Thursday, May 31, 2012

On to Ontario

The draw of going to Canada is the northern landscape and the wild land beyond the border. The landing point when you jump at the jumping off point is Ontario.

The provincial park across Thunder Bay from the city of the same name is Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. We took a drive to see what the giant was sleeping on. It turns out that the park is a large wilderness with some park land near the south end of the peninsula where there are hiking trails and camp sites, plus a remote village, Silver Islet, that exists without connection to the electric grid. There are also seems to be an overabundance of deer.

We drove to the end of the peninsula and took an hour or so hike to a feature on the big lake called the Sea Lion. It was a little harder to get to then we originally thought, but after a couple of up and down hills and a false start or two, we arrived at this overlook showing the feature that at one time looked much like a sea lion. I guess over the last 100 years or so some of the rocks have eroded and fell away leaving the view below.

The more scenic and also more dramatic of the two big parks near Thunder Bay is Kakabeka Falls, featuring another falls that falls farther than Minnehaha Falls, 130 feet. (Minnehaha Falls falls 53 feet.)  It's about a half hour west of Thunder Bay.

GFTNC in the country north of the north country holding a paper that announces the name of the falls, the name that I thought I would not be able to remember.

The first view of Kakabeka Falls.  The viewing area in the foreground was empty most of the time because it was a Wednesday.  There were only about six people at the park while we visited.

Kakabeka Falls from the west bank of the Kaministiquia River.

A natural choice for dinner on our last night in Canada, an eatery with with a catchy name - Kelsey's.

On our last day in Canada we stopped a bulk store to see what they were selling. They were selling spices and nuts and candy, all in bulk. We got to choose our own amount and bought it in a plastic bag. The GFTNC found sea salt that she had been unable to find in northern Minnesota. So we bought 83 cents (Canadian) worth of white crystals in a baggy to take across the border to the USA. We didn't realize the hazard of trying to carry such cargo through customs until nearly at the border, but decided that we didn't look like drug smugglers and decided to go for it. There were a couple of tense seconds at the border, but the guy in the booth waved us through. It's a small victory for the older adventurers.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Oh Canada

I guess it's time to blog again. I took a little time off from the blog and did a bit of traveling. I hadn't been to Canada in many years and the last time was probably canoeing in the boundary waters near Crane Lake in the 70's. Unless you count a trip to Montreal for a Cray User Group meeting back in the nineties. Anyway, since it's spring here, I expected the weather to be similar in the land north of Grand Marais. The Girl From the North Country (GFTNC) and I decided on a road trip to Thunder Bay and side trip to some Provincial Parks in Ontario near the north end of Lake Superior. I had never crossed the border at Grand Portage before. There is a National Monument there and a Native American casino. We visited both before crossing into the great country of Canada.  The casino was busy, lots of people sullenly watching their nest eggs disappear in a smoky room full of video machines.  The National Monument was less busy, but quite a bit more picturesque. They've rebuilt some of the structures and the fence for the benefit of tourists and it was interesting to view.

Here is a view in the reconstructed fort at Grand Portage National Monument.

Just before crossing into Canada there is a Minnesota state park - Grand Portage State Park with the highest waterfall in Minnesota, High Falls at 120 feet. It's quite a bit higher than Minnehaha Falls and with a lot of water falling over the edge it makes a dramatic sight. There is about a quarter mile hike to the falls, but there were a few other folks who were there that sunny day.  It's worth the hike.

A shot from the viewing area of High Falls in the Pigeon River on US-Canada border.  That's Canada on the far side.

Then it was off across the international border to Canada and the half hour drive to Thunder Bay.   It's surprising to me that there are actually productive farms and fertile farm land north of the boundary waters canoe area of northern Minnesota.  I thought that Crane Lake was a jumping off point where the world dissolves into wilderness.  But it's not true.  There are farms and large communities in Canada including Thunder Bay, which has 110,000 people living there.

There is a water front park along Lake Superior in Thunder Bay, filled with sculptures, park benches and a nice marina.  There were teenagers working on their skateboarding skills in the park.  I took a photo of an interesting Thunder Bay water front sculpture called Traveller's Return.  It looks a little like silvered water droplets.

The signature feature across the bay from Thunder Bay is the set of high hills that are part of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.  The shape of the hills is said to resemble a giant lying on his back sleeping.  I took this photo from the water front park towards the east.

This was the start of the mini-vacation to Thunder Bay. I'll finish up the account of the trip in the next couple of days when I have a little more time.

In the meantime, I'm back at home and back playing tennis again after a ten day rest from the wars.  We (the cadre of codgers) had a couple of sets of tennis again today at Marie Park.  It was nice to be back on the courts with competition in the air.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The day you dreamed about in February

It was a beautiful day in the Saintly City, a day that gets dreamed about on those frigid, dark February days when cold and gloom rule. I was scheduled for some afternoon tennis, but the beauty of the morning invited me to take a walk up to Summit and see how green and healthy the new vegetation was. Plus I had to mail off some checks for corporations to which I owed some money. Near the law school on Summit, I came upon another one of the stations for shared bikes - Nice Bikes they're called in the Twin Cities. They're pretty distinctive looking and not overly cool, so they don't appear to be in danger of being stolen. The sharing is controlled with the judicious use of credit cards to free them from their restraints.

Some information about how to use the Nice Bikes. They seem to be getting people to participate in the program, so it must be fairly well designed.

The same gaggle of bikes from the north end of the station.  That's Summit Avenue traffic in the background.

After lunching on some freshly brewed home made soup, I was off to tennis with the cadre of codgers at Marie Park. It was an almost windless day of about 72 degrees. Tennis was pleasant, and we had a chance to carp about the state of the Twins and also to appreciate the really nice baseball stadium that the city and the state helped them build.

I guess that Unky Herb decided against the house in Bloomington after the inspection. It was a combination of factors including the size of the lawn and its almost complete lack of dandelions or any other weeds(?). (One man's weeds can be another man's salad.) And the byzantine sewer connections. The search will continue in a day or so, after some quiet time.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Some baseball

Serendipity struck this morning. One of my tennis friends called with the news that he had just been gifted with four tickets to the Twins game today. And could I adjust my schedule for a major league baseball game. Of course I could, although there is some doubt about whether the Twins are playing major league baseball this year. I had been to a spring training game this spring in Fort Myers and the Twins had managed to win the game, but I had never been to the new Twins stadium in downtown Minneapolis. The four retired tennis players met at Fort Snelling at 11:30 to take the light rail for the 12:15 game. It was slick. We arrived in time for the first inning. The home team played their usual lackluster game and was shut out They lost 5-0 to the Indians of Cleveland. I think the Twins must have hit into about ten double plays. Maybe not quite ten, but every time they had a threat in the offing. (The beer is $7.25 a piece.)
The off breed lilac bush in the backyard is showing its plumage. It was here waiting for me after the game. It's been blooming a few days now and is almost always about ten days behind the vanilla variety.
I'm including this photo for the Princess of Norway who hasn't seen this structure. It's the house that Unky Herb is thinking about buying. I think he's still mulling it over, but it's a pretty nice place in Bloomington. It's about five minutes from his job and in a quiet neighborhood. I think that if he buys it he'll have to buy a lawn mower.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

One of the nicest days in the history of May

It was a beautiful day in May and a day that should have been, and was, spent outside. Before I mowed my grass I took a walk down to the big river across the stream from Fort Snelling in Crosby Farm Park. I walked north along the river and took a picture of the historic fort across the river and on top of the bluff. The trees were green and the sky the color of blue that it's supposed to be in May.

A tree, long ago killed by a beaver, stands alone by Upper Lake.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Not much can beat a fine day in May. And indeed it was a fine day. As I was dawdling around outside inspecting the grass and the growing foliage, a cardinal flew into my yard. I take that as good karma. It's the second day that I've seen what I assume to be the same cardinal. He landed on the garage and drank water from the gutters along the roof and engaged in some bathing activity. I was able to fetch my camera and take a photo from quite a distance with my telephoto lens, but when I tried to get closer he flew away to the east. I hope he comes back tomorrow.

We, meaning the cadre of codgers, or maybe the gang of geezers, who play tennis together in the summer, got together to hit some tennis balls and to play a bit of tennis at Marie Park this afternoon. As it turns out, one of the cadre was unable to make it to the courts, so we played with five guys. That takes some creativity to get everyone into the game and to keep everyone focused and entertained. What we did today was to play doubles with four guys, and to rotate in the fifth guy after every game. We decided that whoever's turn it was to rotate in would serve. That meant that no one had to serve into the sun and everyone had a break every fifth game. Keeping score in a scheme like this is pretty much irrelevant, but it was a nice day, everyone is retired, so we played for about ninety minutes and went home satisfied with the day.

A software engineer joke: There are 10 kinds of people in this world, those who understand binary arithmetic and those who don't.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cloudy Como

It was not a perfect Sunday, but pretty nice. Nice enough for a walk in the park. The winds were very calm and the lake water was almost like a mirror. I guess it was about 58 degrees when PW and I circled the lake. There were a lot of people doing the same thing on a spring day that wasn't the kind of rainy day that some of the weather monkeys had predicted. I had my camera along and caught some nice images.

One of the former trees adorning the shore of Lake Como.  The park staff tends to leave the dead trees in place as shelter for some of the birds and animals that have come to regard the lake as their home.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Red Admirals

It was a near perfect day in the Saintly City. It was so nice that I needed to spend as much as possible of it in the outdoors. I went to Crosby Farm Park, down by the big river, just to walk around. There were a few million black and orange butterflies fluttering around in the park. They must have all emerged from their cocoons in the very recent past and they were everywhere. Not quite a plague of butterflies, but more than I've seen in one place of this variety. I think that they are called Red Admirals.

I walked around Upper Lake and along the Mississippi.   There were a lot of blue wild flowers blooming in the shadows in the forested areas.  As I approached the end of the route around Upper Lake, I heard the loud chirp of at least a hundred thousand frogs in the swampy areas near the lake.  I think that they were perhaps feeding on the Red Admirals.  I think frogs eat butterflies.  Here's a look at Upper Lake at Crosby Farm Park.  It seems early for so much algae in the lake, but there it is, perhaps the result of our early spring, or perhaps the lake's location down the cliffs from St Paul neighborhoods and their lawn fertilizer.  Usually the lake is much clearer than this.

The group of geezers (sometimes known as the cadre of codgers), me included, played an hour and a half of tennis this afternoon, again at Marie Park tennis courts. It was eighty-ish, nearly windless and very pleasant to be outside.

I found out today that my old Hamline tennis coach, Ben Lewis, who served from 1958 to 1964 was selected to enter Hamline's athletic Hall of Fame for having coached three teams to the MIAC conference team championships. I was lucky enough to be on all three of those teams, so I'll be attending the induction banquet at Hamline in October. Unfortunately Doc Lewis died last spring, but he has two sons who will be happy to represent him at the banquet.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bakery goods here and there

Theme days get me scurrying off to find a relevant photo. The theme today, "bakeries," sent me to the Great Harvest bread shop on Selby where I've purchase many the loaf of bread over the years. I also decided to buy some of their product and came away with a loaf of bread and some whole wheat rolls. I'm not sure these items will fit into my current idea of a diet, but they are tasty and I'm sure that Unky Herb will help me finish them off.

Of course my favorite bakery is the one in the Paris neighborhood that I inhabited with Gino last summer while we visited the City of Lights for the last weekend of the Tour de France. Unfortunately I don't have a picture of the place, but it's about a half a block from Notre Dame Cathedral. We stopped there nearly every morning we were in the city to sample their pastries and sometimes at noon for some of their tasty French bread sandwiches and pizza for lunch.

The photo below shows probably my favorite pastry at the neighborhood boulangerie. I currently can't remember what it's called, "pain Swiss" or something else Swiss, (maybe patisserie suisse) but it's very good and very rich, and it has chocolate in it. They also had "eclair chocolate" which pretty much says Paris like nothing else does. And croissant aux amondes.

In Paris, you can get more than just pastry in the boulangeries. One may purchase tasty, cheesy pizza.  Pastry for scale.

I'm not sure of the difference between boulangeries and patisseries, but my take is that the first is a bakery and the patisserie is a pastry shop - pretty much the same thing in my book.

And on the local scene.   A sure sign of spring, the return of youth baseball at Linwood Park. Interestingly, both teams were wearing blue uniforms and neither saw fit to change. I guess the blues are the only unnies they have.  They seem to be using metal bats, the same kind, I think, that have been banned in college and high school baseball because they are dangerous.   The ball comes off them much faster than off wood (ash or maple) and has caused injuries and a lot of home runs.