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Fisherman's Cove - the site of our 2nd campsite

Pukaskwa National Park – Day 2 on the Coastal Trail

Yesterday I left you on the trail at 9:30 PM, about a kilometre short of our first campsite on the Coastal Trail in Pukaskwa National Park. That was the first time in decades of backpacking that I have ever backpacked in the dark. At least we ended up right beside the water without breaking anything – and awoke to the view in the photo below.

As a side note we had been told at our backcountry orientation in the park that WE HAD to make the campsite we booked every night unless we had an emergency. We only ended up making our booked campsites on one out of four nights.

But in our defense we saw only ONE other person on the trail in five days once we’d said goodbye to the group from Caledon so we never put anybody out and we never had a day of less than 8.5 hours of hiking.

Just in case of bears

Before calling it a night we had packed all our food into one backpack and dragged it far away from our tents – just in case there were any bears. We hadn’t seen any bear scat during the day so we were feeling pretty comfortable and frankly we were just too tired to do anything else.

If there had been rocks we could have covered the pack with them – just like I’d done on a backpacking trip to Auyuittuq National Park this summer – but surprisingly rocks were few and far between.

We stopped when I couldn't make out the cairns in the dark - about a km from our intended campsite
The view of the coast we woke up to in the morning

Pukaskwa National Park – Day 2: Backpack 11 km to Fisherman’s Cove.

Normally – without a pack on – I can knock off 11 km in 2 – 3 hours. That didn’t happen on this trip!! But a decent night’s sleep, a cup of hot coffee and several slices of fresh banana bread at least put us in a positive frame of mind to continue.

We knew ahead of time that most of the day would be in the woods. It’s the one section on the Coastal Trail that I would describe as the least interesting. Still, and especially because it’s fall, there is lots of colour, textures, mushrooms and lichens to liven up the hike.

Loved the texture of this mushroom
Loved the texture in the mushroom

It didn’t take us long to realize that we made the right decision to stay put for the night on the trail. On the second day the first part of the hike took us over super slippery rocks and then up through a cleft in the rocks that I never would have found in the dark.

Some of the woods looked like a painting
Some of the woods looked like a painting

Even in the daylight it took us about 90 minutes to reach White Spruce Harbour. It’s a beautiful campsite – like all of them we saw on the trail.

The beach at White Spruce Harbour"
White Spruce Harbour – where we should have camped the first night
We became experts at finding comfortable rest spots
We became experts at finding comfortable rest spots
Crossing the White Gravel River
Crossing the White Gravel River

Lunch at White Gravel River

After a lunch stop at White Gravel River – a huge campsite that’s great for large groups – we motored on – though motored might not be the best word to describe our pace.

The trail in the afternoon was tough – though if the rocks had been dry it would have been a snap. They were slick and slippery.

Every step required concentration and careful foot placement. Interestingly the Vibram soles on my leather boots didn’t grip the rock but the rubber on my $15 Crocs did a fantastic job. It’s too bad they didn’t offer the support I needed to backpack in them.

Nice mix of red moss and greet conifers
Nice mix of red moss and greet conifers
"pink mushrooms"
Mushrooms or ??? I’ve never seen a plant like this before
Slippery walking on granite ridge tops
Slippery walking on granite ridge tops

An afternoon of walking in the rain

About 2 PM in the afternoon the thunderstorm that had been forecast the day before shook the ground and deluged us with rain.

It didn’t stop us but it did make the going even slower. And it managed to soak our boots. I regret that I hadn’t brought some short gaiters with me.

A little autumn colour in the rain
A little autumn colour in the rain
Fisherman's Cove - the site of our 2nd campsite
Fisherman’s Cove – the site of our 2nd campsite

We didn’t rolled into Fisherman’s Cove until 6 PM. It had been a nine hour day and we were all bagged.

Fortunately the rain stopped before we got to camp. We were able to set up tents without getting anything else wet and cook and eat our spaghetti dinner with a view of Lake Superior.

I’d schlepped a Nalgene bottle full of red wine – so with a view like we had, a glass of wine, a warm tent and a full stomach, life at the moment seemed pretty good.

Pretty sweet view from our campsite on day 2
Pretty sweet view from our campsite on day 2

Little did we know that the next day would be our day from hell – and I thought that had already happened. 

For more information on Pukaskwa National Park visit their website.

Further reading on hiking the Coastal Trail  in Pukaskwa National Park

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

A multi-day hike on the Coastal Trail in Pukaskwa National Park, Ontario


Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 32 Comments

  1. Indian pipes or ghost plant, Monotropa uniflora, is a non-green plant that grows on the forest floor on mycorrhizal fungi, these last are fungi that grow on tree roots in a mildly parasitic fashion. The indian pipes are not fungi. They pop-up in August in moist woodlands. Some are pinkish.

  2. I’ve never hiked here, but I’d love to. We have some great trails in Western Australia, but Canada looks an amazing place to just get out and put your hiking boots on. My favourite pic today is where you’ve found a picturesque spot to pitch a camp chair! Much needed, I’m sure.

    1. @Johanna I would LOVE to visit western Australia one day. Your blog has introduced me to all sorts o beautiful areas. Canada is a superb spot for hiking – and at its’ best in August and September when most of the bugs have disappeared.

    1. @Freya We were in pouring rain for some time and the thunder was so loud it shook the ground. Since we didn’t have the option of a warm house we just kept going – and that part of the trip didn’t end up being so bad.

  3. It looks like we both had backpacking trips from hell recently. Here is to having a better hike next time. Beautiful shots though although you don’t really appreciate them at the time until you are back home and comfortable.

  4. You guys are such troopers hiking in the rain and all! Knowing me, I would’ve pitched a tent and waited it out. But I guess that’s why I don’t go on long hikes like this. 🙂

  5. The organism in the picture with the caption “mushroom or ???” Is called Indian Pipe. It is not a mushroom BUT lives off of mushrooms! Loving your blog on Pukaskwa, I hiked the trail as well and oh boy it’s tough!

  6. This is such a lovely park for a long hike but I’d be so nervous about those slippery rocks, Leigh. That alone would make me lose my confidence. And who knew crocs would be better there than your more expensive hiking shoes, eh?

  7. friends and I are planning on bagging the trail next summer , we are aiming for mid July. we avoid hiking after labour day after having spent two days stuck in camp because of heavy rain a few years ago when we hiked in Killarney Prov. Park thanks for review!!!

  8. In this post, you said: “Our plan for the second day was to backpack 11 kilometres to Fish Harbour.” But I think you meant “… to Fisherman’s Cove.” This may be worth correcting, for those of us following along closely. Thanks for the info!

  9. I found your 2013 blog of the trail in 2019.
    There doesn’t seem to be much of a trail. You did well to finish when you did.
    Just a note on Vibrin. The rubber is naturally slippery when wet. You were fortunate not to have had a bad fall. It is the reason I don’t use footwear with it.
    My back hurt seeing the loads you were carrying. Consider looking into getting lighter equipment. There is a whole range of good durable lightweight hiking gear out there. It is more of change on philosophy to hiking that makes the difference.
    If I could be of help, feel free to ask. Jim

    1. @Jim There was definitely a trail and it was marked the whole way. We got down on our butts on the slippery bits and over 5 days I had no falls. We have gone a little lighter – but I find packing food for 5 days that doesn’t taste like cardboard takes up more room than dehydrated stuff. I dry food at home but didn’t have time for this one. At the end I was tired but proud of what we’d done.

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