Wawa to Sault Ste. Marie

Posted in Uncategorized on June 14, 2018 by David Palmer

A very pleasant night’s sleep was brought to an end by a thunderstorm and torrential rain around 8am. We were reluctant to make an early start to today’s adventure, hoping that the rain clouds would move on. By the time we did load up the car, it had gone 10am and it was still raining and a decidedly chilly 7 degrees! Our host during last night’s splendid meal was Trinidadian and had informed us that she had lived in Wawa for the last 30 years as on the journey between Sault Ste. Marie and Wawa she had fallen in love with the country and had decided to make it her home. Sue had looked up to day’s route and discovered that it is listed as one of the 9 best road trips in North America. It didn’t look very likely that we would be seeing it at its best today.

For the first half hour we saw very little of the beautiful coastline we were apparently following other than the occasional bay seen through rivulets of water marching across window glass.

When the rain eased we took the opportunity and pulled into one of the beauty spots along with a couple of other travellers. Oooooo, it was chilly, but the view at Old Lady’s Beach was pretty good, even under a sombre sky. Clouds whipping low over waves seemingly thrashing each other in a race to the beach, gave meaning to the story outlined on an information board we had parked next to, of the foundering of a large iron-ore freighter in the 1960’s during the worst storm ever recorded on Lake Superior.

Though the rain didn’t return for the next section of our journey, we had been warned that this route was often susceptible to fog and that is what we got. Thick, dense fog that reduced vision at times to just around 50m or so, slowing our progress and ensuring that eyes were fixed on the grey murkiness ahead and not on the presumable pleasurable scenes passing us by in slow motion.

We stopped (to rest the eyes) at a Tourist Information Centre, situated on the banks of Hades. Well, it could have been, the surrounding forest merging into writhing, swirling grey, green cauldron fumes, while the beach promised to deliver Charon and his ferry boat through the blanket of fog just a few metres off-shore. However, it was lovely and warm inside and manned by friendly rangers eager to discuss bears. We confessed we hadn’t seen any. The interactive displays were pretty interesting and held our attention until the journey beckoned and we drove off again along the ‘road to nowhere’.

The fog eventually gave in to the returning rain and around lunchtime we pulled into a Cookhouse for some vittles’. Local white fish from the lake and fries from a field somewhere, gorgeous! As a bonus, on leaving we noticed that hummingbirds were sipping from a couple of hanging feeders. Of course we photographed them (they were unconcerned at our presence), what stunning creatures they are. So fast, so small, so sweet!!!!

Those little birds were the essential element to break the spell that had marred our journey so far. The sun came out; we could see where we were going. However, we then met a series of road works that at times slowed our journey to a stop, but eventually we arrived in Sault Ste. Marie and the Satnav talked us directly to the Holiday Motel.

After checking in we drove off to explore. First was Bellevue Park, a pretty patch of green that jutted out into St. Marys River. After parking up, we discovered why the unusual wispy clouds were whizzing across an otherwise clear sky, it was blowing a gale! The river was glinting in the sunlight but white horses were galloping madly across its surface. And it was cold. We did a full circumnavigation of the promontory, glad on the lee side that we were out of the wind. On the other side of the river was Trump country, we could see lines of RV’s parked up along the opposite bank; you could easily swim across, but not today. We came across a box attached to a post that vended free poop bags for dog owners, how novel, what a sensible use of local taxes. With initiatives such as this there is often a HOWEVER, and there is one here. The park (and river) is home to several hundred Canada Geese, and they also poop, and it is as large as a medium sized dog poop. Goose droppings were everywhere! Good try Sault, but you need a goose education programme to run in parallel.

Next we drove to the other side of the city to visit the International Bridge, St. Marys Island and Whitefish Island.

The bridge is the border between the USA and Canada. Considering its importance, there appeared to be little traffic traversing this huge structure, on average a vehicle every 30 seconds.

The two islands are linked and are a 1st Nation Heritage site. After parking up we crossed the large ship canal onto St. Mary’s Island and then walked up to the bridge. The wind had now dropped and though late in the afternoon it was quite warm. Bridge photos taken we set off on the island trail. We came across some fly fishermen, in waders casting for fish in the main river. We dallied awhile, hoping we would see a fish landed, but were disappointed. Further along the trail we met a red winged blackbird, he was keen to chat; tweeting, chirping and screeching at us as we walked along. We reciprocated and he responded. No idea what the conversation was but it lasted a good ten minutes before a passing walker broke our conversation. Next, we came across a beaver lodge, a local explained that it was their winter lodge, the summer one was across the river and that is where they had their young in the spring. Yuppie beavers eh?

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The walk along the trail took up the rest of the afternoon. The Heritage site is well designed and was thoroughly enjoyable, it really brought the history and the nature of place out in its info boards and I am sure is a huge asset to the citizens of the city. They seem to use it well.

On returning to our accommodation we a meal at a fast food outlet in the city, before settling own free the evening watching some TV.

Schreiber to Wawa

Posted in Uncategorized on June 13, 2018 by David Palmer

The route from Schreiber to Wawa for the early part of our journey stuck close to Lake Superior’s northern shoreline and the views were of still waters, tree covered islands, inviting little bays and of course an increasing number of small settlements, usually accompanied with a camping or RV site.

The morning was a sunny one but the temperature was quite a few degrees down than further inland, the lake was having a cooling effect. As we progressed eastwards it began to cloud over. We stopped awhile in Marathon for a break and a large hot chocolate, we checked out the town beach, but it was just pebbles and piles of drift wood. Marathon sounds as if it might be interesting but regrettably it is not, not a patch on its Greek namesake.

Driving on we had a brief rain shower, then another stop. This time to photograph a moose at the side of the road, a little later on Sue spotted another and again we stopped, this one however seemed as much interested in us as we it, staring us out until we got fed up of taking its photo. He was trying hard to make the front cover of ‘Nature Weekly’ and gave us his best poses.

The road now took us inland, through forested hills and lake after lake, most having at least one cabin attached to it, no doubt for summer use by the ‘city slickers’ from out east! Soon, as we neared our destination, the Mystic Isle Motel, just south of Wawa, we returned to the shore of Lake Superior and the sun came out.

The plan was to find the hotel first then explore, but when the Satnav announced we had arrived, we obviously hadn’t! Retracing part of our route we headed into Wawa town and had lunch in one of the restaurants. Stomachs satisfied we then had a mooch around the shops, before enquiring at the Tourist Information Office as to the location of our accommodation. Annoyingly to find that if I had earlier driven around the next bend we would have found it.

After checking in at reception we found our room and were pleasantly surprised, it was beautifully decorated and furnished to a very high standard, certainly a cut above the usual Motel standard.

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the locality. First stop was Silver Falls, followed by Silver Beach then coming across an early settlers’ cemetery we spent time at the three a gravestones still showing and read the associated information boards. A fascinating insight into the lives of those lying beneath our feet. We surmised that the cemetery was situated there as it would have afforded a magnificent view of the lake for its residents. How thoughtful.

We moved on along the very dusty road that we had been following for quite a few kilometres (with the low fuel tank sign displayed) to reach Sandy Beach. Here we walked the length of this pretty arc of silver sand, meeting a local walking his two dogs. We chatted awhile then moved on to stand and watch a large flock of Canada geese clustered together as if in a union meeting, just a few yards off shore. I wonder what they were gaggling on about?

The beach is famous for the ‘Canada Seven’, they were a group of artists, and this beach and other nearby locations were often painted by them. At various sites we would find information boards concerning particular paintings and the artist that created them. A novel idea as the boards were often presented as an easel with the artist’s seat in front.

With an emptying fuel tank we drove on quite a few more kilometres to Magpie High Falls. Waterfalls seem to be becoming quite a theme with this holiday, but I guess when you visit a country with this much water, it is inevitable. These falls were created as part of a hydro-power scheme, but are none the less impressive for it.

With our thirst for yet another body of cascading water satisfied we sped with dust clouds billowing behind to a gas station just outside Wawa. $72 dollars saw the 4×4 hungry beasts belly full again before driving at a more leisurely pace to Wawa town beach. Being ‘out of season’ it was empty (of course), so after another beach walk we took to the car and cruised around the beach side properties, envying their view, their life-style but not their winters!

We returned to the Mystic Isle Motel later than planned, so after a quick change (glad we did) we made the short walk to a recommended restaurant located just above the nearby river. It was fine dining and we luckily were dressed finely. We had the best meal of the trip so far, which helped when the bill came and had to be paid. Lake Superior Walleye fish and chicken stir fry don’t come cheap.

Returning to our room we spent the rest of the evening chilling out (Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz’s).

Long Lac to Schreiber

Posted in Uncategorized on June 12, 2018 by David Palmer

Checking out of our motels here hasn’t happened yet. We are asked to just leave the key in the room and shut the door when we go. No reminder as to when we are to vacate the room or seemingly a check on whether we have taken the TV, microwave or fridge with us! The Canadians out here are very trusting, but then so was Gwenda who would leave the house unlocked when we took her out. This used to be the same when I was a young lad in God’s own country, Yorkshire. The doors weren’t often shut, let alone locked during the day, unless you were going to the seaside for a week. Knocking on your neighbour’s door when you visited would never happen, that was far too formal for friends/neighbours. How things have changed in the UK, keep the faith Canada.

We left the key by the TV, shut the door and set off west on around a 4 hour leisurely drive to Schreiber. A railway town, so named after an Englishman who rose to the rank Chief Engineer in charge of railway construction in Canada. He was rewarded with a knighthood and a town named after him.

As in the previous leg of our journey we met very little traffic, surprising because this was Monday, a working day. The day was cloudless and the scenery sliding leisurely by became increasingly more interesting. There was increasing signs of habitation; camp sites, little pockets of houses and lakes with cabins. We passed through Jellicoe, but saw no cats, then Beardmore and saw no beards, but as we entered the forest covered Palisades our journey took a turn for the better. No more ruler straight ribbon of tarmac stretching from horizon to horizon, we now wound along the shores of lakes on roads squeezed between water and mountain, such a pleasant change from the day before.

We stopped for the toilet in Nippigon at a gas station and discovered that they vended coffee for free, we had two! I took the time out to wash the windscreen as the insects had painted it with their internal workings as they mindlessly played a game of chicken with the Nissan Rogue doing 90kph. There was only going to be one winner there, but they still kept on coming. Amusingly, I discovered I had half washed the car parked next to mine before noticing that it was Kia, in my defence they were the same colour!

From Nippigon to our accommodation in Schreiber we were heading east again, along the shore of Lake Superior. Again, a refreshing change of scenery. The settlements we were passing through were very pretty and I guess a very desirable place to live for a Canadian.

After checking into the Villa Bianca Inn situated alongside HWY 17 and close by the Trans Canadian Railway depot, we took a drive through the town, stopping at the Railway Museum to find it shut, it appears nothing happens for tourists outside of the large cities until July 1st. We searched in vain to find a local restaurant for lunch, but eventually settled on a KFC.

Next, we drove down to Schreiber beach. An attractive place, we spent quite a bit of time exploring the shore, rocks and the little stream gurgling into the lake. We came across a swarm of large yellow butterflies drinking from a patch of damp sand, we took quite a few photographs of them before returning to the car.

Driving further east along HWY 17 for a few more kilometres we visited Aguasabon Falls and Gorge. A spectacular and thunderous fall of water into a narrow gorge, reached along a raised walkway and viewed from a platform set into the cliff to one side. The spray billowing from the cascade created a rainbow that I hoped would show on the photos that I took. Moving on to Terrace Bay we climbed the lighthouse located just off the highway and had a great view over this small lakeside township. We took a turn around the local shops before driving down to the beach. It is here that the Aguasabon River enters Lake Superior via another thunderous waterfall. We walked from end of the beach to the other before taking the trail through the trees to the top of the waterfall and some more photos.

Returning to the Villa Bianca Inn we rested awhile then drove west to a small hotel which had a restaurant, recommended to us by a local. However, many food establishments in Canada close on Sundays and Mondays (out of season) and this one was one of them. We about turned and dined again on KFC. Waiting for our order to be filled, ironically I watched a news item that headlined, “Over 70% of Canadian men eat unhealthily.” I am not surprised, there appears to be no choice for them on two days a week.

We dined on chicken and chips with peach wheat ale in our room and watched TV; it’s the Monday night Canadian way.

Hearst to Long Lac

Posted in Uncategorized on June 11, 2018 by David Palmer

Lazy morning. Late 9.30am start under a blue, cloudless sky along a ridiculously quiet HWY11. I motored along at a steady 90kph (legal max), staring blissfully ahead at the endless tarmacked road stretching to the horizon with a 50m grassy apron on either side limited by a line of pines, beyond which there was a trillion or so more. The 200 or so kilometres had a couple of bends in them (I think), but you couldn’t really call a gentle leaning to one side for 2km, a bend.

There were three distractions; randomly we would pass through a sections of forest that had recently been involved in a fire, this was when we could glimpse further into the tree line, now consisting of lines of charred denuded poles, or an oncoming lorry or RV, but this didn’t happen for kilometre upon kilometre, but most interestingly (from my point of view) was Sue getting to grips with technology and searching for a radio station on the car radio. We had listened to FM stations earlier in the week, but these had disappeared and then she only found AM channels with varying crackles to break the monotony of straight roads and similar scenery. Now we had no signals at all, we were passing through a part of Canada that had no settlements and very little traffic so I guess the authorities had thought there was no point in going to the expense of putting in relay transmitters along the route. However, my mobile was connected to the cars power supply via USB and earlier in the week it had begun to play my music library through the car speakers as well as direct me on its Satnav. Sue spent a pleasant 20 mins or so working out how to repeat this function and bingo, we had music all the way into Long Lac.

As soon as we arrived at our destination we had lunch in a small restaurant by the river. Long Lac lies alongside the Trans Canadian railway, its very existence being that this is where the trappers trail met the railway to take the pelts to market. Today it is a small town with an impressive bridge that the majority of Lorries stop at for fuel, food and sometimes a break. However, get away from the highway and the town itself is quite pretty and down by the lake the park is well thought out and a pleasure to relax in.

We checked into our room at 2pm to be told that we were lucky, the rest of the motels in the town were full, even the local inhabitants were letting out rooms. There was a large Railway meeting going on and the town was rammed. On our orientation drive we came across a great long line of really neat accommodation carriages parked up along a siding. I suppose those workers unlucky enough not to be in these had to suffer motel rooms. Strange though, the town didn’t look busy to us, but the motels were certainly full. I guess the Northern Ontario definition of busy is akin to the European definition of comatose.

We had a walk around town, checked to see if the local steakhouse was open for a meal tonight and looked for some peach wheat ale that we have discovered we like in the liquor store. They had none so we substituted it with some local brew. There was a minor drama at the liquor store, as we entered the establishment a quite large and grossly overweight Canadian kindly opened the door for us. Inside was like being in the inner workings of a freezer cabinet and we were glad to get out side with our purchase. It was a hot day (close to 30 degrees) and on exiting I saw the kind gentleman of earlier leaning against a post in obvious distress and his wife quite concerned. He attempted to reach his car some 5m away and managed to stagger as far as the bonnet where he looked in real difficulty. His wife was phoning 911 when we got into our car, feeling guilty, we drove off.

A short drive took us to the ‘posh’ end of town where we sat and watched awhile as the local residents went about their Sunday business, which was put the boat in the water and go fishing.

On our drive over to the other side of town we stopped to have a wander around the ValuMart. It gets quite annoying that the price marked up is not the price you pay as they add the tax right at the very end!

The Public Park and landing stage was just as popular as at the ‘other’ end of town, though the boats taking to the water were not of the same calibre. We noted that, though there were numerous signs informing fishermen that they should not gut their fish and leave it in the bins (for obvious reasons), they were indeed full of fish guts. French is the language spoken here and French is the attitude on being told what to do, one of the bins had its contents scattered everywhere, no doubt by the wildlife. Not a place to visit by night I thought.

Returning to our room, we whiled the time away until it was time for our evening meal.

Oddly enough we both had fish and chips at the Steak House and Pizzeria, but it is what we both fancied and we enjoyed it. The portions here are far too large and some had to be left, though witnessing the size of pizzas emerging from the kitchen we would have left far more. Not surprisingly, other dinners were taking home doggie bags.

It was still light when we returned to our room, so we watched TV until zzzz’s.

The news here has been concerned over the last few days with Trump and the G7 meeting. The Canadians seem incandescent with rage at Mr Trump comments about their leader and the nation. I find it astounding that someone of his age has not learned to conduct himself better, his rudeness and ignorance seems to have no bounds.

Cochrane to Hearst (via polar bears)

Posted in Uncategorized on June 10, 2018 by David Palmer

We had a much better sleep, the TV snorer of the previous night has gone and with only two other guests in evidence, there was silence all night long.

We left just after 9 am and headed for the Polar Bear Habitat just a 5 minute drive away. We were surprised that the motel owner had no idea of its location and had to Google it. We used our Satnav.

After paying the entrance fee (Sue disappointed on no reduction for age) we made our way outside to check out the inhabitants of the three enclosures. There was one other couple visiting, we saw them leaving the first enclosure as we arrived but they appeared reluctant to chat so we left them to their own devices.

The centre has three polar bears, all three magnificent specimens, huge and though cuddly looking, you wouldn’t want to. Each has its own enclosure and access to water, two of them a concrete swimming pool and the other a large natural lake. One of the bear kindly obliged us by taking a swim, seemingly to enjoy the photo opportunity. You can observe them underwater through glass windows set into the side of the pool. We took some great photos.

Next, we observed them outside in their enclosures. Disappointingly we noted that they were exhibiting signs of captivity, pacing backwards and forwards and rhythmically swinging their heads from side to side on the same spot. They seem well treated and their enclosures look ideal but I guess nothing is a substitute for freedom. One of the bears was a rescue bear and the other two were from other centres. Later on we watched a video of them enjoying the snow in winter and they were clearly relaxed and felt at home. I guess captivity in summer heat isn’t very pleasant if you are a polar bear.

The place had a Heritage Village within it and though it wasn’t yet open for the season we had a wander down its Main Street. We could enter some of the buildings but we figured that during ‘the season’ the stores and houses would be occupied in a re-enactment of those past times. Even so, we found it fascinating.

We had lunch at a Harvey’s in the town before hitting HWY 11 towards our next stop, Hearst (pop. 5500).

Our journey to Hearst was a quiet joy, pretty little villages, often next to a river with a bridge. The place names were most often in French and as we found when we arrived at our destination, so was the language spoken by its inhabitants. Around an hour from Hearst we came across some road works which delayed our journey considerably. They were resurfacing the road and just up in front of us there was a rather nasty accident. We suppose that a juggernaut had shunted a car, the damage to the car looked considerable as we eventually passed. It was awhile before an ambulance came to attend to the injured.

After check-in at the motel we had a walk around the town and confirmed that this was a bastion of French culture. We were surprised to find that all the shops apart from those that sold food were shut and we noticed that they didn’t open on Saturdays or Sundays. How do they do business? Passing the cinema we noticed that it was showing ‘The Avengers’ so keen to reminisce and wallow in seventies nostalgia we bought tickets to see Steed and Mrs Peel later that evening.

Returning to the hotel we decided to visit a lake situated outside the town next to a small airport. It took only 10 minutes to drive there, but it was worth it. There is a lovely beach there of which a few of the town’s people were taking advantage of. It was a gorgeously hot day and we were surprised that there wasn’t even more taking to the cooling waters. We certainly did, with a little refreshing paddle in the crystal clear water.

We returned to the motel via circuitous route, changed and then found a nearby restaurant and ate. It was while we were dining that the thought occurred to us that the film might be in French, particularly as when we took our seats in the auditorium the trailer for the local hospital was all in French. Would the film be subtitled or would we have to figure out what was being said by the actions alone? In the event we needn’t have worried the film was in English. However, neither Steed nor Emma made an appearance; they had been substituted by Thor, Loki and a dozen other super heroes from the Marvel comic. Oooooops, wrong ‘Avengers’. The action was fast and furious, the story line vague and the believability was nil. We sat through it (we didn’t know the French for “Can we have our money back, s’il vous plait?”) until the bitter end, though I am not quite sure that it did have an ending!

Walking back to our room and bed we discussed what actually happened in the film and why such creditable actors should get involved in such nonsense. We couldn’t find an answer. I blame the French.

Cochrane to Moosoonee (Polar Bear Express)

Posted in Uncategorized on June 9, 2018 by David Palmer

It wasn’t a goodnight; I woke at 3.30am to hear the TV in the next room quite loudly. I could also hear snoring indicating that the occupant had fallen asleep with the TV on. Sue was also awake so it was decided to try the trusted method of knocking on the wall. It was to no avail, even when I hit the wall with as much venom as possible for that time in the morning. Plan B was to be avoided as we are in North America (knocking on the door), they have guns up here and a tendency to use them, then think afterwards. So Plan C was put into operation, I rang the room on the internal phone. After a few moments of ringing it was picked up and immediately put down. Good, I now had their attention. I rang again and was greeted with a, “What is it?” I pointed out that we were in the room next door and asked him to turn his TV off. The TV went silent and 5 minutes later the snoring replaced the brief silence. You can’t win them all I thought, but a gun would come in handy.

The alarm woke us at 7.30am and after a much needed, strong coffee we readied ourselves for the day’s activity.

We arrived at the train station, parked the car and waited in the platform waiting room along with a dozen or so of other passengers. Most seemed of local Indian descent, but a few appeared to be tourists like ourselves. The Polar Bear Express is a really a local workhorse that satisfies the needs of the tiny settlements in the north of Ontario and is not the glamorous fantasy speedster as the name intimates. However, the seating is the most comfortable I have ever sat in, though they need to be as the track is far from flat or seemingly parallel. Lurches and violent swings are the norm. The train left on time.

The seats have charging points, both mains and USB, so I plugged in my mobile, brought up a Map App and checked our progress on its little screen, for any points along our route that might be worthy of a photo.

The weather was very kind to us; much of the day was just clear, warm blue skies with occasional puffy clouds, which we soon left far behind us. The route is 186km long, always heading north, but winding through forest, along lake shores and over rivers from mighty to tiny. The ground became obviously more sodden the further we went and the height of the trees, mostly lodge-pole pine, seemed to shrink in size but never in density of population.

There was the occasional cabin, and outbuildings, but even these thinned out as we progressed north. I guess there are people brave enough to want to scratch a living in remote locations but there are obviously even less who are mad enough to attempt it where even the flora and fauna struggle to survive.

The train can be waved to a stop at various halts along the track and this was the case. Most often when people disembarked or joined our lurching metal steed, I could see no habitation or even a path that led out of the forest! The legend of the Greenman came to mind, but that is fanciful, they must have come from, or are going to a location that affords shelter, it just wasn’t here. More usual to my mind was when two guys on ATV’s (quad bikes) waved us to a stop. They mounted the train with rucksacks on backs, but left their expensive machines parked at the side of the track. We were in the middle of nowhere, so I guess that they were not going to be stolen unless the local bears have acquired a new skill, yet it just felt odd.

The scenery was endless pine and occasional stands of deciduous, mostly birch. There were many signs of logging, with great tracts along the line having been felled and in various stages of regrowth. We saw very little wildlife, just birds and not many of them, but they were big! The ponds and little streams were everywhere and like their larger counterparts were tea coloured, Yorkshire tea I fancy! I have seen the same colour in the water courses in the highlands of Scotland, so either it is a mixture of minerals and bog-moss that is responsible or the locals are distilling an awful lot of whisky.

Before we got to Moosoonee one of our stops was at a hydroelectric plant, awe inspiring to see how the water had been bent to mans’ use in such a remote location. To see the water thundering over the dam was quite spectacular.

We had breakfast on board the train and despite it being a golden opportunity to fleece the passengers, the prices were very reasonable. However, most of the native Indian passengers brought their own food and drink to consume on board.

Arriving in Moosoonee we disembarked to a gorgeously warm afternoon. We had been promised a stopover of 3 hrs 10 min, but due to the many halts we had lost half an hour. Couldn’t be helped, this train was for the locals not us. Most other passengers disappeared in cars, some in taxis. A few like us moved off on foot in various directions. We chose to head down what appeared the main street towards the body of water in the distance.

The town’s people of Moosoonee (pop. 4500) were going about their business as we first passed the school, then a supermarket, a church, a restaurant and then a bar (closed). Arriving at the Moose River, we sat awhile and drank in the clear crisp air and watched the numerous powered canoes charge about picking up and then disappearing in one direction or another in delivering their cargo of passengers. Most seemed to take the same route and we guessed that this must be to The Eco Village at the Moose factory on an island in the river. We had tried to book accommodation there but they had failed to respond to any of my emails. A shame.

The water and air seemed to sparkle, which is fortunate as this is a town without tarmac, compact dirt and grit are the roads surfaces and dust is kicked up by passing vehicles. I bet Sue was wondering how they kept the washing clean. We roamed around the town for a couple of hours, taking photos and discussing what it would be like to live there. We passed a large machine several times that had the task of scraping the road surface flat, but frankly it made a lot of noise, a lot of dust and a not very flat surface.

The town is laid out in a grid, so isn’t difficult to navigate around but as all the local attractions (a couple of museums) don’t open until the ‘The Season’, July 1st we returned to the river and watched an array of large seals bask in the sun on a large sandbank in the middle of the river, seemingly oblivious to the scurrying powered boats zipping across the surface often quite close.

On our return to the station we went native and visited the supermarket, buying some snacks for the return journey. We thought the prices were again reasonable for such a remote location, I guess you don’t mess with these Indians!

The train left at 5pm, on time. As on the outward journey, the train was around half full, mostly locals. We made our way south under a cloudless sky, passing through the same scenery, but this time we sat on the other side of the carriage to take in anything that we hadn’t seen on the way north. We had our evening meal in the dining car, both choosing shepherd’s pie, Canadian style with sweet corn and cheese. I think that Canadian Rail have made an improvement to this very traditional English dish, very, very tasty!

If you have a phobia on trees this wouldn’t be the trip for you, but if you wish to experience the awesome determination of nature at its rawest then it is a must. The vastness of the Canadian northland viewed from above as you fly over to Calgary or Vancouver gives an insight into its beauty, but down here where you see the detail of tree, marsh, water and animal never ceases to amaze. Perhaps there is a grand plan?

We were an hour late arriving in Cochrane, it was 22.50 hrs and dark. Some (I heard) were travelling on to Toronto, good luck to them I say, and we are off to bed!

Latchford to Cochrane

Posted in Uncategorized on June 8, 2018 by David Palmer

We breakfasted on coffee, blueberry muffins, bananas and an apple. Not my idea of full English, but that is what was on offer and it filled the same hole. While we ate we chatted amiably to the young guy on Reception. He had once been in the navy and now ran this motel, so he wasn’t that young! He suggested that we visit some waterfalls just half an hour north along HWY 11 at Pete’s Dam Road, we would find them interesting.

After packing the car we set the Satnav to the waterfalls and set off under an indifferent sky. The journey was indeed around 30 mins, there was little traffic, most being huge juggernauts usually hauling two trailers. We parked up next to a picnic spot situated above the river and noticed that a couple of young women had just returned from the trails and were preparing to leave, which they promptly did before we could engage them in conversation.

As we read the information board which showed the various trail that could be taken, the sun decided to make an appearance and turned what had promised to be a miserable morning, into one that showed promise. We opted for a circular route that followed one river bank then crossed over and returned on the other side.

Our route wound through the forest on either bank, some parts much drier than others, but the variety of spring blooms on show was delightful, it is a shame but I am afraid the only ones we recognised were the wild strawberries. We stopped often to photograph the many passing waterfalls before reaching the narrow wooden bridge on which we rested for a while in a refreshing breeze, glad to out of the way of the millions of flying insects intent on having a nibble on Palmer flesh.

Pushing on through thickening undergrowth we came across fresh bear paw prints, clearly only made that morning and following the same path as we. Sue expressed concern and I noted that she took up position behind me as we pressed on. After around 1/2 km the prints disappeared and I think we both felt a lot easier for that fact. We passed a young woman heading in the opposite direction, into bear country, headphones on and seemingly oblivious to our presence because of them. Well Mr Bear may have missed an opportunity for breakfast, but I think brunch was heading his way.

The sun was still out and smiling as we returned to the car so we sorted ourselves out and headed back to the Trans Canadian Highway.

There was little traffic on our easy drive up to Cochrane; at times it got quite lonely with nothing appearing in either direction for great lengths of time. Occasionally we would pass a neat and well cared for homestead, each time wondering what it was that had attracted them to build a home in such a remote location. I would dearly love to stop, knock on the door and ask that question of the residents, but we are British and we don’t do that. Besides we have seen ‘Cabin in the Woods’, and ”The Blair Witch’ and we know how that would likely turn out.

The SatNav took us through Cochrane and out the other side of the town, informing us that we had reached our destination among a small cluster of residences. We returned to the town and enquired at one of the motels that we had passed and were directed to our correct destination around 1/2 km away. Well done SatNav, very funny.

We checked into our room and then set off to find our destination for tomorrow morning, the train station. We are booked on The Polar Bear Express up to Moosoonee and were keen to check out a few details on the journey. We soon found the station and after a few queries to the helpful young girl behind the booking desk we were satisfied that were ready for our next adventure.

We took lunch at a nearby fast food outlet then parked up alongside Lake Commando (named after a local Indian) situated in the centre of Cochrane. We had a pleasant walk around the lake admiring some of the properties on its shore. Today was Election Day in Ontario and much of the foot and car traffic we passed was involved in voting as there was a Ballot Station at one end of the lake. There is wall to wall coverage on the TV for the election and it is difficult to avoid some of the repetitive messages, but I gather that the resident Liberals are in for quite a shock as they have been recently embroiled in corruption accusations (nothing different to the British system them!)

Back at the Motel we settled in for the rest of the evening.

Our plans for tomorrow are a 5 hour journey to Moosoonee, a 3-4 hour stop over to ‘do something’ then another 5 hour journey back. We had planned to stay over in Moosoonee, but after many unanswered emails and a phone call that wasn’t answered, it was decided to return the same day. It is not a place you would want to end up without accommodation and a train ticket for a few days hence!