Our first destination was Pukaskwa Provincial Park, and I learned right away that the way I was pronouncing it (Puh-KAH-skwa) was wrong. It's PUK-uh-skwa. Hmmpf.
We paid the fee to park and headed toward the visitor center for some instructions on where to visit, but they were closing for lunch. They advised we try a short trail to the lake for nice views, so we took their advice.
It is quite a beautiful area.
At the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth, some loud piping plovers were in a chirping at us, and the information plaque stated that they were rare birds. Ahem! Rare? I found them to be quite common and there was one wandering the beach at Pukaskwa.
The trail we followed was a trail for only about 50 yards, and then it went up some wooden stairs and the rest of the trail was smooth, elevated rocks. It wasn't so much a trail as it was a series of rocks that allowed you to walk on them, and the continued to rise above the water without any kind of protection for the people stomping around on them. I parked my butt on the edge of the stairway while Boyfriend Extraordinaire walked around on the rocks until he realized that the trail kind of led nowhere, and we turned around to return to the visitor center. At some point on the trail back, B.E. took this photo of a bumblebee that was much like the one I took at Split Rock, with the orange stripe. Cute little guys.
Photo taken by Boyfriend Extraordinaire
Brave explorers that we are, we decided to take another trail to a beach, one that was not so clearly marked. Fortunately, we found the beach and it was divine!
Only a woman and her son were enjoying the spectacular scenery and crystal clear water. There was a reason. It was frigid! Despite the fact that it was a toasty day out, the water was almost icy and the woman explained that just standing with her feet in the water made her ankles ache with the cold. Yikes. I tried and had the same sensation. It was physically painful to touch water that cold. How would you know looking at it?
The sand was so hot in the sun that I looked at the smooth, cool rocks on the left and right of the beach and wished it had been a rock beach instead of sand. How can it be so hot out but the water is still so cold? Truly, an amazing lake.
B.E. thought to warn any future beach-goers about the water temperature and wrote this message in the sand.
Photo taken by Boyfriend Extraordinaire
Three teenage girls arrived at the beach and investigated B.E.'s sand message. Having already been in the water, the girls agreed with the message and added exclamation points. Yeah, it was that cold.
When we returned to the visitor center, I struck up a conversation with the young woman working there, and we talked a lot about traveling. She informed me that it was highly unlikely that I would see any woodland caribou in the park because although they did live in the remote areas, they seldom lived that far south. Too bad! I really wanted to see a reindeer! My disappointment in having not seen a single moose or bear in the wild thus far drew a gasp of shock from her. In fact, she assured me that we would see a moose or bear between Pukaskwa and Wawa, where we were headed for the evening. I'd heard that before, so I didn't take it too seriously. We left the park and headed back to the highway.
While driving along, I saw what looked like a very stocky dog down a gravel road, hesitated for a moment, and then turned the car around to go back for a better look. I didn't dare believe it might be a bear, but I couldn't risk missing out if it was.
As the car edged to the side of the highway and down this gravel road, sure enough, there was a young black bear.
I nearly peed my pants with delight!
Our first inclination was to watch for a momma bear, but B.E. theorized that he was old enough to be independent, probably a year and a half old. It didn't stop me from getting nervous.
We named this bear Teddy Pringles. Teddy, after Ted, our friend from the National Bear Center in Ely, and Pringles because my first thought was to offer him some Pringles to keep him around and happy. Teddy Pringles was a handsome bear! He clearly wasn't uncomfortable around people, but the cars made him very nervous. When he was confident enough that the car wasn't going to hurt him, he came closer.
And as his confidence grew, so did ours.
He wandered around the side of my car and sat next to B.E., posing, I swear.
B.E. couldn't resist and tossed him an oatmeal raisin cookie.
He seemed to really like it.
The poor guy had a small swarm of flies buzzing around his head at all times. I worried it was a sign of injury or disease, but having never met a bear in the wild before, I couldn't speculate with any knowledge. He just seemed so darn huggable!
Again he walked around my car and this time approached on my side. I tossed him a cookie too, because for whatever reason, my nature is such that I want animals to like me and since they are always seeking food, I always want to feed them. He did not object.
Two men on motorcycles pulled into the street behind us and one dismounted his bike to get a closer look at the bear. My windows were rolled down and he said that if the momma appeared, he was going to jump in my car. I hoped it wasn't necessary because my entire car was full of luggage and stuff from the trip.
The bear seemed curious enough to want to investigate the guy on foot, and he trotted over to see him.
There was no close encounter between the two initially, so the bear wandered back over to my car for more cookies. B.E. accommodated him and when he finished chewing, he came right up to the window and looked in at us.
The experience must have inspired the guy from the motorcycle because he came back to the area with food for the bear. I could not believe my eyes when the following events unfolded.
And despite the squealing, I was totally jealous of this guy. More than anything, I wanted to get closer to this bear. He was so cuddly and sweet, even though B.E. kept saying he had wild bear eyes.
After he'd eaten all the raisins, he wandered over to the other man, who was still on his motorcycle. With cautious curiosity, the bear and the biker seemed intrigued by one another. The bear approached him slowly.
When he sniffed the man and wasn't immediately scared off, the bear had the courage to stand up on his back paws and sniff the guy more. It made me increasingly nervous, but I was in awe.
Never forget that they're wild animals. For no reason whatsoever, my precious Teddy Pringles BIT the guy on the motorcycle on the elbow. He pushed him away and the two parted company. Fortunately, the bear didn't bite hard or tear clothing, nor did he continue to show aggression after being pushed away. We all were stunned. I was more stunned later to see that I snapped a shot exactly as Teddy bit the biker.
The guys on the bikes weren't so friendly to the bear anymore, but we all stuck around and watched him. He approached my car again and I tossed him a cookie. When he finished with it, he came up to my window and looked right in. I couldn't help but reach out, though the window was between us, and I didn't want him to go. I knew he was a wild bear and that he just bit someone in front of my own eyes, but he's so cute!
Look at that face!
We probably would've stuck around forever, but a car spooked our friend Teddy and he ran off quickly into the woods. After getting the bitten biker's email address so I could send him the photos and videos, we left the area as well.
That was the coolest part of the trip! We saw a bear! I had paw prints on my car door from him. He was the cutest thing I ever saw and we continued talking about how awesome that experience was all the way to Wawa.
For a few minutes, we did stop in White River to visit the home of Winnie the Pooh, even though we had our own Pooh experience in reality. Once a year the town of White River has a celebration for Pooh, and we missed the party by just a few hours. The tent was still up and the truck was still present, but the festivities had ended just a while earlier. That's okay. I wouldn't have given up our meeting with Teddy Pringles for a silly Pooh parade!
Still, some time with Pooh was required.
We stayed at my favorite place on the trip that evening: the Northern Lights Motel in Wawa. Not only did we have hilarious jokes on the walls to keep us smiling, but we had room service too! What a luxury! And a 1:00 PM checkout time! It was the best night following the best day!