After a strange, if decent, night in the student house we spent the morning wondering around in the Nordic neighborhood of historic Thunder Bay. Quite logically, the student house had no breakfast included so we settled for a brunch at the famous Finnish restaurant Hoito.
The first thing we noticed when we came in was that there were a couple older folks standing in the line that were actually speaking Finnish. That’s good. However, once we were seated we realized that most of the food on the menu was actually quite American. We still managed to get some rather traditional fil (fermented milk), salted fish and Karelian Pasties. The Fil and the Fish were really good but the Pasties were just ENORMOUS! They were probably three times bigger than the ones you can find in Finland! It was hard finishing them but at least they tasted real good!
After this rather splurgy meal we decided to walk a bit to try to get less obsese. We managed to get to a couple stores carrying Nordic items, including a Finnish-style grocery-store and a book-store. But the best was the impressive Geek place we discovered: they sold all sorts of Cds, Lps, comic books, games and so on…it was hard leaving the place but Linnea got herself some new Sandman comics so she was happy!
We then proceeded driving out of Thunder Bay to yet another bay (The Heron one this time).
It took many hours and it wasn’t that interesting but we eventually arrived at our friend Josh’s village!
Considering we had no idea where to go (we had an address but our navigator was lost) we just went to the first store and asked where the hell Josh was. Given that we are talking about a tight-knit indigenous community, we assumed that people would know who we were talking about and they did! We managed to get to Josh’s family house just in time before it got dark and enjoyed a warm welcome that could not have contrasted more with the wet coldness ensnaring the village. Ha, and just to be sure that we would not overheat, Josh then took us to Marathon and the shores of the lake so we could get neatly drenched by the ocean-sized waves Lake Superior was casting upon us.
The day after we had the opportunity to take part in a traditional religious ceremony celebrated by the whole family. It was a rather unique moment and we will ever be thankful to everyone for inviting us to be part of such a special family moment.
During our stay we also had the opportunity to witness the yearly Pow-wow and even take part in one of its dances, the 49:er which was lots of fun if slightly exhausting (think of it as a literal spiral dance)! I also really liked the visit we made to the Pukaskwa Regional Park where Josh works. It was rather misty but it created a really nice atmosphere, plus everyone there was really friendly. I even got the chance to annoy some of the cute guides working there and ask them to speak French to me!
Another really great experience once we were at Josh’s was the dinner of the last day. It was basically a whole indigenous dinner with only ingredients and techniques traditionally used by the natives. The Wild Rice (actually, a kind of wheat) takes a long time to clean but it tasted very good! And the Moose Meat, cooked out of true love by Josh, was incredibly yummy too! It was a great way to end our stay in Heron Bay/Pic River!
On the way back (which took forever) the weather cleared up very nicely and we enjoyed some truly impressive sights from the road. Besides that, we only made one real stop on the way back to Minnesota. Donna and John had mentioned the Fort Williams historical park when we visited them and we really wanted to see that. The fort is basically a reconstruction of an early-XIXth century British fort that was a key center for the trade of beaver pelts. You get a real great feel about the period because everything in the fort fits with this period. The best part I think was that all the guides, actors and other craftsmen were all in characters and are a marvel to interact with. I wish I could have such a job myself!
In any case, Fort Williams was a truly awesome place but we didn’t have the time to check it all out. But at least Linnea did manage to meet with the stable people and say hello to cute wandering chickens and goats. If you know her, you know I don’t need to tell you she was happy.
After that a couple hours passed in the car. We crossed back into the US and reached St-Paul just on time for our West-Bound Train, the Empire Builder which took us all the way to magical Seattle!
Text by Lyonel Perabo | | Photos by Linnea Nordström, unless otherwise stated