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Back Roads Bill suggests some overnighters

In part three Bill takes us to locations you will need to plan for

Over the past two weeks, Back Roads Bill suggested some destinations and told their stories so that, as the weather improves and the landscape awakens, you may wish to put them on your visit list.

Week one featured Sunday drives that are easy enough to do. Last week, day trips with a little more thinking and with another mode of transportation were featured.

This week, well-planned adventures where there is a plan that you leave with someone before departing, you have looked at maps and checked out access are featured. You are most likely staying overnight somewhere.

The Spirit

It may be the most difficult of treks but worth it and you may experience and feel the spirit of someone who is missing on the muskeg.

Is United States Air Force (USAF) Pilot 1st Lt. Gaylord Treu, MIA, a casualty classification? He is somewhere out there among the boreal black spruce bogs of Northern Ontario.

Accidents are a series of mistakes. Something went tragically wrong on Dec. 17, 1959, during the height of the Cold War.

A fighter jet collided with a long-range bomber north of Hearst during a training mission. The Pinetree Line of radar stations stretching across Canada (many Northern Ontario locations, including nearby Pagwa) was fully operational as was the BOMARC guided missile base in North Bay. During this training mission, the interceptors would have been in pursuit of enemy aircraft.

The collision occurred at 28,000 feet, or more than five miles (10 kilometres) above the ground. It was a high altitude to deploy parachutes as the two aircraft plummeted to the floor of the boreal forest.

The two bomber pilots ejected and were found the next day. Two navigators from the bomber died and the fighter jet pilot was never found.

The six-day search was called off just before Christmas. We know from a memorial notice the family did their own ground search the following year for USAF Pilot 1st Lt. Gaylord Treu. It is a story worth telling.

It is my avocation and I spent more time on this story than any other trying to find Deny Treu. Because of the spirit encounter, I did, and soon enough he is coming back to leave a memorial to his father. That will be another story. But it is the feeling of the pilot’s spirit wafting by me, telling me that I needed to find his son, an unforgettable moment. You will need the map.


This trip requires a power boat or canoe.

Yikes, I took to the backwaters in a motorboat! The destination was Lake Temagami it has more than 1,200 islands and it’s a special place. The following travelogue will tell the tale.

I was told being able to go boating, post-pandemic—or at any time, really—is an outdoor opportunity because studies show that being on or near the water is a boon for psychological health. That makes sense.

The proof might be in the book by Wallace J. Nichols, Blue Mind, which looks at scientific reasons why being in, on or under the water can make us happier and healthier.

“Simply the mere sight and sound of water promote wellness by lowering cortisol, increasing serotonin, and inducing relaxation." He says, “When it comes to reducing stress, being on a boat can be considered a type of medicine.”

Okay, then it could be good for you.

We have an abundance of lakes in Northern Ontario but when you think about it there are not many boating destinations with facilities and services to meet the demands of 'big water.' 

There is the North Channel (Killarney), Lake Temiskaming, Manitoulin Island (perimeter), Lake of the Woods, and Lake Nipissing (Upper and Lower French River leading into Georgian Bay). For boaters with large expensive pleasure crafts, there has to be an anchoring community, charts/maps, launches, marinas and a chip stand somewhere on the shoreline, accessible by boat. Not all lakes meet these criteria, so that is why, for example, Lake Nipigon is not on the list.

Lake Temagami was the destination and you could spend days exploring but here are some of the highlights. You will also need (some topos or charts) and here is the digital map.


Sometimes you find and see things in nature that are truly extraordinary. This is one of those times when your lens of appreciation will open.

Keep these definitions in mind. Pictographs are rock paintings created using the ochre medium. These are plentiful when compared to petroforms, which are rock piles, like an Inukshuk. Petroglyphs are rock carvings. There are very few of these etchings in Northern Ontario.

Petroglyphs are very rare in the Canadian Shield, not just in Northern Ontario. There are approximately 30 known sites when compared to hundreds of pictograph sites.

According to one researcher, “That is why the Wakimika petroglyphs are a big deal."

"As for the dates, only one pictograph in the Canadian Shield in Quebec was dated with Accelerator Mass Spectrometry dating in the 1990s to roughly 2,000 years ago.

"Many sites were made in the post-contact, colonial period and we have ethnographic and ethnohistorical information about it (e.g. Agawa pictograph site, Lake Superior Provincial Park), rock art is unfortunately neglected still.”

There is more to this story and you can do some exploring.

Mattawa River

This is a favourite of Back Roads Bill because of the many facets of natural and cultural heritage you can appreciate in two or three days.

There’s a 'dog face' etched in the rock featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not, a spiritual cave, waterfalls cliff faces, vistas, potholes and natural/cultural heritage all in one go and accessible. It could have been a ship canal and you can participate in a marathon canoe race along this river’s entire course.

There are so many day and overnight canoe/kayak places and routes to take your boats to throughout Northern Ontario. We are blessed with countless mighty rivers and interconnected waterways.

These waters served as the original highways for the First Nations of this land, and later explorers, traders and settlers. They continue to attract outdoor enthusiasts/adventurers today.

Often we go looking for detailed information. How much more can you be enticed to take on this paddling experience?

The map link is a detailed one or you can purchase a paper one through the Canadian Ecology Centre.

New Post

This trek to a former community and the abandoned cemetery is by canoe/kayak or boat from Abitibi Canyon north of Smooth Rock Falls.

Found it! It is one of the most remote cemeteries in Northern Ontario, not so abandoned and with a far-reaching story tracing back family roots and overlapping a number of cultural lines.

That was part of an original storyline in 2015 but since then there is so much more to share especially when a reader contacts you about unknown genealogy. It becomes more than a place.

The first things you notice as you climb the beyond the large chunks of rocks purposely placed to stop river erosion are the rhubarb, lilac bushes, and forget-me-not plants – not native to the boreal forest.

The original landing is now obliterated by the berm. The first time I was there it was a clay bank and if you looked you would find pieces of discarded existence going back more than 150 years.

Unlike much of the land in Northeastern Ontario, someone once lived here and planted these things.

You walk through the clearing of what was a small Hudson Bay Company (HBC) trading post and an Indigenous community. The meandering trail leads you to the cemetery. Overgrown all around the border, it has seen maintenance and there is a drooping chain between more contemporary posts that are starting to teeter. It is a cemetery not forgotten, particularly by one family. Read more about it.

A bonus location to visit nearby is New Post Falls; one of the most dynamic in Northern Ontario, and this can be accessed by an overland trek that will not disappoint.

You can camp at the falls but do not forget the water levels rise and fall quite quickly.


If you are just beginning canoeing or kayaking and want to feel safe while camping Fushimi Lake is the destination. You have a choice of wonderful backcountry lake campsites.

It is always an opportunity when meeting a Park Superintendent who is passionate about why “parks are for people” while trying to attract patrons to visit somewhat underutilized properties, by latitude. Wilson has taken a customer-service approach to the backcountry.

He has endeavoured to attract canoeists/kayakers in particular and boaters who camp; to the interior of 13 lake campsites on Fushimi Lake.

Some sites have been there for many years and some are new. Also, there has been a concerted effort to ensure there is a picnic table, fire pit appliance, a well-signed trail and a clean privy and maintained site. And the park has delivered. Off we went (with co-conspirator, Brian Emblin from Timmins).

Then there is the name Fushimi.

Perhaps surprising to some, Fushimi is a Japanese name denoting the visit to Canada by Prince Fushimi (Hiroyasu), cousin of Emperor Hirohito, in 1907. He is the only representative of the Japanese State whose name was commemorated by Canadian toponymy.

Check out Campsite #59 or #61 and all the rest.

Whether it is a Sunday drive, day trip or overnight trek It is just about time to get on to the back waters and the back roads, Next week’s story is about planning.

Bill Steer

About the Author: Bill Steer

Back Roads Bill Steer is an avid outdoorsman and is founder of the Canadian Ecology Centre
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