145 kms north of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, lies an area of limitless wilderness, of moody skies, and golden beaches, all following the gnarly coastline of Our own incredible, Lake Superior. this place is called Agawa.
“Aagawaa” means “sheltered place” in the Ojibwe language.
Our mother was raised here and the history and stories of her family and community, run deep. Many of the stories full of intrigue and mystery. Told of colorful, uniquely rugged people, against the background canvas of the Agawa area, make me want to hear more as they transport me back in time.
I wanted to share a bit about our hike along the Towab Trail, in Agawa this summer and how it made me feel. This is a feeling that holds a lot of weight for me. It always feels right to be in these forests, on the shores of the lake, exploring the paths the ancestors before we had traveled and lived on. To hear only silence, rustling leaves under our feet or a single birds song.
Call it spiritual, call it relaxation, or decompressing. Whatever it might be, there is calming energy in this place. It is safe and sheltering, a feeling that is palpable.
The Towab Trail in the first week of July is “Green”, every shade of green you can imagine. Emerald, sage, forest green, the greenest of any greens I have ever seen. The beginning of this trail is easy, and under a protective canopy of trees for 4-5 miles. The gold streams of sun dance through the trees until they hit the forest floor. The perfect area of a trail to start any hike by warming up, stretching, and winding down. The beginning of Towab is a reflection spot if there ever was one! I left some weight on this leg of the trail. I felt so relaxed enjoying this leisurely walk for 4-5km into Burnt Rock Pool.
Our first stop.
Before our approach to Burnt Rock Pool you can feel a difference in energy. The power of the water and its ability to change and create reminded me similarly to the feeling of electricity as it eagerly encourages the hairs on your arms to stand up. Stepping onto Burnt Rock I could feel the heat emanating, through my hiking boots. Between the strength of the river, the calmness of the pool of water below, the warmth from the giant rocks, and the view of the vast forest ahead of us, I couldn’t do much more but breathe and take it all in.
Earth is amazing, isn’t it?
It is calming, breathtaking, moving. It can be life-changing. If there is magic in the world I suspect it will be found in places like this.
Just before the ascent of the trail is a camping spot where we spent the night. With a swimming and fishing hole, beach spots, and a towering mountainside that encompassed us so much so that we were happy to sit silently for some time and stare. There was a distinctive face of an Old Man on the side of the mountain. It caught both my own eye and the eye of my hiking partner as we talked of and laughed with “Old Man Mountain” for several hours that evening and into the next day. This spot will forever be “Old Man Mountain” to us!
The ascent leg of The Towab is long, difficult, and challenging in spots. Despite this we were hot, sweat dripping in our eyes, covered in dirt, determined, happy hikers!!! This is when I dug in deep, to all I had, up, up, up, and up some more. At one point my hiking partner said “this is the uppiest down hill I ever did climb” and you know when something strikes your funny bone? Well, for us, this was it. We were climbing, panting, and laughing uncontrollably. It may have been tiredness or hunger that had us laughing so hard, in the middle of this enchanting forest, but either way, we laughed, and once again I felt a weight lift, and a spirited boost of energy!! It’s magic I tell you!!
This is where I learned a valuable life lesson.
Next time pack lighter!!!!
When we had almost made it to Agawa Falls, the prize at the end of the path, It felt like winning a race. A reward for our hard work, reflecting on the way in. The roar of the falls starts as the sound of a distant rush of water and quickly gets louder and louder until it drowns out the sound of anything else. Bird songs, snapping twigs, branches in the wind all fade away and nothing can be heard over the force and power of the water.
The first sight of the falls is jaw-dropping but making camp and sleeping next to a waterfall was something else completely. It didn’t feel real at first, how could I be in the middle of a forest, laying under the stars, with a waterfall right next to my bed? I lay there imaging my relatives who had lived here, counting on these waters and this land for survival. How there hikes through these forests had life-sustaining purposes. Fishing, foraging, hunting, living, providing, surviving!
I lay there thinking how privileged I was to be in my soft, warm sleeping bag, when surely if my ancestors slept by these falls it was likely because they had to and probably didn’t have much of a blanket if any at all. Note to self: More Gratitude!
The sun illuminated the pool at the base of the falls in the morning. There was a heavy mist that lingered down the river. We, of course, found our way to the very top of the magnificent Agawa Falls that morning. To the very top and whether we were supposed to or not, we ventured out onto the edge and stood right alongside as the water plunged with such force over the edge
and fell 25 meters into the churning, bubbling pool below.
Speaking loudly at the top is necessary for any hiking partners to hear you, but you won’t need to worry because being on top of these falls, on this wonder of creation, and looking down, you will most certainly be speechless.This was our journey. It was a personal triumph, a renewal of spirit, a rejuvenation, a path we will not forget and will be back to explore again. The hike in and out of Towab is roughly 20 kms.
There is so much to speak of and not enough time in one article. If you ever are able to experience this hike you won’t be disappointed. If your not able to make this journey, I hope that my feelings and description can help you to understand Agawa’s beauty to some degree.
Named “Aagawaa”, an Ojibway word, meaning “sheltered place” She lives up to her name and beyond!
She is powerful. She is healing. She is dramatic. She deserves to be preserved in life, in a story, a photo, on canvas, or in a song. The ever-flowing, ever-changing creations of the mighty majestic Agawa River and Waterfall.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article.
I will keep writing and trying to express the incredible beauty in our Algoma area.
There are so many wonderful spots to explore here.
So much more to write about.
Until my next article.