My uncle (Berd) & his daughter (Ace) stopped in on their spastic tour of northern ontario and New England (itinerary: Sault — Wawa — Sault — Sudbury — Ottawa — Montreal — Boston — Hoboken). Since they would be passing back through I hopped in the backseat of their Ford “Exploder” and go along for the ride. Berd took us on a guided tour of the history of the area. I think he has fished, canoed or almost died just about everywhere. Even though it was mid-August, the rainy weather and wind churned up Lake Superior and brought it down to about 15 degrees (‘it’ being the temperature outside; I’m sure the water was even colder than that).
For the one night I stayed ‘up north’ I had the option of crashing in town or at my aunt and uncle’s log home right on the shore of Lake Superior. Check. Waking up to have Long Beach (which really isn’t very long) all to myself was not something I was willing to pass up. The lake has a history. For First Nations people, for the community and for my family. It is the lake that claimed the life of my great grandfather. It is the lake where my uncle caught the fish we had for dinner (smoked…drool). It is the shore that my family brought sand, wind and water from to my grandmother’s bed in her last few days so she could feel like she was back in the place she loved the most. It swallowed the Edmund Fitzgerald. It is the site of the Ojibwe/Anishnaabe Creation Story.
This time it was where my cousins and I enjoyed a long sauna and at dusk, went wave-jumping until dark. At about 4 feet the waves still looked impressive but it was the undertow they created that was most dangerous. We swam only about 50 feet away from shore and, at times, you could walk towards the shore as a wave was going back out and end up further out to sea.
The rest of the guided history tour included one-lane gravel roads past the old open pit mine that supplied the ore to the cinter plant where my dad worked. After we abandoned the vehicle to terrible road conditions we continued to walk the mine road (eating blueberries along the way and encountering blueberry-stained bear poop) until we reached a blasted out portion to keep the locals out.
So much history of the area is lost as people continue to leave for bigger and better opportunities. This trip was a chance to put some of that history in my own head for safe keeping. Guided tour by the locals is the best way to experience small town Northern Ontario.