After Emily, the middle North
Emily, as usual, was a spontaneous mix of old and new friends. The legendary potluck supper is becoming problematic — how does one sample 131 dishes, including desserts, at one sitting? Many thanks to Fred and Donna for their mostly-behind-the-scenes organizing.
In travel mode, and having already touched salt-water in the extreme east, west and south of North America we decided to explore north — to Churchill, Manitoba.
We chose the northern route through Ontario -- North Bay, Earlton, Cochrane, Hearst, Dryden and Kenora; thence to Winnipeg and Highway 6 straight north to the end of the paved road, at the nickel mining city of Thompson. There is no road access to Churchill. Except for a few relatively short stretches of construction work, all highways were good to excellent.
En route we checked the site in Earlton where L'EGGO was hatched 32 years ago, and chatted with a gentleman who had worked in the trailer fabrication process. In Winnipeg, from whence came her ancestors, the landlord at the former plant came out to reminisce. He still gets letters addressed to Boler
Accommodation at provincial, municipal and a few private campgrounds was readily available and adequate. Of note though: We overnighted at the Club Regent Casino in Winnipeg (fabulous buffet), not only free but with live electricity at some light
standards, put there for use by tour buses in the winter. Towns and service stations are sparse between Winnipeg and Thompson; we opted to break the 800 km trip at Grand Falls, but the indicated "campground" was a rugged fishing camp, 20 km off the highway via a rough, dusty road. A better choice for overnight would have been a small municipal roadsider at Ashburn (watch for the world's largest sharp-tailed grouse) with super ice-cream at a store just across the highway. In Thompson, McCreedy Campground will also store your RV and drive you to and from the VIA Rail station - -
- where we boarded a first-rate train for a 17 hour ride with interesting people through tundra and muskeg to Churchill (pop. 1,000), frontier town, cruise ship destination and Polar Bear Capital of the World. We didn't see any, it was somewhat foggy and they were just starting to gather, waiting for the ice to form on Hudson Bay. But we did get to see a number of Beluga Whales up close, on our sea tour to Fort Prince of Wales.
We lucked in on a rail strike. Our return train was canceled, so, VIA treated us to an extra night and day in Churchill, then flew stranded passengers to Thompson on a charter flight, in 40 minutes, putting us right back on schedule.
Southbound on 39 and 10, we had another casino overnight at The Pas; at Riding Mountain National Park (a disappointment); and on a whim, at the International Peace Park on the Manitoba-North Dakota border. This latter was an unexpected, pleasant experience -- more than 2,000 acres including a Peace Tower and Chapel, extensive formal botanical gardens, a memorial with museum, to all fallen game-wardens, learning camps for 1,000 each of young musicians and athletes, and wonderful camping on cement pads.
We chose this route for an obligatory picture of a cairn in Rugby, ND, claiming to be at the geographic
centre (oops, center) of North America! (There -- check off near-north and centre on our must-see list in one trip!)
Eastbound via Grand Forks, ND/MN, Duluth/Superior and Marquette, we intended to spend some time on the wonderful beach in the dunes area of Lake Michigan, near Epoufette. But with high wind and high waves this time we shortened our stay.
Crossing at Sault Ste. Marie, we leisurely wended our way home, uneventful except for the live capture of a nuisance black bear while primitive camping at Kiosk in Algonquin Park, and the discovery of a herd of Bison on a ranch near Mattawa, Ontario.
All in all, another wonderful adventure and another 7,000 km (4400 miles) in our log book
p.s. We have a couple of nice pictures, but, have forgotten how to upload them -- back to the tutorial on how, then I'll try again.