Tuesday, August 17, 2010

2010-27 Grand Marais Minnesota to Thunder Bay Canada


Grand Marais Minnesota
Thunder Bay, Canada

Campground:  Grand Marais Municipal campground.  $35 full hookups w/cable TV.  Sites are close together.  Some with Lake Superior views and of the town and lighthouse.  Walking and biking path boarder the park and easy walk into town.  Note: over my budget but for a few days it has worked out well.

Campground:  Trowbridge Falls Park and campground (Canada).  $25, Elect & water.  Nice forest setting.  Limited big rig sites.  Northeastern end of Thunder Bay.

Grand Marais, Minn.

One of the nice things about camping is that I get to have different locations throughout the country.  From Forested sites miles away from anything to the one I have in Grand Marais which is a city park.  It’s right on the bay and Lake Superior and theirs a nice bike/walking path leading into town.  Being only a few blocks from town and close to seafood restaurants is a real plus.

I’ve already enjoyed many walks into the small tourist town but not in the gaudy way so many tourist town can be.  Instead is has curved peddle beaches and a protected bay.  Shops tucked in old main street buildings and sail boats and fishing boats bob up and down as they are anchored off shore.  I probably should have gotten the bike off it’s rack but decided I needed the walking and would get more out of it than riding the bike.  Well after a couple of days of walking, my legs are stiff and tired.  Whew, should have taken the bike out.

The walking path is filled with folks coming to and from town and everyone is eager to say a hello and how’s your day going greetings.

Along with enjoying this wonderful scenery in NE Minnesota I’ve been enjoying some awesome weather.  It’s usually foggy over the water early in the morning with temps around the 65 degree mark.  As the sun begins to peak out through the fog and clouds the day gradually heats up to the 70’s and occasionally reaches into the low 80’s for a few hours.  Pleasant breezes flow of the great lake and create bursts of cool refreshing air.

The fog horn blows throughout the night so if your in a tent as many of the campers are, it can keep you awake for many hours.  My camper is well insulated and I barely hear it.

Oh an interesting note, while heading through Minnesota on hwy 61 along Lake Superior, I happened to see another of the Peter Toth Indian statues.  How cool is that?  That makes at least three I’ve seen in the past year.

Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada

On Wednesday I traveled the remaining 38 miles to the boarder crossing.  No lines, a nice boarder guard asking a few questions and then I was on my way.  Another 30 miles and I was in Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada.  Stunning mountains crop up on either side before reaching the city of 110,000.  A few farms leading into the city and then your in Thunder Bay.  I finally had a stop where I could get to a decent tire shop to have a few worn tires replaced (I’ve put a lot of miles on the truck and camper in the past year).  And I brought the camper to another shop to have them check the axles as one of the camper tires continues to wear unevenly.  Hopefully they fixed the problem, which I’ll monitor closely to see if it did.

I arrived at Trowbridge Falls Park and campground.  After quickly setting up, I called my Canadian friends  Gary and Elaine from a pay phone to let them know I had no cell phone service, as Verizon hadn’t set it up correctly and after what seemed like hours on the phone with them, we were unable to fix the problem.

Gary and Elaine and one daughter Trish live in the most idyllic cabin perched on rocks overlooking a bay and Lake Superior during the summers.  Wild flowers and a vegetable garden along with kayaking the bay keep them busy throughout the summer.  

The Canadian dollar is on par with the U.S. dollar at this time, so it’s a good bargain for Canadians coming to the U.S.  and not a bad deal for U.S. citizens as our dollar goes about the same as in the U.S.  Better than going to Europe or many other countries where the U.S. dollar doesn‘t go very far.

How exciting to be traveling in another country.  The scenery changes quickly after passing the boarder.  How do they know to place a boarder between states and countries right where there’s a change in scenery?  From gallons to liters, miles to kilometers, Tim Horton’s coffee shops, Canadian Tire instead of Goodyear.

And visiting my friends Elaine and Gary along with their daughter Trish has been a most enriching experience.  Gary and Trish have taken me on a tour of some outlying areas like Silver Islet.  A coastal mining town at one time where a mine was dug deep into a small island off shore.  Tons of silver was excavated from this small island out in Lake Superior.  The mine ran out of fuel.  The water pumps stopped and the mine filled with water, never to be reopened.  They say there is still a lot of silver down in the mine.  Even pillars of silver remain that were used to hold up the ceiling.

The riches continue on shore where locals and a few folks from the states have purchased the old mining homes built on the base of steep rock walls overlooking the bay and Lake Superior.  Many still retain their historical character from the late 1800’s.  Log cabins with large bands of chinking between the wood logs.  Beautiful 4 paned windows with white curtains or old fashioned blinds.  And a curved sandy beach at one end of the inlet.  There is no electricity to these homes and all have either solar panels or wind power.

We hike some of the paths along Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.  Down old gravel roads, winding our way through forests of cedar and spruce, over boulders and  rock outcroppings to views of the rugged shoreline of Lake Superior.  Breathtaking views of the rugged Superior shore line.

Elaine has been a perfect hostess making us dinner every evening.  Ham one evening, fish from Lake Superior , green beans from the garden.  Brown and wild rice which grows throughout Northern Wisconsin, Minnesota and here in Ontario and the Thunder Bay region.  Topped off with a decadent desert of Brown Apple Betty crumble and ice-cream.  I’ve been spoiled by their Canadian charm.  We sit on their raised deck overlooking a shallow protected bay.  Surrounded by wilderness, wildflowers and water views.  Chipmunks scurry over the rocks and through the wild flowers, searching out treats left by Trish who feeds all the small critters.  A bear came by the other night and helped himself to some of the bird feed that Elaine and Gary forgot to put away for the evening.  Bees and humming birds buzz from flower to flower.

And like so many places around the globe there are unique and special sites.  Like the weeping Madonna of Lords.   Thunder Bay is no exception.  At  the Locker home, they have the “Weeping loo of Thunder Bay”.  A “water closet” that actually weeps water.  Now Gary tells me it’s because the water is so cold it caused the porcelain to sweat.  I think it’s a special sign from the water gods.  Though I don’t know what they are trying to convey.  Perhaps, a cry to save the Great Lakes or something grand like that.  Gary does tell me the lake is down about a foot… Hmmmm.

The whole family went into town and we ate at the Finish restaurant, Hoito, where we walked down into the basement of the Finlandia Club.  The walls were all light wood panels vanished many times over.  We all had the Finish pancakes that are so thin they are almost crepes and so large round they fill the entire plate.

A quick tour of the largest Finish community in the Americas with all it’s shops containing the very best of finish glassware, art objects and fabrics. And then we were off to see an art exhibit at the university where Gary was the head of the Engineering Department and then on to Kakabeka Falls.

Busy days and evenings filled with home cooked dinners and good conversation surrounded by primal forests and overlooking Lake Superior.  Could anyone ask for a better way to explore Thunder Bay.  I’m going to have to get back on the road just to be able to rest up after such an eventful week.

Day five without my Verizon Cell phone service.  No cell phone, no GPS for directions, no internet access.  And at least two more days before I get into cell service.  Yikkes, I really am in wilderness country.  I’m back in the states, after a very serious U.S. customs officer/homeland security asked me where I’d been, where I was going.  Where I lived (I’m a full timer)… but where do you live?  A check of all the drawers and medicine cabinet in the bedroom (he couldn’t get in the living area with the slides in).  And finally, have a nice day.  Said in such a staid voice I almost saluted him.

I’m just over the boarder in Grand Portage on Indian Reservation land.  I was able to enjoy the last day of the Ojibwe Rendezvous.  A number of tribes in the area get together for a pow-wow and the public is welcome.  Rhythmic drums beat out a steady beat.  Silver and pewter bells on the women’s dresses as well as the large sleigh bells around the ankles of the men ring out a constant staccato metal beat.  Singers add another dimension as the various tribes dance around the circular stadium.  Colorful costumes and headdresses add to the festive atmosphere.  Photos are permitted when spiritual performances are not being performed.  A heavy breeze cools the summer air and puffy clouds skitter across the sky.

Just another day in the north country.

more photos on Picasa

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