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Sierra Club Wilderness
trips and expeditions
Chapter: Michigan (Mackinac)
Group: Central Upper Peninsula (CUPG)
Leader: Michael Neiger, Marquette,
Michigan (Web site; e-mail;
album no. 1, photo
album no. 2, photo
album no. 3, trip
journal no. 1, trip
journal no. 2, and three moose sheds
from this completed trip
18th Annual (Spring)
Canadian Backpacking Expedition
River Valley & Mount Baldy
changed from Mount Baldy
to Austin Lake Mountain
and Fire Tower, 11 Mile River
Agawa Canyon area
East of Lake Superior Provincial Park
Southeast of Wawa, Ontario
a.m. Sat to mid-afternoon on Sun.
Club fee: $20 (U.S. funds).
Algoma Central Railroad fare: $50 (Canadian funds)
Park camping permits: if any, $6.50 per night (Canadian
Signup by May 6 required
long-range, high-skills, extremely remote trip requires a 11-day ration
load and foul-weather survival gear. This is not a fair-weather trip.
It is only suitable for those hard-core, dyed-in-the-wool backpackers
who have strong minds and bodies and who have an insatiable desire to
recon remote, untrammeled bush.
participants in this expert-level trip must have successfully completed
at least one prior wilderness trip with the trip leader.
This spring's backpacking expedition
has the potential to be one our most ambitous and challenging ever.
After a 5-mile drive along an old,
rocky, washout-prone jeep trail that climbs 500 feet from Highway
17 to the Algoma Central Railway's remote and abandoned Frater Station
at milepost 102, we'll hand-signal the No. 1 bush train to stop and
pick us up.
Alex, Gail, Mary,
and Michael at
one of the cascades
of the remote Parch Creek Falls
on a spring '03 trip
to the Agawa Canyon.
(Photo by Alex Chard)
Once aboard, we'll pay the conductor
our fare and sit back and enjoy a near hour-long ride down into, through,
and out of the spectacular Agawa Canyon.
At milepost 122.5, where the confluence
of the mighty Agawa River and the Blackspruce River are overlooked
by Blackspruce Mountain, we'll detrain and begin our recon of the
seldom-visited Blackspruce River Valley. Our first nights bivouac
will be at Blackspruce Falls, which is located about a klick (1 kilometer)
or so up the valley.
Along the way, we'll take time to
relax, fish for trout with a handline, read, swim, take photographs,
Lady Evelyn Falls
on a spring '03 trip.
(Photo by Mary Powell)
Our ultimate goal is to work our
way up the Blackspruce River Valley--taking in its rapids and falls
along the way--to Blackspruce Lake and then on to Mount Baldy (2005',
non-technical), a rock promitory with its own namesake lake and island
situated on a plateau just below the summit.
A few klicks before Mount Baldy,
we will recon a section of hydro line for a potential two-week expedition
Mary, Gail, and Sue
enjoy lunch at Burnt Rock Pool
along the bank of
the Agawa River.
The north wall of the canyon,
visible in the background,
is a foothill of Kwagama Hill
on a spring '02 trip.
(Photo by Mary Powell)
Once we complete a bivouac atop Mount
Baldy, and drop a handline in Mount Baldy Lake to check it for monster
native brook trout, we'll head north to check out the headwaters of
the Agawa River.
From the headwaters of the Agawa
River we will hike southwest to return to the Algoma Central Railway,
where we will flag down the No. 2 bush train for a ride back to our
vehicles at the abandoned Frater Station.
Involves off-trail travel, river
fords/swims, lake narrows
ford/swims, and swamp cuts through extremely remote, seldom-traveled,
bug-infested, Canadian wilderness on the remote backside of Lake Superior
The ACR's Agawa
Canyon Station as viewed from high atop the west canyon wall, looking
south, on a spring '01 trip. (Photo by Mary Powell)
Access is by helo, seaplane, or bush
train only. Evac during isolated portion of route will require helo
is not a basecamp trip. We will move each day and bivouac in a different
location each night, often deep in the bush and far from roads, dry
& level campsites, potable water, toilets, fire rings, and other
En route back
to their vehicles
at the long-abandoned
Algoma Central Railway
Mara and Mary
hoist their rucksacks
into the ACR
No.2 baggage car
in the Agawa Canyon,
on a spring '01 trip.
(Photo by Loretta Crum)
Free wilderness skills and educational
opportunities, by prior arrangement:
- Hands-on GPS instruction--learn
how to configure your GPS unit
and use it to while under way in the bush.
- Hands-on map and compass instruction--learn
how to plot azimuths on your topo map with your compass, cut azimuths
through the bush with your compass, and solve complex navigational
challenges using a variety of tactics and strategies including ranger
pacing beads, aiming off,
- Tarp rigging--learn how to rig a
tarp and bivouac under it.
- River fording--learn
how to waterproof your rucksack and how to ford or swim waterways
crossing your route.
- Low-impact fire laying, where appropriate
only--learn how to build and maintain a small, Indian-style fire without
scarring the ground and without leaving any trace.
travel techniques--learn how to travel and bivouac "lightly"
in the bush while at the same time minimizing your impact on the wilderness.
please review the homepage on this Web site
for additional wilderness tripping information and requirements.
- 18 years old or older
- non-smoker and non-drinker
- very physically fit (good aerobic
- adventurous spirit
- experienced, 20-degree-rated backpacker
- fully equipped with lightweight
backpacking gear including rucksack, bivouac gear, survival gear,
foul-weather gear, rations, stove, etc.
participants in this remote, long-range, high-skills, advanced-level
trip must have successfully completed at least one prior wilderness
trip with the trip leader.
Specialized equipment required:
- In-pocket survival
kit (knife, matches, firestarters, compass, whistle, magnesium
firestarter); Sierra Club survival kits are also available free of
- River-fording footwear
Land Nav Team quads:
Topo map ordering
nav gear recommendations
Review journals and photos from past
trips to this area:
trip leader for trip application form:
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