We spent last night at Miss Ellie's B&B in Wawa.
Sometimes when the Internet promo says, "Your hosts are . . .," the word hosts is used rather loosely. This is not so at Miss Ellie's. Eleanor and Roger Jolie truly are your hosts. You feel like you are staying at a friend's home --- and, in a sense, you are.
Wawa was a mining town but the mine was closed years ago. There was also a local chipboard plant but it has shut its doors, too. Today Wawa seeks tourists but let's be honest, for most folk tourism does not replace a good,solid day in and day out job. The main street in Wawa is dotted with closed hotels and boarded up businesses. It is clear that not enough paying tourists are visiting Ontario's north. I would not be surprised if all the passport problems now encountered at the border are stunting the growth of tourism.
If you are heading Wawa way, I highly recommend Miss Ellie's. Spending your lodging bucks at Miss Ellie's is a good way to get money directly into the North's fragile economy and visit with some nice people to boot. If you know some high school French, now is your chance to shine. The Jolies are a French Canadian couple originally from the Kapuskasing/Moonbeam area of what I think of as almost the far north.
I watch a little French television but I rarely get a chance to speak French. I did not shine when I tried speaking in French.
Roger helped me get the Morgan ready for the road but we were still a little late setting off. It may have been as late as ten. I think we are running out of steam.
The route to the Sault from Wawa is famous for its spectacular scenery but I think we have O.D.'d on spectacular scenery. It has been one beautiful place after another on this trip. We've simply hit too many extremes. We are no longer easily impressed.
They post signs warning of 6% grades on highway 17 and Judy and I shrug. We've booted the Morgan over mountains with 10% grades. We see signs pointing to scenic waterfalls and when we make the detour we find a little water tumbling over some rocks and we think of Yosemite and think, "Now, those were waterfalls." (I've read that the grades we've tackled are so steep that both Switzerland and France try never to build a road with more than a 10% grade.)
Ontario's north is not for driving through, it's for experiencing. I must return with one of my nephews and with the white whale strapped to the top of my Ford Focus. The white whale is an 18-and-a-half foot fiberglass racing canoe. It is an old Sawyer design out of Michigan and it is great for paddling about lakes and wide, slow moving rivers. It is comfortable, fast, and very stable. It does not draw much water and can slide across low spots in a river that would ground another canoe.
For many, this is the last pictograph viewed. The rest require venturing onto a rock ledge that is simply too slippery for many of us.
I love the thrill of paddling around a river bend and encountering a moose cow and her calf. Or waking up in the morning to a camp site filled with visiting quail. Or sighting a silverback beaver while out exploring the lakes and ponds. If you have never done any of this think "Killarney." Just make sure you reserve a campsite many months in advance. There are more than a hundred, I believe, but they are all spoken for early.
If you are a swimmer, bring your bathing suit on a run from the Sault to Wawa. There are lots of sandy beaches. The ones closest to the Sault are on sheltered bays and by late July the Lake Superior water is actually quite pleasant. Farther north, the water is more open and the water stays cool all summer long.
The rock ledge can get very slippery when wet from the crashing Lake Superior waves. Use great caution. The first few pictographs are easy to reach and view. I have never seen the distant ones.
And bring some hiking shoes. Judy didn't, again, and so missed the pictographs on the rock cliff jutting up from Lake Superior. The walk is only about 400 meters but it can be steep in places and the rock shelf to the view the pictographs can be very slippery when wet. Signs indicate that there have been people killed by the surprisingly strong waves that have hit the wall face and swept viewers into the cold, deep lake.
Sault Ste. Marie is worth some time. I have always enjoyed the Agawa Canyon tour. It especially beautiful in the fall when the leaves are in colour. I'd like to come here in the winter and take the Snow Train and maybe make a whistle stop one day at the Searchmont ski hill, if the Algoma Center still makes such a stop.
Tonight we are in Thessalon. A town so small that we could not get any high-test gas for the Morgan. We'll have to leave about fifteen minutes earlier than planned and stop in Iron Bridge for gas before heading off for South Baymouth and the Tobermory ferry.
We're staying the night in the Carolyn Beach Motor Inn just off highway 17/17B on the edge of Thessalon. We are about three hours from the ferry to Tobermory. We have reservations for tomorrow's 1:30 p.m.ferry.