Sunday, August 17, 2014

On to Thunder Bay

We sleep in and don't leave until 8:30 - we head up Hwy 61 toward Canada... it is really really sparsely populated- I must have been psychic yesterday because I suggested to TB at dinner that we buy some cookies for the morning in case we had trouble finding something to eat.  We finally found an actual town when we got to Grand Marais MN and had a late breakfast there at the Pie Place... cute town good spot to handle any needs before crossing the border because there isn't a lot more to Minnesota up here...

We continue on the Hwy 61 tour- which also marks the Lake Superior Circle Tour - to the border with Canada where they let us in after a few questions and we quickly stop to load up on tourist materials at the information building- many trees died for this amount of paper detailing every nook and cranny along the circle tour... but more on that later-

we are headed to Thunder Bay, Ontario-  a relatively new city - which was formed by an amalgamation of most civic boundaries in the area:

On 1 January 1970, the City of Thunder Bay was formed through the merger of the cities of Fort William, Port Arthur and the geographic townships of Neebing and McIntyre. Its name was the result of a referendum held previously on 23 June 1969, to determine the new name. Officials debated over the names to be put on the ballot, taking suggestions from residents including "Lakehead" and "The Lakehead". Predictably, the vote split between the two, and "Thunder Bay" was the victor. There was more controversy over the selection of a name for the amalgamated city than over whether to amalgamate. (wikipedia)

The town was not all that prosperous looking and after doing a bit of reading I found out why-

The expansion of highways, beginning with the Trans-Canada Highway and culminating with the opening of Highway 17 linking Sault Ste Marie to Thunder Bay in 1960, has significantly diminished railway and shipping activity in the 1970s and 80s. Shipping on the Saint Lawrence Seaway was superseded by trucking on highways. Grain shipping on the Great Lakes to the East has declined substantially in favour of transport to Pacific Coast ports. As a result, many grain elevators have been closed and demolished. The Kaministiquia River was abandoned by industry and shipping. (wikipedia)

so as we arrive in the vicinity of TBay as we learned to call it, we found there was a lookout point above the city located on the bluffs within the Ft. Wiliam first nations reservation-

a plaque located on the overlook memorial cross (back in 1933 this was not an issue of being PC)

TB learns to identify clover-

then it was on to the mostly highly recommended site in TBay- the Fort William Park reconstruction - which included many "in character" locals and many interesting facts about the  lives of the voyageurs and trappers and traders in the Northwest - during the era of the North West Company and the Hudson Bay Company great rivalry (which as all capitalist stories do- ended with a merger and monopoly by the Hudson Bay Company)

a first nation's settlement outside the fort - representing the interaction that the natives had with the traders and their operations - the natives did all the trapping and the traders bought from them and transported to market-

definitely recommend the Fort William Park if you are in the area- well worth several hours of exploration - especially if you have time to talk to the "locals" - they have lots of information to impart about life and the operations of the Company....

then on to Kakabeka Falls- Ontario's second largest (after Niagara of course)

despite the fact that this brochure says it has information there is no actual information about the actual falls - only rules about camping etc... so wikipedia comes to the rescue- LOL

Kakabeka Falls  is a waterfall on the Kaministiquia River, located beside the village of Kakabeka Falls in the municipality of Oliver Paipoonge, Ontario, 19 miles west of the city of Thunder Bay.  The falls have a drop of 130 feet, cascading into a gorge carved out of the Precambrian Shield by meltwater following the last glacial maximum. Because of its size and ease of access, it has been consequently nicknamed "the Niagara of the North".  The rock face of the falls and the escarpments along the gorge are composed primarily of unstable shale, and are eroding. These rocks host sensitive flora, and contain some of the oldest fossils in existence, some 1.6 billion years of age. Due to the fragile rock, going into the gorge below the falls is prohibited.  The name "Kakabeka" comes from the Ojibwe word gakaabikaa "waterfall over a cliff" 

some of my photos-

we head on to our motel - the Strathcona - to check in - only to find we are an hour late - because we have somehow crossed back into EASTERN time! (remember we think we are above Minnesota now- or at the very least above Wisconsin....but in both instance we are wrong - we are over Michigan and the eastern time zone! LOL) Check out our progress on the map of the circle tour-

we love our rooms at the Strathcona- definitely D- if not DA (of DART) LOL

we have a bit of trouble locating a dinner place (the time issue being part of it) but finally decide to give this a try and found an excellent meal at Melizana-

We later come to find that the restaurants are not so well delineated as they are at home and although we drove by many of the top places in town they didn't strike us as restaurants - I thought one was an insurance agency and others just plain didn't look open (no signs lit up etc..) It also turns out that many places to eat are in ethnic social clubs - and we avail ourselves of this genre in the morning when we breakfast on Finnish pancakes at Hoito! (in the basement of the Finnish Social Club)

but more on that next time- because tomorrow is another day as Scarlett says- and will be another post- a long long drive and we end the day in an unexpected stay tuned!

PS - I just got some summary remarks from TB about the first days of the trip so I will go back and add them to the posts so you can have another view point- here is his summary of today-

Lakefront drive to Thunder Bay, Ontario, once again in perfect weather.  Stopped for breakfast in Grand Marais MN, where we settled on the Pie Place CafĂ©.  It’s a dream of mine to one day take a summer vacation drive east of the Mississippi river without construction delays, but that may have to wait until my next lifetime.  Construction delays notwithstanding, about an hour after breakfast we had an easy border crossing into Ontario, where a super helpful woman at the visitor center gave us a bunch of helpful information about the circle tour, and even marked the location of our hotel on a Thunder Bay map.  Encountered more road construction with minimal delays overall.  On the way into Thunder Bay, we detoured up a tribal road to the Mt. McKay overlook, which affords a good view of the area, including the city, the harbor, and the airport. 

     Our next stop was Fort William Historical Park, a replica of the c. 1816 North West Company fur trade post.  Stellar.  This large post’s buildings are in good shape, and mostly open to visitors.  The interiors are furnished with living quarters, business offices, and trade goods of the period.  The park also has a large staff of period re-enactors, who are quite knowledge about their roles and enthusiastic in carrying them out (I often find just the opposite to be true, so this is really saying something for TB).  One could easily spend a full day here.  

     Next we made a short but worthy visit to Kakabeka Falls & gorge, nicely preserved in a provincial park.  Eventually we cruised into Thunder Bay and checked into the 1950s era Strathcona Motel – an absolute delight.  Quiet and clean and only 6 rooms, I was charmed by my green Formica kitchen counter and my pink-tiled shower and toilet.  Be still, my DART-ing heart. 

     Finding an equally appealing dinner spot, however, proved more of a challenge.  Thunder Bay does not charm the visitor.  We toured much (all?) of the city’s commercial area looking for a spot that called out to us.  None did.  Next we tapped VJS’s travel instincts, which led us into a windowless place with only one car outside; I figured we were going to be robbed & dumped into the bay by Ontario goombas.  Good thing we went with Tor’s instincts instead of mine.  Melizana bills itself as Mediterranean cuisine but is in fact a Greek restaurant.  We wound up having a decent meal, good wine, and DART-rific conversation to close out another great day on the Lake Superior Circle Tour.  Did I mention we had perfect weather? 

so stay tuned as I said----

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