Monthly Archives: June 2013

Day 344 – Mich-quito-gan

Remember how I was complaining about the bugs in Ontario?  I take it all back.  They’ve got nothin’ on the mosquitoes of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Nothin’!

We arrived in the park and visited the picturesque Grand Sable Dunes.

On the dunes

On the dunes

Don't let looks deceive you...

Don’t let looks deceive you…

The lake is almost 300 feet below us!  We opted not to descend the dunes, as the climb up is steep and treacherous.

At our lake-level campground, we spent a relaxing afternoon playing on the lakeshore, where off-shore breezes kept the mosquitoes at bay.  There were lots of skeeties in the campground, though, and we were exceedingly careful to obey VBR.  We had a few in the trailer, but it wasn’t too bad.  But as the sun went down, all heck broke loose.  All of a sudden we had skeeties everywhere.  For every one we killed, two more appeared.  After some desperate skeetie-thwacking, we realized we had a real problem.  They were coming in through some unknown gap in our trailer.  We couldn’t go outside to assess the problem, because swarms were waiting outside to devour us.  Not only that, but it started to rain!  So Robbie did what any reasonable man would do in this situation…he grabbed the duck tape and started taping over every crevice and gap he could find.  At around 11:30pm we thought we’d reached some sort of détente with the evil bloodsuckers, so we tucked our exhausted daughter into bed.  But as soon as we turned off the lights, we could hear them buzzing once again.  Thankfully C fell asleep, because we spent the next two hours taping, stuffing, swearing, laughing, thwacking, swatting, and desperately trying to figure out how they were coming in!

See all that silver stuff?  That's duck tape!

See all that silver stuff? That’s duck tape!

Around 2am we finally gave up, crawled under the sheets and did our best to avoid being eaten alive. We woke repeatedly, futilely swatting at anything that buzzed.

At 6am, we gave up, had a quick breakfast, hitched up and hit the road in the gloriously mosquito-free truck.  We spent the afternoon tearing the Twinkie apart trying to find the source of the incursion.

A Twinkie explosion

A Twinkie explosion

Eventually we located a suspect air vent and “repaired” the hole.  Then we spent the next two hours killing at least 100 unfortunate mosquitoes with our bare hands.  Tonight we will be cleaning their smeared carcasses from the walls.

Everyone cross your fingers that we don’t get attacked again tonight.

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Day 343 – Back in the USA!

We’re back!  And thanks to some long driving days, we’re in Sault Ste. Marie, almost 1/3 of the way home.  Sault Ste. Marie (or  Soo if you’re a local) is home to a giant lock system used by commercial tankers to bridge the 21’ water level difference between Lake Huron and Lake Superior.  The Soo locks move more tonnage than any other lock system in the world!

These are REALLY big ships!

These are REALLY big ships!

The day we arrived, the first big boat to come through the locks wouldn’t arrive for many hours.  The tankers are tracked by GPS, and you can monitor their progress on a screen in the visitor center.  So we decided to partake in some shameless tourism and take a tour boat through the locks.

Approaching the locks

Approaching the locks

After the traversing the locks, we were treated to an unexpected water-side tour of a Canadian steel mill.  Our boat cruised right up to the massive cranes moving raw materials into railroad cars destined for the forge.  We were so close I felt like we were living in an episode of “How It’s Made”.  Massive rolls of freshly  forged steel cooled on the dock, and the air shimmered above them from the heat.

The steel mill

The steel mill

But the highlight of the visit was when we watched the massive tankers traverse the locks.

Doesn't it look like they could reach out and touch it?

Doesn’t it look like they could reach out and touch it?

For perspective, we’re standing on a two story viewing platform.  One could easily have a conversation with the workers on the tanker.  As the ship departed the lock, we could really appreciate just how tight a squeeze they’re in.

Don't inhale!

Don’t inhale!

 

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Day 341 – The Crack

We planned to hit the road first thing today, but last night we looked through the park brochure and learned about a hike up “The Crack.”  The brochure promised “absolutely stunning” views of Killarney’s white mountains.  I thought that surely Robbie wouldn’t want to do the hike in the morning and drive all afternoon, but he was as intrigued by the description as me!  We were all SO glad that we decided to make the trek.  We hiked the first two easy kilometers in record time in an unsuccessful effort to outrun the mosquitoes.  Then the fun began…another kilometer of scrambling up giant quartz boulders and rock-fall fields.

In "The Crack"

In “The Crack”

We quickly learned that quartz is slippery!  I’d think I had a good foot-hold, and suddenly my foot would be sliding back down the rock.  But we made it to the top with this as our reward:

As promised...an absolutely stunning view

As promised…an absolutely stunning view

I have to say this part of Ontario is one of my favorite places on the trip.  Everywhere you look you see postcard-perfect lakes, serene meadows, and awe inspiring mountains.  No wonder this area inspired generations of painters!

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Day 340 – Attacked in Ontario

We knew it was coming, but nothing can quite prepare you for mosquito season in the north-east.  I have previously expressed my disdain for these winged, blood-sucking creatures, but after a few woody campsites in Ontario, I hate them even more.  We are currently under VBR (visual bug rules).  Any opening of the Twinkie door must be absolutely necessary, and bug gear must be worn outside at all times:

Robbie models the latest in mosquito-proof fashion

Robbie models the latest in mosquito-proof fashion

We spent a couple of days in Algonquin Provincial Park, a beautiful park filled with bogs, beaver ponds, and moose!  I’m glad this place was beautiful (and moose-ful), because not only are the mosquitoes bad, but it rained throughout most of our visit.

Are we having fun yet?

Are we having fun yet?

This moose is sporting a ‘bob’ – the newest fad in antler styling.

You lookin' at me?

You lookin’ at me?

From there we continued westward to Killarney Provincial Park.  We’d never heard of it, but we needed a place to stay, and a big green spot on the map seemed like a good place to visit.  After ditching the Twinkie, we left camp and arrived at a trailhead just as a huge downpour started.  We geared up and hit the trail.  You know what’s not a good idea?  Going hiking on slippery rocks in a rainstorm!  Shortly after admonishing C to be extra careful walking on slippery rocks in her wellies, I slipped and landed on my knee.  Ouch.  My knee later required medical attention (in the form of a Band-Aid), but we journeyed on, undeterred.  Thankfully the rain let up, but the rocks remained wet.  C fell once, I fell twice more, and Robbie used his ninja skills to avoid falling altogether.

Our destination was Georgian Bay, a huge bay of Lake Huron.  This place is a paddler’s paradise.  I might come back some day just to paddle.  But today we contented ourselves exploring the shoreline.

What do you call tide pooling in a lake?

What do you call tide pooling in a lake?

Wild iris

Wild iris

Now we’re back in the Twinkie hiding from mosquitoes for the rest of the evening!

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Day 337 – En Francais, s’il vous plait

This may seem obvious (especially to the Canadians reading this), but when we arrived in Quebec, I was surprised that all signs are written exclusively in French.  In New Brunswick, all official signs are written in English AND French, and I assumed Quebec would be the same.  I’m glad we eased into the French signage during our travels through New Brunswick.  But I can now read “construction ahead,” “road closed,” and “merge” in French!

We covered a lot of mileage (should that be kilometerage?) on our drive into Quebec City, so we stopped at a little playground to let C get some wiggles out.  She particularly enjoyed one piece of playground equipment and asked us to try it out.  I hopped on, and it was indeed fun.  Robbie hopped on, and this happened:

Not designed for a full-grown man

Not designed for a full-grown man

It took all of his strength to get it righted again!  C and I were laughing too hard to help him out.

Yesterday we visited the beautiful  walled-city of Quebec.

On the wall

On the wall

It’s a bit eerie how much this place looks and feels like Europe.

Are we in Europe?

Are we in Europe?

 

The old, old city

The old, old city

We spent the morning wandering aimlessly, enjoying the perfect weather.  We even snacked on chocolate croissants in honor of the mother country.  At lunch time we grabbed food from the truck and had a lovely picnic in a nearby park.  After lunch we walked as much of the wall as possible then toured the Parliament building during the sole tour in English.

This is C’s first time in a non-English speaking country, and the experience was especially interesting for her.  Many people here don’t speak any English, so she got to see what it’s like to be surrounded by people with whom she can’t communicate.  We had a really fun time when we went grocery shopping and couldn’t read any of the aisle signs!

I wish we could have spent more time in the area because it’s quite beautiful.  But we have a lot of ground to cover and many more sights to see!

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