DAY 23: ST. JOHN

What a day! A road trip is an evolving thing and today was no exception. At 5 am, we rocketed across Prince Edward Island to the east shore to catch the morning sunrise – good thing since the rest of the day was more cloud and even snow in the afternoon.

As with some other days, the route changed a few times – today it was because of timing commitments and ferry schedules. So rather than bunking down around Hopewell Rocks for the night, we visited that amazing site, then pressed on to stay in St. John, but not before checking out the gypsum mining in the area – thanks to a very helpful fellow who wrote in to give information about this part of the province in which he lives and is proud. Thank you very much, Mark Rock!

After leaving PEI, New Brunswick morphed into what I remembered it to be from distant family drives – all forest! Other than the Bay of Fundy and the south shoreline of the province, New Brunswick is a fragrant forest of mixed soft and hardwoods. A walk through the forests is to see immense beauty in the vastness of the tracts, but also young, delicate and newborn. It is a renewing resource in so many ways.

A visit to the Hopewell Rocks was absolutely in order, despite the fact it was closed as it is still early in the season. We had a fantastic lunch at the Chocolate River Inn, in Edgetts Landing, where the proprietor filled us in on the local history and geology. Turns out he is a descendent of one of the Fathers of Confederation! A point that was not lost on us as our journey it timed to celebrate this historic anniversary.

Finding room in an inn, in St. John proved to be challenging if we wanted something reasonably priced! Turns out the town city is fully booked with concert-goers, theatre goers and a plethora of athletic tournaments. Great for the economy, not great when you have been turned away from no less than six hotels due to them being fully booked. So – the home for the night is a very cheap motel looking like something from a slasher film. A quick check of the bedding and mattress showed no sign of critters big or small, and the not-so-subtle roach motel just inside the front door may come in handy! But – its home! And I am grateful!

Tomorrow the ferry leaves St. John and two hours later docks at Digby, Nova Scotia.  

Sunrise on Prince Edward Island at Malpeque

Sunrise on Prince Edward Island at Malpeque

Wind and water carve beautiful forms in the soft red sandstone along the beache

Wind and water carve beautiful forms in the soft red sandstone along the beache

The Community Centre in Malpeque echo the sentiments of all who live on this island.

The Community Centre in Malpeque echo the sentiments of all who live on this island.

Gleaming white gypsum left over from one of the many mine sites. I picked up a piece and tasted it to see what it was like. No taste at all despite it being a main ingredient in toothpaste. It's much more palatable with a minty flavour! 

Gleaming white gypsum left over from one of the many mine sites. I picked up a piece and tasted it to see what it was like. No taste at all despite it being a main ingredient in toothpaste. It's much more palatable with a minty flavour! 

The beautiful Hopewell Rocks at low tide. Since this is before the season opens, access to the tidal flats is strictly against the law – as well, one is risking injury if one tries to descend. Still, it did not stop many of the more youthful and agile folks visiting!

The beautiful Hopewell Rocks at low tide. Since this is before the season opens, access to the tidal flats is strictly against the law – as well, one is risking injury if one tries to descend. Still, it did not stop many of the more youthful and agile folks visiting!

You can smell the air in this image. Cushiony soft moss and forest floors incubate new growth.

You can smell the air in this image. Cushiony soft moss and forest floors incubate new growth.

Not unique to New Brunswick, but just as fascinating to me – I love themes of decay and this home revealed many of the decorating tastes and stories within. The bathroom, contrasting with the drab surroundings, features a candyfloss-coloured pink sink and bathtub!

Not unique to New Brunswick, but just as fascinating to me – I love themes of decay and this home revealed many of the decorating tastes and stories within. The bathroom, contrasting with the drab surroundings, features a candyfloss-coloured pink sink and bathtub!

Across the road from where I filled up with gas, a boat sits idle at low tide east of St. John

Across the road from where I filled up with gas, a boat sits idle at low tide east of St. John

Home for the night... Huh! Did you hear something?...

Home for the night... Huh! Did you hear something?...

DAY 22: CHARLOTTETOWN

I had not realized there was a feeling that New Brunswickers felt visitors to their province were transient, choosing to use New Brunswick as a corridor into Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. But as I sit here in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, I realize I have done just that.

I have had a few people living in New Brunswick email me at the beginning of this cross-country trip to ask that I give their home a chance and represent it as I will have done the other places along the route. And it is for those that I say, I am sorry that I had to change my plans this afternoon at the last minute from Shediac to PEI – but just for tonight! I will be back in NB tomorrow and staying in Hopewell the night! I hope for clear skies to do some night shooting there.

From a bitterly cold snowy wind at Percé this morning and views of Bonaventure Island, we head south into New Brunswick. The many sites of major wood manufacturers are a fascination to me. Neatly stacked rows of thousands upon thousands of trees form giant walls ready for shaping and manufacture. As well, I'm not sure if it is a result of heavy snow loads from the winter or if there was a major storm, but so many trees are bent over and broken. If someone knows the answer, please let me know. I hope to focus a bit more on that tomorrow on the way to the Bay of Fundy which, of course is a jewel of the south shore of New Brunswick. Sadly I will not have time to visit St. Andrews By The Sea. It is a very beautiful and special place.

Percé this morning. Foreboding, windswept and cold. A seagull plays in the wind just between the gap.

Percé this morning. Foreboding, windswept and cold. A seagull plays in the wind just between the gap.

Deep snow begins to melt, revealing the wooden fence surrounding a seaside picnic spot.

Deep snow begins to melt, revealing the wooden fence surrounding a seaside picnic spot.

Bonaventure Island, Quebec, stands alone in a sea of highlight and shadow.

Bonaventure Island, Quebec, stands alone in a sea of highlight and shadow.

Along the way to New Brunswick, a lighthouse and shoreline are dappled in dramatic sun and shadow

Along the way to New Brunswick, a lighthouse and shoreline are dappled in dramatic sun and shadow

Near Bathurst, New Brunswick, a wall of logs sit awaiting manufacture. These walls of logs are fantastic textures and shapes.

Near Bathurst, New Brunswick, a wall of logs sit awaiting manufacture. These walls of logs are fantastic textures and shapes.

I believe these to be Aspen trees (correct me if I am wrong, please!) and are plentiful, offering beautiful contrasting shapes along the road in New Brunswick.

I believe these to be Aspen trees (correct me if I am wrong, please!) and are plentiful, offering beautiful contrasting shapes along the road in New Brunswick.

DAY 21: PERCÉ

I have a particular love of the Gaspé, and in particular, the tiny village of Percé. Growing up we camped at Percé as a family, walked the stone beach, crossed over to the Rock at low tide and spent hours skipping the wafer-thin stones that make up almost all the stones on the wind-swept beach.

Today, the seaside drive hugged the south coast of the St. Lawrence around the Gaspé peninsula to Percé. Along the way, weathered wood homes and shacks, once bold with colourful coats of paint – are now grey from exposure.

A perfect symmetrical yellow house stands alone and gave the first glance – in the distance of Percé Rock. Checking the car clock, revealed two more hours of low tide. Perfect timing to get there and walk the exposed parted sea to the Rock like old times!

The dark slate-blue overcast sky again treated us to brilliant spots of light just where it was needed to create beautiful images. This is something I have noticed happening a lot on this trip so far!

Tonight, the only motel open until tourist season is quiet. The town, and I,  are pulling the shades and tucking in as the snow is beginning to fall.

A comfy red armchair sits looking at the view, west along the shore of the St. Lawrence River east of Sainte-Anne-des-Monts

A comfy red armchair sits looking at the view, west along the shore of the St. Lawrence River east of Sainte-Anne-des-Monts

Low clouds and fog hugged the coastline all day. This community, like so many, feature brightly coloured houses along the shore.

Low clouds and fog hugged the coastline all day. This community, like so many, feature brightly coloured houses along the shore.

Every community is arranged around the tallest building in town, their church!

Every community is arranged around the tallest building in town, their church!

The first glance of Percé Rock in the distance behind this cute yellow house on the left

The first glance of Percé Rock in the distance behind this cute yellow house on the left

Today, I gained new found respect for my father who would tow our family camping trailer with mom, four children and the dog along thousands of kilometres. This view is one I remember after all the turning, twisting roads.

Today, I gained new found respect for my father who would tow our family camping trailer with mom, four children and the dog along thousands of kilometres. This view is one I remember after all the turning, twisting roads.

The view here is a delicate balance of form, colour and atmosphere.

The view here is a delicate balance of form, colour and atmosphere.

For millions of years, this land has been evolving – shaped by water & wind. Our appreciation of its beauty is a fleeting blink. Our memories of this powerful place will give us so much more than any app can hope to deliver.

For millions of years, this land has been evolving – shaped by water & wind. Our appreciation of its beauty is a fleeting blink. Our memories of this powerful place will give us so much more than any app can hope to deliver.

Portrait of a yellow house being photo-bombed by the likes of Percé

Portrait of a yellow house being photo-bombed by the likes of Percé

Goodnight Percé. Goodnight moon.

Goodnight Percé. Goodnight moon.

DAY 20: MATANE

Quebec City this morning seems a world away in every respect. In contrast, this evening, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, Matane is a small town clinging to the edge of a major shipping route into Canada and stares out into inky blackness..

From the mountains around Charlevoix at mid day, winter came back with a vast snowy covering over forests and roads. The trees seems draped in icing sugar in a magical snow-globe kind of scene. On the north shore of the River at Godbout, intricate ice formations begin to break down under the sun, leaving crystalline structures and ice erratics on the beaches.

Tomorrow is a destination that is very exciting and I understand, at just after 4 pm, one can walk out to it – Percé Rock.

 

The Charlevoix region of Quebec today was covered in snow like icing sugar in a snow globe

The Charlevoix region of Quebec today was covered in snow like icing sugar in a snow globe

Delicate ice formations on the beach at Godbout, Quebec

Delicate ice formations on the beach at Godbout, Quebec

DAY 19: QUEBEC CITY

What can one say about Quebec City that has not been expressed? Romantic, quaint, historic, charming... But get off the main streets, leave the crowds behind and you leave Quebec City and are transported to the Rue de Bac in Paris.

This is the Quebec City that Fuji X-Photographer, Renaud Philippe prefers. Born in Lausanne, Switzerland, his family moved to Quebec City when he was four years of age – this is his home. We go for a walk along the fortified walls, cannons keep watch over the St. Lawrence River below. It is always a good thing to have a photo walk in another person's home town. Tight alleyways between houses, children jumping from paving stone-to-stone and a leisurely pace is what you find in the areas away from the tour buses. This is truly French. This is where Renaud loves to shoot.

Quebec City is a walking city. And with a camera, a simple walk can take a very long time! Later in the day, the Old City of Quebec, below the boardwalk behind the Chateau Frontenac comes to life as the sun sets and the lights come on. It is a place to spend time, move slowly and truly observe.

We will head east along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River tomorrow then take a ferry south from Godbout to Matane for the night.

Renaud Philippe, Fuji X-Photographer is at home in Quebec City shooting what he loves: the back roads of the city.

Renaud Philippe, Fuji X-Photographer is at home in Quebec City shooting what he loves: the back roads of the city.

Rooftops of old Quebec City. Photo by Renaud Philippe

Rooftops of old Quebec City. Photo by Renaud Philippe

Old and industry. Photo by Renaud Philippe.

Old and industry. Photo by Renaud Philippe.

Children skip from paving stone-to stone. Photo by Renaud Philippe.

Children skip from paving stone-to stone. Photo by Renaud Philippe.

The empty streets of the "other" Quebec City

The empty streets of the "other" Quebec City

The historic and tourist area of Old Quebec.

The historic and tourist area of Old Quebec.

Light from the sun and the door's window cast highlights on the snow in Old Town Quebec

Light from the sun and the door's window cast highlights on the snow in Old Town Quebec

Many galleries feature unique and inspiring collections

Many galleries feature unique and inspiring collections

As the sun sets, children stumble from a long day on their way home!

As the sun sets, children stumble from a long day on their way home!

A long exposure warps the incoming ferry as it pivots in the current of the St. Lawrence River 

A long exposure warps the incoming ferry as it pivots in the current of the St. Lawrence River 

A neighbourhood restaurant 

A neighbourhood restaurant 

DAY 18: MONTREAL

Only a short distance east of Ottawa is Montreal, Quebec. With its strict sign laws, anyone without a working knowledge of French could become lost – quickly! Trust me! But thanks to way-finding apps on smartphones in English, rediscovering my boyhood memories of Expo '67 was fairly easy.

One cannot visit Montreal without stopping in for a smoked meat sandwich and dill pickle at Schwartz's Deli. Here, in a packed house, strangers, elbow-to-elbow, devour piping hot, moist smoke meat as they have been doing since 1928. Salvatore Dibuono is one of the men who keep the seats warm and serves with a smile and an air of one who has been your best friend, forever! "I'm very young, I have only been here 9 years. The oldest employee has been working here 43 years", Salvatore says of his own role in this Montreal gastro institution.

As the sun begins to set between fractured clouds, the avant-garde housing development comes into view. I remember fragments of Expo '67 from when I was 8-years-old and one of the most talked about developments was a housing project called Habitat, a concrete complex of cantilevered cubes and large windows designed by renowned Israeli/Canadian architect, Moshe Safdie. The project was ground-breaking in '67. and still is striking by today's standards. To walk in and around the complex is truly awe inspiring.

As the sun went down behind the still-awesome, gigantic geodesic dome, which used to have a monorail running in and out of it, the logo and all the sounds of Expo begin to come back.

Tomorrow, a short drive away is historic, Quebec City.

In Old Montreal, a bicycle awaits its rider inside this shop.

In Old Montreal, a bicycle awaits its rider inside this shop.

Just beyond the steps of Notre-Dame Cathedral, the bride here is motioning for me to be careful of the car, advancing from behind me as I keep step with her, walking backwards

Just beyond the steps of Notre-Dame Cathedral, the bride here is motioning for me to be careful of the car, advancing from behind me as I keep step with her, walking backwards

Part of the Habitat complex designed by architect, Moshe Safdie for the Expo '67 World's Fair in Montreal

Part of the Habitat complex designed by architect, Moshe Safdie for the Expo '67 World's Fair in Montreal

Some of the beautiful spaces in the Habitat complex

Some of the beautiful spaces in the Habitat complex

Salvatore Dibuono brings our much-anticipated smoked meat sandwiches!

Salvatore Dibuono brings our much-anticipated smoked meat sandwiches!

Taking a smoke break in the Old City

Taking a smoke break in the Old City

The giant geodesic dome which is the symbol of Expo '67, now called the Biosphere.

The giant geodesic dome which is the symbol of Expo '67, now called the Biosphere.

DAY 17: OTTAWA

Back on the road today after a brief stop in Toronto. As much as we can, the roads less travelled are preferable to major highways. So, as soon as possible we got off the 401 highway and dropped down into and through Prince Edward County.

Other than Prince Edward Island, I know of no other sand dunes in Canada, so visiting Sandbanks Provincial Park was a must and never disappoints. But the real fun came as we were heading out of the County and discovered a huge World War II RCAF base that time forgot. Well, it is not forgotten, but is home to artisans, small film companies, a few garages and some storage for boats. It is also a place where the runway serves as a drag strip a few times a year! Hmmm, I wonder how fast the Dodge Grand Caravan rental would go!

Ottawa met this GFX road trip with pelting rain and dark grey skies. Down at the locks, there was so much water runoff that a manhole cover was repeatedly popping up and down from the water pressure below!

Tomorrow we head to Montreal and the beginning of the road trip through Quebec. 

At Sandbanks Provincial Park

At Sandbanks Provincial Park

The old RCAF base near Picton, Ontario. According to a local man at the site, this is where Camp X, the film was shot.

The old RCAF base near Picton, Ontario. According to a local man at the site, this is where Camp X, the film was shot.

One of the many airplane hangars on site

One of the many airplane hangars on site

The fortified heavy concrete wall that was used to fine-tune the aim of large caliber machine guns on the planes that used this as a training base. The wall is riddled with shell damage.

The fortified heavy concrete wall that was used to fine-tune the aim of large caliber machine guns on the planes that used this as a training base. The wall is riddled with shell damage.

Where green meets blue

Where green meets blue

Getting out of the rain in a pastry shop in the Byward Market in Ottawa. This is where Canadians fell in love with President Barack Obama as he visited the shops, ate, and even bought a key chain for one of his girls!

Getting out of the rain in a pastry shop in the Byward Market in Ottawa. This is where Canadians fell in love with President Barack Obama as he visited the shops, ate, and even bought a key chain for one of his girls!

Jean, my long-suffering road trip partner tries to hide as Billy from Fuji Canada looks on! Classic!

Jean, my long-suffering road trip partner tries to hide as Billy from Fuji Canada looks on! Classic!

The Interprovincial Bridge, 1900, connects Quebec (left bank) with Ontario, over the Ottawa River in the pouring rain and wind. The GFX camera, again, had no issues with shooting in the rain.

The Interprovincial Bridge, 1900, connects Quebec (left bank) with Ontario, over the Ottawa River in the pouring rain and wind. The GFX camera, again, had no issues with shooting in the rain.

A Canadian flag rests on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa, Ontario.

A Canadian flag rests on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa, Ontario.

DAY 16: SHOOTING IN THE RAIN

Toronto. I live here. So what is so special about my city? To outsiders it is exciting, multicultural, clean and polite. But today it is just wet and cold! The other attributes are true, but today, it's miserable and wet! That makes today's Fuji photowalk even more interesting and Aling, our model who also works at Fuji Canada, more impressive! She had no issues with shedding layers for each shot and getting dressed again as we walked from City Hall to Graffiti Alley where we ended in the pouring rain!

This was a test of the new GHF with off camera flash in the rain. And yes, the camera was drenched! To my mind, the most susceptible entry point for moisture, the gasket on the barrel of the zoom lens, had no water issues at all. The seals were perfect and even though I had to wipe the water off the end of the lens to shoot, I never worried about the camera in the downpour.

Thanks for all who came out, and of course, for Aling for being patient and good-spirited!

Tomorrow, we are off again! Ottawa is our next spot on the way east to the Atlantic coast!

Yup! Pretty wet! Aling stands out in the open of Nathan Phillips square with the flash illuminating the rain.

Yup! Pretty wet! Aling stands out in the open of Nathan Phillips square with the flash illuminating the rain.

Shelter from the storm!

Shelter from the storm!

Someone left their Vespa for us to use as we walked along Queen Street West

Someone left their Vespa for us to use as we walked along Queen Street West

The beautiful Osgoode Hall

The beautiful Osgoode Hall

Coming out of the Osgoode subway stop

Coming out of the Osgoode subway stop

I asked Aling to show some attitude for this setup. She replied, "But I am mostly a very nice person"! 

I asked Aling to show some attitude for this setup. She replied, "But I am mostly a very nice person"! 

Tossing her long wet hair back

Tossing her long wet hair back

Not Aling, But Rhys from Fuji Canada as he jumps Marry-Poppins-style! Great umbrella, Rhys!

Not Aling, But Rhys from Fuji Canada as he jumps Marry-Poppins-style! Great umbrella, Rhys!

A bit of shelter while the rain pour down a few feet away

A bit of shelter while the rain pour down a few feet away

DAY 15: LOOKING BACK

Today is a day at home, and half-way through this month-long Pacific-to-Atlantic, cross-country road trip. This is a day of laundry computer work, repacking, and reflecting on the country west of home here in Toronto.

While there has been epic beauty in eye-watering landscapes and the people we met along the way, there is also another beauty. A beauty overlooked, simple and just as photographically alluring – more so in some cases. These are scenes with deep visual narratives that stay with you long after leaving them behind. Places with stories and personality. These are places I absolutely love to photograph.

These places are lost and forgotten and would never be the subject of a photo essay. So here are my choices for several such places. Feel the stories the conversations and the lives once lived.

DAY 14: NIAGARA

800 Kilometres. The distance from Sault Ste. Marie to Niagara Falls. And we got there by 3:30pm! A long day but one with a goal. Niagara Falls is a must on any Canadian cross-country trip – especially at night when the new high-power LED panels light the falls with a spectacular light show.

This morning was spent travelling through Canadian Shield landscapes dotted with small dark ponds, out of which  bright, lichen-covered rock burst into vibrant colours. South of that lay the country's biggest highways, not inspiring at all, but a means to an end – Niagara.

 

Very common sights in the Georgian Bay area on the way south from Sault Ste. Marie

Very common sights in the Georgian Bay area on the way south from Sault Ste. Marie

The ice is gone and life begins in the Georgian Bay district

The ice is gone and life begins in the Georgian Bay district

The old Empire Building On Queen Street in Niagara Falls. Life here is evolving slowly

The old Empire Building On Queen Street in Niagara Falls. Life here is evolving slowly

The roar of the Canadian, Horseshoe Falls in Niagara is mesmerizing! 

The roar of the Canadian, Horseshoe Falls in Niagara is mesmerizing! 

The American Falls seen from the Skylon Tower on the Canadian side of Niagara

The American Falls seen from the Skylon Tower on the Canadian side of Niagara

The Canadian, Horseshoe Falls seen from the Skyon Tower

The Canadian, Horseshoe Falls seen from the Skyon Tower

A very different perspective of the Horseshoe Falls as seen from the water's edge

A very different perspective of the Horseshoe Falls as seen from the water's edge

At the end of today's 800 Km drive, this is what it was all about! The powerful lights light up all the falls. Pictured here, the Horseshoe Falls.

At the end of today's 800 Km drive, this is what it was all about! The powerful lights light up all the falls. Pictured here, the Horseshoe Falls.

DAY 13: A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY

Feeling road-weary, spiritually lost, alone and need someone caring to speak with? If so, and you are motoring along the Trans Canada Highway, east of Thunder Bay, at Pass Lake, turn in at the Flying J gas bar and sit down with Sam McIntosh in the, Transport For Christ Mobile Chapel.

At 70, Sam is a tall man looking more like 60 with an affable smile and comforting handshake. Sitting in the elegant, wood-panelled chapel in the tractor trailer we speak of his background, his role as one who ministers and of his future.

“I was a truck driver out of Edmonton, hauling diesel and other tanker loads”, Sam describes, well before he felt the call and took the call to move east to the top of Lake Superior 3 years ago to become a pastor to truck drivers and other road-weary drivers who for the most part, just want to talk.

“They are a transient group, the truckers. Sometime I might see the same person three times a year”, he says, so discussions are not too in depth, but enough to let drivers know they have a friend, and a confidant on their side. If counselling is needed, he refers his parishioners to those who provide professional counselling services.

Run 100% from donations, this truly is a calling and not a get rich scam. Sam is gentle, caring and despite recent health issues, cannot see doing anything else. He is the real deal and welcomes in anyone for a comforting chat on the long haul over the top of Lake Superior. 

Close to the end of the day, the thundering Chippawa River rushes toward Superior. For those old enough to remember huddling around your bedside radio or sitting in front of the record player, this ear worm is for you:

“The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy…”

–Gordon Lightfoot, 
The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Closing the day in Sault Ste. Marie, the sun slips into a brilliant orange and gold sunset behind the International Bridge.

Sam McIntosh is pastor, friend and confidant to truckers on the road and looking for guidance 

Sam McIntosh is pastor, friend and confidant to truckers on the road and looking for guidance 

Morning in Thunder Bay where Central Canada's wheat comes by rail, to be shipped through the Great Lakes to eastern Canada and beyond

Morning in Thunder Bay where Central Canada's wheat comes by rail, to be shipped through the Great Lakes to eastern Canada and beyond

No image of Thunder Bay is complete without capturing the Sleeping Giant beyond the shore of the city

No image of Thunder Bay is complete without capturing the Sleeping Giant beyond the shore of the city

The Terry Fox memorial honours the courageous run that ended  here, just east of Thunder Bay

The Terry Fox memorial honours the courageous run that ended  here, just east of Thunder Bay

According to those in the know, this 28-foot tall goose in Wawa, Ontario is one of the most photographed attractions in Canada

According to those in the know, this 28-foot tall goose in Wawa, Ontario is one of the most photographed attractions in Canada

Laying under an ice shelf, Batchawana Bay spreads out to Lake Superior

Laying under an ice shelf, Batchawana Bay spreads out to Lake Superior

Lake Superior, Ontario is still in the grips of winter while southern Ontario, still a two day drive basks in warm temperatures

Lake Superior, Ontario is still in the grips of winter while southern Ontario, still a two day drive basks in warm temperatures

The mighty Chippawa River flows down toward Lake Superior

The mighty Chippawa River flows down toward Lake Superior

The bridge to the USA at sunset in Salt Ste. Marie

The bridge to the USA at sunset in Salt Ste. Marie

DAY 12: KAKABEKA FALLS

A familiar sight loomed ahead on the Trans Canada Highway a few hours east of Dryden. A large, top-heavy looking box on wheels. It reminded us of a vehicle we saw in the bison area of Grasslands National Park two provinces away. As we neared the vehicle, it was indeed the same! Stacey and Joe are world travellers and this vehicle is just the thing to take them wherever they want to go. Living off the grid at times on solar power, these two travellers are living their 10-year-plan dream! You can read all abut them and follow their adventures here: www.thewanderingheffalump.wordpress.com

From fibreglass super heros to an abandoned church to expansive vistas of Lake Superior, northern Ontario, though remote, has much to see. The day closed with a freezing session in the fading light by Kakabeka Falls, known locally as the Niagara of the North.

 

Stacey, leans out window of their globe-trotting home to give details of their adventures. If you have ever dreamed of getting away and really seeing the world, check them out!

Stacey, leans out window of their globe-trotting home to give details of their adventures. If you have ever dreamed of getting away and really seeing the world, check them out!

Spiderman stands ready to protect the Trading Post Motel along the Trans Canada Highway west of Thunder Bay

Spiderman stands ready to protect the Trading Post Motel along the Trans Canada Highway west of Thunder Bay

The interior of a random, abandoned church

The interior of a random, abandoned church

A steep 600-foot climb up a trail on Mink Mountain outside Thunder Bay offers a spectacular  view of the lake and several islands

A steep 600-foot climb up a trail on Mink Mountain outside Thunder Bay offers a spectacular  view of the lake and several islands

A shaft of light reaches the forest floor on the way down from the summit of Mink Mountain

A shaft of light reaches the forest floor on the way down from the summit of Mink Mountain

Kakabeka Falls, a short distance west of Thunder Bay, is the "Niagara of the North" and never disappoints. In this 60-second exposure, the thundering falls appear so serene – don't be fooled!

Kakabeka Falls, a short distance west of Thunder Bay, is the "Niagara of the North" and never disappoints. In this 60-second exposure, the thundering falls appear so serene – don't be fooled!

Kakabeka Falls, a tiny hamlet of a place on the Trans Canada Highway is just east of Thunder Bay

Kakabeka Falls, a tiny hamlet of a place on the Trans Canada Highway is just east of Thunder Bay

DAY 11: BIG & SMALL

Two provinces and two vastly different businesses. A micro business in Winnipeg, Manitoba featuring one craftsman, the other, the largest producer of sheet paper in North America, based in Dryden, Ontario.

Rick Cornelsen, 57, is sole proprietor and craftsman of beautiful hand built caskets, known as The Village Casket Maker. The warm and infectious smile of this Winnipeg craftsman is comforting to the families who come directly to him for a personal connection, not for an up-sell of a 12-coat lacquered model that a funeral home would offer. "If you have driven a Toyota all your life, why should you be pressured to buy a Bentley?", Rick observes when asked about the state of families pressured to make decisions at a time of weakness.

A FUNNY STORY: Rick loves to tell the story of a gentleman who's 93-year old mother wanted to pre-order a custom casket when the day of her passing comes. When the time came to view the finished casket, the elderly woman saw it and hesitated. Asked by her son, what was troubling her, she responded, that she would not know it was right for her until she has had a chance to lay inside it and make sure it fit! She did, and was very pleased! True story! The man called four years later and said they would need the casket, mom had died! She died prepared!

In Dryden, the town is dominated by the Domtar paper mill which has been a backbone industry for the town for 100 years. Everyone reading this in North America will have used paper coming off the rolls here in Dryden. Unlike the landscapes of the mountains and prairies, this is truly a fascinating urban setting.

Large scenes or small, the medium format Fuji GFX camera is a perfect tool for portraits, detailed images of industry and urban landscapes.

Rick Cornelsen crouches down to pencil markings for hinges on a current oak casket

Rick Cornelsen crouches down to pencil markings for hinges on a current oak casket

The Domtar paper mill in Dryden, Ontario in afternoon light, greatly underexposed to accentuate the contrasts of the smoke and sun. The dynamic range of this camera shows that even in the shadows there is still great recoverable detail.

The Domtar paper mill in Dryden, Ontario in afternoon light, greatly underexposed to accentuate the contrasts of the smoke and sun. The dynamic range of this camera shows that even in the shadows there is still great recoverable detail.

The Domtar mill after sunset. 

The Domtar mill after sunset. 

Dryden, Ontario, still two days of driving until Toronto where a boat load of laundry awaits!

Dryden, Ontario, still two days of driving until Toronto where a boat load of laundry awaits!

DAY TEN: ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS

Today was a 647 km day. In order to be in Toronto for a photo walk on the 15th, we had to push the peddle to the metal to put some miles behind us. However, there was still plenty to see and shoot. A typical scenario...

...Rocketing along at warp speed, see something of interest – take a parsec to come to a stop. The van is thrown in reverse, speed back to the inspiring scene! Then, after a walk across fields, sometimes barbed wire fences, mud and tripping in unseen gopher holes, we reach a magnificent scene. Then, it is off again!

Today was no exception. The light was indescribable. The prairie landscape is a to-the-horizon canvas onto which is painted the most incredible colours drawn by light leaking between black cloud with hints of blue above. The result is a mottled warm design that washes over the golden stubble left from the fall harvest.

A very typical prairie scene that we see almost all day, daily

A very typical prairie scene that we see almost all day, daily

Not the, Little Mosque on the Prairie!

Not the, Little Mosque on the Prairie!

Grain elevators and rail cars punctuate the land and can be seen miles ahead

Grain elevators and rail cars punctuate the land and can be seen miles ahead

Where the folks of Cadillac come to play

Where the folks of Cadillac come to play

Canada's bread bowl for cattle

Canada's bread bowl for cattle

No reason at all, unless your name is, Woodrow!

No reason at all, unless your name is, Woodrow!

DAY NINE: BOOKENDS

Today began with an early morning shoot in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan and ended with a twilight image of The Convent, in Val Marie, Saskatchewan, within who's storied walls I post today's images.

The Convent, a 1939 convent and school building, is now used to house guests visiting Grasslands National Park a few tracts away. The Convent is as it was – complete with creaking floors, small chambers, narrow beds in some rooms, a chapel (with confessional if needed) and a tiny telephone cubicle – the kind Clark Gable would use in a French Riviera hotel. If you come to Val Marie (and you must) to visit Grasslands, you really must stay here. It is a trip highlight!

Animals abound today. Prairie dogs chirping and bobbing like tops welcomed the only humans within miles. Buffalo are plentiful since being reintroduced and of course, are not at all modest, choosing to put on a show for any camera pointed in their direction! A swift fox weaved back and forth chasing down one of the cheeky prairie dogs, but was no match for the latter's agility. The drive through the self-driving Eco Tour in the Park's West Block was capped off with a group of lighting-fast prairie antelope zigzagging and darting across the road right in front of the car.

Tomorrow... somewhere east. That is the joy of an unscripted road trip, one never know what the day will bring or where the next bed will be.

Dawn in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan baths the town in a golden light

Dawn in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan baths the town in a golden light

For miles, we kept pace with this train that seemed to stretch on forever

For miles, we kept pace with this train that seemed to stretch on forever

Choosing to get off the Trans Canada Highway and take a southerly route east proved the right decision, I was trying to find some old grain elevators. There are plenty in the real rural Saskatchewan

Choosing to get off the Trans Canada Highway and take a southerly route east proved the right decision, I was trying to find some old grain elevators. There are plenty in the real rural Saskatchewan

Sun-baked, wind-blown and abandoned, hundreds of these Andrew Wyeth-like buildings dot the prairie landscape

Sun-baked, wind-blown and abandoned, hundreds of these Andrew Wyeth-like buildings dot the prairie landscape

Classic!

Classic!

The land may be parched and golden, but there is a lot of colour to be found

The land may be parched and golden, but there is a lot of colour to be found

TRANSLATION: "What? Is it something I said?"

TRANSLATION: "What? Is it something I said?"

Prelude to a kiss

Prelude to a kiss

Living on the edge

Living on the edge

And at the end of the day, The Convent is home. The moon through the trees spreads a soft light over the prairie 

And at the end of the day, The Convent is home. The moon through the trees spreads a soft light over the prairie 

End of a perfect day: Val Marie, Saskatchewan

End of a perfect day: Val Marie, Saskatchewan

DAY EIGHT: PRAIRIE WINDS

After leaving Canmore and the mountins, the landscape changed dramatically. Not long on the road, Saskatchewan roared in with a classic prairie storm. Black clouds contrast dramatically with areas of bright sky and golden stubble seen across the land.

The beauty of a prairie landscape is emotional and sometimes requires patience to appreciate it. Today, in advance of the storm, the winds blew dust devils and created reported funnel clouds. The intense, needle-sharp rain saturated the landscape, creating rich colours.

Tonight, Maple Creek, Saskatchewan

Tonight, Maple Creek, Saskatchewan

DAY SEVEN: FIRE & ICE

FIRE AND ICE
Some say the world will end in fire, 
Some say in ice. 
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire. 
But if it had to perish twice, 
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

– Robert Frost
(Harper's Magazine, 1920)

Today the two extremes of Robert Frost's poem were found minutes apart. Getting to both was a chore but worth the thigh-deep snow, a tumble down an embankment and soaked shoes filled with slush. But all worth it!

A broad slope, completely burned is left to fallow. This fire was contained quickly as it seems not to have jumped the road. Walking through this skeletal land is eerie as is the scent of burned wood.

The beauty of the snow and ice is deceiving – also deadly. A beauty that distracts can deceive.

Tomorrow the east calls and we leave the mountains behind.

Part of a vast burned forest. The scent of smoke still lingers.

Part of a vast burned forest. The scent of smoke still lingers.

A mesmerizing beauty draws one to the edge. Snow, ice and moving water are a deadly trifecta

A mesmerizing beauty draws one to the edge. Snow, ice and moving water are a deadly trifecta

...and the next day we turn around and drive back down to Canmore!

...and the next day we turn around and drive back down to Canmore!

DAY SIX: BIG & SMALL

The drive from Canmore to Jasper is only about 4 hours. But when you stop at the Columbia Icefield with 80 Km winds, a haze of snow blowing at the upper altitudes and clouds suggesting an armageddon, well, you just need to get out and stay a while!

The Icefield was deserted, so unlike warmer times of the year. This made it especially enjoyable to have it all to oneself! The scene is massive, the sky huge and the impression, long lasting.

Closer to Jasper, the broad valley with the meandering Athabaska River snakes north to the Arctic Ocean. The snow is receding along the fast flowing water, leaving small shelves of snow. Under one such shelf, a tiny icicle dripping water. In order to capture this tiny scene, a hole in the sand was dug to put the camera into. The tricky part was trying to time a shot just before a drop of water was about to fall! 

Tomorrow will be a day of exploring familiar sites and discovering new ones around this, the top end of the Icefield Parkway.

A view that will never be forgotten – At the Columbia Icefield

A view that will never be forgotten – At the Columbia Icefield

Equally as beautiful and the opposite in scale is this tiny icicle, about three inches in length, which has just shed a droplet of water.

Equally as beautiful and the opposite in scale is this tiny icicle, about three inches in length, which has just shed a droplet of water.

From Canmore at the bottom, we drive north to Jasper

From Canmore at the bottom, we drive north to Jasper

DAY FIVE: MORE COWBELL

When I think of winter Olympic events, I think of cross-country skiing and the ring of cowbells in the hills. I also think of our Canadian cross-country skiing champion, Beckie Scott. No trip to Canmore is complete without visiting Beckie – cowbells or not!

Today began in the cold, before sunrise with Ha Ling Peak catching the first warm rays of the sunrise high over the sleeping town.

After lunch with Beckie, we head north to Lake Louise where, at this time of year, one is able to walk over the frozen lake to the Victoria glacier in the distance. Always a perfect sight whatever weather.

Tomorrow, we head north to Jasper, stopping along the way for some exploring before reaching the quaint railway town at the other end of the parkway.

Today, Beckie Scott is Programme Director for Ski Fit North Alberta, the health and wellness outreach programme for indigenous children and youth. Beckie is also Chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency's Athlete Committee.

Today, Beckie Scott is Programme Director for Ski Fit North Alberta, the health and wellness outreach programme for indigenous children and youth. Beckie is also Chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency's Athlete Committee.

Ha Ling peak after sunrise

Ha Ling peak after sunrise

A panorama of Ha Ling peak with a glimpse of the Three Sisters in the distance. The full size panorama from the Fujifilm GFX weights in at an impressive, 980Mb!

A panorama of Ha Ling peak with a glimpse of the Three Sisters in the distance. The full size panorama from the Fujifilm GFX weights in at an impressive, 980Mb!

Walking over frozen Lake Louise to the Victoria Glacier in the distance

Walking over frozen Lake Louise to the Victoria Glacier in the distance

A classic log building on the shore of Lake Louise wearing a thick cover of snow

A classic log building on the shore of Lake Louise wearing a thick cover of snow