An otter family crossed the road our last day in Canada. I watched them swim away in an old beaver pond. Rocky and Bullwinkle are from Frostbite Falls, MN which is based on International Falls; also known as the “Icebox of the Nation”. Canadian beer costs one-third less here than in Canada. “They have to pay for their national health care” explained the cashier. We are in a nice room in the friendly Hilltop Motel and want to stay a second night here; but they’ve been fully booked for the weekend since January. Minnesotans head north to the lakes in summer, but State Parks have been closed for two weeks since the state government shut down due to a budget impasse. We are back in the USA, ten days from journey’s end.
Archive for the ‘David’s Blog’ Category
Loons cry on Lake of the Woods as we enjoy dinner on a Bridge Park picnic table in Sioux Narrows, which lacks a “no camping” sign. Some people we asked thought it would be okay to camp, but we’ll wait until dark to set up the tent, which would be visible from the highway bridge. A provincial park is nearby, but Ontario parks charge $30-$40 per night, triple the price for Manitoba parks. Everyone traveling across Canada must take the Trans-Canada highway through Kenora. We saw one lone cyclist who departed from Victoria, BC on June 21st headed for Saint John’s, Newfoundland. Then a group of seven cyclists traveling light across Canada, with a support vehicle following, passed us as I patched flat tire number 171. All five flats in Canada have been due to improper tubes in Julie’s front tire. I installed a proper new tube we just got in Kenora.
Ralph and Jane Mathews were cycling on a tandem when we stopped to chat. They invited us to stay at their house in Kenora. Kenora is an amalgam of Keewatin, Norman, and Rat Portage, three communities on the north shore of island-studded Lake of the Woods where three outlets join to form the Winnipeg River. The south shore of the lake is in the US and is fed by the Rainy River which forms the international border west of International Falls, MN.
The sacred Bannock Point petroform site is a short walk from the highway. Petroforms are outlines of figures formed by the careful placement of stones on smooth bedrock (up to 1500 years ago) in the shapes of animals, humans, or other symbols. Petroforms, pictographs (rock paintings), and petroglyphs (rock etchings) are all considered to be “rock art”. We met a Viet Nam vet aborigine (Canadian term for Indian) from Kenora who said they hold a sun dance ceremony here in September at the sweat lodge circle. West Hawk Lake is 111m deep and was formed by a meteor crater.
We biked from the flat Red River Valley back up to the boreal forest in Whiteshell provincial park. Highway 307 winds around rocky Canadian shield lakes like in the Boundary Waters, with lots of summer cottages. Our picturesque campsite is on a point next to rapids submerged by a reservoir of the Winnipeg River, which runs from Lake of the Woods to Lake Winnipeg. It does not go through the city of Winnipeg.
We are at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. For years we’ve wanted to attend the largest folk festival around, and timed our route through Manitoba to be here this weekend. I wonder if we’ll run into any friends from Minnesota. We expected to have trouble finding an available campsite. According to the festival website, we’d need to spend several hundred dollars for a 5-day pass to stay there. What the site didn’t say is that there is also non-festival camping available in the provincial park. Luckily, just as we entered the park office, one site became available due to a no-show. So we paid only $12 a night (3 night minimum) and will only attend the Folk Festival on Saturday ($79 each). No poor folks in the audience. We met David Siskind (and also Dana and Theresa, his wife and daughter) who’s ridden his bike from Minneapolis to the Winnipeg Folk Festival for the past 23 years. A sign at the Pine Ridge Hollow restaurant reads: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Julie and I don’t go too fast, but we go pretty far.
This was supposed to be a day of rest, on which I don’t post blogs. After checking out of the Viking Inn, we spent the afternoon at The Kaffe Haus on the internet. We planned to camp near Gimli, but the first three RV parks would not accommodate tent campers. So we ended up going 22k to Winnipeg Beach where the Summer Estates family campground let us stay for free. If we change our lodging in the same town I don’t count it as a day of travel. Today turned out to be a day of travel.
We slept in late and toured the small Icelandic community of Hecla before leaving the island and following the western shore of Lake Winnipeg south to the larger Icelandic town of Gimli.
Read all about us in the Thompson Citizen
While having coffee and pastries outside the Arborg bakery we met Allen and Betty Jones, who invited us to camp on their lawn in Hecla. Allen, who just retired, and his sister Pat own lakeside homes on land their great-grandfather settled on this island that is now a Provincial Park. Ferry service to the island ran from 1953 until 1971 when a causeway was built across the Grassy Marsh Narrows. Large dragonflies patrol the shoreline as mosquitoes thicken after sunset. On the way there we stopped at Integrity Foods bakery to pick up some Spelt and Kamut bread.
As we traversed the flat interlake region between the big lakes Manitoba and Winnipeg we entered the largest Icelandic settlement outside of Iceland, and many towns have Icelandic place-names. Settlers arrived here over 100 years ago, first to fish and then to farm.