The Greatest Lake: Stories from Lake Superior's North Shore

The Greatest Lake: Stories from Lake Superior's North Shore

by Conor Mihell


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Explore the connection between people and places on the rugged shore of Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake.

Conor Mihell offers a compelling image of Lake Superior’s Canadian shore through colourful personality sketches, adventure stories, and environmental accounts. Admire the kitschy decor of lighthouse cottager Maureen Robertson, a 76-year-old who spends six months of the year alone on a remote island; enter the debate over a controversial aggregate quarry in Wawa, Ontario; and learn how the author’s love affair with the world’s largest freshwater lake began on quests for a near-mystical, glacier-dropped monolith.

Mihell’s stories build on Lake Superior’s rich and varied history and support its critical place in Canadian culture. Since the beginning, Lake Superior has been revered for its God-like qualities of power, unpredictability, and a seemingly endless expanse of life-sustaining freshwater. The lake’s rugged yet fragile nature and hardscrabble characters and outpost communities define rural northwestern Canada. Experience it for yourself in this first collection of stories by one of the region’s most acclaimed journalists.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781459702462
Publisher: Dundurn Press
Publication date: 06/26/2012
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 6.90(w) x 9.70(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Conor Mihell is an adventure travel, lifestyle, and environmental journalist. He writes for magazines and newspapers such as Cottage Life , the Globe and Mail , Canoe & Kayak , and ON Nature , and won a 2010 Northern Lights Award (1st place, independent journalist-magazine) for travel-writing excellence. He lives in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Searching for Inchcape Rock—Describing my introduction to Lake Superior, searching the lake’s easternmost bay for an elusive swimming hole with my grandfather. [Personal introduction]

Chapter 2: The Keeper of Trowbridge Island Light—A piece about Maureen Robertson, a colourful 77-year-old from Thunder Bay who for 14 years spent her summers “cottaging” alone on a remote lighthouse island on Lake Superior, offshore from Northwestern Ontario’s famous Sleeping Giant. I visited Robertson in the summer of 2010, her last year at Trowbridge Island. [Character profile]

Chapter 3: The Iceman Cometh—A profile of Stan Chladek, known by many as the father of sea kayaking on the Great Lakes and creator of the Gales of November Rendezvous, an annual get together for expert sea kayakers on Lake Superior’s Agawa Bay with a 25-year history. [Adventure/Character profile]

Chapter 4: Between a Rock and a Hard Place—This story describes a decade-long debate to build an aggregate quarry and rehabilitate a deepwater port at Michipicoten Bay, near the economically deprived town of Wawa, Ontario. [Environment]

Chapter 5: The Other Side of the Lake—A profile of the cottage community of Michipicoten Bay, near Wawa, and the environmental issue that divides it. [Environment/Character profile]

Chapter 6: Hollowed Bones and Frayed Nerves—A piece describing a wild, high-water canoe trip on the remote Pukaskwa River, north of Wawa, Ont. [Adventure]

Chapter 7: For the Birds—A piece about John and Maureen Woodcock, the managers of the Thunder Cape Bird Observatory on Lake Superior, near Thunder Bay. The Woodcocks’ are passionate songbird conservationists—they spend seven months of the year at the remote Thunder Cape research station and their winters protecting migratory bird habitat in Central America. [Environment/Character profile]

Chapter 8: Waterman, Keith McCuaig—A profile of a Marathon, Ontario-based boater who has spent his entire life on Lake Superior—first helping his beachcombing father and now ushering outdoor enthusiasts up and down the wild coast of Pukaskwa National Park. [Character profile]

Chapter 9: The Adventures of a Buck Finn—A story about seeking out hidden first-come, first-serve saunas on the remote islands of western Lake Superior by sea kayak. [Adventure]

Chapter 10: Mine Fields—An investigative story looking into the environmental legacy of mining in Northern Ontario, with a particular focus on communities along Lake Superior’s north shore. [Environment]

Chapter 11: My Favourite Tourist Trap—In the spirit of the Hudson Bay Company trading posts that once dotted the north shore of Lake Superior, Gerry and June Demers have built a tourist-driven enterprise at Pancake Bay, just north of Sault Ste. Marie. My story will trace the history of the Demers’ Canadian Carver and Agawa Crafts stores. [Character profile]

Chapter 12: The Greatest Lake—A piece exploring the formation of the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area, Canada’s first federal marine park that protects a huge swath of western Lake Superior. [Environment]

Chapter 13: Rebuilding a Legend—A profile of Sault Ste. Marie-based wooden canoe builder Ron Pellinen, who in the winter of 2011 restored a historic cedar-canvas canoe that was built by Ben Richards. My piece will also explore the history of Richards’ St. Mary’s Canoe Company, which was founded in 1912 and was the first commercial canoe-builder west of Toronto. [Character profile]

Chapter 14: 20,000 Miles on an Inland Sea—A profile of Michipicoten Bay local, environmentalist and retired provincial park planner Joel Cooper, who spends most of his summer travelling the north shore of Lake Superior by 16-foot powerboat, assisting with ecological research and sharing his love of the lake. [Character profile]

Chapter 15: Selling our Souls to Superior—Tales of a series of voyageur-inspired sea kayak marathons and the French Canadian legend of la chasse gallerie. [Adventure]

Chapter 16: Lake People—A short personal essay exploring the evolution of my relationship with Lake Superior, its people and its powerful moods. [Essay]

Recommended Reading /Index

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Mihell’s passion for the lake is evident in each of the 16 stories which weave-in natural and human history and environmental issues while introducing eccentric personalities and telling stories of adventure and misadventure.”

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