Lois Hits the Road travel blog

Scene from the train

Waterfall and a tourist

One of the many lakes

I abandoned Rhonda for the last couple of days, taking a train ride from Sault St. Marie 300 miles north passing Lake Superior and Lake Superior Provincial Park, as well as the Chapleau Crown Game Preserve.

This was about the journey, not the destination. I liked the idea of a couple of days when I didn't have any responsibility except to get to the train on time, specifically the Algoma Central Railway.

In Ontario, they have been having a hot, dry summer, and I can see signs of the lack of moisture from the train, but soon after leaving town, I am in a world of trees, of various bodies of water, one with mist hanging over it. Then there is a view down the valley through the thicket of trees, purple wildflowers, and ferns. Searchmont Ski Resort.

The train, we are told, will hit speeds "up to 40 miles an hour." No place for anyone in a hurry. What a pleasure to sit back, take in the scenery, visit with others, read, or go and ride outside on the back platform of the train.

At a couple of points we can see Lake Superior in the distance. The lakes and mountains get larger, the lakes more frequent. Someone is talking about catching a 30 pound trout, but we all know how fisherman talk. People also ice fish and cross country ski along here. The trees are reflected in the clear water.

In shallower spots, I see dots of white, apparently water lilies. I'm told moose like to eat the roots of the lilies and will go into the water as much as four feet to get them.

Lumbering is also done here. We pass several lumber mill towns and stacks of rounds of wood.

Shortly before noon, we see the Agawa River, travel down into Agawa Canyon, and get off the train. Several waterfalls can be seen nearby and we have a couple of hours to explore. What a beautiful place to be.

About two, those of us who are going on board another train and continue north. I've learned that quite a few people are going to a resort called Herringtons, which is new, advertised online but not in the AAA Guide Book yet, so I didn't know it was an option.

In any case, the scenery continues, as does frequent stopping to pick up or drop off passengers, which can be done anywhere along the line, not necessarily in a station or town. They pick up backpackers alongside the track. Once, I saw them load a canoe.

The number of passengers thins as we get farther north. The conductor chats a bit, tells me the train runs all year, even though the temperatures get to -45F. It is popular in the fall, for the color.

At the end of the line is another lumber mill town, Hearst, with a population around 5,000. It makes me think of the town in the tv series, Northern Exposure. (I kept hoping a moose would walk around the corner). It is 7:30 p.m. when we arrive, but it is very light and quite warm.

After checking into the motel (ugh), I find my way to the most recommended place to eat in town. A woman even stops me on the street and tells me to go there. One person says it has Greek food, but it says pizza. It has both Italian and Greek.

The special of the day is fish and chips, with soup, a side veggie, and jello for dessert for $8.00. When I pause to look at the wine menu, the waitress, trying to help me make a selection, says, "Most people choose red or white."

Though there are more exotic things on the menu, I decide to stick with the fish and chips, growing ever more leery.

"Would you like gravy on your fries?"

"No. I use catsup."

I learn next day on the train that many people here have French fries with gravy and cheese! Yuck!

The pea soup is homemade and quite good, as is the fish. I pass on the rest.

Seems to me there are a lot of people speaking French here. Then someone tells me that most of Northern Ontario is French.

I walk around some after dinner. The area is flat with mountains in the distance, plain as sliced white bread, ordinary.

The next morning I am up before seven, over to the motel next door that has a café, ordering fruit and oatmeal. The fruit is canned fruit cocktail and the oatmeal is not to be eaten, cooked to a gooey mush. I eat the toast that comes with it.

The train leaves at 8:30 and this time I have my pick of the seats and a repeat of yesterday's lovely scenery. Now, I've seen enough of some of the other passengers that we chat frequently.

The bunch that got off at the resort get back on and give me the details on that. Apparently they were well fed and taken care of and saw bears, beavers, eagles, and other animals. They all enjoyed it very much.

It's another day of relaxing on the train. It's almost seven in the evening before we get back to Sault St. Marie and I go back to the KOA camp for my last night in Canada.

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