Adventures

Adventure Time: Grand Marais, MN

Date: July 6, 2017

Adventure: Grand Marais, MN

Welcome to America’s Greatest Small Town! Located just 128 km from Thunder Bay, ON, this 93 minute drive takes you into a place of wonder. I want you to imagine any movie you’ve ever watched and any book you’ve ever read that featured a small town. Use that description from those references and now you know what Grand Marais, MN looks and feels like. It’s a world wide gem but it never had any intention on being so popular.

Grand Marais has the northern charm you expect a town so close to the Canadian border to have. The cold winters, warm summers, hiking, skiing, swimming, tobogganing, fishing (both ice and boat) and so many more activities! Along with all the activities there’s just as many dinning options (my personal favourite is the Angry Trout). A person could spend two weeks in this small town and still wouldn’t be able to experience it all.

That’s why the one day I spend there wasn’t enough!

The trip is an easy one when you’re making your way from Thunder Bay. You take hwy 61, get to the border, drive for a bit and then BAM you’re reaching the small town. It’s super easy and if you grew up near hwy 11/17 or hwy 61 in Northwestern Ontario then there’s an 80% chance you’ve been to Grand Marais or you’ve at least driven through it.

I go to Grand Marais at least once a year, usually more often. Since I hadn’t been yet in my 2 months of being back in home, I thought what’s a better time than going for my birthday! I sent a quick text to some friends and they were all working except one, Catherine. So her and I embarked on a fun and chill day in Grand Marais.

We packed our bags and were ready to go on our day trip. We had no solid plans but we knew we were going to get lunch. We crossed the border no problem, we got there at a good time, and the weather was nice. We decided to go on a little walk along the rocks that create a little bay around the town. Then a wave wall was added to protect the bay and the light house that stands near at the edge of the bay.

Me attempting to do a pull up
High tides
I spy a wild Catherine
They were waving a Canadian Flag!

After our little adventure on the rocks we decided that we needed food and for some reason we were both craving fish and chips. We made our way over to The Angry Trout (Like I said, it’s one of my favourites!) We had Herring and Whitefish, waffle fries, coleslaw and homemade tarter sauce. It was all so delicious!

After our filling lunch we decided to shop around a bit. We went into Lake Superior Trading Post. This store is a mix match of different camping and household items that have a cabin feel to them. We just looked around, made fun of a few things and fell in love with other things. We then made our way over to a store that I can’t remember the name of but it reminds me of the Shore Store from The Jersey Shore. I bought the best blue tie-dye hoodie from there. We then walked around a little bit and decided it was time to treat ourselves to the thing that put Grand Marais on the map.

It’s a little red shack with a big name, World’s Best Donuts. I think the name isn’t so much of a statement I think it’s more of a novelty. The logo and brand has been taken all over the world but there’s only one shop in the entire world and I think that’s what makes the donuts world best! Don’t get me wrong those donuts are worth the wait if there’s a lineup around the block!

Inside of World’s Best Donuts

After our donuts we decided it was time to head out. All in all Grand Marais is probably one of my adventures to do. It is a timeless classic and I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my birthday with anyone else!

Happy adventuring!

-Vince

(My next few blog posts won’t be about travel in Northwestern Ontario but stay tuned to see!)

Adventures

Adventure Time: Boulevard Lake

If you grew up in Thunder Bay there’s a 90% chance that you’ve been to Boulevard Lake at least once. It’s a man made lake where the Current River runs into it and a dam is used to contain the water to essentially create a lake. Boulevard Lake is a Thunder Bay classic because of the trail that surrounds it.

The trail caters to many, whether it might be walking your dog, taking a bike ride or just taking a stroll with your friend, it’s a place enjoyed by most (if not all) of Thunder Bay.

Boulevard gets a bad rep because of it’s continuing history with e coli. There are many swimming spots around the trail but because of how dirty the water is the lake get chirped. However, there’s so much to do there besides swimming!

The walk is probably my number one thing. One summer my friends and I probably walked around it once a week. The walk hosts many art pieces, picnic benches, and other places you can stop and enjoy yourself. There is also a disc golf course. Although, one of my favourite things to do is mini putt… mostly because I’m great and always win! If I can’t mini putt I usually walk around the area lower to the dam

Walking through the dam area and under the bridge was what my friend Crystal and I did. We first went there to play mini putt but it was closed so we did the next best thing and decided to walk around a bit. We walked through the rocky river like area where the rocks look like the fake rocks that amusement parks use for water rides. Then we walked closer to the river and then basically started hopping on rocks like a frog on lily pads. This part wasn’t fair because Crystal has long legs and had good shoes on. I have average legs and was wearing Toms! I almost fell into the water because of her! Thats okay though because I made it to the road in one piece.

Once we got to the road, we discovered this electric car race track near Cumberland street. I died of laughter because why should that exist!? Anyways, like anyone in their right mind would do, we decided to race. We started and I was in the lead but there was one turn that got to me and Crystal took the race (but it also could have been because of her long arms reaching for what decided who wins).

I think the lesson learn from this classic Thunder Bay adventure is that even if you do something a million times there’s always something new to discover!

Happy adventuring!

-Vince

Adventures

Adventure Time: Ouimet Canyon/Eagle Canyon Adventures

Date: June 6, 2017

Adventure: Ouimet Canyon/Eagle Canyon Adventures

Ouimet Canyon is probably the most unexpected thing Northern Ontario has but also makes so much sense at the same time…

Wikipedia tells me that Ouimet Canyon was most likely formed when a “diabase sill” (I kept that linked because I have no idea what it means) dating from a billion years earlier was split open, either by the weight of advancing glaciers or the large volumes of water released during their retreat. Erosion by wind and rain continued the formation of the canyon. Thus the canyon was born!

Aerial View of the canyon

The canyon features the privately owned and operated Eagle Canyon Adventures (website linked here). The park features two suspension bridges – one of which is Canada’s longest bridge, measuring at 600 feet (~183 m) – and a zip line, about 0.5 mile long and moves up to 45 mph (~72 km/h). There is an entrance fee of $20per adult and $10 per child (children under 4 are free!) A separate fee of $50 must be paid to zip line.

Directions:

  • Travel northeast from The City of Thunder Bay on the Trans Canada Highway/Thunder Bay Expressway
  • You will reach Dorian, Ontario
  • Turn left onto Ouimet Canyon Rd
  • You will approach a fork in the road and should keep right (unless you want to take an adventure of your own)
  • You will reach the parks parking lot
  • Let your adventure begin!

The drive is nice! It’s super easy because there are signs along the highway and it is about an hour long away from Dawson Rd. However, it doesn’t feel that long… especially when you’re accompanied by two of your best friends

My friends, Catherine and Adam, and I took on this adventure head on! It was the nicest day that we’ve had all summer (so far) and none of us were working… so we did what any sane person would do: GO ADVENTURING!

Adventuring and really just driving with friends is always the best, especially when you and your friends share different tastes in music or other things. The three of us all have different music preferences but all appreciate music for what it’s worth. This “road trip” consisted of 2000s Pop, Rock & Roll, Country, Folk, Indie, Alternative and so much more! (Thank you to DJ Cat Cat for the sick beats!)

As we were approaching the canyon it was very odd scenery. I expected a more hill like area but to my surprise it was very flat. A canyon in the middle of what looked like a prairie land is essentially what and where Ouimet Canyon is!

We approached the parking lot and because it was a Tuesday in the middle of the day the park was not busy whatsoever (so if you freak out because of heights, you can freak out with your loved ones)

The bridges honestly don’t seem big or scary like how I thought they would. They are very safe and secure. I’ve been on other suspension bridges just outside of Quebec, Quebec and those were shaky and scary… but I pushed through! These bridges don’t shake whatsoever and I kinda wanted them to, it did seem very suspension like.


Being at Ouimet Canyon is a different experience! It doesn’t feel like you’re in the same old Thunder Bay district. It feels as though you’re in a different province, country or even continent! It goes to show you that the area of Thunder Bay, ON is something special because it has all these unexpected places to experience.

To finish off our trip we stopped at one of those greasy roadside diners you see on TV as a kid but never in person. This day trip is one of my favourite memories I now created up in beautiful Thunder Bay… I can’t wait to create so many more!

Here’s to checking another item off my list and cheers to your adventuring!

-Vince

Adventures

Adventure Time: Rabbit Mountain

Date: Wednesday May 25, 2017

Adventure: Rabbit Mountain

Rabbit Mountain is a fairly easy adventure. It’s a drive up John Street Road, left turn onto Belrose Road and right into a “parking lot” on Marlwood Road. Following your park job, it’s a short “hike” (I think of it as more of a walk) up the road to the top of the Mountain where you get the most beautiful view of the North end of Thunder Bay (Port Arthur) and a wonderful view of The Sleeping Giant, a view that doesn’t make it look so giant.

Hiking Superior has other directions about the Rabbit Mountain Lookout Loop linked here.

Due to how easy the trek up Rabbit Mountain is I’m not going to go too in depth with it. I brought water, hot tea, flip flops, a sweater and a flashlight (because it was sunset). I find it to be more of a place you go to relax than a place to hike and such.

For me, my experience at Rabbit Mount is always calming. I walk or drive there with my dog, on my own, with friends. I’m an avid visitor of the mountain.

However, this time felt very different. I went with a friend who I had met during my time back in Thunder Bay during reading week. He’s very intelligent and passionate about nature, specifically plants… he’s also an artist!

Plant expert and artist on the left there! (follow @naturalworks3 on Instagram)

This trip to Rabbit Mountain had more of a learning experience tied to it. Not totally about plants though because I forgot all the information within 5 minutes of learning it. The learning was more about myself. This short drive with green tea and apple cider to sip on, plus the great great company got me thinking. I am exactly where I need to be in my life right now and I am happy. This really clicked for me while I was laying down parallel to The Sleeping Giant. My mind was racing at a million miles a minute. Then I took a deep breath looked at over at The City of Thunder Bay and the surrounding area and thought: “There’s so much of this small city I have yet to discover and THAT is all I need to do right now!”

Sure the life I’m going to start building in Toronto will be AMAZING but I’m living for the moment and right now my heart and mind are in the lovely little city I call home.

Until next time!

-Vince

Gotta stretch the toes!

 

Photo my friend took of me

 

 

 

Ps. I’m sorry I’ve been a shitty blogger the last month!

Adventures

Adventure Time: Sliver Falls

The time has finally arrived! Thursday May 11, 2017 is the day that Thunder Bay finally got adventure worthy weather! To start off the adventure season, I made my way over to Silver Falls, about a 45 minute drive North West of Thunder Bay, ON. Oddly enough, this adventure wasn’t on my original list (but it’s on there now and it feels damn good to cross it off!). That just goes to show you how plans change.

You might be asking how I came across this gem of a spot? Well… I’m here to tell you and give you some tips to having a good hike up at Silver Falls!

I found Silver Falls through an Instagram post a few days ago and it looked beautiful! So like anyone would do, I added the destination to the list. It turns out Silver Falls is actually a Provincial Park and very easy to get to.

You travel up Dawson Rd. and turn right onto Silver Falls and follow that road until either the Ontario Power Plant (which is where the hiking trail is) or until the end of the road where there is a camping ground (you can guess what else has been added to the list). A more detailed description will be attached here.

In terms of the hike it’s fairly easy! The hardest part for me was walking up the road where the path divides because I was baking in the sun, without a water bottle and the road is fairly steep! Although, as soon as you get on the path again it feels good. A few things I recommend if you’re going on this hike:

  1. Bring a backpack! This is important because you have to carry all your stuff.
  2. A journal is a must! I stopped at a few places to write and observe. The hike and path reminded me a lot of a hike I went on in Arizona and I drew inspiration from it (tune in next week… maybe sooner).
  3. Water bottle… you gotta stay hydrated kids! (In other words: Do as I say not as I do! I’m writing this blog to help you on your adventures.)
  4. Extra socks because it’s a pretty muddy trail (especially this time of the year because the snow is just melting). My socks and shoes were black after this hike! 

    They got a lot worse…
  5. When it’s actually summer time the river is pretty clean and calm in many places… that means great for swimming! I suggest bring some swim gear (or don’t, skinny dipping might be your thing).
  6. A camera or GoPro is a must! Although, try to remember to live in the moment and take in your surroundings. Don’t try to focus on that perfect shot, all you’ll be doing is hiding behind technology. Go out and explore nature!

I took the hike on my own. I needed a day of personal reflection, where I focused on myself. I found that on the drive out there my mind was wondering, thinking about nonsense. The hike offered me a lot of time to reflect on all my relationships in life, my school year, my job situation, my future and so much more. As soon as I got to the falls I was at easy. There’s something about a body of water that just takes over me and makes me feel at home (that’s one reason why I tattooed Poseidon’s symbol on my wrist). I was able to write in my journal, observe nature and my favourite: listen to the roar of the rapids and falls. On the drive back I was calm, cool, collected. I didn’t have thoughts running in and out of my head, I was at easy.

This hike is perfect if you need a day trip for yourself and focus on you! Just make sure someone knows where you are and when you should be returning because you could get lost and there isn’t cell coverage out there. I do suggest going with friends during the summer months! It’s a smooth drive out there, great hike and a fun place to chill by the water and swim a bit. Really, this path works for both introverts and extraverts. Also, if you want to swim but don’t want to hike, the Silver Falls Provincial Park campgrounds has a nice beach area that you just drive up to.DCIM100GOPROG0010061.JPGIf I had to grade this experience, I’d give it an A.

Happy adventuring!

Check out other adventures I’ll be taking or get to them before me in the About section!

Adventures

Weather Permitting

I have officially been home for one week and it sure has be interesting…

Unfortunately, the weather has put a damper on my adventures. I was hopeful over the weekend though! I took the hard roof off my car, replaced it with a soft top and then this ice storm happened! The weather back here has been the typical weather that Thunder Bay has… completely unpredictable!

Now mark this day in your calendars (April 26, 2017)… Thunder Bay, ON looks the way Arendelle did when Elsa ran away and “Let it Go” in Frozen!  

I mean I sound surprised but a freak snowstorm is normal here. I remember snow days happening the last week of April for like 3 (now 4) years in a row. This weather is temporary but sucks because it was 20C like two weeks ago! I’m a little bitter you can say.

Besides the weather, the hardest transition back home has been getting into a routine. I was hoping to have a job interview or even a second job by now but there’s nothing as of right now… just sticking to the TR grind for now. Then I also feel like I have all this free time on my hands! There’s nothing to study for, no essays to write, what am I supposed to do?!?! Plus, I’m waking up early to drive my younger brother to school so I can have the car for the day. All this time and the weather isn’t cooperating but I am doing the finer things in life. I’ve been reading books I own but never started. I’ve been going to cute coffee shops, getting gelato (on the one nice day) and walking my dog.

In order to enjoy this weather I suggest cozying up in bed, lighting a candle, drinking some tea, and burry yourself in a good book or a dramatic movie. It’s a treat yourself kinda week and right now you have no responsibilities except to take care of yourself.

On the upside, things are about to get a lot less dull! Squad is coming home and will be reunited Saturday. Seeing my best friends and driving around with no aim except to just be together is all I need to start off my adventures.

Hopefully the sun starts shining and warmer weather comes soon.

Until next time,

VP

Adventures · Lessons

My First Year in Toronto

As you’re reading this my journey in Toronto is coming to an end (at least for a few months) and I’m probably on my flight back to Thunder Bay or already here. Leaving the city is bittersweet because I know that there’s an adventure to be had in Thunder Bay and I’m so excited to take it head on. The bitter part is that I truly love Toronto. I’ve made amazing friends here. I’ve experienced things I wouldn’t be able to do back home. Most importantly I actually didn’t mind being in school (even though I complained every single day…). There was something new in every corner of the city, from my first flight in to my flight out. Everything I did in between was something that put me out of my comfort zone.

I was fortunate enough to have amazing people accompanying me on every adventure. From day one to my last I did things I wouldn’t have been able to do if I didn’t move here for school. In honour of my list of adventures for the summer, I would like to share with you a few “must do” things in Toronto and the wonderful experiences I had.

  1. Wonderland! Sure it’s in Vaughan and not Toronto, but it’s close enough that if you don’t at least go once in your life then you’re doing something wrong. Also going on rides that scare you allows you to move out of your comfort zone and I’m an advocate for always living life on the edge.
  1. Nuit Blanche. I don’t know why but this will forever be one of my favourite nights. It’s a sunset to sunrise art exhibition throughout Toronto. My friends and I thought it was a cool idea to go and explore. It was cool but we saw next to nothing, art wise, and the things we did see, we were confused about (there were glowing orbs and dancing birds at one point). We stayed out looking for bagels most of the night and then when we finally gave up and decided on pizza we headed home. We walked for about 2 extra hours through Yonge and Eglinton to Bayview and Lawerence (we let an Italian be our tour guide). We finally made it home at 4 AM. Still wouldn’t trade it for anything.
  1. Ripley’s Aquarium! I love water, any animal that lives in water, the ocean, Poseidon and Ripley’s brings out your inner child! My favourite part of the aquarium was definitely the jellyfish! The neon lights, how they glowed – it was beautiful!
  1. My absolute favourite one… THE CHRISTMAS MARKET! I felt like was at the North Pole, with Santa and his Elves. I was absolutely in love! No matter if you love or hate Christmas, you will love the market. The lights, the trees, the knickknacks that you find. It’s all so beautiful and worth going at least once while you’re in Toronto.
  1. I didn’t do this one because I don’t know how to do it but… Skating at Nathan Phillips Square. No matter the season seeing the TORONTO sign is something everyone does. I liked going just to people watch during the fall. There’s just something about skating outdoors, at a crowded rink I think is hella cute and everyone should do it.
  1. Any and every coffee shop. If you live in Toronto and don’t have a coffee addiction then you’re not doing it right. There’s a new coffee shop at ever corner and a Starbucks in every direction. I personally like the non-franchise coffee shops because baristas talk to you, they aren’t as busy and they have something unique to them. There’s this one shop, near King and Jarvis, I promised a barista coffee beans from Kenya… gotta keep that promise I guess.
  1. Trying random restaurants. I loved going downtown without a plan, roaming and coming across random restaurants. It was so much fun and allowed me to try different foods, but also more authentic foods.
  1. Toronto Light Fest! This was cool because it was free and almost two months long. It’s similar to Nuit Blanche because it is an art exhibition, but strictly lights. Most exhibits were interactive and I thought that was cool because you add yourself to the art. I highly recommend!
  1. One thing that I personally got to experience was going to WeDay in Toronto. It was my fourth WeDay but my first in Toronto. It’s a day of inspiration and I got to share the day with my best friend of 14 years. If you ever get the chance to go to at least one, I suggest going.
  1. Finally, taking the subway. I don’t care how stupid this sounds but the subway is so cool in my opinion. It so easy to get around but it’s mostly because it completes my “Living in Toronto” experience.

I know that most of these are typical tourist things to do when you’re in Toronto but they are tourist attractions for a reason! They are fun and create memories. The way I see it is that if you didn’t have fun or remember it for more than just a picture, it wasn’t worth it.

As a little bonus to this list, I’ve decided to make it my tradition to get gelato from Touti Gelati on Queens Quay W every time I enter the city for a new school year and every time I finish because that’s exactly what I did this year and it’s so good there! If you go some of my favourites are: Coconut, Tiramisu, London Fog, Lemon and Basil, and the always timeless Chocolate.

I’m so very thankful for every experience I had this year and even more thankful to have shared them with such amazing people and friends. Toronto, these 7.5 months have been so memorable and I’m looking forward to another amazing year in the city. As for right now, I’m living in the moment and working on my list. First up, I’m thinking Rabbit Mountain.

Sincerely,

VP