Last Days of Thunder: Calico, Porcupine and Sleeping Giants

Cornmeal and Plum Cake

A quick latte, a chocolate brownie and a cornmeal plum cake from the shop Calico, and then we were off for our final day through Thunder Bay. Unlike many of the other places in the area, Calico was edgy without misinterpreting itself; most small town shops attempt to mimic the coolness they see in big cities. The cornmeal cake was V.’s favorite, but I did enjoy both the latte and the chocolate brownie with its almond flour texture and solid chocolate flavours. I adored the seafoam green, vinyl chaises-longues near the door. It was a wonderful end to our local foodie experiences.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent on a drive out to the Sleeping Giant provincial park. About an hour outside of the town, the park is an average trail area, but most of the trails were closed this time of year. Still we were able to spot a fox, two bald eagles ice fishing, a pheasant, deer and an adorable, chubby porcupine eating tree buds. He reminded me of a fat kid unsure of his climbing abilities. The wildlife made the drive.

Using the Linhof 4×5 film camera was a bit of an endeavor. I had expected the view screen to be impossible to focus through with an f.9 lens, but the Schneider-kreuznach lens was surprisingly easy to see through in the outdoors. What was a problem was using the film holders. More than a couple of them came open after the slide were put back post-shot, and then there were a few times when I could not remember to replace the slide to show which sheet were exposed; I would guess that 4-5 sheets were wasted, but that is part of the learning process for V. and me. What the upside was is that if I loaded sheets properly in enough darkness, then I believe we may come away with an iconic series of fine art photographs of Thunder Bay’s abandoned industrial buildings and a few of the park. The tilt and shift is quite limited with a 90mm lens, which is wide angle for view cameras, but what shifts and tilts I was able to force should add to the final images.

What are my final thoughts on Thunder Bay? It is an interesting aberration in the northern landscape. The town harkens back to a post-war prosperity with its little houses and fading storefront signs, and the railway near grain silos make for nostalgic views, but it is a dead town. Local restaurants serve heavy foods to appeal to older citizens, while “foodie” spots are not online with anything more than a Facebook site. The malls are low end in their products, and the community appears to rely on Lakehead University students to breathe a wee bit of money and life into the area. Like PEI, the Gouda business is alive and there are possible ways to create a modern tourist experience, but neither the money nor the people appear to be willing. Personally, I enjoyed my week. My time was educational and relaxed; my poor body needs vegetables and exercise after the limited food choices of this northern town. Back to almond milk, beet juice and steelcut oatmeal for me this week.

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