A Quick Weekend Road Trip with the Bear
This weekend, the Bear and I decided to do a overnight road trip. Our destination was as far North as far as I could reasonably get, leaving Saturday and coming back at a decent time Sunday evening.
One of the first stops I took photos was Cobalt.
The town peaked about 100 years ago, when there was a big silver boom.
I think it’s always great when a town is named after a metal.
That’s a sure sign that it’s a happenin’ place. Woo hoo!
Seems it’s a mandatory by-law in Northern Ontario to have a giant critter every X-number of kilometers.
Though I question the relevance of the bison. As far as I know, these animals had nothing to do with the development and settlement of Ontario. The nearest wild bison is about 1500 km away.
But at least its legs were wrapped up in Christmas lights, which I found to be a nice touch.
Next, was one of my favorite stops…the Arctic Watershed
This is the dividing line, north of which all water flows into Hudson’s Bay.
I love crossing the watershed. It makes me feel I’m getting way up North (even though we’re still not even at 49 degrees latitude). But there aren’t many places in the lower 48 States like this, except parts of Minnesota, the Dakotas and a tip of Montana.
What’s somewhat surprising, is that the further north I went, the busier and more populated it become.
Parts further Southwest like the Sudbury or the Soo are all rock and lakes. But this stretch of Highway 11 is well-farmed with fairly large towns peppered along the way. In some places, it hardly feels north at all.
We finally reached our destination target, which was Cochrane.
As you can see, it’s VASTLY different from downtown Cobalt.
Cochrane is close to the furthest North Highway 11 gets, before it veers west towards Kapuskasing, Hearst and eventually dips back down towards Thunder Bay.
Cochrane is only 49 degrees latitude, hardly what you’d call the sub-Arctic. It’s no worse than North Dakota, Idaho or Minnesota.
Hell, even Calgary is further north.
But the difference here, is that in this part of Ontario, Cochrane is the last town.
There’s nothing above Cochrane except some access roads to hydro dams, logging roads, and the occasional mining camp.
Even those rustic roads eventually end…and then you’re as north you can get by car (in this part of the continent, at least).
I’ve been there. It’s a pretty awesome feeling, to be at what I call the End of the World.
(But that was on another trip, and that’s for another story).
Anyway, these is one way you can get further North. Cochrane is the Southern Terminus of the Polar Bear Express. It’s a train that will take you across hundreds of miles of muskeg/swamp, until you get to Moosonee on James Bay.
(I didnt’ have time this weekend to do that…that will be on my to-do list…for another trip.)
But I did get a picture of the Bear with another giant Critter.
Cochrane really enjoys milking it’s “Polar Bear” status. Though I suspect the nearest wild polar bear isn’t found within 500 miles of this place.
On the way home, I decided to take 60-mile detour at Matheson and take Highway 101 east toward the Quebec side.
One thing you’ll find on Northern Ontario back is lots of evidence of logging. They manage to hide it quite well on the major routes where all the tourists drive, but on the back-roads, sometimes they dont’ bother to try.
Next, was Rouyn-Noranda, a town 500 km Northeast of Montreal. It’s claim to fame is its big copper smelter.
It was kind of a shock, to drive through 100 km of forest and lakes, to suddenly come across this dirty mill town that looks like it would better belong in the Rust-Belt down south.
I mean, how’d you like to have THIS in your back yard?
And judging from the Quebec flags flying around, I suspected this wasn’t exactly the type of town you’d want to go waving a Canadian flag around on July 1st.
In this case, I decided it would be best to NOT put the Bear in the middle of the street, and NOT to take a photo.
The drive home after that was rather uneventful, driving through several hours of boring farmland. This part of Northwestern Quebec was just as boring as the Ontario side. I felt I this could have been anywhere.
Ironically, it was within the last 90 minutes of my drive, that the forests and scenery began to look nice again, like the Canadian-Shield wilderness that I’m used to.
1300 km in two days. Not bad.
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