Friday, October 22, 2010

High Falls, the American side

In North America we have a terrible problem with multi-tasking taken to ridiculous levels. People even drink coffee and drive. There are a lot of people who drink coffee, drive, and even talk or text on their phone at the same time -- even though using a cell or personal handheld device in your car is illegal for drivers in Canada. (Indeed, last week a driver of a truck almost smashed into our car as my husband and me drove down a busy street. The distracted guy had failed to stop at a stop sign because he was too busy talking on his cell phone!).

Personally, I rarely take a coffee on the go because to me, coffee is about the ritual of brewing a cup of freshly ground beans (fairtrade and organic), waiting for the coffee grinds to settle in my little blue pot (I don't use a coffee maker), pouring the coffee into a favorite mug, and sitting down to enjoy it. To savor it on its own. I admit there were a few times that I tried taking a thermal mug of coffee with me, but both times I ended up spilling the coffee all over myself, the front seat of the car, and the floor. I have never gone through a drive-through to pick up a coffee. I'm not sure how many other Canadians can say that. On my way down to Ryden's to pick up my new camera with my son, I did take a thermal coffee mug with me filled to the brim with my home-brew. My son was driving.
The American side of the trail starts at a viewing platform that overlooks the lower part of Pigeon River as it meanders its way down to Lake Superior. Canada lies at the far horizon. The heathery colours of the reeds and grasses evoke a sedate calming warmth. The colours remind me of the heathery heaths of Ireland, where I visited in the fall a number of years ago. As we got to the platform, an American man was packing up his tripod and camera. The tranquil river shallows at this spot show little sign of the High Falls just a very short walk up river, and if you didn't know that there are falls upstream, you might only stop and visit this marshy part of the river and miss the tumult. The trail leading to the falls is paved and easily accessible to travellers of varying physical abilities. This trail is in the northernmost part of Minnesota so a lot of US residents come upstate Minnesota as this is one of the most northerly parts of their mainland. It's their north, but our south. It's all relative, after all. The border, of course, is but a recent invention of nation state building. Both sides of this land artificially cut with a border are Anishnaabe/Ojibwe/Chippewa lands.
Outhouse for anyone on the path who may suddenly need to use the loo -- for having drunk too much coffee, for example. There is a shiny new just-opened visitor center at the start of the trail with gleaming restrooms. The brown outhouse, I think, is the old version of the toilets for tourists who come to visit the High Falls trail of Grand Portage State Park.
There are wooden boardwalks leading to the viewing platforms, which make getting closer to view the falls accessible, too. This shot was taken from the higher platform. You can see High Falls in the background, the Canadian forest on the right, and my middle son, the risk-taker, getting carried away with the serotonin that pumps through you as a result of the open sky, roaring waters, and fresh, clean air. He used to do other dangerous balancing acts ever since he could drag himself out of the crib, so I no longer get panicky.
The whole natural environment is like an open heart welcoming you. This is the gift you receive for going to the most northerly part of Minnesota if you are an American. For us, it is our welcome into their country--that is, after we have crossed the security of the US border patrol at customs at the border, which includes your entire car being photographed and digitally recorded as you drive through some huge yellow steel (scanning?) barrier (and if they allow you in). This time, we had to go inside and get questioned. The border patrol officers said it was a random thing. When we got back in the car, my son said to me, "It's you. You're a jinx. This never happens to me when I cross the border."

But once past the stress of customs and the border agents, you feel welcome by the average American. Americans love us Canadians who live close to the border. Do you know how many cars cross the border each day with folks eager to go spend their money in the US? No one seems bothered in the least about the hassle of the security measures.


Merche Pallarés said...

Your son IS daring!! Beautiful pictures, once again, and wonderful description of that magical site (loo included...). Too bad about the hassle at the border it's just as bad as going to an airport! Hugs, M.

northshorewoman said...

Hello MP, yes he IS daring! And imagine, just a few years back we didn't need anything at all to cross the border! They asked you where you're from, you answered, and they waved you into their country.