Sunday, October 23, 2005


We woke up and ate cold pizza from the night before and headed out for the Provinical Parks and the border. We weren't in a hurry to leave Canada, but I'd filled up with my last tank of gas at $4.25/gallon USD and was determined to get back to the US for some cheaper fuel. Never again will I complain that I spent $3.15/gallon at the peak, when I left for Michigan, and now that the price is back down to a more normal price, I'm feeling a bit spoiled.

It was a cloudy day, but not cold, so when we found waysides along the way, we stopped to play on the shore. Two places we stopped were Catherine Cove and Old Woman Bay, and I don't remember what pictures were taken at what stop, so the following pictures could be either. I parted with the last of my Canadian dollars to park here for a bit. It was worth the cost.

There was a small sandy beach, and on either side was a shore of smooth rocks and slabs, where we immediately began climbing and exploring.

There were some slabs of granite that looked like marble, or a chunk of meat with marbling.

In the depressed areas of the rock were small pools in a rainbow of colors. It appeared that some minerals and algae were causing the interesting shades of color, but I am guessing at that.

Even waking on the trails through the woods behind the shore provided nice views through the trees.

After hitting the road again, we discovered something deeply disappointing. The Provinical Parks had all closed that very day. We weren't allowed access to many of the sights I had on the remaining itinerary on the north shore of Lake Superior.

We drove a while and reached an unmarked dirt road near Pancake Bay, hoping it would grant access to some scenic areas we were passing without access to due to the park closures. This is where we found a beautiful spot. Atop a high plateau of rock, a sign protruded and read, "Shirley's Point." That name worked for us.

The temptation to go climbing on the rocks along the shore was too great. Seeing as how we were in the middle of nowhere and there were even few cars on the road when we were traveling, I felt secure leaving the car door unlocked and my bulky keys still in the car. My boyfriend had a set, which he carried with him at all times, so I just left the car unlocked with my keys inside. (This is a detail which is pertinent to the upcoming story.)

The view was certainly nice, classically Canadian Lake Superior shoreline.

We wandered out on the strange black rocks that lined the shore south of us.

The turquoise in the rock, I'm guessing is copper. How grand to discover naturally!

The jagged and slippery rocks stood out of the water, tempting explorers to wander miles down the shore, and I could easily see myself either getting lost down the shore or slipping and spraining an ankle or something worse, then being unable to get back to the car. It was easy to see that the rocks and pools were endless and inviting far down the shore.

What's only visible when you look directly down is the rainbow in the shallow water along the shore. Between the cool black rocks sticking up in jagged peaks and the water at the bottom resembling a gasoline spill, I'm not surprised my boyfriend wandered off.

Between my fear of heights and the wet pants and shoes I was sporting from already slipping and falling into the water a few times, I decided to head back to the car to wait for him.

When I got there, the car was locked. My keys were hidden under the driver's seat, which meant my boyfriend had seen me leave my keys and unlock the doors, then locked them after I walked away and hid the keys in the locked car.

I was stuck, locked out of my car, and I suddenly had to go to the bathroom. Typical.

I waited for quite a while, sitting on the hood of my car, when another car suddenly drove up, circled past my car and drove back out toward the road. My guess was they were leaving and wouldn't return, but I was wrong. He came back again and parked his car on the gravel parallel to my own. He got out of the car and immediately started talking to me. Surely he noticed I had IL plates and he questioned where I'd come from. We exchanged small talk some and I started to feel very uneasy. This guy wasn't exploring the shore, wasn't gazing out at the lake and the rocks. He was asking personal questions. I started imagining my boyfriend a half-mile down the beach with a broken leg, laying in a shallow pool of lake water, unable to walk and too far to let out an audible scream for help. I imagined this strange man was up to no good, and not only would I end up dead at his hands, but my poor boyfriend would die because I wouldn't be able to get to him either. These thoughts panicked me. Perhaps it's my active imagination or the fact that I am an urban girl without trust for strangers. The more this guy talked to me, the more frightened I became. I couldn't even get in the car to avoid him. What if my boyfriend was really hurt and I was standing here listening to this weirdo? So, I told the guy I had to find him and I took off.

The sound of the stranger getting immediately into his car and driving off left me with both relief and regret. What if he was the only person who could get help for us? I started calling out for my boyfriend, cupping my hands and hoping my voice would carry to wherever he was. No response followed. I ran (and fell, and ran again) out onto the rocks, climbed as high as I could and screamed again. No response. I looked down the shore for a sign of life and saw nothing. The jagged rocks that rose 10 feet out of the water and dropped back into rocks and pools did little to calm my growing anxiety attack. I called out for him over and over and then realized I'd be better off hiking in the woods that were adjacent to the rocky shore. This is when my brain said to go back to the car and check for the trunk to be open because the trail was wide enough to drive up, and if he needed a car brought to him, I was going to save time. Back at the car, all the doors were locked. Somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered that side windows break easily and I looked for a sharp rock to break my own window. My limbs started to tremble and I felt my eyes tearing up, imagining the worst. I called out for him over and over about a dozen times until I heard his voice in the distance. There he was, perfectly fine, walking up the trail.

If I wasn't so relieved to see him, I'd have kicked his butt!

We hightailed it out of there, as I was eager to move on to somewhere that wouldn't remind me of my trauma. I'm sure that guy was harmless and I panicked, but it was such a strange set of events that I can't really be sure.

From there we went to the Agawa Indian Crafts where we saw about the largest selection of Indian craft items I've ever seen. These are the things that tempt me to spend large amounts of cash. Somehow I resisted buying the T-shirts, totem poles, blankets and jewelry I had convinced myself I had to have. We left without making a purchase. Whew!

It was so pretty all along that remaining stretch of Hwy. 17, with rivers and waterfalls all over. At one point I was driving and saw the prettiest little waterfall on the Chippewa River and I pulled immediately over to a parking area. This waterfall wasn't on my list of places to see, but it was really cool. There were a series of small falls and you couldn't see the whole picture from the hiking trail, but the small views were something special.

The rocks were perilous and I got scared quickly and turned back, but my boyfriend ventured on and got right up next to the falls.

What I did notice was the distinct difference in the rocks that the water tumbled over. The bottom layers were a maroon I assumed was sandstone and there was a black layer on top, probably lava, basalt. Really cool how the exposed lava on the sandstone contrasted around the rushing water.

While I waited for him to find his way back to the trail and me (again with the abandoning me!), I snapped some shots of the leaves which were illuminated in the sudden appearance of sunlight.

Without another panic attack, my boyfriend joined me and we again hit the road.

Sooner than expected, we found ourselves in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, complete with our first streetlights in days and crawling with people.

Upon the advice of a friend, we had to stop at
Giovanni's Italian Restaurant, where we had one of the best meals ever. A great recommendation and an even better meal!

While driving through the city, I found myself cruising the downtown district and saw a store that advertised "duty free" souvenirs, so I pulled in and we set about getting our Canadian souvenirs from the Sault. This friend, who'd recommended Giovanni's, is a huge fan of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and since he made such wonderful recommendations and assisted with the planning of our trip, I wanted to bring him back a souvenir from his favorite town. Unfortunately, there were no items that were specifically from Sault, Canada. When I asked the store clerk for some assistance, she told me about the mall a few blocks away, which would be loaded with Sault, Canada items. That was fine as I had more things I wanted to see in Canada. But wait! I screwed up. I was in the duty free shop that was on the beginning of the bridge to the US. There was no way to back out and I'd have to do a turn back into the Canadian customs area, explain that I made a mistake, and they'd let me back in to get to the mall, which was closing in an hour. And I believed her.

Canadian customs was not as friendly on the Sault Ste. Marie side. Either this guy didn't believe my story about getting on the bridge by mistake, or he'd reached his quota for letting people through without giving them a hard time, so he made me pull over, where another officer came out and my entire car was searched. They went through my whole car, through our luggage, under the car seats, through my purse, and they actually started bugging about the fact that we had a laptop and floppy discs, wanting to know what was on them. I was waiting for them to take the computer and boot it up to find the 3,000 pictures we'd taken on the trip so far. Something about the fact that my car was littered so grossly with food, muddy clothes, and about 100 travel brochures and maps for the entire area surrounding Lake Superior must have made them figure what we said the laptop contained was probably true. After the search, we were instructed to speak with the officer at the Immigration desk.

While she was much nicer, she did have to question us about our criminal records and run our entire histories through her computer. She had information on us right back to the county my boyfriend was born in and any detail about our lives that was ever documented. It was strange and I was suddenly furious about the worrying process we went through about him not having a birth certificate. Clearly they had the records in their computer and the certificate (which is a terrible thing to have to carry around, original document and all) was just a redundant formality. I found myself getting angrier and angrier. My car had been tossed, we were being held without any explanation about why and what was going on, and all the silly requirements they had were clearly pointless, so I had to bite my tongue to keep from causing a scene.

They didn't search us personally. I could've been carrying an Uzi! They worried more about what was in the laptop than the hunting knife I had in my backpack. None of it made sense and it seemed like it was all just a pointless attempt to remind us that they were in charge and we were at their mercy. Well, given that we had no weapons, drugs, illegally smuggled items or a criminal record, she smiled and told us we were welcome to enter the country. By then, I just wanted to tell her to shove it, that I didn't need a stinking Sault Ste. Marie mug for a friend, and turn to go back to my homeland. But I didn't. We laughed it off, through our grinding teeth, went to the mall and got a stupid mug for my friend. I was bitter and tired and running out of gas, so we left Canada without a bit of hesitation.

I must say, the US customs guy was as much of a jerk as the Canadian ones. He grilled us, asking some really personal questions about the nature of our relationship, how we met, how long we'd been together. What's with these people? They get off on humiliating tourists? What's the point of knowing how I met my boyfriend and how long we'd been together? Plus, the answers I gave seemed to bore him. He wouldn't look me in the eye and was more concerned with the wide turn the truck behind me made, yet he demanded answers to his questions that I almost refused to answer. I wonder, now, what would've happened if I'd shown my indignant feelings and asked where the hell he got off asking things like that. I wonder if two searches of my car and property would've resulted that evening.

By the time we got into the US, it was about 8 PM, pitch black and I was just grateful to finally be done with the whole border chaos and issues for good! I nearly kissed the US asphalt at the first gas station across the border. Reasonably priced gas and the comfort of being in my home country were enough to keep me buoyant, despite the border fury.

Once we figured out where we were and how to get into the main area of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, I was happy. We got a room at the
Long Ships Motel, right smack across the street from the Soo Locks, and I couldn't have been more relieved.

Our room was without an alarm clock again. What's the deal with motel rooms having no alarm clocks? My boyfriend asked for one at the office, where they handed one over like it was a luxury you had to request. Despite the clock problem, it was a decent room and the proprietors were friendly in recommending restaurants and letting us know about the ships in the locks at the moment.

Though it was late and very dark, we walked down the length of the locks to go see the happenings.

While waiting for the next ship to enter the lock, we wandered the park area surrounding the locks and found a beautiful fountain, lit in ever-changing colored lights.

The Edwin H. Gott was in the locks heading into Lake Superior, being raised in the far lock. Though it was hard to photograph at night, I thought the darkness and peaceful quiet was the best way to view them.

It was a warm, clear night, watching the ships go through the locks, and it seemed a serene way to end a stressful day. We walked back to the motel room and passed out early. All I was thinking of was how grateful I was that we were together, in once piece, unharmed, back in the US, and in a comfy warm room. Suddenly the little things were at the forefront of importance again.

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