Posts Tagged With: Sault Ste. Marie

All Aboard the Agawa Canyon Tour Train

We enjoy sightseeing by train so when I read the listing for the Agawa Canyon Tour Train in the AAA Tour Book for Ontario, we were keen to experience the 114 mile journey from Sault Ste. Marie to the Agawa Canyon. We also hoped to spot some autumn color along the way even though we realized mid-September was early in the season.

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I reserved seats for 8:00 on the morning of September 15, day 4 of our Great Lakes Road Trip, for $91.15 each ($81.42 for seniors). Fortunately for us, the front desk staff at our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express, recommended we pick up our tickets ahead of time to skip standing in line the next morning. The train station was just down the street and we stopped by on our way to the Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site. No lines and no waiting.

After an early breakfast the following morning at the hotel with many others who were likely taking the same train, we walked to the station.  After a short wait, the train arrived and we boarded our assigned car, the Montreal River.

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Passengers await as the Agawa Canyon Tour Train arrives

We set off with high hopes that the fog would soon lift to reveal a blaze of color. The fog was slow to dissipate but we did see hints of color, nevertheless, as we rolled along.

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A gps-triggered recorded commentary on the train forewarned us of upcoming points of interest and educated us about the history of the area as well as the geology. Breakfast and lunch were available in the dining car but after our ample breakfast, we chose to stick with the snacks we brought with us.

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And we finally viewed blue skies and bright crimson and gold leaves which we appreciated all the more for the wait and anticipation.

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At mile 102 we began the 500 foot descent through granite walls to the floor of the canyon.

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Finally at mile 114, we reached our destination, Agawa Canyon Wilderness Park, accessible only by train and hiking trail. We arrived at the park around 12:30 and were told to be back at 2:00 pm for our return trip. We spent the next hour and a half hiking the trails and exploring the sights, including the Agawa River and waterfalls. To beat the crowd, we headed first to Lookout Trail that climbs 250 feet by trail and over 300 stairs to a panoramic view of the river and canyon.

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Stairs to Lookout View

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Panorama view of Agawa Canyon from the Lookout

Our next priority was the waterfalls and with limited time, we hurried first to Black Beaver Falls, then to South Black Beaver Falls.

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Selfie at Black Beaver Falls

On the trail to Bridal Veil Falls, we spotted bear scat but no bears. We were pretty excited about the evidence, however.  IMG_6842

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Agawa River with Bridal Veil Falls in the background

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Bridal Veil Falls

A bit of fog was settling into the valley but the views were still spectacular. I was so enamored by the reflection of the trees and foliage in the water I took literally hundreds of photos but none quite captured their stunning beauty.

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We managed to see everything in the park and return to the train on time.

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On the return trip, I got my best photo of autumn color of the day in spite of the window glare. I’m sure a week or two later the foliage would be at its peak but we found the color to be breathtaking.

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We returned to Sault Ste. Marie around 6:00 pm, tired but satisfied and happy with our experience. In fact, we were so tired we didn’t even go out for dinner but settled instead for chips and salsa in our hotel room. I’m glad I hadn’t read the reviews of the Agawa Canyon Tour Train on TripAdvisor before our excursion because some were so negative they may have adversely influenced our decision to take this trip. It would be a shame to miss such an enjoyable day.

 

Based on events from September 2017.

Categories: Canada, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Sault Ste. Marie on Day 3

With a takeaway decaf coffee from Robin’s Donuts in hand, we left Villa Bianca Inn early in the morning on day 3 of our Great Lakes Road Trip 2017. We weren’t driving far but I was anxious to depart our 2.5-star accommodations. Our goal for the day was to reach Sault Ste. Marie, a mere 308 miles away, but who knew what adventures we might find along the way?

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Our first stop at Aguasabon River Gorge, where we discovered our third waterfall in as many days, convinced us this trip would be as much about waterfalls as it was about the Great Lakes. We would soon also add lighthouses to our list of highlights.

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Aguasabon Falls and Gorge

The walk to the viewing platform provided us with gorgeous views of autumn color just beginning to appear. The walkway is wheelchair accessible to allow people with mobility issues to enjoy this beautiful place, too.

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Walkway to Aguasabon Falls and Gorge

The Trans-Canada Highway, Provincial Hwy 17, offers stunning panoramas of Lake Superior along this stretch from Schreiber to Sault Ste. Marie. We didn’t pull over at every opportunity but we looked forward to every spectacular view like the one below.

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View of Lake Superior

At our next stop at Old Woman Bay in Lake Superior Provincial Park, I tried a panorama photo to capture the size of this bay with limited success. I’ll have to practice this feature on my iPhone more to achieve mastery.

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Old Woman Bay

As Jim drove on, I read in my AAA Ontario Tour Book about the Agawa Canyon Tour Train which departs from Sault Ste. Marie to tour this area. They strongly recommended advance reservations so I called on my smartphone to reserve for the following day. At $1 per minute through AT&T while traveling internationally, I was anxiously watching the minutes fly by as I sat on hold. I finally reached a customer service person and provided all the required information and then the call failed. I called back to discover I had to repeat all the information I had previously provided. I figured our tickets cost about $12 extra for the phone call, but we finally had a reservation for the following morning.

We arrived in Sault Ste. Marie around 3 pm and found a Holiday Inn Express right downtown across the street from the mall and close to St. Mary’s River Boardwalk. We immediately loved this hotel and planned to stay for two nights. The customer service was terrific and because we had to wait briefly for a room, they gave us an upgrade to a suite.

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Kitchenette through the doorway

The Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site was within walking distance from our hotel and we had plenty of time to explore St. Mary’s River Boardwalk and the locks before dusk. The boardwalk is a mile long scenic walkway following the river and leading to the historic site.

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St. Mary’s River Boardwalk

Built in 1895 to connect Lake Huron to Lake Superior, the Sault Ste. Marie Canal completed an all Canadian waterway from Lake Superior to the Atlantic Ocean.  The Canadian canal became necessary when a ship transporting British troops was denied passage on the US side. When opened, it was the world’s longest lock and the first to operate by use of electricity which incidentally was generated on-site. Today, the world’s only remaining swing bridge dam is located here. The swing bridge dam is located upstream and can be deployed to protect the lock in the event of an accident. It was used once and worked successfully.

The visitor’s center is currently in a temporary building and while it was nearly closing time, the Park ranger stayed and visited with us, providing a wealth of information. She was obviously very knowledgeable and engaged in her position.

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The old Administration Building at Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site

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The lock at Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site

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The Canadian lock with the International Bridge linking Canada and the US

Today the lock is used primarily for recreational craft. I remember visiting the canal with my family as a kid in the 60’s. At the time, I didn’t understand why the adults were so interested in the lock but today I understand their enthusiasm. It really is an engineering marvel.

Following our visit to the canal, I asked the staff at our hotel where I could get local fish for dinner and was directed just down the street to Gliss Steak and Seafood. After sub-standard meals the previous two nights, we felt we’d finally hit pay dirt. We were both satisfied with our choices.

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First course: Greek salad for me and garden salad for Jim

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Prime rib and Yorkshire pudding with sweet potato fries

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Local white fish with sweet potato fries and veggies

 

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Day 3 successfully completed

Satisfied with day 3, we looked forward to the Agawa Canyon Tour Train tour the following morning. Come back to see and hear all about it.

 

 

Based on events from September 2017.

 

 

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Categories: Canada, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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