove as it's a bear-free zone. That's interesting, but apparently they have not told the bears.