Saturday, November 1, 2008

Hiking James Bay

I wanted to go backpacking where I wouldn’t see another soul. I decided on James Bay in Ontario, thinking it would be a remote area and a good spot to find some interesting birds.
I drove into Ontario, Canada and took the road as far north as it would go. I then boarded a train called the Polar Bear Express for another 186 miles straight north. I ended up in a town called Moosonee. It reminded me of a lot of Alaskan towns: a few miles of road and everyone had a vehicle that would take him nowhere.

I had not come looking for a frontier Chamber of Commerce, so I hiked across town to the Moose River and hired a Cree Indian to taxi me across to the Tidewater Provincial Park, an island in the middle of the Moose River.

I set up camp and had lunch then went off to explore the island. It didn’t take long to discover that there were more people camping on this island than the state park back home in Traverse City, Mich., during the Cherry Festival.

I broke camp and decided to go back to the mainland and see if I could find a trail less traveled. I stopped in at the Ministry of Natural Resources in Moosonee and found a brochure on the Coastal Trail. It was just beginning to be developed and promised possible encounters with spruce grouse, boreal chickadee, black-backed woodpeckers and gray jays. It also said pine marten are common.

This sounded more like the adventure I was looking for. It recommended rubber boots as a minimum (hip waders recommended)—they should have mentioned a submarine. When the tide is in (twice a day) finding a dry camp would be almost impossible.

Up the trail several miles I noticed it was low tide and still the ground was too wet to pitch a tent. I would need an air mattress to set my tent on and then float around all night.

I returned to Moosonee and hopped the first train going south. I plan to go back and explore this area one day but I will take a rubber raft to sleep in during the twilight nights and knee high rubber boots to hike the marsh like landscape of James Bay.

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