Before departing Grand Marais, we headed back into town for breakfast (which turned into lunch... pesky breakfast curfews!) at The Pie Place, then, upon the advice of the kind grandparents from Wisconsin who we'd met the day before, we stopped at The World's Best Donuts for, of course, donuts. They were indeed quite good. Possibly the best. I think I'd have to try more donuts the world over before I could say that with confidence. We took our bag of donuts to the gorgeous beach just a few feet away and sat on a bench swing while munching, talking to a nearby gull (who knew we had donuts), and watching the water glisten in the sunlight. How we managed to tear ourselves away from that spot, I don't know.
As we were leaving town, I came to the realization that I was about to leave Minnesota and had not purchased any wild rice at all. NONE. That seemed a frightening thought, so I had to make a stop in Grand Portage, which is an Indian reservation, for my last opportunity to buy genuine Minnesota wild rice. Sure enough, at a gas station off the highway I bought many pounds. It was all very unofficial, as the rice was packaged in plain Ziploc baggies, unlabeled. The price was right, however, and though it looked like I just bought a year's supply of an illegal drug, I happily trotted back to the car, content to now leave Minnesota.
I took this picture from a highway overlook in Grand Portage. Those are islands out in the lake, forested and secluded in all their splendor. The color of the lake here is such a beautiful blue, it's hard to think that it's merely a lake and not some larger, cleaner body of water.
Before we crossed the border into Canada, we stopped at High Falls on Pigeon River, which is the international border in that area. After paying another park fee (man, I am so happy Illinois doesn't charge to enter state parks!), we got some great information from the park ranger. He told us about the area moose, and that spotting one in the drought was going to be unlikely. If the temperature goes over 70º, they submerge in the swampy marshes to cool off and just don't come out. Bummer.
On the trail to the falls, I passed a tree and had to do a double-take. Having just been to the North American Bear Center in Ely, I immediately recognized the marks on this tree.
Here there be bears.
While Boyfriend Extraordinaire was investigating some upturned soil (always on the lookout for Indian relics and arrowheads), I spotted two ... um ... conjoined dragonflies. I'm not going to speculate about what they were doing because I know almost nothing about their mating habits, but if you look closely at the yellow one, which is bent in the shape of a "U", you might appreciate how easy we humans have it. Ouch.
High Falls was quite a sight, and although you cannot grasp the size of it from this picture, let me tell you that the drop is some 110 feet! We were quite a distance away from it, standing on a platform that scared the crap out of me, but when I looked close and saw the size of the trees near the water, they looked like tiny little saplings, but were really full-grown trees. Just incredible.
I was brave enough to stand on the platform long enough to take a few closeups and even film a movie, which I foolishly filmed with my camera vertically and cannot figure out how to flip it so you don't watch it without hurting your neck. (Ahem! Any suggestions?)
That was the extent of my courage for the day. There was another trail leading out to another view, surely from another high-up platform, and I just didn't want to leave the security of level ground, so I bowed out of the second viewing. B.E. went ahead down the trail and shot this photo, which made me mad because it's a better view and there was another smaller segment of the falls that I could not see from the first platform. Figures.
On the way back to the car, B.E. started noticing things, like worn down trails into the woods that we wondered what creature made, and sure enough, he found bear scat. Near the bear scat was another of the hairy ones that we surmised belonged to wolves while we were in Cornucopia, Wisconsin, although coyotes were probably equally likely. That's my man: turd spotter!
I noticed cleaner, more arcane things, like this ancient bench formation. These benches predate any know habitation of mankind in the region, so how they got here and what their purpose is remains shrouded in mystery. Or... that's the story I told, made up on the spot. I called this Bench-henge.
Onward to Canada!
Um... since when is Canada just a building?
Much to my surprise, getting into Canada was a breeze! A very stoic woman at the border asked a few questions and welcomed us in. DUDE! We were totally freaking out over nothing! I was so sure they were going to toss my car again. Ugh.
On the other side, I quickly ran into the tourist center to exchange my US cash for some colorful Canadian money. Much to my horror, I discoverd that the exchange rate is nearly equal. The woman at the desk said that every business we encounter will accept US dollars so we could just use our money like it was theirs. Damn! I had budgeted in the exchange being what it was last time. Who would have thought our dollar and the Canadian dollar would be equal? GAH!
The drive to Thunder Bay is so gorgeous. The rock hills rise high beyond the farms and have hair-like trees atop their jagged, mountain-like cliffs. It truly is a beautiful drive.
Once in Thunder Bay, we got a wee bit lost. By a "wee bit" I mean I had a map, but I was trying to navigate by memory. While semi-lost, we found ourselves at a park overlooking much of the city and the harbor and just had to stop.
Thunder Bay has a wonderful view of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, which is an peninsula that juts out into the lake, resembling the shape of a man sleeping. Can you see him?
We finally found our motel, the Superior Motel, which is where we stayed the last time around the lake as well. This time we had an upstairs room with a balcony, and from the balcony, we actually had a view of the lake and the Sleeping Giant. Hard to believe one of the cheapest places in town came with a view like that and ... AND ... we had two beds, a huge bathroom and a full kitchen and dinette. It was, once again, one of the rooms we ended up loving and wishing we could stay and enjoy it a bit more.
Canadian television was interesting to watch, and since I couldn't figure out metric translations or Celcius to Fahrenheit, I couldn't enjoy their weather channel either. Still, we stayed up late watching some crime shows and giggling at the accents. Fun times.