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I am camped under the stars on the shore of Lake Superior where, astonishingly, I have 3 bars of cell service. The Southern route through Ontario rocks compared to the Northern Highway of Despondency.  There are hills. There are curves. There are little lakes and there is the great lake. There are big pink rocks. There are gas stations and bait shops and trading posts. There is more than one kind of tree. There is the CBC. There is cell service.

The drive is seriously gorgeous. Leaves are just starting to turn – every here and there, there will be one flaming red torch of a tree amongst the green and just-starting-to-rust.

Hint of fall colours.

Pai is such a novelty at the camp that I could cover the cost of my site by charging petting zoo fees. The warden here at Rainbow Falls Provincial Park informed me that they do generally have on average one horse a year. I know why. It’s because if you are traveling with a horse, there is absolutely nowhere else to stay. There are no horses here. None. In compmarison, Edmundston was thick with horses (they were just in hiding).  I stopped at a gas station about an hour back on the highway, and the young fellow there was keen to see and touch the horsie. He said he hadn’t seen a horse since he was ten years old.  To someone who comes from places where you can’t drive five minutes down the road without seeing a horse, that’s just crazy talk.

Pai camps.

After setting up camp, chatting to fellow campers and helping them pose with Pai for photo ops, and eating up the fish cakes and split pea rice Dad sent me off with when I left a couple days ago, I tucked the shivering Scooty under my arm and we went out on the rocks to watch the sunset. My camp neighbours are a couple of road-tripping musician retired teachers with a fetish for rocks, who have packed their camper van with alarming quantities of amethyst from the Panorama Mine. They gave me a quick crash-course on the geology of the area as we watched the sun go down.

Lake Superior sunset

Pai and I set off this morning from Sault Ste Marie, where Pai had bunked down at Fern St. Denis’ SD Acres and where I got to hang out with Louise, another internet dressage acquaintance who, with her other half John and their truly delightful son Matthew, was the most sublime of hosts. And meeting Louise was like meeting a sort of spiritual quasi-doppelganger. Connection to the Maritimes? Check. Her rellies are from Shediac, spitting distance from PEI.  Bajan-o-phile? Check. There’s hot sauce on the table, she knows what coo-coo is, and she’s cooked flying fish. Techno airplane-loving husband? Check. History-loving Dad? Check. Disdain for sweets and love of savory? Check.

Louise (not a dog owner) baked dog-bone-shaped cookies for The Scoot. What more can I say?

Louise is an accomplished singer and vocal coach, and her company is putting on a production of Singin’ in the Rain this December, and after dinner, we all trotted off to ensemble auditions for the show. Real life auditions in small-city Canada are NOTHING like American Idol. Not like Smash either, nuh-unh. The director, Tim, was irrepressibly hilarious, people were nice to each other, and everyone had a good time. A lovely lady made me tea. Scooty got cooed over. And it was super-fun to watch and listen to the progression from the first group attempt to the final glorious rendition of the song we all know, “Singin’ in the Rain”.

I also got to meet PeeWee, the geriatric hamster, who has the world’s greatest hamster condo, complete with separate pods for all his hamster activities.

 

Look at his little hands!

Night before last was spent on the outskirts of Sudbury, at Hillsview Stables. The owners, Diane and Art, were just lovely. When Pai and I arrived, a jumping lesson was in progress as the sun was dipping low in the sky. The white bark of the birch trees that border the farm’s one big field were fairly glowing in the evening light, and I couldn’t resist saddling Pai up for a quick tool around that pretty field. The lesson girls were having a lovely time – how awesome to be a gang of girls laughing and playing and jumping your ponies in the setting sun.

From Sudbury to Sault Ste Marie is a short 4-ish hour drive, so Pai and I had time to kill before we were due to meet up with Louise. I stopped at various promising places en route in search of a place to ride, but had no joy. Finally, at the information centre (closed) at the turn off to Elliot Lake, I chatted up the grounskeeper, who sent me off on the nearby ATV trails. The trail followed the highway, so was a bit noisy, but it was still very pretty. We saw a hawk and a grouse, and the view from one of the hills was stellar.

Not a bad view for an ATV trail along a highway.

Tomorrow, it’s on to Wabigoon, and another camping night.

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