Disappointment is inevitable on a 5,000-kilometre cross-continent road trip. Ours came after crossing into Canada and arriving at Thunder Bay. Fog banks that followed a huge thunderstorm shrouded Nanabijou, the famous and mysterious Sleeping Giant.
The Giant is a mammoth rocky peninsula that juts into Lake Superior and fills a good part of the eastern horizon when you look out to the lake from almost anywhere in Thunder Bay. It is a sight not to be missed but we did despite waiting and hoping for the fog to lift.
Nanabijou looks like an Indian chief in full head dress who has lain down on the water to sleep. Legend has it that the thunder and lightning that sometimes lashes the lake is the chief stirring in his sleep.
The Old Guy was born and grew up in the shadow of the Sleeping Giant and always raves about it. I must say I was impressed and had a yearning to get out there and explore.
Farther down the shore we visited Rossport to explore some more local history. The tiny village, tucked into a bay protected by pretty islands, used to host one of the world’s most famous fishing derbies.
The Old Guy’s memoir Waking Nanabijou: Uncovering a Secret Past gives this description of the Derby in the 1940s and 1950s:
“Rossport at derby time was a gold rush town. People walked shoulder to shoulder on the town footpaths and few tiny streets. Boats floated gunwale to gunwale at the docks and at anchor in the harbour, one of the prettiest along the north shore. People cooked on open fires and on portable barbecues. They slept in boats and in tents in yards rented out. The excitement tingled in your nostrils as you pushed through the crowds. Any one of us thousands of fishermen could be the winner. No matter who you were or what friends or money you had, if you knew how to work a lure at the end of a rod, you could win the Rossport Fish Derby. The tiniest boat could be the biggest winner . . . .”
First prize was a brand new car, a big deal in a time when many people could not afford to buy a car.
We also visited a historical site which goes mostly unnoticed beside the old Rossport Inn. There stands the mast of the Gunilda, a New York millionaire's yacht that struck a reef August 30, 1911 and sank in two hundred metres of water. Legend is that the yacht carried the millionaire's treasure.
Tacked to the mast is a small plate remembering Charles ‘King’ Hague, who drowned August 8, 1970 while trying to explore the wreck. Hague was a childhood friend of the Old Guy and they lived on the same street.
Interesting stuff along an interesting and picturesque highway that follows the north shore of Lake Superior between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie.
We made it into the Soo before dark and were treated to Chinese food by Auntie Barbara and Anthea, who is the Old Guy’s sister and niece. I got to clean up the leftovers, a swell treat for a Malamute on a diet of dry kibble.
|Me and Unk Gerry Poling in Thunder Bay|
|We Travellers at the Gunilda/King Hague Memorial|