Drive hard. Play hard.
By Trevor Meers
BACK WHEN THE OJIBWA TRIBE lived at Lake Superior’s mercy, they envisioned the lake’s spirit as a creature named Misshepezhieu. He looked like the unholy offspring of a lizard and a lynx and, when perturbed, stirred up storms with swipes of his spiked tail. But when I come nose-to-nose with an in-the-flesh version of Superior’s wild soul one Tuesday afternoon, he looks more like a scraggly caribou with velvety antlers and an interest in the bagel I"m having for lunch.
The caribou stands dripping on a shoreline deep in Ontario’s Slate Islands, staring at three fishermen half-napping in the sun. Ten feet away, he turns his head sideways, sizing us up with bulging eyes designed to spot any predator in stalking range. But he ultimately seems no more worried about humans than a city-park pigeon, oblivious to the adrenaline-fueled twitching in my knee caused by the most exotic wild beast I’ve ever been this close to.
Even if he’s not a mellower Misshepezhieu, he’s the Lake Superior I came looking for.
I wanted to do more than circle the lake at a polite distance during the Circle Tour, as if a 1,200-mile velvet rope separated the water from its halo of asphalt. I wanted to feel my kayak rise on a swell as the lake breathed. To fill a frying pan with a fish I pulled from the lake’s cold depths. To measure each footstep on trails skittering along sheer rock faces.
Chasing the same vision is my dad, Gary, a professor of education with a taste for all things outdoors. We’re catching up on this trip, since, like most men, we tend to have meaningful conversations only while staring across dashboards or campfires. Plus, I knew he’d find closing a loop around Superior as tantalizing a mission as I did. And in goal-oriented vacationing, unity is everything.
We’re seeing plenty of each other. Not only because of the 200-plus miles we cover each day, but because we’re living in a self-contained marvel known as the Tucson. Camping was a must on this tour designed to feel the thumps of Superior’s s heartbeat. But in anticipation of sore muscles and late-night campsite arrivals, we rented an 8-foot pop-up trailer. It offers two beds, a small kitchen and a weight that burdens our truck no more than a mouse hitching a ride on the bumper. Its compact size lets us regularly tuck into the best spots beside the tent campers.