East. The direction of our travel. Wheat is in our rear-view, lakes and forests are our new driving companions. Leaving Winnipeg you are hit with a sudden change of scenery. As we drive the now winding Highway 1 we are excitedly fixated on our surroundings. On the lookout for moose and deer we sit as if waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve. Winding through the lake-scattered east coast of Ontario, Samara and I had some time to glance at a map. Having heard the drive to Kenora was breathtaking, that was our destination. But as we gained on the small town, we were faced with another decision: keep heading east, or head south towards the Canada US border. Having explored East to Toronto, our minds once again raced as we dreamed about exploring the unknown land mass to our south.
Our hearts won out and we decided to disregard our last experience in the States. Branching south on Highway 1 we were met with a series of small towns. Fort Frances is the small border town we would use to cross the border. Situated partly on a lake this small religious town will be our last stop for our dearly loved, famously branded cup of coffee. It’s security is surprising. Canada isn’t know for it’s army or police, but this town broke these assumptions. A large tower and ample security cameras dominate your view as you walk along the Canadian side of the lake.
Before we began our journey we were a little uneasy at the thought of crossing the border with three dogs. But after getting all of the paperwork and shots, every border crossing has been speedy. Crossing the border, we were literally greeted with cheap gas. Thankfully, the conversion between miles and kilometers was posted shortly after the border because Gurt’s instrument panel lacks this aspect.
Having done some research before crossing, we were armed with knowledge of an underground mine tour directly in our path. Post-border crossing rewarded us with much of the same beautiful scenery. Jumping from small town to small town we eventually arrived in Soudan. Not a large city by any means and only indicated by a small sign on the highway, we had reached our next activity. Only one problem: we arrived at 5pm. Even with our research we failed to look at when the tours ended. #vanlife.
Taking it in stride we decided to set up camp for the night. A decision Gurt was happy with. After driving around the small town, and it’s close neighbour, we decided to setup camp in a boat launch as the sun set. After touring for almost two months, the feeling of finding the perfect spot never gets old. As the sun set, our dogs running in the nearby field, we dreamed of our adventures of tomorrow.
Waking from dreams of claustrophobia we raced through our morning routine. After folding our curtains, feeding the dogs, brushing our teeth, and making coffee we were ready to descend into the lowest level of the mine. Arriving in the parking lot to more than a dozen cars, we we nervous we missed our chance at being the first group of the day. But being allowed to pay eased our mind. After a quick video on the history of the mind and putting our hard hat on we were lining up for the 2400 plus foot drop into nothingness. The 1920’s era cable car creaked loudly as she abruptly sped to her alarmingly fast 10 mph top speed on a 78 degree angle into the Earth.
Samara’s newly found claustrophobia found it’s way into her grip. As we bounced to a stop her grip loosened as she quickly jumped over the threshold. The unnerving ride was worth it. A surprisingly bright tunnel with an antique looking trolley awaited us. As our nerves eased we realized we were at a depth few in the world would experience. The short trolley ride, a distance which took over three years to blast and drill, led us to a spiral staircase. This led us into the part of the tunnel in which the mining was ceased. Mannequins depict how the miners extracted the oxygenated iron ore. Seeing how the miners used the minuscule lighting and outdated tools was exciting for the history buff in us.
After an easier ascent in the ancient elevator, we were back on the road towards the coast of Lake Superior. With nature all around us our family was in our element, excited for what awaits us.