:: Wednesday, May 30, 2007 ::
Vacation saturday 4/26 and sunday 4/27 Ontario
Before I headed out at 0145rs early on Saturday morning, I had a Tarot card reading done by Shiloh and watched a burlesque show that starred her, Corey, Sarah and a few other folks I know. Both were quite good fun. the reading was full of promise and I will have to get her to do another for me. :)
Going via 4 and 89 - to avoid Toronto, I headed up the 400. A couple of coffees and 378km later I pulled into the new truck stop in Parry Sound.
One of the things that struck me about the drive north and into Canadian Shield country on the TCH was the placement of inukshuks on the cuts put through the shield for the highway. At first I thought that they were set up there by construction workers as they seemed to be predominantly in locations where work was underway or was recently completed. But they continued up the TCH as far as Thunder Bay. Inukshuks, like the one I shot below about 66km north of Parry Sound, are replacements for people. To show you were there. Some of them were in precarious spots and all not quickly accessible. I am curious to see if these continue as I proceed westward. the shattered sharp segments of rock will not be as accessible after leaving Ontario.
North of PS, I detoured to Byng Inlet as I was under the impression that it was a somewhat abandoned industry town. Nope. Full of cottages. There were piles from a really long gone pier, so perhaps there was something to the story, but nothing else. But had I not gone down the side road I would not have discovered the Shield Toilet. This is where the Out in Outhouse comes from. Pretty funny seeing this contrasting against the pinkish stone. :)
I stopped next at French River. I suggest this place as a stop over as it has a fantastic visitor centre (just before the bridge on the left going North). Brand new and high tech, with quality displays and friendly staff. Oh and super clean washrooms. Though a fair bit of this is probably missed as it is at the far end of a unpaved gravel lot and below grade and not easily seen when parked. You could hit the picnic area toilets and never know what you missed.
Weather on day one has been great. Super sunny and warm. I got gas in Espinola, and at 1.09 that was the lowest I would see for a while... I shot a cemetary near Spanish that had some quite colourful flowers that reminded me of the crocus 'infestations' we get. Except they are pink instead of blue.
I tried to nap in a rest & picnic area but to no avail. Was getting pretty damn tired at this point but stopping for a bit was enough to let me get on to my destination.
I decided that stopping in Sault Ste Marie would be as far as I could realistically manage in one go. And about 730pm I pulled into town. Of course, as is a theme with me when travelling I tend to get turned around fairly easily and somehow missed the obious signs and did the scenic tour via the predominantly run down and industrial sections of SSM before finding my way down to the harbour. I figured that getting a room down there would be good. though here in lies a second problem. At someone's suggestion, I thought that I would check out the Sault Ste Marie amongst the Hurons historical site. I had seen that as a kid with school and thought a return visit would be great. Only problem was that that isn't in SSM. It's on the Wye river in the Southern Georgian bay area. heheh. 680km or so back the other way. Ooops. :) First day's travel was 931km. Long day with only a nap.
Sunday morning, after a bit of a well needed sleep, I woke up to drizzle that would follow me throughout the day - getting bad at times. I also tried one of the Tim Horton's meat donuts, err I mean breakfast sandwiches on the way out. Not in the class of a McMuffin (or an othewise healthy well balanced breakfast), but meh. I headed north towards Wawa. I passed a marker on the TCH not too far north that was the mid way point on the TCH between the Pacific and the Atlantic. Some 4000 km in either direction. Ouch!
I stopped for gas at Agawa Esso station. Full Service. The first non self serve I had pulled into since sometime in Quebec a couple of years ago. Been a while since someone other than me cleaned the side mirrors and all the bug splatter off the windows. Very welcome.
As it was either drizzling or raining the whole way up on this leg (till just before Thunder Bay), the only stop of note was at the Superior Provincial Park. I went here to check out the Pictographs that the local Ojibwe people had painted on the rocks down on the shoreline. It was a trek down. the trail was only about 400m but somewhat slippery in the morning mist.
I understood what the warnings meant when I finally saw the location. The drawings, such as the one of the creature Misshepezhiu below, are quite small and done in red ocre. To get to them you have to walk out on a severely sloping outcropping that is lapped by waves. There are rescue ropes about every ten feet bolted in the rocks and hanging into the water so the mis-stepping tourist can hopefully pull themselves back out. To get the shot of Misshepezhiu - the spirit of the water, I had to be at a precarious angle leaning backwards, fairly off balance and not on the best situation. It was cool, however to see these old drawings. It made me wonder how modern wall art and graffiti will be looked upon in the coming centuries. Facing away from the narrow rocks and steep cliff face was Lake Superior - or Gi chi Gamiig to the Ojibwe. The name means Great Lake. And as Superior is the world's largest Fresh water lake, it is a fitting name. It would take me many more hours to travel around her.
Continuing through the Shield I began to notice suble changes in rock types. Grey shale or slate, granite, pink rock and brownish. Some heavily layered near horizontally and others thicker and at precarious angles. Going into the vicinity of Sault Ste Marie the boulders and forests opened up into smaller pastures for horses and cattle and then some arable land which was not visibly planted. Heading North on the 17/TCH out of the Soo, it was nearly instantly mountainous. Considerable (for Ontario) elevation changes on a consistent basis different types of trees too. Despite the last name, I know very little about tree types, but there seemed to be more birch or white pine here than seen to that point. Going north of White River (between Wawa and Nipigon) the hills were still rolling, but the effects of what must have been a huge forest fire at one point had stripped the trees and for as far as you could see in most directions everything was dead or growing back. It was drizzling, so perhaps on the return trip there will be photos.
Some of the worst rain I have ever driven in was in the winding and twisty roads near Terrace Bay which is between Marathon and Nipigon. Bad to the point that it was not clearing off the road and when you have a moment of hydroplaning with an 18wheeler behind you, it certainly focuses your attention. :) Weather finally cleared after Nipigon and it was fairly clear skies to Thunder Bay.
Final stop before seeking a place to sleep was the Terry Fox statue at Thunder Bay. Terry Fox succumbed to his cancer and had to give up his cross country run near the spot above the TCH on which the lookout and interpretive centre was placed. That section of highway is named the Terry Fox Highway of Hope (I think). How staggering a thing it must have been for him to do what he did. In warm and bitterly cold weather. Jogging in his signature hop-skip style with an artificial leg. With cancer slowly coming out of remission. You hear the stories around the time when the various Terry Fox runs happen each year, but I tell you, with the exception of a small segment on the St. Johns side of Newfoundland, I have driven the whole thing he ran. And until you actually see where he did what he did, it doesn't hit home. The guy was a hero for sure.
Today's drive was 739km. Pales into insignificance really.
More to follow...
:: Mike Wood 02:54 [+] ::
Next trip to Byng Inlet stop and say hi.