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!

Further north,  between New Liskeard and Kirkland Lake,  the Bear and I found a giant critter by the road.  (Can you spot the him? …the Bear, I mean.)

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.

aaaa

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.

a

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.

Wonder what I’ll do NEXT weekend?

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25 Comments on “A Quick Weekend Road Trip with the Bear”

  1. Amy Says:

    The polar bear’s teeth. Best part.

  2. Friar Says:

    @Amy

    You can never go wrong with giant critters. Especially ferocious-looking ones.

  3. Friar's Mom Says:

    @Wee Friar,

    Did you know you can swim with polar bears in Cochrane?
    http://www.canadacool.com/COOLFACTS/ONTARIO/Cochrane.html

    Did you stop at a Tim Horton’s in Cochrane. It’s the birthplace of Tim Horton, the hockey player who launched Canada’s popular Tim Horton’s chain.

  4. Friar Says:

    @Friar’s Mom

    I checked out the link…awww…look how cute the big polar bear is…touching his nose to the glass, to see the little girl.

    She probably thinks he wants to be her friend.

    He’s probalby thinking “Lunch!”

  5. XUP Says:

    Where did you overnight? Were you camping or did you find a Cochrane Hilton up there? You’re leaving all the important details about accommodtions and food out of your travelogue!!

  6. Friar Says:

    @XUP

    I stayed at the Chimo Motel. And I was lucky to get a room…apparently there was some kind of event/gathering in the area, and the motels were almost completely booked. Go figure.

    Now that I earn a reasonably good salary, I’m past the days of car-camping to save money, anyway.

    Car camping has all the inconvenience of wilderness camping, but with none of the privacy and quiet solitutde.

    26 bucks for a tent site, with shared toilets and no runnign water or electricity. That’s a bit steep, considering you can get a cheapo motel with showers and cable TV for $50.

  7. Amy Says:

    I just realized why that second to last photo — of the barn — looks so familiar. It’s almost identical to one of the barn photos I took on a road trip through Iowa. Your clouds are better though.

  8. alison Says:

    That’s a very cool trip. The photos are great, especially the last one of the trees and the lake. As for giant critters, I remember the original Wawa goose they had out on the highway from back when I was a kid.

    Those flat farmlands up there that look so out of place are in the Great Clay Belt between the Cochrane District and the Abitibi district in Quebec. The belt is the result of the draining of the Glacial Lake Ojibway around 8,000 B.C. The thick lakebed sediments (clay, mostly, but sand too) forms the flatlands that are so different from the Shield topography of Sudbury and the Soo to the south and southwest.

    (Sorry, geology geek.) But I know what you mean. You’re expecting all rock cuts and twisted pine trees, and what you see looks just like Kitchener-Waterloo.

  9. Friar Says:

    @Amy
    I know…the barn photos could be anywhere. I have similar photos taken just outside Ottawa and Montreal.

    @Alison
    This is why I love the Canadian Shield…the granite bedrock right at the surface discourages farms and settlement, which helps keep the land relatively wild.

    By the way, the giant Goose is still there, last time I checked, a year ago. Plus there are several “lesser” geese around Wawa, somewhat smaller, in different stores.

    Don’t forget the “Big Nickel” in Sudbury. It’s not a critter, but it’s another giant “something”.

  10. alison Says:

    I remember the Big Nickel. Isn’t there a Big Loonie someplace too? Around Blind River someplace?

  11. Eyeteaguy Says:

    You make me jealous. I used to do weekend trips but on the bike.

    Ended up in some very odd places. Never took any pictures though, good on you for keeping a record.

    Eyeteaguy

  12. Friar's Mom Says:

    Speaking of world’s largest what about the scrawny moose in Moose Jaw, Alberta.

    I stood beside the world’s largest truck in Sparwood, B.C. http://www.sparwood.bc.ca/About%20Sparwood/Visitor%20Info/The%20Truck/index.html

    Titan was built to haul 350 tons of earth in mining operations. It stands 39 feet high.

  13. Friar Says:

    @alison

    First time I heard of the big Loonie. I will be in Blind River in a few weeks, I’ll have to check it out.

    @Eyeteaguy
    Well, if it’s any consolation, your fellow bikers were out on the road this weekend.

    The older yuppie crowd…Hells Angels wannabees. Driving in packs so nobody can pass, holding up traffic.

    I don’t undertand. How come they’re allowed to drive within 10-20 feet of each other at highway speeds?

    If I did that to another vehicle and got caught, I’d get a ticket for following two close, and I’d lose 4 points.

    @Friar’s Mom
    Yeah..but that vehicle is a functionning machine, and has a practical use.

    Unlike giant critters, or giant coins.

  14. Eyeteaguy Says:

    I frakking hate those bikers. I am a safety nut. Leave as much space as a car would take up.
    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen 2 guys riding side by side like Easy Rider and something pops up in the road. Buddy 1 swerves into Buddy 2 to avoid it and they both go down.

    I am Lupus Solitarium. I ride alone.

    Eyeteaguy

  15. Karen Swim Says:

    Friar, I am guessing there are no single women with all of their teeth in these far off travels. 🙂 If we’re gonna get you hitched you have to hang out in more populated places. 🙂

  16. Friar Says:

    @Eyeteaguy

    I’m glad I asked a real biker. Because I never understood the logic behind that.

    All it takes is a varmint squirrel or something to make one of the riders jump,and WHAM! He takes out the entire group.

    And of course, they will drive slow…and have a string of cars stuck behind them.

    But they’ll insist on “staying together” in a pack…and don’t space themselves out enough…making it difficult to pass the herd.

    As a result…other drivers start getting impatient and pull stupid moves to try to get around them.

    Accident waiting to happen.

    I don’t consider them “Real” bikers. They’re yuppie wannabees…who go out in groups on weekends, to pretend that they’re cool.

  17. Friar Says:

    @Karen
    And I found the further north you go…the rounder the women get.

    Simple physics, I think. Because a sphere is the most efficient shape in minimizing the surface area to mass ratio.

    (To help keep warm in the winter, I suppose). 😉


  18. Hi Friar,

    This looked like a fun road trip. I always enjoy getting off the freeway and seeing how people REALLY live.

    The barn photo. Reminds me of the barn on my grandparents farm in the U.P. Yup, they all start looking alike.


  19. Hey! What about Sudbury and the Giant Nickel? Have you been there? 🙂

    And you simply must make a trip to Boisetown, NB to see the big Paul Bunyon!!

    🙂

    I came here from Barbara Swafford’s where I read in your comment you write for entertainment — and I see you do. I was not disappointed by this post!

  20. Friar Says:

    @Barbara
    You especially get the local flavor in the coffee shops, where you can eavesdrop on the customers talking about the mine opening up again, how well their truck runs, or the moose that got smacked on the highway in the neighboring town.

    By Geez.

    As for barns. Yup..ones like this are a dime-a-dozen.

    @Jannie
    Yup…I even have a photo fo the Bear with the Giant Nickel, somewhere in my archives. 🙂

    Glad I lived up to my “entertaining” reputation. Come back any time.

  21. alison Says:

    Oops. Was corrected by a fellow former-northern-Ontarian. The Big Loonie is in Echo Bay, not Blind River.

  22. Friar Says:

    @alison I’m actually driving by Echo Bay in a few weeks. I’ll have to check it out! 🙂

  23. Eyeteaguy Says:

    I’ll be driving by Echo Bay as well in a few weeks, my father in law lives there. What weekend? Maybe we could hook up so I can insult you in person?

    Eyeteaguy

  24. Friar Says:

    Maybe we can meet at the big Loonie. I’ll let you pose with The Bear.

  25. Gwen Styles Says:

    I really enjoyed reading your post! You drove right past the village I grew up in (Ramore) on the way up to Cochrane, but missed it when you veered off Hwy 11 into Matheson and beyond on the way back. This Toronto gal DOES miss the north sometimes – thanks for the photo blog!


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