Arriving in the small town of Atikokan was refreshing and relaxing, especially after the 50 km walk in. Unfortunately for my feet, the walk in to town off Highway 11 is 4 km, which is always longer due to the anticipation of stopping for the day. In many cases, the walk into a town off the highway is marked with encounters of the very kind local residents on bikes; conversations center around where I came from, where I am going, and why I am walking?
After arriving, my first thoughts about Atikokan was that it is a quiet, well kept small town, with an obvious older demography; however, I feel this quiet town is the perfect spot for me to rest, and maybe breathe in the small town experience a little more. First off, all residents, except for an odd encounter with an opionated older gentleman at Robin’s Donuts, have been nothing but kind to me — an unknown patron at the Outdoorsman Restaurant (pictures below) picked up my lunch bill yesterday! I later found out that my encounter at the Robin’s Donut shop is somewhat of a known local anomoly.
Atikokan is the Canoe Capital of Canada, with a rich paddling history dating back to the time of Canada’s Voyageur’s, but this place has an equally rich history of fur trade, the Canadian National Railway, mining, forestry, and coal (now biomass) power generation. This week, especially this week, the Atikokan Bass Classic fishing tournament provides significant business and income for the town of Atikokan for almost a week as contestants fish, pre-fish, etc. The tournaments contestants pack all three motels, work the restaurant staff of their feet, and various tournament events (fishing boat parade, dance, etc.) fill the usually quiet downtown cooridor.. So far, I stayed one night at the back of the Public Library (free) and one night at the municipal campground (Bunnell Park) to get a shower, nap, and restful sleep for the steep fee of $15.75 vs. $80+ for a no frills motel room.
Above. A poster for the Atikokan Bass Classic scavenger hunt.
Below are some pictures of the local restaurant, where a kind resident paid for my lunch! This place has good food, great decor, and a quality pizza. In addition, the staff are super friendly and don’t pester you while you are eating or enjoying a coffee. Although they are the only stand alone restaurant in town, they still provided great service, and deliver quality food at a fair price.
After sitting there and drinking coffee for a period of time — 4 or more hours over the last few days, I realized that many local residents stop in for breakfast, lunch, or dinner for their ‘usual’ meal that the waitress knows they came in for. Many residents also use this place as a pseudo community centre, where they stop in to share a coffee with friends and family; ask the waitress to call the community van for a pickup, or to ask for help during some medical episode — a diabetic issue, circulatory transport issue, etc.
Above. The dining area, which is the final resting spot for many trophy fish caught in the region. This region is a sportsman’s paradise (hunting, fishing, canoeing).
Above. The delicious pizza I had for lunch. A generous bowl of parmesan and a shaker of pepper flakes provided.
After lunch I decided to visit the Atikokan Centennial Museum, which for a small community is quite a large museum full of some very interesting local history. Below are select snapshots and a short summary of the exhibits:
Above. The primary natural resource based industries of the region.
Above. Artifacts of an game bag and piece of an old birch bark canoe.
Above. An obligatory Atikokan canoe/kayak picture. The blue kayak is the kayak used by a local team that paddled from Rocky Mountain House, AB to to Expo ’67 in Montreal, QC at a blistering speed of 40 days and some hours, which still stands has a record in Canada. These guys were hardcore; team members slept on the kayak while others continued to paddle forward!
Above. A nice looking beaver felt top hat, and various fur trade
Above. An interesting story of the White Otter Castle built by the scottish settler Jimmy Mcquat is worth zooming in on; in summary, Mr. Mcquat started to build this very large multi-story log house for his scottish bride, but he mysteriously drowned and the White Otter Castle was left to rot. In the future, community members plan to restore the White Otter Castle back to its original state.
Above. Similar to the jail cell I visited when at the Thunder Bay museum with Portia over a month ago, however, this time I had no one to take my picture while I played prisoner.
I walked out of Atikokan a short distance this afternoon, and will setup camp at the tourist bureau just outside of town along Highway 11 for tonight. Off to Fort Frances in the morning!