Monday, August 27, 2012

North West Ontario Drive - Random Adventures

Driving along the north and south shores of Lake Superior, we visited many little towns and saw some interesting sights.

We stopped in Minnaki, Ontario to take a photo of the giant sheep sculpture as part of my "big things tour", but had some fun at the Egli's Sheep Farm / Wool and Sheepskin Shop as well.   The store carried a wide variety of wool products including sweaters, socks, hats and some beautiful rugs of Native design.  The sign in front advertised "onsite manufacturing" of their wares.  The whimsical handicapped parking spot portrayed the image of a sheep walking with a cane.

We did not spot any sheep in the animal park/sheep farm, but presumably they were in the back.  We did see a buffalo and donkey.  There was a children's play area with swings and slides and a cute white picket fence which an array of cardboard farm animals were peeking over.

In Wawa, Ontario, in addition to the famous giant Canada goose that is the town's mascot, the visitor's centre features multiple interesting displays.  Colourful totems are nicknamed "Gitchigoomies" after the Ojibwe Native American name for Lake Superior.  I first heard this term in passing while listening to Gordon Lightfoot's song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald", but did not realize what it was referring to until I visited Wawa.  Muskoka chairs lined the terrace and coastline surrounding the visitor's centre.  Each chair was designed or decorated by a different artist.

Historic signs commemorated prominent figures such Al Turcott who was responsible for the erection of the initial Wawa goose.  Inside the visitor's centre, cardboard cutouts of geese hung from the rafters were decorated as advertisements for various local businesses.  Art work from Wawa artist Carol Ann Sanders of the Blue Eagle Gallery were also on display.

 There is a pull over on Highway 28 at Au Train Bay, Michigan where you can go down and access the shores of Lake Superior, to experience the crashing waves first hand.  We watched a man wade into the water only to be bowled over by the current.  On the rocks to the right of the bay is a now faded carving made in 1820 by a French trapper.  The carving is of the face of a young Chippewa brave named "Powers of the Air", who was the only survivor of a tragic and misguided battle against the Sioux Indians that resulted in wiping out the Chippewa tribe.

 The tiny community of Rossport, Ontario is inhabited by only 66 people.  We met one of them, a bored teenaged girl, waiting for visitors at the Rossport Museum.  The entire museum is hosted inside a caboose which is a freight train car attached to the rear of a train.  The caboose is used mainly for transporting crew and where they prepared meals and slept.  A small cot and cooking stove illustrate what the living conditions were like.  There was a description of the history of the caboose and the story of the invention of the cupola, the hole at the top that allows the conductor to stick his head out to see what's going on.

Also in the museum are photos and memorabilia documenting the history of Rossport.  Back in the 50s, there was a commercial fishing industry, as well as sports fishing tournaments that attracted boatloads of fishermen.  Rossport also had a women's baseball team whose uniform and photo reminded me of the movie "A League of Their Own".

Next to the museum is a quaint little souvenir shop called "Forget Me Not" that had a great sign on the door pointing to the "husband's waiting bench with scenic view" of the water.  Apparently many men have sat on that bench while their wives browsed the nicknacks inside.  It was amusing to consider that after meeting the shop owner, we now have encountered 3% of the entire population!  But despite the small size of Rossport whose "downtown" seems to span about a block, it hosts a relatively upscale restaurant and a very nice looking bed and breakfast inn. The Serendipity Gardens Cafe had white fish on the menu and a panoramic view of the Rossport Harbour.  We regretted not knowing about this picturesque village earlier or we would have stayed here overnight or at least planned to stop for a meal.

Terrace Bay, Ontario was another stop where we could have used more time to explore, had the weather been nicer and had it fit in our tight schedule.  Long stretches of sandy beach following the north shore of Lake Superior, water falls, hiking trails, wild flowers can all be found here.  We spotted people packing up from camping overnight on the beach.

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