Friday, 17 April 2015

Lake Superior

I've taken to starting my days with a couple of Extra Strength Tylenol's; the pain in my shoulder is now persistent through the night. Although it is not enough to wake me up from sleep, it is enough to make it problematic getting there. Last night I took a Tylenol 3 with Codeine to get me past the pain and into slumber. I am convinced it is something to do with the long days behind the wheel, or at least long for me these days; they are nothing like what I could do before my arms started failing me and the exhaustion took hold. Even a couple of years ago, with ALS having taken my legs already, a 10 hour driving day was not an issue. Now it is.

Still, I love the drive. Yesterday was a good example. We made our way from Wawa to Thunder Bay, following the edge of Lake Superior most of the time, at times the road taking us inland to where the terrain was at least moderately more amenable to road building. It's hard rock country up here, some of the oldest rock on the planet, between 2.5 and 4 billion years old. The rocks of the Canadian Shield are "Archean" period, a time of land formation which was second only the the "Hadian" period, so called because of the hellish conditions on the planet at that time, the surface all molten, spewing poisonous gases and lava. The Archean period saw the first continental formations, and the Canadian Shield was born. It's still here.

Lake Superior is more "modern" in that respect, a result of the last ice age, as are all the Great Lakes. Gitchegumee, as the natives call it, is the greatest of all the lakes. It is the largest lake, by surface area, of all the lakes on earth, and second only to Lake Baikal of Russia for volume. Superior is large enough to hold all the water from the rest of the Great Lakes, and even more. It contains fully 10% of all of the world's fresh water, and if it ever let go, it could flood the whole of North America, assuming it was flat, with water to a depth of one foot.

The best way to gain a sense of Lake Superior is to drive around it, an effort which can take days. We took the fast run, from Sault St. Marie at the bottom end, to Thunder Bay at the lake head. This trip is by no means half way round the lake. Our distance was some 750 KM over two days. The full circumnavigation by road would take over 1,600 KM, a thousand miles and more, using the fastest path, mostly likely over 24 hours including fuel stops. The longer drive, along the whole shore, were there a road, would be about 1,300 miles.

When you drive beside the lake, you see the curvature of the horizon in the far of distance, not the opposite shore. There is no "other side" of this lake; it's about 160 miles wide, about 250 km. The sun sets 35 minutes later on the west side than it does on the east side. And right now, in early spring, it's still frozen. It is an amazing piece of nature, a wonder of the natural world, and we get to see it, to live on and near it, to drive beside it. It might be worth a sore shoulder or two, just to get to do this.

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