I left Thunder Bay last night in the dark, quite irritated with myself that I skipped Feliz's offer to drink a couple beers and crash at his place. In my defense, in this northern Eastern Time Zone city, it wasn't dark until well after 10pm and I didn't realize what time it was.
Finding a stealth campsite in the dark is not easy. I checked several potential places and then I found the jackpot. Kakabeka Curling Club.
There was a nice grassy spot right out back. Right next to the attached Chinese restaurant. You can't make this stuff up.
The restaurant appeared to be shuttered, but I hoped someone would show up bright and early to the Curling Club. Maybe they'd show me how to play! I've been fascinated with the sport ever since the 2010 Winter Olympics. Alas, the parking lot was empty when I woke up.
My plan was to cross back into the US today, but rather than take highway 61 like everyone else, I took a more circuitous route involving more scenic roads that I found online, namely, highway 593.
The first stop was one of the most interesting geocaches I've ever found, based on the NHL Stanley Cup. The cache itself was hidden inside this hollowed-out log.
And in order to "sign" the cache, you had to use the Dremel to etch your name on the cup. Get it? The Cup?
Pretty awesome, I thought.
I like clever mailboxes.
I think I picked the right road, too.
Where the highway turned west to follow the Pigeon River, there was another road marked "Old Border Road." I couldn't pass it up.
As expected, the road dead-ended at the Pigeon River with the US on the other side, the old bridge long-since removed. There was no remnants of any buildings or signs or any other border controls. I intended to check out the opposite side once I crossed the other border.
Highway 593 provided a beautiful view of Pigeon river.
And then I found another waterfall!
This one was more accessible--right along the highway--but the infrastructure here was long abandoned. There looked to be some sort of wading pool.
And a grown-over parking lot with the paint still visible in some places.
The entrance was blocked off. I'm curious when this part of the nearby Pigeon River Provincial Park was open.
Down near the river, I found something curious. At first, I thought I happened upon another geocache.
It was a coffee can in pristine condition. Clearly it had not been out in the elements at all. Inside was perhaps a hundred or more small envelopes, all in perfect condition.
Each envelope contained half of a card showing a cartoon character.
Looked like some sort of prop for a poker run, but there was no other information inside. Anyone know anything about this?
Anyway, back to those falls!
The cool part is that the Pigeon River forms the northern boundary between Canada and the US, so the rocks on the other side are the United States.
After climbing all over the falls and taking lots of pictures, I walked back to my bike.
On highway 61 right next to the border is the modern Pigeon River Provincial Park. They have a nice walking trail.
And then it gets a little hairy.
The trail leads to the High Falls of the Pigeon River.
And there weren't any fences or any other safety devices. Sure Jamie, just go right out there.
Considered the tallest waterfall "in" Minnesota, High Falls are 120 feet high, and I was standing at the brink.
I spent about 30 minutes climbing up and down and all around the gigantic boulders beside the falls.
But wait a second. Look closer. What's that?
That's an observation deck with people on it. People across the river in Minnesota. Wow, I had no idea that was there.
And then I had an epiphany. No doubt most of those people over there were taking pictures of the falls. I was climbing all over the falls. I wonder if I could somehow get those pictures, with me in them. That'd be awesome. I made it my goal to get over the US side as quickly as I could and see if I could find people who might have pictures of me on the falls.
But not before a couple more shots of the beauty from farther away.
And a view of the international bridge.
I jogged back to my bike and headed for the border, hoping to find someone with pictures of me climbing on the rocks.
Remember my crossing into Canada at the Peace Bridge near Toronto? The Canadian border offical was smiling and friendly and gave me a mint. The crossing took about 20 seconds.
Here, at Grand Portage, a remote crossing not near anything, the US border agent was stern and lectured me for not stopping my bike precisely where he wanted me to. As I was unbuckling my helmet he scolded me "You'll have to take that helmet off."
Then came a barrage of questions about where I'm from, where I'm going, where I'm coming from. I told him I'm from Memphis. He asked why, if I'm from Memphis, do I have Mississippi plates on my bike, and why am I coming through Canada to get to Minnesota. He wanted to know why I was visiting Minnesota. I told him I grew up in Minnesota and was coming to visit family. What town did I grow up in? What high school did I attend? What, really? My high school?
He looked through my passport. Why are there so many stamps in here? Do you have a job requiring international travel? No, I'm a student, or was a student and participated in some study abroad programs. After a long pause, he handed the passport back to me and told me I could go. Sheesh.
Almost immediately, I pulled into the newly built Grand Portage State Park welcome center.
I wasn't sure if this was the right place to see the High Falls. I asked a young couple in the parking lot if they knew if there was a trail leading back to the falls. The guy says "Yeah, we just came from there." Oh, you did?
Did you take any pictures? He said he did. I asked if he saw anyone on the falls. He told me there was a guy wearing jeans and a black T-shirt over there. That was me! Awesome. I unzipped my riding suit to show him my dark shirt. I asked, do you think I could get the pictures from you? He shrugged and held his fingers up with a tiny space between them. You can't see anything. You're only about this big in the photos. I nodded eagerly. Yeah, that'd be neat to have. I'd like to see them. He shrugged and shook his head. "It's not really worth it."
Well screw you too.
What the hell, dude? Anyway, what could I do? Grab his camera and run? I mean, how hard would it be to exchange email addresses and send me the pics? Some people suck and my welcome into the US hadn't been so welcome so far.
Well anyway, the US side is a whole lot different from Canada. Here, there is a paved trail with a fence.
And then a fancy boardwalk with rails. There was no trails to climb out onto the falls.
You get to see the falls from viewing platforms far from the water.
Though I have to admit, the US has a better viewing angle. Anyone want to photoshop a picture of me standing on the falls?
This is Grand Portage National Monument. I've been quite a number of times, but they've made some major changes since I've last seen it. Before, you used to park right in front of the lodge.
I had intended to follow old highway 61 up to the old border crossing on the Minnesota side, but I completely forgot. Looking at the map later on Google, I realized I missed a neat ride.
To get my mind off the border official and the jackass at the welcome center, I stopped for a geocache along the shore of Lake Superior.
I had made contact with FotoTEX before the trip and he invited me to stop by his winter home in Two Harbors, Minnesota. I had the address to his camp and showed up unannounced. He was sitting out front of his Airstream in a Texas-flag lawn chair. His wife offered a beer.
Donovan wanted to show me around the lake a bit, so we walked up the beach. For the record, that's some cold
I got a shot of him and his wife Rebecca, and then she took a picture of the two of us.
And then we walked over to a woodworking school nearby. There was a fellow inside working, and he showed us a few things and told us about the classes.
Donovan offered a place to set up my tent, but since it was only early evening, I decided to get on the road for a few more miles before the late sunset. I made a stop at Temperence River State Park, one of my favorite rivers.
And then headed back north on highway 1, considered one of the most scenic in the state.
Around nightfall, I found myself coming into the small town of Isabella, Minnesota. There was a large sign for a motel, with a smaller campground sign nearby. I decided to stop.
The thing is, there was nobody there. A sign on the building had a phone number, but half the numbers were gone.
And what appeared to be the office/camp store was gutted.
In any case, the campground out back was mowed and had picnic tables. Looked good to me. And the price was right.
Before dark, I took a few minutes to explore. The "motel" consisted of a double-long mobile home, divided into four rooms and a utility closet. There were signs asking snowmobilers to keep wet gear off the furniture.
Two of the rooms were unlocked. Inside the beds were made up and everything seemed to be in place, though there was no power or running water. It was as if the owners simply got up one morning and walked away. I briefly considered staying in one of the rooms. The beds looked more inviting than the cold and mosquitoes outside. The musty odor inside made me reconsider.
So, I made dinner back near my tent.
And crawled inside my tent to get away from the mosquitoes.