A Birthday Weekend at Blue Mountain

I lied.

Last time I signed off saying that I would write about Day 2 in Japan. That will have to wait because I got the urge to write about a recent trip to Blue Mountain, in Canada. And while I write some slow blues plays in the background.

Two weeks ago a few friends, my wife, and I left Detroit to go skiing. Apparently, Blue Mountain is the best ski resort in the vicinity. And when I say vicinity, I mean more than a 4 hour drive. It would end up taking more than that, each way, but you know, road trips are always generous in giving back. You have time to think, to exchange opinions with the other travelers, play the 50 States games, and for me, of course, observe outside the window, my frame, with my camera.

Once again, only had the Fujifilm X100F, with the wide angle lens seeing that I was going to photograph indoors, while we would cook, eat, hang out, and get ready for the skiing days.

And just to put Blue Mountain on the map, here it is.

The day was beautiful. Blue skies and yellow signs. The four of us, in the one car, soon started talking about the topic of the moment, detox diets after the Holiday Season.

The dog in the back seemed uninterested in our conversation, but did have her snout right between my wife’s and my head, huffing and panting.

We drove up to Port Huron, one of the two options we had to get into Canada, the other being Windsor.  Showed our Passports. Said thank you and goodbye to the officer and hello to Canada.

When looking at these homes, in the middle of nowhere, we started discussing “the right to bear arms”, the US Second Amendment, and how it had started and what not, only to ask ourselves how Canada could be different seeing that there were desolate houses with endless terrain around, with, we assume, people who want to protect themselves just as much as the American cousins.

Hm.

I didn’t feel like asking these folks who were probably on their way back from Detroit after watching the Maple Leafs loose to the Red Wings the night before. They didn’t seem too distraught by it though.

The short break was over and we get back on the road.

The sun was now setting behind us. The roads were nearly all for us. We cruised along, eager to get to our destination. 

The sun to our backs, and snowmobiles in the front. 

I was using all the alternative frames available to me.

We just drove, and drove, and drove. Or better put, our friend drove, and drove, drove. I was busy thinking about how to properly expose the frames, with getting a bit of the motion blur from the moving car, expose for the sun and sky, and all the while have some silhouetting. The barn and silos shapes are so recognizable that even with no details in the shadows you know exactly what the subject is.

Did I mention it was cold? But some frost on the window never stopped anyone, especially when the colors outside were so soothing. Night was setting in, we still had a bit to drive.

We got there around 8pm, I think. And the slopes were brightly lit. While the excitement was growing, our friend was thankfully braking on the steep road that would lead us to our AirBnB house. And out came this photo. A streak of red light on the snow walls to the side of the road. F 2.2 to get whatever light there was, and shutter speed at 1/8 of a second. 

And after that descent the Blue Mountain resort appeared. We had reached our destination and were thrilled to see how far out it expanded. No, it wasn’t the Alps, but for what we wanted, it was going to be just perfect. 

113. That was the house number. We find it and park the cars right in front ready to unpack all our luggage. Skis, snowboard, suitcases, and a dog.

First things first. Assigning bed rooms. Done. Second thing, unpack the grocery bag. Third thing, got out for a quick beer run. Fourth thing, get cooking. We were starving.

Bucatini all’Amatriciana (pasta with Amatriciana sauce for those that aren’t Italian). It was appreciated. Or maybe we were just a little hungry.

Chat a bit. Eat some delicious Oreo balls covered with white chocolate that one of the friends had made, a night cap, and off to bed. Like at Christmas, we were children who wanted to go to bed early so the next day would come sooner. Maybe that was just me.

We’re all ready. Some ski, others go for a walk with snow rackets, I snowboard. The Fujifilm stays safe at home. iPhone is all I have now.

Straightaway I notice the number of Chinese people that are at the slopes and walking around the small, almost European looking town. A chance to Discover through Photography.

Having lived in China, I know how much they hustle. Like this gentleman, who was selling unused tickets to people in front of me, to avoid having to wait in the long line (it was a busy Saturday, as people would tell us later in the day). He had two phones, was recieving money electronically from his ‘clients’ and all in all, didn’t seem it was illegal. It was just a great recollection of my years when I was in China.

But it got me thinking about Chinese people in Canada. I know there are many Chinese descendants in the Vancouver area, much like on the US West Coast. I had heard that in Toronto rich Chinese people were buying up a lot of property, and now were moving to other cities after the Non-Resident Speculation Tax was introduced for non-citizens.  

The NRST is a 15 per cent tax on the purchase or acquisition of an interest in residential property located in the Greater Golden Horseshoe Region (GGH) by individuals who are not citizens or permanent residents of Canada or by foreign corporations (foreign entities) and taxable trustees (source)

As this article states, “Juwai.com [a real estate website] said Chinese buyers inquired about US$1.45 billion worth of Canadian properties in 2017″. $1.45 billion. I repeat. 1.45 billion dollars. Of course, the interest in Toronto’s real estate, decreased by 25% in 2017. And also of course, it increased by 84.5% in Montreal that same year.

Money flows don’t stop.

And nor do Chinese interested in the Western ways.

I also found out that approximately 5% of the Canadian population is of Chinese descent. But the ratio I noticed there was certainly much higher.

We get our ski pass and are ready to hit the slopes. The ski lifts hold 6 people, the first I had ever seen this, and bring us to the top. Windy, naked trees, perfect snow, and no sun. Slopes to the left, slopes to the right. A great day was ahead of us!

Up and down, and left and right we went. We went through most of the ski resort, trying the easier and then the more challenging slopes.

The view, on a quasi-frozen Lake Huron, was stunning. The “Memory Lane” sign pointed directly at our home, down there, in the valley, or on the lake shore? Never thought those two could be the same.

While enjoying the day, I also discovered that the first chairlift in the area, from 1959, was standing, unused, at a slope’s peak. 

And in between a bathroom break and another, I couldn’t help but get a little street photography going. A photographer, with more lenses on her belt than a Marine Gi Joe has grenades, was photographing a young Chinese girl, all dressed in red, while, what appeared to be her brother, was translating the photographer’s directions to the young girl. 

Could the photos have been for a Chinese Blue Mountain brochure, for Chinese travelers?

On the left, a man idly sits, next to a yellow fire hydrant that is marked by a red fire hydrant sign.

By 6ish it was time to call it quits and head back to the house. The day had flown by, we had had our hamburger lunch, a Starbucks coffee afterwards, had spoken to many Italian and Greek Canadians, and we were ready for another Italian home cooked meal; Pizzoccheri (buckwheat pasta with cheese, sage and cabbage).

Of course a well deserved beer and a delicious birthday cake complimented the dinner. Yes, it was one of the friends’ birthday.

And yes, it was time for me to reconnect with my Fujifilm.

 

The evening fell into the usual laughs, long conversations on which is better, Nutella, or the new kid on the block, the Pan di Stelle equivalent, and simply recollecting the fun day we had just had.

February 2nd was now behind us, and the bags were being packed, ready for the 4.5 hour drive home. Staring out of the one window that I had used as a different frame to capture the world, in the 9 hours I spent looking out side it.

And while it was gloomy when we left, the sun shone bright when we got back home. The temperature had risen from -23 C (-35 with the Wind Chill) to 11 C in a matter of a weekend. 

Pure Michigan they call it.

 

Until Next Time,

Gio

 

P.S. Canadians are so friendly, welcoming us home like that!

And to think just a few months back this was us. Again, sitting around the evil table.