The Sleeping Giant

Shayne Thiessen

The Sleeping Giant is a series of mesas that resembles a giant lying on its back. The giant is the central defining element of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. Its dramatic steep cliffs are some of the highest in Ontario at 250 meters tall.

The Legend

There is an Ojibway legend which identifies the sleeping giant as Nanabozho.

According to the legend Nanabozho, the great deep water spirit, took an Ojibwa chief by the hand and showed him a narrow tunnel on the sleeping giant peninsula. There the chief saw a huge silver mine. He quickly summoned the rest of the tribe and, after thanking and praising Nanaboujo, began mining the ore and turning it into silver jewellery.

Not everyone was satisfied with the blessing received by the Ojibwa. The Sioux warriors envied the silver jewellery worn by their enemies. They raided Ojibwa camps, torturing and killing Ojibwa in an attempt to force them to reveal the secret location of the mine. However, out of fear and respect for Nanabozho, the Ojibwa refused.

Realizing that their tactics were not working, the Sioux decided to take a different approach. They disguised one of their scouts as an Ojibwa and helped him enter an Ojibwa camp in secret. There the scout watched and listened. He soon found out where the secret mine was and quickly left to deliver the message back to his people.

On the way home, the Sioux scout stopped for food at a white man’s trading post. With nothing to exchange, he offered one of the silver coins he had taken from the Ojibwa.

The white man, curious about the origin of the silver, offered the scout a drink, followed by another, and another. Once the scout was sufficiently intoxicated, the white trader asked him where he got such beautiful silver. The scout agreed to show him the location of the mine.

Later the scout, and two white fur traders, began to cross Thunder Bay in a canoe in pursuit of the silver mine. Nanabozho, upset with what was occurring, decided to cause a violent storm. The winds howled, the rain poured down, and the waves of the Lake Superior rose up.

When the storm ended, the two white traders were dead. The Sioux scout remained alive but shaken. The wide exit to Thunder Bay was now closed off on the eastern side, blocked by large cliffs. It was Nanabozho, who was lying on his back to block the bay, arms neatly folded across his chest. The mine itself was sunk under the foot of Nanabozho, protecting it forever from those who wanted it for their own gain.

The Hike

We hiked the Sleeping Giant over the course of three days by following the Kabeyun trail. Starting late Friday afternoon our goal was to be done by Sunday afternoon. The total hiking distance was forty kilometres, this included detours up to the giant’s knees and head, as well as to the Sea Lion.

Day 1

We started late in the afternoon on Friday at the entrance to the Kabeyun Trail. The distance we hiked was seven kilometres. This included the detour to see the Sea Lion. After seeing the Sea Lion I couldn’t understand the naming. It just doesn’t make sense. Sea Lions are mammals with fins. The Sea Lion rock formation more closely resembles a Sea Horse.

This portion of the Kabeyun trail was mainly flat and wide with very little elevation gain. The trail took us southwest along the eastern shoreline of the peninsula.

The campsite was very scenic. It was a tiny island-like peninsula that was connected to the Sleeping Giant peninsula by a narrow strip of land. Precambrian-aged rock was visible on the eastern side.

Day 2

Day 2 was the longest portion of our hike. We hiked eighteen kilometres. We hiked to the top of the Sleeping Giant’s knees which included an elevation gain of over half a kilometre in height. The trail up was difficult but worth it. I would suggest leaving your backpacks at the bottom. I couldn’t imagine how difficult it would be having to carry them all the way up to the top, just to walk back down with them in a few hours.

At the top of the knees, there is a huge straight cliff which drops down a couple hundred meters.

After we descended from the sleeping giant’s knees, we then hiked to the furthest point at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, the Thunder Cape Bird Observatory.

After leaving the Thunder Cape Bird Observatory we then headed north along the western shoreline of the park until we reached our campsite.

Day 3

On the final day of our trip, we hiked fifteen kilometres. This included the ascent up to the top of the Giant’s head. The trail to the head gains an elevation of 450 meters, and most of it is within a very short amount of time. The trail to the head is very steep.

After coming down from the Giant’s head, the trail back felt very easy. This portion of the Kabeyun trail was relatively wide and the elevation gain was very moderate. We managed to make it back to the trailhead by mid-afternoon.

The route we took on each day of the hike can be seen on the map to the left. Day one is red, day two is blue, and day three is yellow.

The weather during the entire hike was great. It was a perfect weekend adventure.

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