All posts by jj1951

My husband and I retired in 2007 and decided to spend the kid's inheritance by travelling as much as we could until either the money or our health runs out. So far so good.

2014 Jul 12 & 13 – Days 23 & 24 – Peterborough to Smiths Falls, to Nepean, ON

The last two days were family days for John.  I grew up with 25 cousins, most of whom lived in town and we saw regularly.  And the five American ones came up to visit almost every year.  The only ones I never knew in my youth were the three Scottish cousins.  John, on the other hand had – in total – three cousins. Three.  Two are left now and they both live near Ottawa so we spent time visiting each of them. Tom is the eldest and lives in Smiths Falls.  We drove from Peterborough to Smiths Falls in about three hours including a short lunch stop. IMG_2685Smiths Falls is half way along the Rideau Canal Waterway.IMG_2699Tom and his wife Pat have always been very involved in their community, especially since they moved to Smiths Falls.  Pat, sadly, passed away just over a year ago from pancreatic cancer and there are memorials to her all over town.  Tom gave us the tour of their house which has been in the family for over 100 years and a tour of the town; after which we drove 20 minutes to his cabin at Otty Lake where we spent the night. IMG_2713 IMG_2732 IMG_2715 IMG_2718 IMG_2735 A lovely bright moon. We spent the morning with Tom at the cabin and then drove aboutIMG_273750 km to Nepean, a suburb of Ottawa (in the pouring rain – again)
IMG_2742 to  visit Tom’s brother David and his wife Dale.  We all went out for dinner, including David and Dale’s daughter Amy.  IMG_2743 Since they have always lived in Ontario John has not had many visits with these cousins in his lifetime so he was very happy to be able to spend some time with them.

2014 Jul 10 & 11 – Days 21 & 22 – Blue Mountains, ON to Peterborough, ON

A sunny day, a short day, a good day.  We didn’t drive far after we checked out of our studio at Blue Mountains.  We didn’t do anything at all yesterday either in case you are thinking you have missed a day. There is no blog or Flickr photos for Day 21.  It was totally a stay-in, be-lazy day.

Today we only drove about 3 hours from Blue Mountains to Peterborough.  Once again the area we traveled through was mostly farm land.  We even drove up and down a couple of hills. And based on Ontario’s standards one of them would have been a good ski hill too!

IMG_2644 IMG_2648The only thing we went to see today was the Lift Lock.  It took eight years to construct and opened July 9, 1904.  There was an upgrade to hydraulics in the 60’s and some additional tweaking a few years later but the initial design and mechanics are  still working just fine from the early 20th century.  Boaters pay by the foot to use the lock – $5.60 per foot of boat length.  You can buy a season’s pass, a month pass, or a day pass.

IMG_2670You actually drive through the lock to get to the viewing area and visitor’s center. The boats are lifted 65′  – making this the tallest lift lock in the world. There are 6 km of man made canal leading up to the lock.  The Peterborough Lift Lock is part of the Trent-Severn Waterway; a 386 km long system of lakes and locks running from Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay.

IMG_2654When we were in Scotland last year we took a boat ride on the lift lock in Falkirk.  It is called the Falkirk Wheel and the two locks rotate rather than go up and down side-by-side as they do in Peterborough.  It was very interesting to be able to compare the two types.  We chatted quite awhile with the young man that opens the lock gates at the bottom for the boats to exit.  While we were there two boats came down in the one lock and half an hour later one boat came down in the other lock.  Needless to say John, who loves all things mechanical, enjoyed himself immensely.

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Near lock comes down as the far lock goes up.IMG_2657 IMG_2660 When the near lock is at the bottom, the boat sails out and the far lock is now at the top to load another boat. IMG_2663And, that my friends, is the sum total of our excursions today.

Oh, I forgot one thing.  While we were chatting with the fellow at the lock we were visited by a very special fellow – my new friend Parka.

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Bye, bye for now.

2014 Jul 9 – Day 20 – Blue Mountains, ON

As we had hoped, the weather was much better today so we went back to Scenic Caves Nature Reserve and cashed in our rain check.  How appropriate that our rain check was actually due to rain.

IMG_2571 IMG_2573We decided to walk up the caves trail as far as the zip line tower viewpoint to see the view that was obscured yesterday.  Much, much nicer in the sunshine than the pouring rain!  A lovely panoramic view of Collingwood and Georgian Bay.  Three pairs of intrepid people zipped past on the 1000′ line into the woods at the bottom of the escarpment – none of them were screaming, but one was heard to say, “Oh my, oh my,” quite a few times as they flew by.

IMG_2548 IMG_2557 IMG_2562After we hiked back down to the main area we took the 15 minute downhill trail to the suspension bridge.

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IMG_2576This area has lots of poison ivy and there were warnings signs all along the trail.  We have some in our area at home but I have never seen it close enough to identify.  Not so here – there are nice big patches beside the path.  A guide stopped her group beside this batch to tell them about the effects.  80% of people are affected by the oil on the plant – all of it; leaves, berries, stems and roots.  The only way to know if it bothers you is to try it.  We chose not to.  The itching lasts 3-4 weeks.  If you come in contact with it wash the exposed skin in COLD water (warm water will open the pores and let the oil really get settled) and wash your clothes right away allowing them to dry in the sun.  The oil can stay in the fabrics for a year! (Thus endeth the health lesson)

The bridge is 126 meters long (about 400′) IMG_2581with an arc in the middle to allow for a better view.  On a clear day, which we were blessed with, the view encompassed 10,000 square kilometers – all of which we saw from the viewpoint.

Since it was such a nice day we decided to go for a drive to see what we could see.  The lady that told us there were farms at the top of the ski hills was correct.  There are some really nice farms in this area; dairy, grain and vegetables – and some gorgeous houses as well.

IMG_2623Our travels took us down Georgian Bay to a town called Thornbury where we turned left and drove through a few other towns to Owen Sound (another place name familiar to John from his Grandad’s stories).

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Park in Meaford

From there we crossed the bottom of the Bruce Peninsula to Southhampton and followed the Lake Huron coast to Kincardine.

IMG_2620 (Last year when we were driving around Scotland I was amazed at how many place names that we were familiar with in our area at home were named after places in Scotland, and this part of Ontario is no different.  My cousins live in Kincardine, Scotland.  I love these connection-type things.)

For our return to Blue Mountains we took the inland roads stopping briefly to see the Eugenia Falls. IMG_2634 IMG_2637We arrived home in time for dinner – tonight it was Italian.  Another reminder of our visits to Whistler are the prices.  Because ski resorts tend to be ‘off the beaten path’ a bit (although that can’t be said for this one – it is only a couple of hours drive from Toronto) the guests become captive to pay whatever price they will bear.  Both of our dinners in the village cost about $80.  Now, to be fair, we each had a drink and a salad plus our entree, but still our dinners were more expensive than a similar meal at home.  We didn’t have lobster or a costly steak either.  Still it was good food.  I didn’t have to cook it and I didn’t have to do the dishes; thus it qualifies as good food to me.  The fact it also tasted really good was a delightful bonus!

2014 Jul 8 – Day 19 – Blue Mountains, ON

Yesterday it was supposed to rain and we had been on the road for quite a few consecutive days so we decided to just laze about in our studio here at Blue Mountains (I have absolutely no idea why it is called Blue Mountains – plural.  There isn’t even one mountain here. The ski hills are merely located on the bank of the highest point of the Niagara Escarpment.  We were told that if you drive to the top of the ski lifts there is farm land up there.  Bizarre.) Anyway, the rain did not materialize.  In fact it was a lovely day.  But….since we had planned to stay in and be lazy that is what we did.

Today, we woke to our usual overcast sky.  We decided to go tour the Scenic Caves located here on the escarpment just a couple of kilometers up the road, since even if it rained, no worries, caves are inside.  Wrong!!  Again, Ontario is working hard to make recreational activities.   We paid $22.57 EACH to tour the caves and go over the long suspension bridge (we skipped on the zip line for now – a much too expensive addition). Just as we began our climb up the hill to the caves it began to rain.  We walked through the forest, over rocks, up stairs and through a lot of rock canyon/caverns but there was only one small cave you could actually enter.  The Scenic Caves are not caves, they are spaces among rocks open to the sky.  I will grant you that the walk would have been scenic if not for the torrential rain that blanked out the fabulous view of Collingwood and the Georgian Bay.  By the time we finished clambering through the ‘caves’ we were absolutely drenched!  I could wring water off my coat sleeves and every layer of clothes I had on was soaked.  The only dry parts were my feet thanks to the waterproof  hiking boots I got from Suzanne.  IMG_2507 IMG_2504

Note the snow in the bottom.

This is the Ice Cave #2.  Ice Cave #1 is the only actual cave you could enter.  And it only had room for two people at a time.

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Can you see the kids?IMG_2519

At bit of rain on the lens.IMG_2522            IMG_2525This is Fat Man’s Misery.  A pass-through in the rocks with a 14″ space at the end.  Thank goodness for all that confined space training with the fire department.   IMG_2526We got a rain check for the suspension bridge.  Hopefully it will be nice tomorrow.  We walked up to the village for dinner tonight and the skies opened while we were eating and again when we were walking back to the condo.  Thank goodness John had grabbed the umbrellas before we left or else we would have to put all our clothes in the dryer again.  And I had just done all the washing yesterday…

This the view from our balcony tonight.  A bit different from yesterday.

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2014 Jul 7 – Day 18 – Blue Mountains Ski Resort

We took a few pictures around the resort so I thought I would post a blog today despite saying yesterday that I probably wouldn’t. The photos in today’s blog are all the same as on Flickr.  Usually there are more photos on Flickr than the blog but today I just put them all on both sites.

We did nothing.  Well, almost nothing.  We ate breakfast, lunch and dinner in the apartment, did the laundry, planned our dates and hotels in Ottawa and Quebec, and went for a walk after dinner, over to and all around the village.  I also finished reading my book.

This is our ‘home’ until Friday: Studio Unit 216.

IMG_2436 IMG_2437 IMG_2438 IMG_2440The Intrawest Unit’s Common room and Breakfast room.

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IMG_2495Blue Mountains Resort is set up like Whistler with nice themed buildings containing shops and restaurants surrounded by apartments and condos.  Blue Mountains, also like Whistler, obviously has worked hard to attract summer visitors – and there are lots of them here.

IMG_2459 IMG_2469 IMG_2474 IMG_2477 IMG_2478You can rent canoes and paddle boats to sail in the big pond (which is an ice rink in winter), climb a climbing wall, play mini-golf on a course that rises up the hillside, choose between two climbing courses – one high and one low, or take a ‘bobsled’ ride.  There is an open bandstand in the town square with live music and they host quite a few events  summer and winter.

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The paddle pond

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The mini-golf course IMG_2466

The low climbing course

It was a beautiful evening for a walk around the village.  The lighting and reflections were gorgeous.

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2014 Jul 6 – Day 17 – Barrie, ON to Blue Mountains, ON

We enjoyed another sunny top down day today; although it is now cloudy and predicted to rain tomorrow and perhaps for the next three days.  Boo Hoo.

We also had another short driving day.  We attended a wonderful worship service at Essa Road Presbyterian Church in Barrie before we left for Ontairo’s premier ski resort – Blue Mountains, about 80 km away.  Check-in begins at 4 pm but we arrived at 2 even after stopping in nearby Collingwood for some groceries; fortunately our room was ready.

The next five nights we stay at the Intrawest Resort at Blue Mountains.  This is one of Club Intrawest’s properties so we only had to use some of our time share points and did not have to pay any exchange fees or other charges.  So – five nights in one place with no bill at the end of the stay.  All is well.

Since it is such a short drive there were not really any opportunities to take exciting photos but we are now in farm country so I snapped a few shots of the farms as we passed.

IMG_2422 IMG_2425 IMG_2430This is also a summer and winter playground (Collingwood, about 20 km from here is situated at the bottom of the Georgian Bay).  And obviously some wealthy people either live here or have some ‘huge’ summer cottages here. We passed many manicured estates with beautiful large homes.

IMG_2434We are staying in a studio that is one large room with a mini-kitchen (no stove, just a microwave and mini-fridge), but it is really nice; a large bathroom, king-sized bed looking right out the picture window, lots of storage space and very, very friendly and helpful staff. There are quite a few restaurants in the area so we will eat breakfast and lunch in our studio and dinner out.  Oh, the stress and trials I must bear….

IMG_2443 Our deckIMG_2442 the view from our deck

 

 

 

The resort area here is bigger than Whistler.

 

 

There are rental condos and apartments and hotels all over the Village.  We haven’t wandered around yet, but the most amazing sight to me is the Blue Mountains Ski Hill.  I apologize to any readers from Ontario that have a soft spot in their hearts for this ski hill, but coming from BC this is almost laughable.  The “mountain” is  not even close to half the height of the Fly Hills at home; it would be a pretty easy afternoon hike to get to the top. The entire side of the mountain stretching for a couple of km or more is striped with ski runs divided by sections of trees.  There is a ski lift at each run and you could probably ski down them in three minutes.  A road even goes to the top and along the crest of the mountain (really just a benchof farm land, not a mountain at all) with parking lots so you can drive up there, park your car and walk over to ski down the hill.  I haven’t taken a photo of it yet but here is a picture from the brochure.  I just can’t get over it,

IMG_2445Unless something really exciting happens that I need to share immediately I will probably only post one or two blogs over the next five days, so, dear readers, you will just have to wait with bated breath until you hear from me again.  Not.

 

2014 Jul 5 – Day 16 – Parry Sound, ON to Barrie, ON

IMG_2348It was a blue sky, top down day all day today.  Parry Sound is not very far away from Barrie; only about an hour or so, but this area – The Muskoka Lakes – is where John’s Grandad spent some of his childhood.  John has fond memories of his Grandad’s stories so he wanted to see some of the places his Grandad talked about: specifically Port Carling and Bracebridge.

This is a real tourist area and has been a get-away place since it was settled almost 200 years ago.  The lakes, big, small and in-between all connect to one another and there are thousands of islands in the lakes.  Pleasure boats and sea-dos and fishermen abound all summer long.  You could putt around on these lakes for weeks, I think.

Port Carling was the first town on the half-loop we were making between Parry Sound and Barrie.  I loved Port Carling.   It had a quaint downtown area, gorgeous flower boxes, baskets, and beds all around town, a very nice museum, two pleasure boat locks right down town, and the most fabulous photo-montage mural on the side of a building.  We happily spent two hours wandering around the waterways and through the museum.  Long enough to justify a “Bear Claw” ice cream cone for John (chocolate ice cream, caramel and chocolate coated cashews) and a “Death By Chocolate” ice cream cone for me (chocolate ice cream, chocolate chunks and chocolate swirl).  Yum yum.IMG_2370The two story log cabin at the museum  and some gorgeous canoes  that were inside.  This was also a pleasure boat-building area and they had a display of some of the beautiful wood boats that were made here.

IMG_2380 IMG_2381 IMG_2357 IMG_2382 This centennial mural is made with 9028 images of residents and the history  in Port Carling from 1860-1960.  There are 905 ‘original’ photographs that run the length of the wall to a height of 9′ that are then repeated throughout the rest of the mural to make the R.M.S. Sagamo steamship, the swing bridge and the freight shed circa 1922.IMG_2391

IMG_2390The drive between Port Carling and Bracebridge was nice.  It is a lovely area here with waterways and lakes everywhere. The mixed forest has become more of a deciduous forest and there are open farmland areas so there was more variety from the trees lining the road that we have been driving through lately.

We had to stop at Milford Bay as it was another place John’s Grandad spoke of. IMG_2395Bracebridge was also a nice town.  It had a very long walking trail alongside the river that was part of a hydro spillway so there were two sets of waterfalls basically downtown.  According to one of my books there are 20 waterfalls in close vicinity to Bracebridge.  I was tempted to go visit “Santa’s Village” which is a 20 acre tribute to the jolly man in red, but I was good and resisted.

IMG_2399 IMG_2402 IMG_2411After we left Bracebridge we had to drive down Highway 400 which is the freeeway that goes straight to Toronto.  By the time we reached Orillia traffic in the six lanes was getting much heavier.  I was happy to get off it to drive into Orillia; to Couchiching Park to see the Champlain Monument.  It is reputed to be one of the finest bronzes on the continent.  The huge waterfront park was SO BUSY we couldn’t find a place to park, no matter how many turns through the lots we made.  The Champlain Monument is located in the middle of a grassy circle, so I hopped out of the truck at a stop sign and John drove around the loop twice until I had taken some quick photos and got back in.

IMG_2421 IMG_2417We arrived at Barrie at 4 o’clock.  John found an ad for the Cottage Canoe restaurant in the hotel guest directory.  It wasn’t too far from our hotel so we decided to give it a try.  The special was a three course meal for $20 per person with a choice between two items for each course.  We had the Summer Salad for a starter: watermelon, cucumber, feta cheese and chopped mint. The main course was pork medallions with berry compote, rosemary roasted potatoes and braised carrots.  Dessert was a strawberry sundae made with pureed strawberries, ice cream, whip cream and a huge whole strawberry.  Our server had also designed a summer cocktail made of pureed watermelon, strawberries, vodka and a bit of club soda.  Tasty tasty!

All in all I consider this to be have been a very good day.  And I wish a very Happy 5th Anniversary to our daughter Trish and her husband Ben.  Congratulations you two.

2014 Jul 4 – Day 15 – Little Current to Parry Sound, On

We awoke to beautiful blue sky this morning.  So very nice to see after two weeks of cloud.

IMG_2314Sometimes they have to cut through a lot of rock to make the roads.

We didn’t have a long drive today, only about 260 km.  The scenery wasn’t a whole lot different but it looked better in the sunshine. There were also a few actual hills to drive up and down.  We had the same white daisies, and yellow something-or-other wild flowers alongside the highway but today we were also blessed to see water lilies in the ponds.  I don’t know if they were a natural water lily or an introduced variety that is moving prolifically through the waterways but they were pretty.

IMG_2304We only made one stop along the way today, at French River.  The French River was used as a premier water route into the Canadian wilderness for over 250 years.  There is a museum in the visitor’s center that documents the many different people and nations and explorers that came up the French River.

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IMG_2295IMG_2296Also crossing the French River is the world’s longest snow mobile bridge.  It was built by the Voyageur Snowmobile Club of French River and is 90 feet above the water, 521 feet long and 12 feet wide.  It can support a heavy trail grooming machine or 100 snowmobiles crossing at the same time.  I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a snowmobile bridge.  Across the bridge is a huge map showing all the snowmobile trails and their distances.  I would love to know how many years of fundraising they did to pay for the thing.  Impressive achievement for a recreational club.

When we got into Parry Sound at 2 pm we went directly to the Bobby Orr Museum to check it out.  It wasn’t large, but was well done and really gave a good overview of the famous Boston Bruins defenseman.  John even tried his slap shot in the booth upstairs.  He clocked 49 mph.

IMG_2322IMG_2318 A model of the famous photograph from the Stanley Cup winning goal in 1970

IMG_2328After reading all things relevant about Bobby Orr we drove up Tower Hill and climbed the 12 flights of stairs to the top of the Fire Lookout.  Most of the clouds had moved on and we had a fabulous view of Parry Sound and the town.

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2014 Jul 3 – Day 14 – Sault St. Marie, ON to Little Current, Manitoulin Island, ON

We woke this morning to sunshine and white fluffy clouds.  Yea.  Before we left The Soo I wanted to check out the historic Sault St. Marie Lock.  It was completed in 1895 and was, at the time, the longest lock in the world.  It was the first to use electrical power and to have a swing gate that would slow water flow in the event of an accident in the lock (which did happen one time).  This lock completed an all-Canadian route from the Atlantic via the St. Lawrence River all the way to Lake Superior.  We spent a couple of hours there before heading out on the highway again.

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The Inter-national  Bridge to Sault St. Marie, Michigan

Long stretches of road with little traffic     –   Check

Mixed forest on both sides                                 –  Check

IMG_2263Occasional ponds or small lakes                     –  Check

IMG_2268 IMG_2272No Hills or low mountains                                   –  Check

Infrequent walls of rocks on either side    –   Check

IMG_2274Some patches of wild flowers                           –  Check

Boring                                                                             –  Check

I’m sorry but this is getting monotonous.  Ontario needs some landscape variety.  We have been driving through the same scenery since we left Manitoba.  I suspect that is all there is….except a lot of cities and towns which is what we are heading into shortly.  We will try bypass as many as we can.  Winding back roads – even if they are boring – work better for me.

Our destination today was Little Current, the first town across the bridge onto Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron.  John wanted to go there because he remembered the name from a bumper sticker on someone’s car when he was young.  (How, or better yet, why would anyone remember such a thing???)

Little Current is a nice town.  It has a really long boardwalk along the shore and is a haven for pleasure boats. There were some REALLY nice boats docked.  We chatted for quite awhile with a fellow who had sailed over here with a friend.  Fun guy.  Then we walked up the main street to a restaurant for a really good dinner.

IMG_2278 IMG_2282 IMG_2283Not exactly an exciting day, but nevertheless a good one.  Although by the time we drove out of The Soo at noon our familiar black cloud hovered overhead for the rest of the day.  Sheesh.   Enough already.  We live in hope for a better tomorrow.  We’ll be heading around Georgian Bay to Parry Sound.

2014 Jul 2 – Day 13 – Wawa, ON to Sault St. Marie, ON

Today was a short day, which was nice to have after the long drive yesterday.  We only went 227 km today.  And….miracle of miracles…. it was sunny!  Well, mostly sunny (notice that I didn’t say warm as well because the cool wind was still blowing).  But we seem to have been dragging a dark cloud behind us since we left Calgary (sorry about that Saskatchewan and Manitoba; we didn’t mean to flood you out, honest).  It was so nice to see blue sky and white clouds instead of dark grey.  The glimpses of Lake Superior through the trees looked so much nicer today with blue water instead of grey water melding into grey clouds.

It is quite amazing to think that we have been driving the coast of a single lake for two days.  And part of the northern coast is located in the US so the shoreline is even longer than we have seen.  Thunder Bay marks the northwesternmost point of the Lake in Canada and Sault St. Marie is the southeastern end.  If you go through the Sault locks you are in Lake Huron.  And if you cross the bridge (which is a Cdn/US customs post) you are in Sault St. Marie, Michigan (population 12,000 or so).  The Ontario city of the same name is quite a bit bigger, being 78,000.

Our hotel in Wawa last night was about 8 km east of the town so after breakfast we had to backtrack a bit to see a couple of things we wanted to check out.

First was The Mission, properly called Michipicoten River Village the area’s original settlement, founded in the 17th century by fur-trading voyageurs.  Up the road from the Mission are Silver Falls, the Mackenzie/Bethune Cemetery and a nice viewpoint overlooking Lake Superior.

The cemetery was located down a 100 meter trail in the mosquito infested bush.  There were only three markers for the dozen or so grave sites there.  One belonged to the cousin of the famous explorer Alexander McKenzie who was also the great grandmother of Dr. Norman Bethune who started the first mobile blood transfusion service during the Spanish Civil War and later went to China to train medical doctors and open hospitals.

IMG_2202 IMG_2204Silver Falls (Upper and Lower) were located either side of a small bridge. There are huge warning signs that the area is part of a spill way for a hydro-electric dam further upstream and water levels can change rapidly with no warning: therefore do not go down on the stream bed!  And true to the EFM (Except For Me) rule there was a couple and their little girl wandering around  on the rocks!  Silver Falls is not spectacular as many waterfalls go, but it was nice.

IMG_2197   Upper FallsIMG_2198  Lower Falls  I didn’t take any photos from the viewpoint, though it was a nice view of Lake Superior. Having taken photos of large expanses of water before I know how boring they look to me later.

We drove another 3 km back toward Wawa for our final waterfall of the day: Magpie High Falls, which are right at the dam spillway.  We had a bumpy 3 km drive up there over some serious washboard.

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A nice spot of colorIMG_2221 IMG_2213Our only other stop on today’s short journey was at Old Woman Bay on Lake Superior where I had to stand in the water as I had done in Lake Winnipeg.  Believe me, Lake Superior is MUCH colder!

IMG_2233 IMG_2236 IMG_2237After that it was a straight drive into The Sault (pronounced SOO) for a leisurely afternoon and a wonderful dinner at Giovanni’s.