We heart Canada, every year

Woooo!  After substantial loitering and backtracking around Michigan, we’ve now run most of the north coast of the North Channel of Lake Huron, with new stops along the way.  Meldrum Bay in 2018 was fine and all, but not twice.  Oh hell no.  To start it off, Sunday morning we headed for Richards Landing.

Of course, before veering off the St. Lawrence Seaway we had to traverse the stretch that is substantially more narrow than, say, the part that runs through the middle of Lake Superior.  This time, we met a couple of lakers.  First up, Philip R. Clarke, headed to Duluth.  The only thing we know that comes from Duluth is Duluth Trading Company underwear, so logically we figured she was going to pick up a load.

Our AIS predicted that we’d meet Osogovo at the worst spot possible, right on a sharp corner.  We tried hailing her but received no response.  Fortunately we were able to swing just wide enough to scoot by.  The impressionist reflection was a bonus.

Shortly before noon we crossed the border.  Back to the land of those beautiful Maple Leaf flags, polite locals, no litter, ubiquitous provincial liquor stores, and disgusting gravy on French fries.  Eh?

Enough of long days on open water.  Now we’re getting to the good stuff.  Like quintessential Canadian lighthouses in quintessential settings.

Then on in to Richards Landing, where we bumped the Down East burgee and hoisted the courtesy flag and felt all warm and fuzzy.

Google Maps isn’t the only way to know when you’ve reached Canada, by the way.  Another sure-fire tell is that out of deference to their British overlords, they intentionally misspell words like “Center.”

Anyway, we asked the nice locals at the only open restaurant if there were any significant things to see or do while in Richards Landing.  Nobody could come up with anything.*  Incidentally, we agree with anyone who feels like there should be an apostrophe in there somewhere.  There isn’t.  Richards Landing was a good one-night stop though, although not much to do after stopping except get up and leave.

Tuesday morning before untying we spotted an eagle that appeared to be hunting baby ducks.  We think she returned to her huge nest in the pine tree empty-taloned, but it was hard to tell from our camera angle.

We’ve seen scores of range lights on our travels, and mostly think of them as relics from the days when mariners relied on paper charts and needed citrus to avoid scurvy and feared sea monsters at the edge of the earth.  This time we actually used them, however, and thus were able to make our way through the narrow, unmarked, and reportedly dangerous channel under the Bernt Gilbertson Bridge.

It’s quite likely that we’ll be uploading an excessive number of quite similar photos of Georgian Bay shoreline over the next couple of posts, but that’s because we can’t get enough of it.

And cottages.  We also may post a few too many photos of cottages. In Michigan they’re camps, in Canada they’re cottages.  Cottagers up here will build on even the smallest scrap of land.  It’s a literal cottage industry, although we still haven’t found where they make the cheese.

Thessalon Marina lines up nicely with a set of range lights that we didn’t need, but here’s the rear light overlooking a pleasing derelict flower planter.

And then here’s the front light, basically on top of us after we docked.

Much like Richards Landing, Thessalon served up wonderful marina staff and some good walking around, but not much else.

That said, the town welcome sign is a top-five for us.  And we’ve seen a bunch of ’em.

Last year the town’s Horticultural Society celebrated its centennial.  As one might expect, the society has become very accomplished at horticulturing.  Awesome flowers everywhere.

A few other things about Thessalon.  They’re understandably proud of The Red Bridge, which crosses the Thessalon River and was built by one “Mr. Hepburn” in 1888 at a cost of $945.00.**  Still in use today.  We found it odd though, that in nearly 150 years nobody noticed that the bridge is pink, not red.  But we let it go.

Curling is another thing we find odd.  To people from Tennessee and Texas, using a whisk to guide stones on frozen water is about as incomprehensible as eating at Tim Hortons.  Basically curling is slippery shuffleboard without octogenarians.  But apparently they like curling up here, which sort of makes sense.  If the ground is covered with ice 80% of the year you might as well find more things to do on it.

Arguably the only thing that rivals curling for the title of “Weirdest Olympic Sport” is the biathlon.  Biathletes must excel in skiing.  Which is fine.  There are lots of plausible Olympic skiing events.  But they also have to shoot.  They ski, and then shoot.  That’s just plain dopey, we say.  Shilo Rousseau and the villagers of Thessalon, of course, likely disagree.

Down at the marina we met John and Felicia, who are traveling aboard Wine Down and heading to St. Augustine.  We’ll probably see them again since we’re going the same direction.  When they left ahead of us we waved and took pictures of their boat to send them but resisted the urge to say bye to Felicia.  Pretty sure she’s heard that one a few times.

Wednesday took us to Blind River.  On the way Doug started to Google “Blind River restaurants,” but before he could finish, search results for “Blind River rest stop murders” popped up.  Back in 1991 elderly couple Gord and Jackie McAllister were sleeping in their RV—by definition minding their own business—when somebody claiming to be a policeman burst in, robbed them, shot them, and then for good measure shot another dude who happened to stop by.  It’s never officially been solved, but the marina has security cameras so we figured at least they might catch the dude if he killed us.

No need for range lights into Blind River.  Nope.  Just head towards the enormous penis and then bear slightly to starboard.

Upon investigation, it turns out that’s not an enormous penis at all.  It’s an abandoned “burner” that the J.J. McFadden Lumber Company used to do away with wood chips and scraps back when the white pine mill was the world’s largest.  Or maybe just the largest east of the Rockies.  Depends on who you ask.  Regardless, lumber milling was a huge deal along the North Channel, until The Great Mississagi Fire of 1948 burned up most of the necessary raw materials.  The mighty salvage effort following “Red Hell on the Mississagi” is detailed in the Timber Village Museum we visited.

Cool little joint.***  Lots of info about the fire, including a vintage video in which the narrator waxed poetic about the vast virgin forests ripe for plunder until “the long black arm of human carelessness reached into this timberland and set it ablaze.” That’s so colorful we wrote it down.

Here’s downtown.  Not very touristy, is Blind River, but cute enough.

On our walk around we passed a street with two houses sandwiched between two churches.  It occurred to us that if the homeowners attend one of those churches life is easy, but if sectarian animosity ever flares into open crossfire they’re screwed.

Here’s the thing though.  The houses in Blind River are neat and tidy and have happy flowers everywhere.  The marina is fantastic.  The folks are friendly.  Dana got to hold a tiny dog named Paco.  If they had more restaurants and fewer rest stop murders, we’d think about coming back.

Next up, Spanish.  The town, not the language.  Along the way, the scenery just got better and better.

Some guy posted a great photo on the Great Lakes Cruisers Club site: a huge bear walking across a beaver lodge on Jackson Island just three short days ago.  Hey, we’re going to be passing Jackson Island!  Let’s weave our way to the beaver lodge, drop the anchor, and get our own awesome bear photos.

Nope.  We waited.  We ate lunch.  We flew the drone.  Here’s the beaver dam.  No bear.

Oozing with disappointment after bearly missing out for a second time this summer, we cruised on to Spanish.  Hmmmm.  Spanish is to Blind River as Blind River is to Las Vegas.  Here’s downtown Spanish.

On our walk to “town,” we passed the ruins of what once was—according to former students/inmates—a place of systematic abuse and neglect at the hands of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary.  We assume the stories about evil nuns running the Spanish Indian Residential School for Girls are true, because (1) the place looks spooky and (2) we’ve seen the first season of 1923.

Anyway, we hiked up the stairs behind the marina and out the cliff-top trail to get a good photo.   After showers and dinner we’ll load up a couple of episodes of Miss Scarlet and the Duke.  Tomorrow off to Killarney.


*The brochure at the marina claimed the “Twin Trees” are the iconic area attraction, and indeed we’ve never seen two trees that share a branch.  The folks at the restaurant said the trees are dying and have had their heads lopped off and are stupid and not to bother.  It would’ve been a sixteen-mile round trip, so we didn’t.

**Those were Canadian dollars, however, which probably had someone like Richard the Lionheart on them and were worth far less than real dollars.

***Despite saving a toonie, we were moderately annoyed that the museum’s “senior discount” applied to anyone over 50.  We’re not certain about the age exchange rate though, so maybe it’s not really that offensive.

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