M and I just got back from our trip to Thunder Bay, Canada and I can unequivocally say that the trip was better than Bemidji, Onamia or any other of my northern vacations. I will break it down day by day and try to offer suggestions for anyone else who wants to have a unique vacation they will remember.
Day 1: Saturday, Sept. 1st
M and I hit the the road short after my last blog post. Our objective was to get from Minneapolis to Thunder Bay by driving 35W north (not scenic, but fast) before hitting Highway 61 (otherwise known as the scenic North Shore). Highway 61 starts in Duluth, MN (home of Chris Hergott and the Aerial Lift Bridge http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerial_Lift_Bridge) and goes up to the eastern side of Minnesota by Lake Superior. I have and will continue to compare Highway 61 to Mississippi's Natchez Trace http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natchez_Trace_Parkway. Highway 61's reputation as being the most scenic road in Minnesota seemed accurate from the driver's seat this past weekend.
Anyway, M and I ate at Grandma's in Duluth, which had above-average food, but unfortunately it was around 54 degrees in the actual restaurant. After that we went to Twin Harbors (B), Gooseberry Falls (A), and Split Rock Lighthouse (A-). All of those places are worth the time for various reasons. Twin Harbors has the Two Harbors Lighthouse that looks over a dramatic view of a shipping port. Gooseberry Falls is a place with many different water falls as well as 18 miles of hiking trails. Split Rock Lighthouse is one of the most photogenic sites in all of Minnesota.
Besides those three mini-adventures there were also plenty of food options on Highway 61. There was Betty Pies: http://www.bettyspies.com/, which unfortunately didn't live up to the hype. Maybe it was the selection of the pie, but the Chocolate-Banana Cream Pie was a solid C. Also, there was a small Mom and Pop store that served unbelievable chocolate.
With our bellies full it was on to Canada. The interrogation at the border was a lot less strenuous than my friend Johnny's experience at the border between Maine and Canada. There might have been 20 questions crossing this time, but that was definitely preferable over the 1 hour long delay in Maine while the car was being checked. With little inconvenience it was only a few more kilometers to Thunder Bay: http://www.thunderbay.ca/. Once in Thunder Bay, M and I had a nice dinner at Gargoyles http://www.gargoylesgrille.com/ in downtown Thunder Bay. The Garlic Sirloin and Jumbo Shrimp (which they had to substitute scallops and baby shrimp) was an especially good choice.
Day 2: Sunday Sept. 2
This day started with a meal at one of Thunder Bay's 15 Robin's Donuts. Just in case you were wondering Robin's Donuts is a privately owned, 100% Canadian corporation according to www.robinsdonuts.com. To own a franchise there you need $125K of "unencumbered" cash. I wonder if they would let an American open up a store because then it wouldn't be 100% Canadian.
After having some 100% Canadian donuts it was on to Eagle Canyon Creek. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip: http://www.eaglecanyonadventures.ca/locate.asp. What was amazing about this was that the it is not a National Park, but something that some random father and son did with some random piece of land in Canada that no one wanted. The father bought the land and then with his son made the two suspension bridges over the canyon.
After that it was on to Ouimet Canyon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ouimet_Canyon where legend has it the Sleeping Giant (Nanabijou) "split open the ground"after being upset at Omett, who accidentally killed Nanabijou's daugther Naiomi. Ouimet Canyon was cheap ($4), easy (a short 3o minute walk), and mildly interesting. It is worth your time if you go to Eagle Canyon, but definitely not worth much else. Right down the road from Ouimet Canyon and Eagle Canyon Creek was an amethyst mine that was interesting, but definitely not for everyone:
After the trip up north of Thunder Bay, M and I traveled back closer to the city. We went to one of 7 Wonders of Canada: the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. This park was massive (not surprising based on the name) and something that you would need a lot of time to explore.
Back on the road it was off to pay our respects to Terry Fox by visiting the Terry Fox memorial. For those of you who don't know about Terry Fox, here are a few things about him:
- Had his right leg amputated at the age of 18 because of cancer.
- At the age of 21 he decided to run a marathon every single day across Canada to raise money for Cancer research.
- He ended up running 3,339 miles (23.3 a day) before being forced to quit because of bone cancer in his lungs. He passed away a year after the run.
- Voted #2 (ahead of Wayne Gretzky) as the Greatest Canadian on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Voted #1 was Tommy Douglas, who is the father of Medicare.
- Inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame
- The Terry Fox Run is actually tomorrow: Sept. 16th.
Day 3: Monday Sept. 3rd
For this day we went to see Fort William: http://northofsuperior.org/nosta_search.asp?bid=11&cid=63&strDest=0&strAct=0 to see about the historic 1815 fur trade business. Little did we know that we would also see the not-so-historic Thunder Bay teenagers flirting with each other. M thoroughly enjoyed this trip back in time. After Fort William is was on to Kakabeka Falls: http://www.ontarioparks.com/English/kaka.html which had falls that were more impressive than any other falls that I have seen beside the Niagara Falls. The park itself however didn't offer much else beside the falls.
Finally it was back down highway 61 and back to the United States. The trip was great and the final cherry on top was the the Angry Trout Cafe (http://www.angrytroutcafe.com/) in Grand Marais, MN. This was such an interesting place. You should definitely check out the website and if you are in Grand Marais then you would be a fool not to go to the restaurant.
Anyway, the trip itself was great and I am looking forward to going back to Thunder Bay, Ontario.