"Not many people get to see this"

Week Three: Grand Marais, MN to Thunder Bay, ON

These are the facts: We ran from Grand Marais, Minnesota to Thunder Bay, Ontario. Our legs still hurt but we’re getting stronger.

We were sent off from our rest day in Grand Marais with donuts. Yay! We were also sent off with rolling booms of thunder and pecking rain. Boo! Though the day was cold and wet, the road was gentle and flat on our way to Judge Magney State Park. What we could see over the lake was a play of light and dark, of storm fronts and blue skies peppered with clouds. Underneath that lay Grand Marais, now far in the distance, nestled at the foot of the receding saw-toothed hills of the north shore.

Here is another fact: Rig has had two flats. Both when it is raining. We now believe it to be a Foundational Law of the Universe that Rig will only get a flat when it is raining. Thanks, Rig. We still love you. On the note of anthropomorphizing inanimate objects, we believe our GPS running watch has a personality. We are looking to name it soon. If you have any ideas, drop them in the comments section below. 

From Judge Magney we headed to the Grand Portage Marina and RV Park for what would be our last night in the United States until our entrance into Michigan. We fixated on the idea of swimming in the Grand Portage Lodge and Casino’s pool that the website said campground guests could use for free. We’ve found that to get through a long running day our minds tend to fixate something that will motivate us. Sometimes it’s mac and cheese. Sometimes it’s chocolate. Sometimes it’s a pool.

Here is a sad fact: the pool is still under construction! To console our broken hearts we ate french fries and drank free soda while we watched folks drop coins into boisterous slot machines. After that we walked down to the campground office to ask the campground manager, Tommy, if we could have a conversation and get his story. On a side note we believe it to be a sign of good character if someone is known mostly by their nickname. Tommy, aka Tomcat, is one such person. He told us that we could catch him the next day for a chat.

We woke up in Grand Portage and took the morning to do a handful of errands. We mailed off our first two water samples to Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation. We also shipped off some postcards to our loving supporters. In between tasks we would pop into the campground and try to catch Tommy but he was always understandably busy. Eventually we decided we had to pack up and head out for the day. Just about when were ready to leave Tommy pulled up and instead of recording an interview, offered to take us to the Little Spirit Cedar Tree (also commonly known as the Witch Tree). He mentioned that to visit the ancient tree you have to be accompanied by a member of the Grand Portage band of Lake Superior Chippewa. He remarked that it was a sight not many people get to see. After a short drive then a short walk we came to the shore where we could see a gnarled and small tree growing from the rock. Of course, seeing the sacred tree was a somber and powerful moment.

Being bolstered by that experience, and after thanking Tommy, we went back to the campsite to start running.

The first half of our run for the day was in the United States, but at some point we would have to cross the border into Canada. We wondered how we would look running up to the border station with dozens of cameras pointed at us. It’s funny, international borders are so arbitrary; they feel so obviously made up. They do, however, have very real effects on people’s lives and wellbeing. We crossed the border on foot with no problems. Like none. They didn’t even ask us what was in the stroller. Ok. Cool with us. International borders seem to hold some sway over the geography of the land as well; as soon as we crossed into Canada the landscape became full of long and flat-topped bluffs.

After crossing the border we started to run to our campsite for the night. We’re discovering that part of this trip is dealing with the notes that our past selves left us. Before we started running we drove around the lake to scope out the route and drop off food resupply boxes. We took notes that at the time we believed would help. But now, when looking for a place to camp or a good spot to get water, we’re stuck deciphering such cryptic messages as “Shack. Left side of road.” Or “Mile marker 139. 18 miles.” This is to say we couldn’t find where we were originally intending to camp for our first night in Canada. As the sun started to fade we were lucky enough to find both water to filter and an improvised campsite at the last minute. Though it was completely accidental we were pleased to find our spot for the night was on the edge of a wide field that was crowned by a row of mountains. Above them hung the thin rib of a new crescent moon.  

We started the next day with our earliest start time yet, which isn’t saying much because we are horrendously bad at getting out of camp at a reasonable time. After around 16 miles of running we finally reached the edge of Thunder Bay and started to walk through the city to get to our friend’s house for the night. Thunder Bay is a very long city. It is also intensely industrial and not very pedestrian friendly. We have discovered that there are different kinds of walking. There is walking one does to get from Point A to Point B. Then there is the walking one does so they don’t sit down and devolve into a puddle of tired and hungry tears. We were doing the former. And the latter. Eventually we were warmly welcomed into our friend, Caroline’s, apartment. There we spent a rest day, took another water sample, ate some Finnish pancakes, and geared up to once again turn our eyes north and east along the shore.

Here is one last fact: Thunder Bay used to be two separate cities, Port Arthur and Fort William. They amalgamated into one larger city more than 40 years ago. Neat-o!