Our Excursion Through the Shield - Days 6 & 7

By John Lilies & Lana Carbon

September 25TH, 2019

Day 6: May 23, 2019 - Thunder Bay, Ontario

[John] Well, we finally made it to Thunder Bay after trying for a few years to get there. I love this place so much and I hadn't been there in six years so, I was a wee bit happy.

[Lana] A wee bit? If I hadn't helped her contain her excitement, I was afraid she was going to fling me out of the car with the flailing arm cheers that she was doing!

[John] Exaggerate much? You have already stated that I'm a great driver, so I think it's obvious I wasn't flailing my arms around, silly.

[Lana] Maybe I'm exaggerating a tad. Needless to say, I was afraid for my life or that I'd be smacked in the face, or that my eardrums would burst. Or, just that you were really happy. Maybe it was the last one. Aaannnd... maybe I wasn't really afraid. I still stand by my statement.

[John] You're such a silly bunny.

Though Lana had been there before, himself, part of my excitement on this trip was from the opportunity for us share this experience with each other and for us to have some really focussed quality time with our Thunder Bay family. While Thunder Bay is very much a significant industrial part of Ontario, there is so much natural beauty and calming energy here that it really is a happy place for me.

We didn't really know what we would be doing on this day but we knew we were heading to my cousin's house for 10am and as it turned out, we stayed at the house all day, catching up.

[Lana] After all of our travelling time, it was nice to know that we were going to have a day to relax and just hang out with John's cousin, Kim Gnarl. I was looking forward to getting to spend some actual time with him; it was an opportunity that I'd never really had. Our previous visits had been when Kim and his family had been in Toronto, and they were short visits with a lot of family and friends around, so this was the first time I was going to be able to really sit and hang out with him.

[John] We enjoyed a wonderful day chatting with Kim. He walked us around the property to see all of the latest changes. This family is constantly making changes to things and keeping things moving - stagnation is not something of which they could ever be accused.

[Lana] I couldn't believe all of the changes they'd made! Of course, I'd never been to their house but still, I couldn't believe it! The place was looking great!

[John] While dodging deer poop in the backyard (finally gave up because it was just everywhere), Kim showed us some of the projects he had on the go and told us about some of his upcoming plans. Those are the times that make me wish we could live there, to be closer and have more time with Kim and the family; but also so we could be a part of the projects and put our creative skills to use and fulfill our kinesthetic, hands-on building needs while helping out.

Towards the end of our day, we watched the kids jump and flip on the trampoline - the younger one, Sia, spent a number of years in competitive gymnastics while the older one, Nia, teaches parkour and is a black-belt in karate. These are active kids who seemingly hold no fear and it was so cool to watch them practice their tricks on the trampoline.

[Lana] So that’s what it would be like to be an active person!

[John] Don't worry baby. You can easily be doing jumps and flips just like the kiddos. Nothing has ever stopped your imagination.

[Lana] That's the only spot where it would be happening.

[John] Ha. Well, these are precious life moments for which I feel deeply grateful to experience.

As we were leaving to head back to the hotel for the night, we watched a few deer graze in the backyard. I know the deer can be quite a nuisance, but when you live in a place where you see mostly concrete, traffic, smog, and squirrels, having a family of backyard deer to observe just gives me such a great sense of calm.

This was not a day of exploration or misadventure but it was a truly beautiful day of connection and love and family. Needless to say, we really enjoyed the quiet day.

Day 7: May 24, 2019 - Thunder Bay Continued

[John] This was a sightseeing day with Kim as our guide. We happily gave Kim the keys to our car so he could show us around the city and also help us find roadside attractions we were seeking.

We started the day with an emotional trip to a nearby cemetery, so I could say hello to Kim's mom and dad. My auntie died some years ago and my uncle - Pa Lilies' best friend and chosen brother - died two years ago. We were unable to make it up to Thunder Bay for my uncle's funeral, so it was really important for me to visit him and my auntie, to say hello. This was such a crucial piece of our time in Thunder Bay for me, and so when we were granted the opportunity to be witness to four deer chilling out and resting in the cemetery, the warm fuzzies filled me and my heart grew a massive smile. To be there with my cousin, Kim - my own chosen brother - and to share the moment with Lana (who was shooting seemingly endless photos of the deer), made it all so much more special.

[Lana] The deer were pretty sweet. I took some pictures of the deer.

[John] From the cemetery, we ventured into town where Kim took us to find one of the roadside attractions on our list - the red angler and fish sculpture.


[Lana] With so many attractions to fit in and not a lot of parking or room to pull over, my title as King of the Drive-By Photo would be put to the test this day.

[John] I can attest that Lana kept his crown.

What amazed me, throughout this whole day, was that Kim knew exactly where all of these attractions were, even when most of them he hadn't driven by or paid attention to in years. This was an incredible help for us finding the spots we wanted to see and also made for a cool tour through Thunder Bay.

After the angler and fish sculpture, we headed to the curling rink for the giant curling rock. With our coffees in hand, we each posed for some ultimate Canadian pictures with a massive curling rock, as we crossed this one off our lists. HURRY HARD!

CurlingStone (1).jpg


[John] Mission Island Marsh was next. This was a place that Kim decided to introduce us to. We didn't spend a lot of time here but it was certainly enough to appreciate the beauty (and the cold wind) and it was a lovely view of Sleeping Giant.

[Lana] The Marsh had a beautiful boardwalk out on the shore and I wanted to go out there to take some pictures of Sleeping Giant, but it was just so darn cold and windy. I decided that the warmth and comfort of Lucy was preferable and I could take pictures from right there.

[John] Yes, we were a bit caught off guard by just how windy it was, so I don't think any of us was overly keen on staying out there for too long.

From Mission Island Marsh we drove up to Hillcrest Park for another perspective of Sleeping Giant. This was a beautiful spot much higher up, that I could see myself visiting regularly for lunches, picnics, and time to breathe. The park itself was dedicated to honour The Lake Superior Regiment (Motor) that served in the Second World War.

Moving on, we headed to the waterfront where Kim lamented how the city desperately needs to pump funding into the development of the area, to draw in more local use and tourism. I agree - while work has been done there, so much more could be designed and implemented for better use and appreciation of the site. Here, we gained yet another view of Sleeping Giant. Sleeping Giant is such a landmark here, that it's a standard attraction. My hope is to one day visit it and maybe do some camping and hiking there.

[Lana] Camping? That's like, being outside overnight? Not in a hotel? Sleeping... not in a bed? I'll bring the coffee with me in the morning when I come back to pick you up.

[John] You're such a baby.

[Lana] But I'm a baby without bug bites all over my bum.

[John] Mosquitoes?

[Lana] Ants... spiders... centipedes... sandworms...

[John] Dude. Where are you going camping?

[Lana] Nowhere that sweeping the floor wouldn't actually get it clean.

[John] Well I'm not planning to hang out with sandworms but camping with Beetlejuice may not be so bad. You go to your hotel and I'll camp with the Deetzes.

Saturn Sandworm from the movie Beetlejuice, by RiotLizard on DeviantArt, via Google.

Saturn Sandworm from the movie Beetlejuice, by RiotLizard on DeviantArt, via Google.

[Lana] Better keep your Handbook for the Recently Deceased handy.

[John] Day-O...

While driving around on this day, Kim introduced us to the mass amount of deer in the area. We have deer in our part of the province and so they certainly aren't foreign to us, but in Thunder Bay the deer just hang out with you and in some cases, even approach you looking to be fed. If they aren't looking for food from you, they don't often run away even when you sit for a while just feet away, taking photos. Watching the deer this close, without them taking off, were some really cool moments. I love nature and I have had some cool deer moments in the past, but the experience with these deer was definitely superior. There was one in particular that stuck around while we sat in the car for a while, close up, watching him eat. We were able to get some cool shots.

[Lana] As I was taking pictures of the deer, I would take pauses in between and just flip through the pictures I'd already taken, because that deer wasn't going anywhere!


[Lana] As I was scanning through some of my close-up shots, they made me think of Nipigon and La Luna Café. I thought to myself, "I'll show him a sassy deer!" (Him being the owner of La Luna.) (Missed that article? Click here!)

[John] After exploring the city for the day, we decided on an early night to give ourselves a decent rest. We knew the next day would be a long one with more exploring and we made plans to watch the Raptors game the next night with Kim, as it would be Game 7 and could determine if the Raptors would move into the finals. That was a big moment we could not miss.

[Lana] Go Raps Go!!

[John] So, after a day of beautiful views and wonderful chats, we drove to the hotel for some relaxation and sleep.

Have a good one, friends. Thanks for joining us and please stay tuned for more of TBay, coming soon…

Our Excursion Through the Shield - Day 5


September 7TH, 2019

May 22nd, 2019 - Marathon to Thunder Bay, Day 5

[John] This was a really cold and windy day with a lot of rain. And, just like with the footwear at Chippewa River/Falls, we did not think to put on our hoodies and scarves to keep us warm and dry. Nor did we take out our umbrellas. Honestly, if there were a brain between us...

[Lana] There is... we just packed it away with the rest of our stuff and chose not to take it out.

[John] A chronic condition, apparently.

Leaving Marathon, we topped up Lucy's gas tank, grabbed coffees and a breakfast sandwich, and hit the road. We drove a whole five minutes before our first stop to check out a gift shop.

May's Gifts is a little independent shop on Highway 17 (Trans-Canada highway) that is packed with all kinds of goodies, including handmade solar lamps. The shop owner makes each lamp himself, using old glassware (some have plastic, too) in really cool ways. He has made so many lamps! We really wanted to buy one for ourselves but we just have no room at home for something like that, so we only purchased one, for the cousins we would be seeing in Thunder Bay. We had wanted to also buy one for Ma and Brother Carbon but I was nervous about keeping it safely intact for the rest of the trip, considering how tightly packed Lucy was with luggage and supplies. In hindsight, we really should have bought a few. We are big fans of new creations made from old objects. Here is the lamp we bought for the Thunder Bay cousins:

[Lana] It was our own fault, really. We took our time perusing the store but before we got very far, the owner came over to us and showed us one of his lamps in the darkness of his back room. Ordinarily, we are not the type to follow a stranger into a dark room but he seemed harmless enough and we had him outnumbered. Suffice it to say, we are glad that we did (follow him, that is). The lamp that he showed us was beautiful. We continued our tour through the rest of the store but our thoughts were on the lamps.

[John] I really had to convince Lana that we didn't have the space to carry a lamp with us for the next week and a half, so what we ended up buying for ourselves was only the obligatory postcard and key chain. I am sorry about this now; I really should have listened to Lana.

[Lana] It is about time you start coming to your senses.

[John] We reluctantly left without all the goodies we wanted, and continued on. The rain wasn't too bad at first and didn't really start until we were out of Marathon but it grew steadily heavier as we drove on.

We had planned to stop at Mink Creek Falls to check it out but we didn't see a sign for it and the map wasn't helping us figure out the turn-off, so we ended up missing it.

[Lana] You're not going to blame the navigator, are you?

[John] Well, I was trying to let it slide this time, but seeing as you've brought it up...

[Lana] I will promptly fire him as soon as we are done writing this article.

[John] That could make our next adventure interesting.

The road to Terrace Bay, our next stop, has some stretches that can be a bit nerve-wracking in the rain. It's my favourite stretch to drive, but it did make me a bit nervous with the wet road, reduced visibility, large animals prevalent in the area, and transports carrying heavy loads. This stretch is quite hilly with sharp winding roads, so I definitely did not want to have any mishaps.

[Lana] John is such an excellent driver, you would never have known that she was nervous. Of course, every time she took her hands off the wheel, you couldn't help but notice the finger dents remaining on the steering wheel from where her fingers so strongly gripped it. You could probably say the weather had her a bit on edge.

[John] Pfft.

[Lana] Yet, I still felt totally comfortable and perfectly safe because she's just that damn good.

[John] So... (thank you)... once in Terrace Bay, our main goal was to see the lighthouse replica. We were originally looking out for it along the coast of Lake Superior but then realized it is, in fact, located in a plaza parking lot. With the rain pouring down on us at this point, upon reaching the lighthouse we did not get out of the car to explore it but instead, Lana took some shots from inside the car. Even if we had done the climb up to the top to look out over the bay, we doubtfully would have seen much through the sheets of falling rain.


[Lana] So, we had to know why they would build a replica lighthouse in a parking lot. According to terracebay.ca, the replica was built in 2011 in homage to the lighthouse that stands in the Slate Islands Provincial Park. The real lighthouse is the highest elevated lighthouse on the Great Lakes, at 224 feet above sea level. They built the replica to symbolize their long-standing connection between the town, the islands, and the woodland caribou that reside on the islands. From the top of the replica (which you can climb from May to October), you apparently get a great view of Lake Superior and the Slate Islands. There is even a challenge to spot as many caribou as possible at once; the current record is reportedly two. Of course, to do this, it would probably help to use the loonie-operated 50x zoom telescope at the top of the lighthouse. Unfortunately, the rain didn't allow us to even climb the lighthouse... which despite my fear of heights, might have been worthwhile for the view alone.

[John] So, we drove away from the lighthouse and decided to pop into the Olive House... ([Lana] That is House, not Garden, House.])... yes, the Olive House, a gift shop in the plaza where we bought our required postcard. I'm sure they really appreciated our large $1 purchase.

From there, we went a short way up the road to Aguasabon River Falls and Gorge. This place was beautiful. It was raining quite hard here and it was cold enough that the boardwalk to the falls was really slippery and almost icy. When we reached the falls, we noticed protrusions of thick ice from the rock walls but the view was so spectacular and the roaring sound so magnificent that we truly did not care how wet and cold we were.

[Lana] This was my favourite falls on the trip to this point by far and that is saying a lot, considering how beautiful all the others had been. I think it had something to do with the way it was set off in the distance and truly looked like we were stealing a glimpse of some forbidden world where humans weren't allowed to trespass. This was nature at its finest, once you got past the cold blue steel of the railing that kept us from plummeting to our deaths.

[John] Um, baby? It wasn't actually that far from us. Yes, the railing was there and for good reason, but the falls weren't really "off in the distance". They were kind of, pretty much, right there, just ahead and to the left a bit.

[Lana] Well it was a little ways off. It wasn't like we could just reach out and touch it. It was a good 100‐150 metres away. Plus, the water then flowed away from us... that made it feel further, too.

[John] Okay then, I'll totally give you that.

Honestly, I could have stayed here for hours. Something about this little nook really drew me in and I did not want to go. However, after a little while of being soaked from spray and rain, with other visitors arriving for the view and our growing need to feed our tummies, we carefully walked back up the boardwalk and sat in the car enjoying some lunch; excitedly talking about finding a coffee shop soon, for some hot caffeinated liquid to warm us up.

[Lana] Especially with others coming to enjoy the view - *cough *cough *introverts...

[John] A little way along our journey, we approached a bend in the road, curving to the right. Coming out of the bend was a small rise and then fall - a low and short hill. There were some cars and trucks a little bit behind us and not one car that we could see ahead of us. As I looked ahead, seeing around the bend and the opposite end of the hill, I noticed a shape in front of a road sign on the shoulder on Lana's side of the road. The shape was recognizable to me and while I questioned what I was seeing, I immediately took the car off cruise control to begin slowing down. As I did this, Lana told me I might want to slow down.

I was so unsure of what I thought I saw that I was looking for another vehicle ahead of us, that could have confused me and made me think I was seeing a shape that I didn't actually see. But, when Lana told me to slow down at that same moment, I realized I wasn't the only one who saw something and so I asked him, "Did you just see something? I saw something. I'm not positive it was what I think it was but I saw something." As it turned out, we had each viewed the profile of a large bull moose head and rack, but as we rounded the bend and I completely slowed down at the top of the hill, just to be safe, there was nothing at all ahead of us. Not even a car was on the stretch ahead of us and there was nowhere for a car to have turned off. So, did we see our fourth moose? Honestly, I don't know what else it could have been but I find it so hard to believe that we could have seen yet another moose (albeit barely even a glimpse of one). When we told my cousin about this the next day, he said that a full-grown bull moose would be large enough to easily cross the highway in two strides. My cousin figured that when we saw the moose profile, the moose maybe had been taking a quick moment to judge his path, but then took off across the way and into the tree thatch on the opposite side, before we ever even started into the bend and up the hill. Regardless, we were grateful we had each spotted it and that I had slowed down to be on the safe side.

[Lana] I'm often guilty of 'side-seat driving’ as a precautionary measure. As I've already stated, John is an excellent driver but if I happen to see something that she may not have seen, I like to give fair warning. When I saw the dark mass up ahead, I was pretty sure it wasn't a car and I, myself, barely saw it, so knowing that John was on cruise-control I thought it best to give her the 'heads up' that she may want to slow down for whatever may be ahead of us.

I wasn't surprised when John had already begun slowing down as the words of warning were leaving my mouth, because she usually has already spotted the issue I'm in the midst of pointing out.

[John] Unlike 'back-seat drivers', I appreciate Lana's warnings and observations because I figure it's best to hear what I already know than to risk missing something important. Though, Lana does not really come with a soft volume control and so his warnings can be quite startling at times... some of the time or most or maybe all of the time, if we are going for accuracy here.

[Lana] Just like in Spinal Tap, I like to keep it turned up to 11.

[John] After our almost close encounter of the potential moose kind, we made our way over to Schreiber to find the railroad jigger at the railway museum. After getting turned around in this town and finally finding the museum (closed, of course), we simply took some pictures and moved on. There was some railway equipment on the old tracks, so Lana took some shots and it wasn't until a while later that he mentioned we never did find the jigger. But, I'd thought we saw it and I was sure he had taken a picture of it. As it turned out, Lana didn't even realize he had taken a picture of the jigger. I think we may have been a wee bit tired at this point.

[Lana] Or, I didn't know what a jigger was. I would go with that. I had seen them before but I just didn't know what they were called. I'd heard the term 'jigger' before, but didn't know what it referred to. It is nice to now be able to put two and two together and make a jigger.

[John] Oy.

Sometimes it's helpful to know what we don't know before we go looking for what we think we know, only to find out later we didn't know it.

[Lana] You know it.

[John] After our quick venture into Schreiber, we aimed for Rainbow Falls in Rossport. However, as we arrived and turned onto the path for it, we discovered we were heading into a provincial park and would have had to pay for the whole day, to find the falls. So, we cut our losses, turned around, and made our way back out on the highway. If we’d had the time, we would absolutely have paid and gone in to find the falls, but as we still a while ahead of us, we just couldn’t spare that kind of time.

We had experienced quite a bit of heavy rain and also a fair bit of construction thus far. Driving into Pays Plat, we had our first experience with a blasting site as well. We slowed down significantly in Pays Plat and heeded the numerous signs warning of blasting in the area. Soon enough, we came to a complete stop as the road narrowed to a single lane and we had to sit for about 15 or 20 minutes as we waited for the other direction of traffic to come through. As our turn came to drive along, I understood why the wait had been so long. This was the longest stretch of single-lane road that I had ever travelled. There were barricades on either side, with a significant drop on my side of the road. I wondered how the drivers of the huge transports would feel when they drive this stretch. Likely a lot more confident than I.

[John] On Lana's side of the road, we saw a lot of large machines and some blasting equipment. I couldn't help but wonder if an accidental blast had ever occurred.

Onward to Kama for a lookout. We missed the lookout at the top of the hill but we managed to swing into the one at the bottom of the hill and still thoroughly enjoyed the view at Kama. We had wanted to find Mazukama Falls but we must have missed the turn-off as we didn't get there.

[John] We decided Nipigon would be a good place for a coffee break, so we crossed the beautiful bridge and pulled off the highway and drove into Nipigon. Soon after coming off the main highway, we saw a lookout area and parked to get out and stretch. This area has a tall platform that you can climb to take in some nice vistas. This is where I have to say how deeply proud I am for Lana climbing this structure. Lana is profoundly afraid of heights (a step stool is a barrier) and for him to walk up these stairs and look out over the land without freaking out and/or freezing up, was honestly such a proud moment it made me cry happy tears. This was a huge feat for Lana to overcome and I am so deeply happy he did this. Yes, there was a proper staircase and railings, so it wasn't quite the same as climbing a ladder or anything like that, but it was major for Lana and he succeeded happily.

[Lana] Aw shucks.

[John] After celebrating this moment, we drove further into town and found La Luna Café. We were looking for another café that Lana saw on the map, but it was apparently permanently shuttered and so we drove a bit further and discovered La Luna. What a find! An independent, cozy community hub with super fun and friendly owners. While Lana was perusing the cards on the counter rack, one of the owners (Daniel) pointed out his favourite card - the sassy deer. This was not the card that Lana chose, but it was a super cute picture. La Luna Café is a place I would absolutely hang out at regularly, were we living much closer to Nipigon. Sadly, being over 1,000 kilometres away makes that a bit tough. Visit their website though, and check out the cool things they are doing in their community. If you happen to be in the area, please go and give them your support. In fact, why not make a trip there just to check it out? The coffee is great, the atmosphere is wonderful, and they are truly a community-focussed business.

[Lana] On the main street outside La Luna, there was a series of wood carvings lining the road. I really liked these because they were actually carved from tree trunks.


[John] After leaving La Luna, we continued on with our final stretch for this day and drove into Thunder Bay. The Terry Fox monument was our goal upon entering Thunder Bay proper. As we reached the top of the hill where the monument proudly stands, we took in our first view of Sleeping Giant, a place we would see from many vantage points over the coming days.

The Sleeping Giant

The Sleeping Giant

[John] We had each previously visited the Terry Fox monument but Terry Fox is such an important figure in recent Canadian history that we could not drive by without paying our respects. I was only a small child (about three, actually) at the time, but I have vivid memories of the excitement when Terry Fox was on his run and I clearly remember my preschool teacher telling us about this man running across the country to raise awareness. I couldn't understand the epic nature of what he was doing nor could I understand what cancer was and how devastating it could (and would) be, but I understood excitement and I knew when adults believed something was truly important. Those feelings have never left me. We grew up with the history of Terry Fox and Rick Hansen being ever-present in our culture, so this monument is quite important to us.

[Lana] I don't know what to add here because John summed it up perfectly. It was one of the most meaningful monuments we encountered on the entire trip. I don't know that there was any Canadian alive at that time, that wouldn't still be completely moved at the presence of this monument.

[John] Despite the cold, damp wind here, I struggled a bit to leave. I wanted to sit and stare at the monument, but we did need to push on and end our day's journey. So, I settled for a quiet moment to reflect and silently express my thanks to Terry Fox and his family.

Moving on into the city, we easily found our hotel and got ourselves settled into a warm, clean, comfortable room complete with a welcome note from the cleaning staff. It was time for a relaxing night of good rest, before enjoying our short few days in Thunder Bay.


[John] And, so ends our day of driving into Thunder Bay. Thanks for hanging out with us! We will see you again soon, for our adventures while in Thunder Bay.

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Thanks for joining us on this ride. Until next time, be well.