Hiking the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
Thunder Bay’s greatest feature is its location. On the banks of Lake Superior with mountains and forests surrounding it – it is a hiker’s paradise. There is one hike I have wanted to do since I was young: The Top of the Giant at The Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. And last month – I finally did it.
I always watched each summer (and winter) as my friends would climb to the top of the giant for a stunning view over Lake Superior to Thunder Bay. The rock cliffs plummet below you and look like somebody sliced a piece of pie out of the giant rock. Photos went up on facebook and the smiling faces of my friends made me envious of the hike. I knew I could do it – I just had to find somebody to go with me.
Although I often hike alone, I wouldn’t feel comfortable hiking the Sleeping Giant alone or even with only my Husky Scotia. It was an experience I wanted to share with others, somebody to motivate me up to the top and somebody to share the pain of burning thighs. And I had just the friend – Erin. Erin and I have been friends since Elementary school and her being a Biology Major and Outdoor enthusiast I knew I could count on her to Hike to the Top of the Giant with me. She brought along Daniel, a highschool friend I hadn’t seen since then as he moved out to Vancouver long ago. Thunder Bay always reunites old friends.
So with the 3 of us and Scotia, we loaded into my car at 7am and drove the 1 hour out to the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. The sun was bright and the weather the perfect hiking temperature; 18 Celsius. We made it to the parking lot for 8am, grabbed a park map, and started. The hike would be a total of 25 kilometres. No walk in the park, but certainly manageable.
The first part of the hike was 6km of flat land used as an ATV track. The walk was pleasant as we chit chatted away about adventures in highschool and gossiped about the whereabouts of all our fellow classmates. We made it 6km to Tee Harbour and stopped for a 15 minute break to enjoy the early morning sun along the beach. This initial hike that was completed easily would later be the ultimate doom of 7km monotonous never-ending trail.
We then began the ascent up the mountain. The trail was of dirt, and winding around fallen trees, shrubs, and swamps. But it was also beautiful. The path became steep, but logs had been built into the pathway to act as stairs. And if you don’t recall – Here’s how I feel about stairs while hiking the Cinque Terre. Our pace began to slow and the grumbling commenced. But we were still motivated to see that spectacular view, the one we’d all dreamed about. So we pushed onwards, Scotia leading the way.
And then we saw the Top of the Giant sign. We’d made it to the highest point of the mountain. But strangely, as we looked around, we were still enveloped in the thick boreal forest around us, no views, no ledges, no spectacular views. But seeing that sign gave us a boost of energy and onwards we hiked. And hiked. And hiked. What is that sign for? This isn’t the top of the Giant! We had to hike about 15 minutes before coming to a clearing that provided us with stunning views and placated our feelings of deception by the sign.
We decided to lunch here as we looked further and realized that the view we’d been looking for must be another hour long hike minimum. And we and our thighs were exhausted. So we lunched and stared out beyond, where our 180 degree view was of water, bays, islands, and mountains; The sun glaring overhead. It was certainly a stunning location to lunch, but it wasn’t the view we came for. Our thighs were killing and we all began to grumble about our individual ailments; I pulled my groin muscle, I have dancers hip, my feet are blistered. Scotia’s back legs were shaking and she had difficulty sitting. We certainly are a whiney bunch, but we didn’t know where to head next to get to the Chimney View, nor the energy to wander aimlessly in pursuit of it.
By chance other hikers went by and led us the way. Down a path inward and across the mountain top, on a path that was hidden from our view by plants and disuse. So glad we met them because I know I’d be disappointed had I hiked this far and NOT seen THIS view. Welcome to the Chimney.
This is the view I has ALWAYS wanted to see and a view that kept my heart racing and skipping beats and I crawled closer to the edge to get photos over the edge. This was it. This was everything I had hoped it would be. This was accomplishment. This was the unbeatable views of North Western Ontario. THIS is why I love my home city of Thunder Bay.