Trans Can HWY #2: Once upon a road trip

Two years ago this month, my mother and I ventured on a cross country trek in my brother’s Jeep across Canada. We drove west from southwestern Ontario to Vancouver, BC over the course of two weeks, and then down to northern California to meet up with the men in our family. The following are taken from emails (minus this entry) I wrote to family and friends.

Day 2: Wednesday, August 1, 2012
My mother writes:
Day two has found us still in Ontario. We don’t really have a schedule for our travels except to enjoy and learn about our country and see as many sites as possible. We left Wawa at 7:40 this morning with Julia driving. I think she even drove more than me yesterday which is saying something as I do love to drive! Guess she has inherited that skill too!

Wawa is a very small and friendly town. Scattered around the town were all sorts of IMG_1684 monstrous Canadian geese statues on roof tops or elsewhere. We snapped some pics and read a plaque on the one monument which was at the edge of town. This one was erected in commemoration of the completion of the Lake Superior section of the Trans Canada Highway in September 17, 1960.

Our first brief stop after Wawa was at a travel information centre at Marathon. We found out some information on canyons, waterfalls, etc., between there and Thunder Bay. Nearby Neys Provincial park highlighted the rugged coast line with granite rock sculpted by glaciers and erosion. While the area has limited habitation or so it seems, with houses far and few between, we really enjoyed the beauty of the scenery. The lake could be either seen fully or glimpsed as we climbed and dipped on the highway. Subarctic plants thrive here with the cool waters along the coast. Nearby Pic Island had been painted by Group of Seven painter, Lauren Harris. As well, this remote peninsula had been a German prisoner of war camp during the 2nd world war.

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View of a bridge from a bridge

One of our first goals was to visit Ouimet Canyon. Here the terrain drops down 100 metres to the canyon floor. On the bottom of this gorge which is 150 metres across are several different arctic plants normally found 1000 kms further north. But the moist habitat has cold still air, insulating moss and short periods of sunlight allows ice to remain beneath larger boulders. No one is allowed on the canyon floor. We stopped at a park which featured two suspension bridges, one 300 ft across and the other 600 ft across the canyon. The latter is billed as the longest suspension bridge in Canada…we will have to Google it to verify but that is the advertising. Of course we had to do it even with my fear of heights. We had to walk half a km up to the canyon’s edge and there was the first bridge. Being the chicken in the group (well duo, I guess) I went first but hearing Julia’s gasps behind me, I froze and backed up off the bridge, thinking I could not go on. This was damn high!!! She ventured out, stopping to take some pics and then I sucked it up buttercup and set off from the safety of the canyon’s edge! Can’t say I saw much of the canyon’s bottom, but I did it! Of course, once across, you either had to retrace your steps back across this one or walk across the 600 ft one… Well, we had to cross the longest in Canada, right? Julia went first, but I passed her by and scooted across this time actually looking down!! Proud I did it!

Next stop was further inland from this site to a provincial park where we walked one km to IMG_1738the canyon’s edge and two viewing points that jutted out over the canyon’s edge. We carried on towards Thunder Bay hoping to get west of this city before stopping for the night. Just outside of Thunder Bay, we saw a huge sign declaring this section of the hwy to be Terry Fox’s. And just overlooking the highway on the outskirts of Thunder Bay, was a beautiful overlook, with gorgeous flowers and trees, and a huge statue of Terry Fox. It was a moving and emotional site, with Terry facing westward.

IMG_1744Our final goal for the day was Kakabeka Falls, west of Thunder Bay. These falls drop 40 metres as the Kaministiquia River flows over the rocks. This is the highest water fall in northern Ontario. Fossils have been found at the cliff bases that are 1.6 billion years old. They were pretty impressive… One local told us these were bigger and higher than Niagara Falls, but they weren’t. Carrying on, we reached the split in the highways with hwy 11 heading to MOM’s (Minnesota, Ontario, Manitoba) and 17 going more directly to Manitoba. This is the route we took and it is much flatter than what we had been travelling. passing all those transport trucks were a breeze! We are so pleased to be driving Jason’s [my brother’s] jeep… It is comfortable, roomy, powerful – thank you Jason! We stopped for the night in English River at a cute little motel. Today’s distance travelled was 702 kms.

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