The graceful Mackinac Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere, didn't get built until 1957, because although plans were begun as early as the 1880s, it wasn't until 1952 that engineers were able to design and construct this bridge by sinking the twin towers over 200 feet below the water to bedrock, thus making it safe in all weather. Tahquamenon Falls
Michigan's upper peninsula is, as a friend promised, green. We took a small driving tour, heading west from St. Ignace along the north shore of Lake Michigan, then north and east to Sault Ste. Marie. It wasn't very crowded this time of year.
Along the way we saw very few farms, lots of forest, a few lakeside cottages, relatively plain, and Tahquamenon Falls. We came at the slowest season of the year, but still the flow was quite impressive. The park offered us lots of views, so we took lots of pictures. The water was brown from the dissolved organic tannins from tree bark. We saw a beaver swimming across the river and lots of bold chipmunks zipping here and there. We'd like to be back here in April to see the water really thundering down at 50,000 gallons per second. It's a well designed park, with good trails and strong stairways built to the viewing points.
At the end of the first day we crossed into Canada, on a bridge that passed the locks between Lakes Superior and Huron. We regret not reading the tourist literature more carefully, because we missed a lovely train ride up Algoma Canyon from Sault Ste. Marie. But we headed north around Lake Superior. Lake Superior
So we're back in the land of the loony and toony, eh, and back in a sparsely populated region where the principal industries are extractive: forest products, hydroelectric, and mining. Not until we reached Thunder Bay, at the western end of Lake Superior, did we discover a few small farms.
The motel owner promised us that we would love the scenery along highway 17, and we did. Good sized hills surround the north shore of Lake Superior, and the road passes through some deep cuts blasted in the rocks. In a few places steep cliffs of brown stone overlook the highway, and islands of various sizes are just off shore in the lake. The water looked glassy and deserted. We were somewhat surprised by the lack of pleasure craft, although lots of cars carried canoes. Hundreds of smaller lakes lie to the north, and a few roads cut off to fishing camps. But we saw one carful of Michigan fisherman returning in disgust as the temperature soared over 90.
Three hours north of Sault Ste. Marie is Wawa, an Ojibwa word for goose. A large goose statue had been erected to commemorate the completion of the TCH (Trans Canada Highway). A newer model had replaced the old goose, which was then purchased by a local businessman, repaired, and erected on his property. The Wawa
We haven't seen a live goose in days, though. In fact it's kind of odd how little wildlife we've seen. There's lots of water, but no waterfowl in evidence; lots of moose signs, but no moose (what's new?) There aren't even many mosquitoes, either.
Our next stop was Pooh Park in White River, Ont. We quote: "Where It All Began: On August 24, 1914 Lieutenant Harry Colebourn, V.S., of the 34th Fort Garry Horse & Canadian Army Veterinary Corps, purchased a black bear cub at White River, Ontario, while enroute overseas. He named her WINNIE after his hometown, Winnipeg. WINNIE became the soldiers' mascot, and was left in the care of the London Zoo on December 9th, 1914, while Lieutenant Colebourn served in France. In 1919, he gave her to the Zoo for permanent keeping where she was watched and loved by many, including author A. A. Milne and his son Christopher. In 1926, A. A. Milne and illustrator E. H. Shepard gave the fictional character WINNIE-THE-POOH to Christopher and the world for posterity. WINNIE entertained visitors to the London Zoo for almost 20 years, and lives on in the hearts of children of all ages. "
The statue was dedicated in 1992. The choice of the Disney Pooh over the Shepard Pooh is inexplicable, except possibly to copyright lawyers.
Marathon, where spent the next night, is home to the largest underground gold mine left in Canada. The literature says the vein was discovered in the 1980s and had a twenty-year life. It reminded us of Herbert Hoover, who was a gold mine engineer and financier before he became president. Marathon Pooh Park, White River may become a ghost town when the mine plays out.
Some motels have managed to keep their bathrooms modern by installing all-in-one-piece enclosures inside the old bathtubs. This makes everything clean and fresh and a little bit smaller. Will motel bathrooms eventually become too tight?
On the third day we started out in a smoky haze. The area hasn't had rain in 30 days, and a forest fire was slowly darkening the sky. Yet the scenery continued to be gorgeous, with hills and cliffs overlooking Lake Superior and the many rivers which feed it.
We stopped at an overlook to see the Aguasabon River dropping over a cliff edge into a narrow canyon before emptying into Lake Superior. The observation platform and surrounding park was developed by Kimberly Clark, whose pulp plant could be seen not far inland. We talked to a lone motorcyclist who had taken a few days off from work to circumnavigate the lake. Most of the motorcyclists we see are in groups or couples; many of them stop at motels for the night. But this man had a sleeping bag rolled up behind him, and enjoyed the wonderful scenery in inexpensive solitude.
Schreiber, Ontario, was named for a Canadian railroadman who was knighted for his contributions to opening up transportation in the country. We enjoyed the sight of the big switching yard and the restored switching engine, then continued on our way.
One of Canada's inspirational heroes is Terry Fox, a young man who lost part of his leg to cancer when he was 18. Determined to do what he could to raise awareness of the need for research, he set out on a marathon run across Canada on the TCH. He dipped his foot in the Atlantic at St. John's, Memorial to Terry Fox Newfoundland, and set out westward, covering 26 miles a day. He didn't make it all the way to Vancouver, his home, but died shortly after he had to give up the fight near Thunder Bay. 100 km of the TCH has been renamed The Terry Fox Courage Highway, and a memorial erected near the spot where he had to quit.
Canada is the world's largest grain exporter; the wheat goes to market through the ports of Vancouver (which we saw last spring) and Thunder Bay. As we looked at the gigantic grain elevators on the shores of Lake Superior, we thought of the entire length of the St. Lawrence Seaway, across Lake Superior and through the Soo locks, south through Lake Huron, through the Detroit River, across Lake Erie to the Welland Canal, then down Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River past Montreal and Quebec, the Gaspe peninsula, north of Cape Breton and south of Newfoundland to the Grand Banks, from which the Atlantic crossing is a relatively short part of the journey. The ships continue through the North Sea and the Skagerrat into the Baltic and perhaps St. Petersburg, as Russia continues to be a large grain importer. It's odd to think of this voyage when one realizes that many of the Canadian wheat farmers are descendants of Ukrainian wheat farmers, who used to export wheat to the Russian Empire in the nineteenth century.