Coastline of my Dreams
In my dream, I paddle north, past the homes of Pointe Louise and the beaches of Pointe des Chenes to Gros Cap, where signs of human life all but disappear. This is what I’m waiting for. I set off across big water without looking back. It’s early May and I’ve got my sea kayak packed with food, prepared for a lengthy reunion with my favorite place.
I am a younger version of myself, fresh out of grad school in Vancouver. I thought the West Coast would be my Valhalla. But that vision dissolved in the incessant rain, traffic jams and high prices of big city life. Sure, I could paddle my kayak year-round; but I never got used to the sticky residue of salt water. My heart, I realized, floated in a freshwater sea.
Of course, Lake Superior doesn’t understand the romantic notion of my journey. It merely tolerates my presence, splashing ice water in my face. Spring days are sunny, but the bright sky belies cold air. The lake is like a refrigerator. At any moment I’m either paddling hard or shivering. Ice skims my kettle each morning and I’m constantly hungry. One can of baked beans is never enough.
A bit of suffering was OK. Back then, I lived by the mantra of the conservationist and author Edward Abbey: Freedom, not safety, is the highest good. My few possessions fit in the back of a pickup truck. Freedom was the thrill of a sleek kayak, a tent, and a grubstake that might last me till Wawa, Marathon or Thunder Bay—mood and appetite were my only scheduling constraints. I glide past Pancake, Alona, and Agawa bays; around the rock headlands of Gargantua, Isacor and Pukaskwa; and sleep on gravel beaches, each one different except for the lapping of the surf.
Fifteen years later, life’s more complicated. Freedom is fleeting—and also more cherished. I can still describe these wondrous places with all my senses, in greater detail than my own backyard. Without fail, each spring, I set out to rediscover the coastline of my dreams.
Conor Mihell is a National Magazine Award-winning journalist and part-time instructor at Sault College. He was born, raised and currently lives in Sault Ste. Marie.
Conor is an amazing teacher with a passion for encouraging creativity, adventure, and deep thinking. His adventures and his stories put a fire in Sault Ste. Marie’s heart and we are incredibly grateful to have him, a brilliant member of our community!