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.

2014 Jul 1 – Day 12 – Thunder Bay, ON to Wawa, ON

Today was our longest day so far.  We left the hotel and drove to Fort William, which was the North-West Company’s inland headquarters.  The reconstructed fort complex is huge and employs 30 people year round with 60 students added in the summer.  All of the ‘work’ done in the fort; its farm, blacksmith shop, tinsmith, canoe maker, bakery, etc. are done all summer by the staff in period costume.  Since it was Canada Day there were also lots of special activities, crafts for the kids, and music.  We got there when it open at 10 and there were only a few other cars in the lot. When we left at 12:30 there were people lined up through the doors waiting for admission and both parking lots were full.  Ft. William is a very popular place in the summer, ranked one of Canada’s best attractions.IMG_2002 IMG_2003 IMG_2005 IMG_2049 IMG_2063We  also stopped at the Terry Fox Memorial Lookout east of Thunder Bay. The memorial is located on a cliff top with a panoramic view of Lake Superior.  It seemed fitting to be there on Canada Day to acknowledge a young man who, through his courage and determination to leave the world a better place, created more national pride in Canadians than had ever been seen before.

IMG_2083 IMG_2099We made two other stops along our 478 km drive from Thunder Bay to Wawa.  First was an 11 km drive into the forest to see the Ouimet Canyon.  It is so deep and so narrow that sub-arctic plants grow on the canyon floor.

IMG_2116 IMG_2118 IMG_2109 IMG_2144Second stop was just a short bit off the highway to see Aguasabon Falls.  Like Kakabeka Falls yesterday, Aguasabon was full and roaring into the narrow gorge through which it flows.IMG_2164Our final ‘quick stop’ was at White River.  White River bids itself as “The Place Winnie-the-Poo Began.”  In 1914 a Canadian serviceman passed through White River on his way overseas.  While there he purchased a black bear cub (heaven alone knows what he was thinking really) and named the cub Winnie for his home town of Winnipeg.  The cub became the troop mascot and when the Lt. was shipped to France he gave Winnie to the London Zoo to care for in his absence.  Winnie was a Zoo favorite, especially of author A.A.Milne and his son Christoper.  In 1926 A.A. Milne gifted the world with his wonderful story about Winnie-the-Poo.

IMG_2183After spending the day driving through forests and here-again/there-again views of Lake Superior we arrived in Wawa at 8:30 pm, the latest by far we have checked in to our hotel.  We are now 1/2 way across Canada.  The ‘official’ middle – half way between Victoria, BC and St. John’s, Newfoundland – is considered to be Sault St. Marie which is  227 km further east  Considering we began in Salmon Arm, not Victoria we are now over half way to St. John’s.

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2014 Jun 30 – Day 11 – Kenora, ON to Thunder Bay, ON

We left Kenora  a little before 10 am in the wind and rain.  So much for yesterday’s hope of a sunny day today.

Today was strictly a Destination Day.  We had to travel 481 km from Kenora to Thunder Bay.  There are only two towns of any size in between; Dryden and Ignace.  This long, long stretch of road is bordered by huge lichen covered rocks, scrawny trees, lots of streams and ponds, and many, many wildflowers.

IMG_1922 IMG_1925IMG_1926 IMG_1930 IMG_1931 IMG_1933 IMG_1937 Entering Dryden

IMG_1953 Lichen on the rocksIMG_1961                             Do you get the picture of our day?.

However, about 50 km west of Thunder Bay the sun began to shine.  Yea!  And then there was Kakabeka Falls.  This water fall caused no end of trouble for the fur traders and explorers back in the day and resulted in an arduous portage to get to Fort William at the mouth of the river (we plan to see the fort tomorrow).

IMG_1967 IMG_1991 IMG_1993We crossed into the Eastern Time zone just past Ignace and now are three hours ahead of home, making our arrival time into Thunder Bay 6 pm.  A long, somewhat monotonous driving day capped off with a wonderful waterfall.   A good ending, me thinks.

2014 Jun 29 – Day 10 – Selkirk, MB to Kenora, ON

We  did another day today similar to yesterday.  Driving from Selkirk to Kenora takes about 2 3/4 hours.  We took five – after we did some sightseeing around Selkirk.

I wanted to see Lower Fort Garry which is a National Historic Site located just south of Selkirk.  Fort Garry was THE trading center and boat building center for access to the West.  Unfortunately it was Sunday and the park isn’t open on weekends until July 1.  Fortunately the actual compound is open all the time so we could still wander around.  The interpretive center and all the buildings were locked but we were able to look in some windows and had a good walk around the grounds.IMG_1863 IMG_1854 IMG_1866 IMG_1857 IMG_1864 IMG_1861 IMG_1867We stopped briefly at the Manitoba Maritime Museum in Selkirk on our way north out of town but didn’t tour any of the boats.

IMG_1875 IMG_1876Our northward destination today was Grand Beach, located on the opposite side of the end of Lake Winnipeg from yesterday’s drive.  Grand Beach is considered one of the best beaches in North America.  It has 12 miles of beautiful fine white sand and is a very popular weekend and summer spot for people escaping Winnipeg – an hour’s drive south.

Today’s weather was similar to yesterday’s with forbidding dark clouds covering the sky.  Over night the wind had blown quite fiercely and it was still blowing hard.  We drove to the main parking lot for beach access but the sand was blowing around so much John was afraid for Poppy’s paint and we went back to another place along the road where we could climb up a brush-covered dune to the beach.

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Beach on the other side . IMG_1891

 

 

 

 

Very windy.

 

 

 

It is pretty impressive to clamber 50 feet up and across the top of a sand dune and find 12 miles of gorgeous sandy beach spreading out to the left and right.  Not exactly a beach-type day, but there were people not only on the beach but in the water. Br-r-r-r.IMG_1884 IMG_1887 IMG_1890Standing in Lake Winnipeg                  Back down the dune to the truck

After we left Grand Beach we turned southward again and drove a winding road through forests (and intervals of heavy rain) to connect with the Trans-Canada Highway just before the Manitoba/Ontario border.   We arrived at Kenora at 10 minutes after 4 pm.IMG_1916                  The view from our hotel room

Kenora is on the north shore of  Lake of the Woods, an area of 12,500 islands and LOTS of avid fishermen and boaters.  So many people live on the nearby islands that the Safeway store is built out over the water and has boat docking facilities beside the parking lot! IMG_1917Sunsets are supposed to be gorgeous here but all we saw tonight are grey clouds and rain drops.  Maybe tomorrow the sun will shine….

2014 Jun 28 – Day 9 – Winnipeg, MB to Hecla Island, MB to Selkirk, MB

We are in Selkirk, Manitoba this evening; about 30 minutes drive north of Winnipeg.  We left Winnipeg a little after 10 am this morning and arrived in Selkirk at 5 pm this evening.  How is that possible you ask?

Well….let me tell you how to do it.  You leave Winnipeg via highway 7 and stop for an hour or so at the 36 square kilometer Oak Hammock Marsh which is a major migratory and nesting area for 200 bird species.  (The coolest thing at Oak Hammock, besides the endless view of marsh land and the sounds of chirpping birds, was the visitors center which was built of light colored stone, surrounded by grass-covered berms and sporting a prairie grass roof that birds actually nest in.)

IMG_1749 IMG_1752 IMG_1754After you leave the marsh drive due west to the town of Stonewall where the citizens have turned an old rock quarry into a lovely park with paths, picnic areas, a pond and a really nice community center.

IMG_1775 IMG_1771IMG_1774                                      Old kilns in the quarry.

After lunch at the top of Hwy 7 in Arborg,  drive over to Hwy 8 and go north until you cross the causeway to Hecla Island.IMG_1799 In 1875 Iceland’s largest volcano erupted violently driving many people from their homes. The Canadian government offered the Icelanders land on Hecla Island – called New Iceland at the time.  The village still has some of the original buildings. IMG_1815Hecla Island is the largest island in Lake Winnipeg and fishing was a major part of the Icelanders life there.The one road of Hecla Village runs along the shore of Lake Winnipeg.  On the other side of the road are regularly spaced small homes on approximately 1 acre lots.  Every one of those lots was covered with neatly mowed grass.  We saw about 5 guys out mowing their monster lawns with everything from regular size ride-ons to tractor pulled commercial-size mowers.  It must be a continuous job!  It does look nice though but all that space around each building made the small house look even smaller.

After you tour the village from end to end turn around and head south again on Hwy 8.  Drive past the turn off you had taken going north and keep on Hwy 8 to Gimli, another Icelandic village (we were looking for the giant Viking but couldn’t find him), then continue on to Winnipeg Beach where you will  follow Hwy 9 into Selkirk.

We had driven from Arborg to Hecla Island with the roof down on Poppy and had a whole flock of Canada Geese fly directly overhead as we neared Hecla Village – thank goodness none of them dropped any ‘souvenirs’ on the way by.  I just pointed the camera straight up to get this shot.There had been very dark grey clouds off to the west for most of our drive from Hecla Island to Selkirk and 30 minutes out of town the sky opened.  And I mean opened.  Is there such a thing as a rain-out?  We could barely see the road and the almost-running-board high water on the streets in Selkirk were flooding Poppy’s undercarriage.  She got a power wash for sure today.  Thank goodness it stopped before we had to get the luggage out of the truck.And that, my friends, is how you drive all day and end up 36 miles from where you started.

2014 Jun 27 – Day 8 – Winnipeg, MB

Today was a quieter day; mainly due to another of our planned tourist attractions being closed.  Hence the early posting of my blog today.

After breakfast we drove out to the Canadian Mint.  Quite a few people were milling around outside the doors and as we approached we heard a staff person apologizing again for the delay, but that the fire alarms were still ringing and even though the fire trucks had left, the Chief had not yet given the all clear to re-enter the building. Now that was familiar talk with John’s 40 years in the volunteer fire department back home!

Some people chose to leave and come back later or another day. Tours are held every 1/2 hour in the summer so no real risk of not getting in later.  We decided to just wait.  We knew the odds were pretty good that we would be allowed in soon, which proved to be the case.

Our tour guide was a chipper young lady named Michelle.  We have two mints in Canada, one in Winnipeg and one in Ottawa.  All paper money is made by the Bank of Canada.  The Ottawa mint makes all the specialty coins and medals – like the 2010 Olympic medals on display in the gift shop.The Winnipeg mint makes our circulation coins.  And this is the interesting part – we also mint coins for over 70 other countries! This is because Canada is the world leader in technology for minting coins.  Particularly an electromagnetic plating process that makes the coins identifiable. The driveway into the Mint is lined with the flags of all the nations we have made coins for in the past or are currently making coins for today.  Michelle told us that yesterday they were minting United Arab Emirates coins which was pretty cool since our son and his wife lived there for six years.At the back of the gift shop stands a security guard in front of a 23 lb solid gold bar.  It is worth about half a million dollars!  You can pick it up but it doesn’t go too far as it is attached by a chain at the bottom.  Trust me on this – when you see robbers tossing gold bars and lots of coins into their backpacks to carry away in movies don’t believe it. You couldn’t possibly pack more than two of those things very far.We were having a bite to eat out of the back of the truck in the parking lot and a very distinguished-looking Indian fellow and his sari-clad wife came over.  “How old is your vehicle?” he asked, waving a gold-ring bedecked hand towards Poppy.  “She is a 2006,” we told him.  “Is it for sale?” he shot back right away.  We told him no and he remained talking to us for quite awhile, comparing places around the world we each had been.   The whole time his wife never said a word.  I suspect that, even though he spoke excellent English, she did not.We had on our list of Winnipeg things-to-do the Dalnavert House and Museum.  this Victorian-era house belonged to Hugh MacDonald, the only son of our first prime minister Sir John A. MacDonald.  It was the first house in Western Canada to have electric lights and running water.  But…..it was closed for ‘restructuring’ – whatever that means.We wandered along the downtown streets and took a look inside The Fort Garry, a hotel built by the CPR in the chateau-style used at the Hotel Frontenac in Montreal, the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa, the Banff Springs Hotel, and Chateau Lake Louise in Alberta – plus a few others.  Gorgeous interior.  We didn’t ask the nightly room rate.Feeling lazy and a bit tired after all the walking yesterday we decided to go back to our room and take it easy for a bit.  This we do well wherever we are.  Tomorrow we leave Winnipeg and drive north to Hecla Island, a former part of Iceland.

2014 Jun 26 – Day 7 – Winnipeg, MB

Today was a great day!  I had spent some time this winter sorting family archives into a chronological order for posterity.  Among the papers I had brought from my dad’s house was a note with the Section/Lot/Grave numbers of my maternal grandparents.  William and Catherine Young had emigrated from Scotland in 1930 when my mother was 8 1/2 months old.  Nov 20, 1935 Catherine died of peritonitis from a ruptured appendix and seven months later on June 18, 1936 William died of TB contracted from being gassed during WWI.  Knowing we were driving across Canada this summer I did some web digging and located the cemetery in which they were buried here in Winnipeg.

This morning our first objective was to locate the graves of my maternal grandparents. GPS led us right to Brookside Cemetery.  John located my grandfather’s grave which we knew was in a military section, but we looked at every grave in Section 54 and could not find a marker for Catherine.  We went to the admin office and a lady showed us where it was on a chart.  We had both suspected that there may not have been a marker since they were recent immigrants and probably had little in the way of money at the time.  This proved to be correct.  We did locate the cemetery plot number almost buried in the grass so I know now where both of my mother’s parents are buried.

IMG_1631 IMG_1637I determined right then that my grandmother should have a marker and there was a memorial business across the street.  We stopped in there and ordered a marker for Catherine’s grave. Family is important and should be recognized.  It is very sad that she hasn’t had a “known” place for 79 years.  They will email me a photo when it is installed. I also made an application to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to get my grandfather’s date of birth added to his stone.

Next I wanted to see if the house my mother lived in when she was fostered with Alvin and Nelly Isaac (whom I knew as Grandpa and Grandma) was still standing.  The little house at 272 Martin Street was still going strong.  I have photos of my mother as a girl standing in the alley between her house and the neighbour’s.  The owner of 272 Martin was a very nice young lady who had no objection to my standing on her front porch to have my photo taken at my mother’s childhood home.IMG_1641Objective number three was Lord Selkirk School.  I wanted to give the school my mother’s 1942-43, 44-45, and 45-46 year books for their archives.  The school she attended is gone, but there is a newer school with the same name on the same spot and the archivist in the office was thrilled to get my mother’s books for her records.

We had also wanted to visit the Firefighters Museum which was not far from my mom’s neighbourhood.  Unfortunately it  was closed without any explanation as to why.

Instead we went back to the hotel, parked the truck and  walked to the Manitoba Legislative Building.  Out back there is a lovely fountain and steps leading to an uninterrupted pedestrian walkway to The Fork, the local name for the meeting of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers.  However,  it is late spring and the rivers are high so the River Walk is under several feet of water!  We made the trek to The Fork along city streets instead.IMG_1659 IMG_1661 IMG_1663 IMG_1691 IMG_1693IMG_1707A couple of blocks from The Fork is Union Station where John clearly remembers stopping in 1968 on his way to his father’s wedding in Ottawa.IMG_1717Today was a wonderful day of remembrance and recognition.

2014 Jun 25 – Day 6 – Yorkton, SK to Winnipeg, MB

Unlike yesterday’s journey day, today was a destination day. We left Yorkton at 10 am for the 7 hour drive to Winnipeg.  We crossed the Saskatchewan – Manitoba border at noon and arrived in Winnipeg at 6:30 local time; which is an hour ahead of SK.

IMG_1598 IMG_1607Today was a long drive through flat fields interspersed with trees and small communities.  We made a few stops along the way to check out things we saw on the tourist information bill boards.  I took a photograph of many of the “Welcome to…” signs we passed.  It may have been a good cross-Canada assignment to give myself before we left, but I didn’t think of it.  It was fun to try capture them as we drove.  The big bull was outside Russell.IMG_1611

IMG_1601 IMG_1613 IMG_1619 IMG_1625One of our first stops was in Churchbridge.  A local artist, Rita Swanson had won the Canadian Mint contest to design a $1 coin for Canada’s 125th anniversary.  There was a large representation of her design and a commemorative plaque beside the tourist booth.IMG_1604We stopped at a lovely little park, North Shore Park, at Shoal Lake for a peanut butter on a bun lunch and then motored our way along to Winnipeg.  Our hotel is right down town and we are staying for three days.  There are quite a few things I want to see here, foremost being the graves of my maternal grandparents who had both died within  six years after immigrating from Scotland in 1930.IMG_1618

2014 Jun 24 – Day 5 – Regina. SK to Yorkton, SK

Today was a journey day.  We have along on this trip two of my father’s  books.  One is “Backroads and Getaway Places of Canada” and the other is “Handpicked Tours of North America.”  In the Handpicked Tours book there is a drive from Regina to Yorkton that takes you north to Fort Qu’Apelle and Echo Lake, east through Lebret and then south down to Indian Head.  Then you follow the TCH eastward again until Grenfell before turning north on Hwy 247.  We took a little jog east to Esterhazy to get some information about the huge potash mines there then turned around and followed Hwy 9 west and north to Yorkton.  If you don’t dilly dally around and zig zag all over you can drive from Regina to Yorkton in about  three hours.  We took seven; but that is what we like to do; see the little places and out-of-the-way things.  To me big cities are pretty much all the same.

There was a lovely church in Lebret: Sacred Heart Catholic Church and right behind it was The Fishing Lake.  There was a very small town dominated by the large church and a 1/4 mile long cemetery dating from 1895.

We ended up accidentally on a gravel stretch of road for about 20 km.  This was not popular with John as he takes very good care of my Poppy truck and he does not like driving her on gravel.  Needless to say that 20 km took awhile to traverse.I liked the old grain elevator at Indian Head.  They also have their museum in an old fire hall but it is only open in July and August.  We had a nice chat with a fellow in Wolseley where they have a swing bridge to access one side of town with the other.  Wolseley bills itself as “The Town Around A Lake.”

I am very surprised by the amount of water we see; rivers, lakes and ponds are everywhere.  Of course they have had lots of rain in SK lately so where water can be water certainly is, but still there are numerous ponds with bull rushes encircling them in every field.  We see lots of water fowl swimming with their ducklings, goslings and other kinds of ‘lings.’I have learned that there are 100,000 lakes in SK and even though we have the image of miles and miles of flat prairie fields (and that is certainly what we are seeing), over half of SK is pine forest.  Just go north and that is all there is to see.

We strolled through the museum in Esterhazy before going to the Potash Information Center.  I know I am getting old, but it was still a bit of a surprise to see a meat grinder like the one I use at home (even if it was my mother’s meat grinder) in the museum.  The biggest surprise though was to find my doll house!  The very same furniture, the very same rooms!  I wanted to take it home, but they wouldn’t let me.  Talk about a wake-up call to the passing of time to see one of your childhood toys in a museum.The Potash Information Center was not large but it was very interesting.  Saskatchewan supplies 1/3 of the world’s pot ash.  They have deposits that will conservatively last 500 years.  Yes that is right 500 years!  The mines are 3140′ underground and are mini-cities where they drive a fleet of trucks and have borers that use laser beams to follow the potash vein.  Really cool stuff.  So glad we drove the extra few kilometers to go.