Ojibwe legend says that Mount McKay, Fort William, is home of the Thunder Birds, powerful creatures that can control the very rain and wind, whose wings beat thunder & eyes flash lightning. From the mountain top they look out across Lake Superior, keeping protective watch over the land below.
Thunder Bay, Ontario, is said to take it’s name from these mythical birds, and they may also be the source of the 60’s TV show title. They are ingrained in many parts of North American culture.
These statues standing guard over the sacred mountain also serve as memorials to the Ojibwe Elders. The Ojibwe, whose varied spellings throughout continental North America has in some places become anglicized over time as Chippewa, are an incredibly rich & diverse culture. They still have much to teach, to those that have patience to listen. Very well worth some time to research, I humbly suggest.
This image is available framed, or as canvas prints, wraps, and metal as well as other items. Click the image for a larger view.
Today started bright and early for me. Well, more accurately, still dark and early. At 5:00 am I got up to enjoy the task I had set for myself today: Get images of the sunrise at Niagara Falls.
I live around 40 minutes away in Port Colborne. At that time of the morning there is little if any traffic, and on a Summer day you can wind down the window and listen to nature waking up around you as you head into the rising sun. I find that few things lighten the spirits more. With a beverage from Tim Hortons to sustain me, I arrived as planned in the perfect spot at the perfect time: Table Rock.
Inches from the falls, Table Rock is a tourist destination with a food court, restaurants, shops. The usual things you would expect in a place like Niagara Falls. This is where 90% of duck-face selfies with the falls in the background are taken. However, this popular tourist and photography spot is almost entirely vacant at this time of day. Photographers love to congregate here at dawn. Time seems to stop as the most breathtaking view of the sun coming up through the mist unfolds. And no tourists to get in the way.
So here I am. On time, on target, and ready to rock and roll. That’s when things started to go wrong.
Last time I came here, Parking lot A, a short walk away, was free until 8:00 am. This not broadly advertised detail was taken advantage of by all locals wanting to shoot sunrise over the falls, as you could be in and out at leisure without cost: The parking lot was rarely empty. Not so today.
On my arrival I was greeted with a sign which said parking is now free only until 6:00 am. And since full sunrise this morning was not until 6:22, I had arranged to arrive just after. Bum, I said to myself.
It will now cost $28 if I want that photo, which gives me parking until noon. I only needed at most a half hour. Sorry, Niagara, I don’t want that photo that much. Not today. I drove on.
After a pleasant ride around town enjoying the sights, sounds, and excitement of a slumbering tourist area waking, I made my way to the top of the escarpment. From here you can look down on the falls from above. Not quite Table Rock, but still a spectacular perspective offering a viewpoint that encompasses the Niagara river stretching right back to the horizon.
Stopping here is not permitted, since the road would be permanently blocked with people enjoying this view. At this time of day the chance of getting a ticket in this tow-zone are minimal, so I took a calculated risk and stepped out of the vehicle long enough to take five steps to the rail. And got this.
Not the shot I planned, but it will do. It’s a memory that I survived to see another wonderful dawn. Enough to ensure the trip was not a bust. Even though I didn’t get the shot I wanted, I was happy.
After this I drove around for a while and spent one very pleasant hour just sitting by a creek I found. Watching fish swim, flies dance, and listening to the crickets and the woodpeckers and the frogs.
Roll with what you have, that’s what I say. Life is good. Onward…
This year has seen a huge change in normal life across the globe. Here in sleepy Port Colborne many things are different. Few things bring this home to me more clearly than the absence of the Empire Sandy to kick start Canal Days with a literal bang as they fire the cannon on their arrival the night before.
This cannon signifies to anyone in earshot, which is 90% of the population, that they should batten down the hatches for a long weekend of crowds, noise, traffic congestion, and queues. Everywhere.
Around the downtown core, street performers and musicians entertain patios full of diners with live music and food from around the world. On the water, the Tall Ships are open for tours and trips out into the lake. Along the canal, street vendors and food trucks line West Street from one end to the other. You can enter a wide range of prize draws, drive golf balls across the canal, race plastic ducks, even graffiti a wall.
There is a mini-carnival for the kids with a Ferris wheel and other rides. Birds of Prey and other animal attractions are on display. Craftsmen offer everything from caricatures to chainsaw carving. At the various parks we have car shows, kite competitions, face painting, live music, any number of activities.
The central market square across from City Hall is turned into an outdoor music arena for the duration with bands performing on stage from morning until night, to the enjoyment of the many thousands of tourists that flock here, and the dismay of those in the surrounding city blocks that just want to sleep. Saturday sees the main music event, whoever the headliners happen to be that year.
The whole shebang concludes on Sunday with a boat parade of lights, followed by what is widely acknowledged by almost everyone, locals and tourists alike, to be the best fireworks display in the Niagara region, bar none. The fireworks are also preceded by the firing of the Empire Sandy cannon. It’s a neat start and finish bookend to the weekend: Between two cannons, that’s Canal Days.
After the fireworks, the crowds drift away. Families head home. Locals, those vendors that are staying one more night, and boat crews head somewhere air conditioned to cool down and wind down. The clean up crews start work. Monday sees the remaining vendors leave. The Tall Ships leave. By end of day, the City is almost back to normal.
Another year, another Canal Days. For over forty years. Until 2020.
Many here in Port Colborne hate it. Many love it. The debates at City Hall and online are often heated, repetitive, endless. In other words, normal life in a small community. The tourists that come not only from the surrounding region but across from Buffalo and New York State to see this annual spectacle often come back year after year, so this little corner of Canada must be doing something right.
All I can say this year, is that it’s awfully quiet. I miss that canon.
For more Canal Days images from previous years please visit my Photo Site