The Restless Viking: The Canadian Wilderness

This article was written by Martha Hayden and originally appeared on the Restless Viking website on September 12, 2023.

East of Wawa, Ontario my husband, Chuck, and I rumbled 50 miles (over 80 km) of dirt roads into the Canadian wilderness in pursuit of two “unimproved” logging settlements, Frater and Eton. Would we reach our destinations? Would we get stuck? Would my supportive undergarments hold up? Would we see a moose? Stay tuned . . .

80% of the world’s soft woods are exported from Canada. (Lower Left) The sheets of steel ached as our Jeep crossed the bridge.

The dirt path wound through the hilly, wooded terrain. “Grumpy,” the Jeep felt sturdy as it swayed responding to the rocky ground. I wobbled one way and other parts of me wobbled in a different direction.

Holding onto the “oh sh*t bar” on the dash and the side handle, that Chuck had put in place for me, gave me reassurance. When we came to a stop my joints continued rattling in survival mode.

This one lane road is still used in the lumber harvesting process as well as by adventure seekers. Along these desolate treks we had only found two shacks with a shared outhouse. We shared the road with another vehicle three times during our entire journey through this portion of the Canadian wilderness!

A Collapsed Mine

“There’s an old uranium mine down here.” Chuck turned off the ‘main road’ onto an overgrown path. Tree branches scraped and snapped while leaves tickled the Jeep as we searched this muddy path for a collapsed mine.

(Top Left) I never would have identified this small hole as a mine, but Chuck recognized it right away.

I tiptoed to to the opening with my flashlight and peeked into the hole. Chuck charged forward to get a better view. “You can see the supports in there!” He directed his light. “I think it’s full of water.” Chuck called into the cavern testing the echo. As he climbed further inside my chest squeezed with fear. Chuck looked back at me. I couldn’t form words, I just shook my head, but after 30 years together, he read the concern across my face. Silently we shared a look and he retreated from the cavern.

We Got Stuck, But Not For Long

“I’ll turn around and come pick you up.” Chuck started the engine. As he backed up, thick oozy mud quickly filled the tire treads causing them to spin and spit goo into the air. “I think we’ll need to pull him out.” I observed as I captured this ‘Kodak moment.’

With a complete set of supplies, including tow ropes and a winch, I wasn’t even nervous. Chuck appeared to embrace this situation as he opened his side tool box and securing the winch to a stately tree. Within minutes he had pulled the Jeep out of the soft ground.

In a short time we were back on the logging road. I was glad I’d brought an extra pair of shoes as the ones I had been wearing needed some time to dry out.

Camping In The Rain

As darkness fell upon us, so did a drizzle. We backed into a clearing and had planned on popping up the roof top tent when the rain had stopped, but it didn’t. So we reclined our seats and had a restless night, constantly trying to get comfortable. In the morning the windows were dripping with humidity. We wiped them down, chewed some gum and motored onward toward our first destination, Frater.


After another 90 minutes we found Frater! This “unimproved” logging settlement had two abandoned buildings sitting alongside the Algoma train tracks. “The train stopped here and we unloaded our kayaks and gear.” Chuck recalled a previous Fortune Bay Expedition Team adventure. “Then we headed down river.”

Chuck had been the founder and ‘instigator’ of The Fortune Bay Expedition Team since the early 1990’s. He’d trained and led groups into the wilderness. One of my hip surgeons had even signed up for Chuck’s trainings. Under Chuck’s guidance we had some crazy family adventures as well!

Chuck has always been completely comfortable in the wilderness, where I have had to supplement my comforts.

I paused to be mindful of the workers who’ve used this ‘unimproved’ development as their base station. What had they all packed for their meals? There wasn’t even a picnic table for a short rest. Where was the outhouse? Frater was a lot less than I had expected.

On The Road Again

“How much farther until Eton?” I inquired as we climbed back into the Jeep and readjusted my extra supportive “under top.” “About an hour and a half or so.” Chuck’s eyes widened with a grin as he pointed out the path on his topographical map.

“I see.” I responded flatly. I have yet to feel the same enthusiasm. I do appreciate adventure and being witness to unique sites, however, I am built for basic comforts. In direct contrast, Chuck, a
problem-solving optimist, embraces the challenges of a rugged lifestyle and actually enjoys getting stuck in the mud.

The course lying before us crumbled under our tires while trees stood like a platoon in formation. The topographical map, which Chuck had downloaded, revealed the somewhat secret path. Google Maps (below) didn’t have any roads in view.


Nearly two hours later we crept upon a handful of huts and the reinforced bridge at Eton. Chuck took out his drone to get some cool footage. I hopped out of the vehicle to walk over the bridge. Knowing that lumber trucks cross this span regularly made me feel a tad bit more secure.

Above the “Eton” sign was an “Emergency Response Process” notification which explained how to call for help using a satellite radio. A helicopter could be deployed to extract an injured individual from this remote location.

Lost Drone

Unfortunately, the drone had raced forward right into the top of a tree on the other side of the river. Ug! Chuck climbed the slope. “Can you see the tree I’m shaking?” Chuck called from the hilltop. “If you’re facing uphill, move to your right.” I directed Chuck toward the drone’s little red, blinking light signaling with hope from a canopy branch.

Chuck scuffled along the steep incline. As he stretched upward toward the drone, I stretched toward our cooler in the back and retrieved an adult beverage for myself and a water for him. With my unsure footing I remained as ‘the spotter’ and continued giving guidance when he asked. Unfortunately, the drone was too high in the branches and unable to be shaken free or retrieved with a long stick.

With wooded remnants adhering to his sweatiness, Chuck immerged from the woods. I offered the bottle of water. He shook his head and mumbled, “It had been really decent footage, too.” The ever-positive Chuck shrugged off his disappointment. Sliding our drink containers into a recycling bag, we continued back toward the city of Wawa.

Moose Tracks

“Woah!” Chuck skidded the Jeep to a stop. I questioned him by pulling my brows together. With a quick glance in my direction he answered my inquiry, “Moose tracks!” he jumped from his seat. “It must have just passed by. We were just here!” I scanned the woods from inside the Jeep, hoping to see an actual moose. No luck. So with hyper alertness and hope I walked to the hoof prints.

At a clearing we noticed a sign “Emergency Evacuation Site : Site #41” Shortly after tracing our way back down the same road, we had spied recent moose tracks!

I felt energized with hope. I have always wanted to see a moose! So as we cruised the sandy path, I kept a keen watch for a large animal.

When we came to a clearing. “Here’s another one of the emergency evacuation sites.” Chuck said. “Yeah,” I commented. “It’s cool that they do have a plan for getting injured people to a hospital more quickly than driving hours down this bumpy road.” I silently hoped I’d never need to experience a M*A*S*H styled helicopter ride.


As we neared Wawa, I felt relief to be traveling on a paved road once again. A sign stood along the two-way highway “Blueberries.” I didn’t see any bushes, though. “Are those blueberry fields?” I asked Chuck. “Oh yeah.” They were such short plants. We pulled over and sampled a few. “These are the sweetest blueberries I’ve ever tasted!”

In the U.S. usually there are several tart tasting berries in a bunch, but here each one was so full of sweet flavor!

“Do you want more?” Chuck asked gesturing to a farm building up ahead. “Naw.” I answered. “I’d eat them all and then have restroom issues. That’s not ideal when traveling.” I explained with too much detail. “Oh, look,” Chuck pointed to another billboard, “They have wine.” Suddenly, my interest changed, “Let’s stop and see what they have!” I perked.


With wine in hand, we focused our search for our next campsite. “You’ve been a good sport!” Chuck commented. “Let’s head to an actual campground. I’ll set up everything and get a fire going. You can shower and relax.” I smiled, “You are a sweetheart!”

When I returned from getting cleaned up, he had a tiny wine bottle chilling in a cup of ice. How perfect!

As I sat reading my book, Chuck was everywhere all at once. I suppose relaxing isn’t his thing.

Wawa, Ontario

The next morning we stopped at a few sights on our way to Lake Superior Provincial Park. Ancient pictographs were waiting for us along a rocky cliff. Stay tuned for our next Canadian wilderness adventure!

Magpie Scenic High Falls, Wawa, Ontario
Chuck had climbed along the rocky Lake Superior shoreline.

I Finally Found A Moose

I finally saw a moose . . . at the tacky tourist gift shop.

The Goose Of Wawa

The famous Wawa goose!

Witnessing unusual places has created lasting memories. Journeying to Frater and Eton has brought me a sense of success. I encourage you to reach beyond your comfort zone and achieve frolics and fun!

Chuck and Martha Hayden, aka The Viking and Poppins, enjoy going on adventures off the beaten path. They also like to share their explorations with others. The Viking is a retired expedition leader while Poppins is a retired teacher. The two offer independent views of their journeys showcasing places, people, and cultures as they explore the world. Visit and follow them on their website and social media accounts. Website | Facebook | Instagram |YouTube

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