Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Great Nova Scotia Adventure of 2014 Begins!

Minneapolis to Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park, Thunder Bay, Ontario.  

Chalk this up to general ignorance, but I didn't know that we switch from Central Time to Eastern Time when we cross the border from Minnesota into Canada.  And it was somewhere around Grand Marais, when the cats and I had been in the car for four or five hours already, that I had this impending sense of This Is Not A Good Idea.  Mostly it had to do with driving in a foreign country and without a phone.  But the drive up was easy--it was Memorial Day, so all the traffic was heading south--and I didn't stop at any of the overlooks, nor Grand Marais, though I wanted to. I should have stopped around Duluth, to get a picture of the iceberg chunks floating in the water, the fog hovering just above.  Lake Superior was spectacular as always, ancient and patient.  In hindsight, with the loss of an hour, I'm glad I didn't.  The border crossing was easy.  Another half an hour or so and I was in Kakabeka Falls--and it's a great campground, despite the treacherous road to get to it.  "Rough Road" doesn't even cover it.  The Scamp was not happy to be so bounced around, but the next few days would prove to be even more eventful, road-wise.  More on that later.

Rough Road.

All set up at Kakabeka Provincial Park.

The Whispering Pines campground is like all the other provincial parks I've been too, with each campsite rimmed by three sides of trees. Even so, I could hear screaming children and yappy dogs on the next loop.  I didn't pack fruits and vegetables because of the border crossing, so I'm glad I packed leftovers in my fridge.  So, it was potato salad and rice pudding for dinner.  Note to self: always have food you can eat without preparation for the first night.  I also decided that I would stay two nights at Kakabeka, to get my bearings, before I attempted a long day of driving to Sault Ste. Marie, and in hindsight (again), this was a very good plan.

On Tuesday, I wanted to recreate a childhood memory from our very first family camping trip (with a rented pop-up camper), a route that took us around Lake Superior.  We went amethyst hunting--and I still have that chunk in my home.  I didn't know which one we went to, so I just chose one at random and hopped in the Jeep.  I suppose it's important to mention that I'm a very nervous driver when I don't know where I'm going. I needed to fill up the gas tank and I needed to get some cash.  What I didn't know at the time was that all the Canadian pay-at-the-pump card readers required a chip that my credit card doesn't have--and so I got very nervous that my cards weren't working.  I couldn't get cash for the same reason (though I got my card to work at an actual bank ATM).  So I went to the Amethyst Mine Panorama and it was a beautiful day.  It's about half an hour east of Thunder Bay and as I was on the road, I wondered if I shouldn't have just gone on my way past the next day, but in that glorious hindsight, I remain eternally glad I didn't.  Once I got off the 11-17, the road was gravel and straight up.  I would have lost my mind if I were towing the Scamp up that.  When I got up to the mine, without cash, I was hoping I could pay the admission fee with my cards--but wouldn't you know, their machines were down and they were having to call in each card individually.  I convinced them that I would be buying amethyst, and could I just pay all at once?  They very kindly let me do that.

Outside, the sunshine was warm and after getting a brief history of the mine and some info on amethyst (there are four colors of Ontario amethyst--and what color you get depends on the iron in the quartz--and then it occurred to me that this iron, in Ontario you get amethyst and just a little ways south in Minnesota you get iron ore), I picked up my bucket and digging tool and headed out into the tailings to see what I could find.  I'm not sure why it surprised me to see all that purple just there on the ground, but tailings are tailings, whether they are amethyst or not.  I had been warned not to pound on the rocks, because amethyst can cut like glass (something I would find out I had done to my fingers later on, even without pounding the rock), and I went to it.  I searched by shape, and then sorted by color.  I liked the pieces that had more than one color in them, and I wanted to see if I could find all four colors.  I made sure to pick up some pieces for my niece who's four, because she's currently in a rock lover phase.  I started to wonder at what age kids start to love rocks--and why they do--and do we ever really grow out of it?  Also, cheap souvenirs for the little ones in my life.

Kakabeka Falls was gorgeous in the way that waterfalls are.  I think what I like most about waterfalls is that they are a full sensory experience.  This is why photographs  and postcards of waterfalls--Niagara and otherwise--always fall short.  You need to see the drama of water and gravity--and the Kakabeka gorge is magnificent--but no photographs I attempted will do it justice.  But there's also the way tht the rainbow through the spray moves and shifts, the mist on your skin, the roar of water you wish you could bottle for the white noise you need to sleep at night.  It would be an interesting experiment to see the different auditory pitches of different waterfalls and see which ones feel right and which ones don't.

On Tuesday night, I made a fire and cooked three packets of hoboes: potatoes, carrots, onions, mushrooms, in foil in the coals--but I broke into my marshmallows before the fire was ready, because Maeve the Twerp decided to have an adventure of her own and she snuck out.  Luckily, she was underneath the camper, but there was some serious terror on my part before I found her.  Food-wise, cooking those hoboes was a good idea, because of what I'd need the next two days.

In the morning, I hooked up the camper and hit the road by about 8:00 am, headed for Sault Ste. Marie.  This did not go as planned.

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