Thunder Bay, Ontario Monday September 8, 2014
Trip Six is underway, thankfully since we must have spent too much time at home between trips. We were not completely into our travel mode today. We got out of town an hour later than planned. The Finnish restaurant we were going to have dinner at in Thunder Bay closed an hour before we arrived. The planned hike to a falls just over the border took longer than expected and we decided to not complete it.
Not all was discombobulated though. We purchased Canadian money before leaving home. We had our hotel reservation for tonight as several people called or stopped at the hotel while we were checking in and they were told the hotel was full. We left our bear spray behind and did not have to declare it at Canadian customs/border. We knew we would be in the Eastern time zone once we crossed the border and thus lost an hour of travel time.
Sunday we had the car washed to start the trip on a nice note. But Highway 61 starting south of Grand Marais and for 10 miles into Canada was under construction, much of it a gravel surface that has eliminated any vestiges of cleanliness for the car.
As we begin this fall trip, the leaves are still green. We have observed a few shrubs starting to change colors. As time goes on, we expect to observe fall color changes in differing stages across the two countries.
We made sure our first stop was valuable; we had lunch at Betty’s Pies in Two Harbors, a landmark on the North Shore of Lake Superior. Two Harbors has a nice overlook of the lake and a taconite processing plant courtesy of Cliffs Mining. I write that somewhat tongue in cheek. Those of you who are older might recall that Two Harbors was the site of the first taconite plant on the Iron Range, owned by Reserve Mining. A lawsuit in the early 1970s gained nationwide attention to the effect of the taconite tailings being dumped (legally at the time) into Lake Superior. After months of testimony, the federal judge gave the EPA permission to regulate and stop the lake dumping of tailings. There were long term economic and environmental ramifications, the case remaining notable to this day.
The North Shore of Lake Superior is not unfamiliar to us. The lake was beautiful today with blue water and skies. Tomorrow is likely to be stormy and the vast expanse of the lake creates dangerous weather for shippers.
The history of the area includes fortunes made and lost in logging and mining. The environmental movement preserved lakes and woods at the cost of high-paying mining jobs, a tension that still exists in the area today. Tourism has gained a strong foothold as those same forests and lakes attract tourists, fishers, boaters, hikers, etc. The North Shore Drive was one of the early scenic drives in American, drawing over 1,000,000 visitors a year before WWII. Split Rock Lighthouse is a well known landmark and numerous rivers fall over cliffs rushing to the lake creating myriad waterfalls.
Given the time change at the border, we only made one tourist type stop. We visited Grand Portage National Monument six miles south of the Canadian border. The name goes all the way back to the 1700s when fur trading was an important trade between North America and Europe. Trappers shipped beaver and other furs from western Canada, and the US, to Montreal for trans shipment to Europe. However, the Pigeon River which leads into the interior of Ontario has miles of rapids and falls before it reaches Lake Superior. An 8.5 mile trail portaged around the rapids and led to a sheltered bay at what is now Grand Portage.
The North West Company established a headquarters at Grand Portage to barter and ship the pelts east. However, after the U.S. won the American Revolution, the border with Canada was set at the Pigeon River. Grand Portage was in the U.S. and the headquarters had to be re-located into British-controlled Canada. The friendly and mutually economic transactions ended for the Ojibwe. U.S. control ended up with the Native Americans losing most of their land and left them with the usual unfulfilled treaties.
Tonight we are in Thunder Bay, about 40 miles north of the border. Thunder Bay has a population of about 110,000 people and was formed in 1970 combing the cities of Port Arthur, Fort William and two townships. After years of competition, local communities got together and requested the provincial government to create a larger, merged community. This far thinking act has been successful in attracting more educational institutions and businesses. We passed the large paper plant run by Resolute which provides the newsprint we observed at our tour of the Minneapolis Star.
Ed and Chris Sept. 8;