Friday, 17 October 2014

Road trip: Part 4 - Lake of the Woods to Thunder Bay

Day 8: Lake of the Woods to Thunder Bay
We set alarms and were up before dawn so that we could see Uncle C. again before he left for Winnipeg and to thank him for having us. Once he was gone, we continued drinking our coffee and watched the sun rise over the Lake...

Photo: Michael
It was magical.

And then we packed up, locked up, and drove off. Not only did we have a 6 hour drive ahead of us but there was at least one more Geocache to find. 

But it wasn't found. Meanwhile, I managed to take a few pretty photos of mist and wild flowers, grasses, spruce, and birch. Jimmy and Pop got their groove on to the Wiggles, while staying nice and warm in the car.

As we drove towards Thunder Bay the landscape became rockier, with fewer lakes but more trees and grasses and wild flowers and road works. The race to finish everything before the ground froze was on. We were fortunate enough not to have to wait very long at any given point.

The day was uneventful otherwise, although we did feel pressed for time and by 4 pm, with 1.5 hours driving to go, we had to make a call: see Kakabeka Falls and have a really cranky Jimmy or just head to our accommodation. We skipped Kakabeka Falls. We were all close to being 'over' being in the car.

And we did manage to make it to KOA Thunder Bay without Jimmy getting too upset. Oh we were glad to be out of that car! We bought firewood and started looking forward to a hot dinner and cups of tea... only we were a few days too late for the dry wood... that all went over the Labor Day weekend, when they were very busy. Oh well... At least the swimming pool was open...

But we were all after refreshments first, but they were second to setting up our cabin. Except in Jimmy's case. He'd waited long enough.

Possibly one of my favourite photos, thanks Michael for taking it!
Jimmy, Michael, and I went for a swim. It was really refreshing, and not in a "the water was cold" way. Even Jimmy enjoyed the swim before he found the difference in water and air temperatures too much. Nothing a warm shower couldn't fix.

Our kettle.
Our cabin!
Jimmy helping reorganise our supplies.
The cabin came complete with a hanging basket and pretty little flowers.

We did manage to have a hot dinner and cups of tea and marshmallows. And Jimmy was happy to be out of the car. After dinner, Jimmy slept soundly while we stayed up and ate more marshmallows, organised our next lot of accommodation, and talked about our plans for the next day - visiting the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.

It's a lamppost! (Photo: Michael)
Day 9: Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
We ate breakfast as the fog rolled in from Lake Superior, making good use of the communal kitchen: a shelter with two sinks, running water, electric elements, and a toaster! And some little chipmunks! Actually there were chipmunks all around the place, so we had to keep our cabin door closed, even when we were nearby... Oh but they're cute!

Photo: Michael.
We set out after breakfast, hoping that it wouldn't rain. We didn't really have any plans other than to go to the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, have lunch, find a Geocache or two, and just generally enjoy the beauty of the place. Oh and get a good look at Lake Superior, even though we would be driving along the shoreline the next day.

As everything is so well signed in Canada, we didn't bother noting down highway numbers or landmarks before we headed off. We'd been driving about 15 mins before it occurred to us that we might need fuel. As we were approaching a petrol station, it was decided that we would be fine. There was only another 15 mins of driving to do...

You know where this is going, don't you?

We kept going. And going. And going. And realised that we were travelling away from Sleeping Giant... AND running low on fuel. Ep!

With our hearts in our throats, we turned around and headed back towards Sleeping Giant and Thunder Bay, trying to remember if we'd passed any petrol stations. The only one any of us could remember was the one we thought we didn't need. We also started looking for signs for Sleeping Giant. 

We saw the big sign as we approached the petrol station. Yes. That's right. The turn off was opposite the petrol station. We had been so busy looking at the fuel gauge, that none of us saw the sign (ok, Jimmy might have, but he can't read). With a full tank of petrol, and maybe an extra hour of travelling done, we headed into the Park. 

Quite the amazing bridge.
Or so we thought: turns out there are private properties from the highway to the border of Sleeping Giant (and some on the other side!). And there's this amazing rail bridge. It was just soooo high up! And one of the houses we drove past was selling Amethyst (Ontario's official mineral) - Granny was a little excited and hoped that we'd make it back in time to get some stones (which we did).

We felt a little lost as we entered the Park. There were signs but the road seemed one-way and we didn't have a map, so we made for the office. While we were sorting things out in the office, Jimmy was enjoying the sunshine and the grass and the freedom of not being in the car. He was happy people watching, we could see him, and he knew we would be back - not surprisingly we received a few comments, mostly of people being amazed that this baby/toddler wasn't crying because he was on his own. Jimmy made more fuss at the prospect of going back into the car!

Gulls? Check. Beach? Hmmm, check... Sun? Check. Wind? Check. 
The sun was out, the wind was cold, and we were hungry! So, we made for Marie Louise Lake. Somewhere there was mention that bears had been seen in the Park, which freaked me out, but I figured that so long as there was always at least one adult near Jimmy, he'd be ok, and I was pretty glad that we weren't camping there (I had thought we would, at some stage in the planning). We discovered that we'd actually left a few things behind, but that was ok, and brought things for tea, when we had no way of heating water... Oh for a Trangia*!

Jimmy's photo of our lunch spot.
"Mum! You joined us!"
After lunch, Jimmy and Michael checked out the play equipment. Jimmy approved for the twisty slide, but thought the straight ones were so boring, he didn't even bother going down them.

"Well, this slide does make a satisfying noise... but I'm not going down it!"
"That's right, I'm walking, doing a little dance too."
That said, it was lovely lunch spot and the water wasn't as cold as we thought! That's right. Jimmy went wading, just a little. This was after going for a long walk (as pictured above).

Fungi (Photo: Michael)
Small pretties, under the trees. (Photo: Michael)
Because we'd lost an hour and because Granny wanted to check out the rocks we didn't want to be driving home after 5 pm with a grumpy Jimmy, we didn't have that much time to do everything that we wanted to do at the Park. So no hiking.
The beautiful dear. (Photo: Michael)
But we did drive as far as we could drive around the area, saw a beautiful dear, chatted with a local, and took in the view across Lake Superior to Thunder Bay. It wasn't until I saw a really, really big boat, that I realised how BIG this lake is, and then we were only looking at a small section of it!

Album cover, anyone? (Photo: Michael)

It was a pretty good day. Granny and Michael went for a short walk into the forest, and Granny highly recommends coming back for a hike and camping trip. One day. Perhaps when Jimmy is old enough to appreciate and remember it. 

We stopped by the yard with the Amethysts and chatted with the man selling the minerals. He claimed to have no accent, while we definitely spoke differently. Ahhh... Rocks bought, we headed back to Thunder Bay and our cabin for dinner, laundry (it was imperative), marshmallows and tea. 

Day 10: Thunder Bay to Brule River
We set out early (for us) because we had 5 hours driving and a border crossing, and maybe some grocery shopping, to complete to reach our destination: a small campground, with no possibility for bookings, and we wanted to be sure that we didn't miss out as it was a 'first in, best dressed' kinda thing, on a Friday night.

Roadside flowers.
The border crossing was quick - it was a fairly small crossing - although we had to wait for roadworks on the Canadian side. We did a little tourist shopping either side of the border too, because we hadn't done any and wanted a few little things: I was after patches for my backpack; Pop was after fridge magnets. 

And the we drove along Lake Superior! Ok, so there was one detour that took us away from the Lake, and there were a lot of trees blocking the view in places, but we spent nearly 4 hours driving along the shore.

Fish and chips overlooking Lake Superior.
We stopped for lunch in Grand Marais, Minnesota. We had a cold lunch of fish and chips by the shore, enjoyed the pebble beach, walked around the town a little, and bought some donuts at World's Best Donuts. Then we were off again. The donuts were pretty good, and I discovered that a plain donut, no sugar or cinnamon coating, is actually really nice. Sorry, we ate them before we even thought to take photos.

Somewhere between Thunder Bay and Brule River.
We reached Brule River in good time, found the State Park and realised that there was no access to running water. And we were at the campsite with facilities. Oh and there was a notice about being "bear aware" - ep! But it was the lack of water that was the deciding factor. Leaving the lovely surroundings, the faint sounds of the Brule River, the wonderfully tall and straight trees and the shelter they provided, and the cool of the air was hard, but we didn't have any water. None. Not even in our water bottles.

All was not lost, as the Brule River Motel (and campground) was not far away. We were happy to have running water and access to clean toilets - the toilets in the State Park were sooo smelly... they must have had a busy Labor Day weekend. To be honest, the Motel seemed a little dead, but we were pleasantly deceived! After setting up our tents, in an RV site, because of all the recent rain (thanks to the lady in the office for letting us use an RV site!), people kept arriving: people taking rooms; people setting  up tents; people setting up their RV's. It was really quite busy. Oh and it was a lovely spot! Again there were the tall trees, the river, and the cool air.

Brule River fungi. (Photo: Michael)
We actually had a lovely spot. And even though we felt a little disorganised, we still managed to get firewood (although it was wet), have a hot meal, and sleep fairly well. That was until it became so cold that our sleeping bags just didn't cut it. At least that was the case for Michael and I. Jimmy was snug as a bug in a rug and woke up refreshed and ready to walk!

But that's a story for the next entry.

More Brule River fungi. (Photo: Michael)
To be continued!

And just in case you missed the previous road trip adventures:
Part 1 - Manhattan to Winnipeg
Part 2 - Winnipeg to Lake of the Woods
Part 3- Lake of the Woods

*Michael and I do own one, but we left it in Australia, with good friends, thinking that they would get more use out of it than we would, even if we brought it with us. Ah well. They have used it, and very kindly sent a photo of it in use - thanks dudes!

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