Friday, August 29, 2014


Old train station in Kinmount, Ontario. The tracks have been gone for many years...
The day we left was rainy, but the forecast called for a perfect weather. Well, it was already October 7 and we would not be surprised if it called for snow! We took highway 48 north, then 49 and stopped in the town of Kinmount, spotting a rail station turned into a museum, just next to a rail bed (the tracks must have been lifted long ago).
Years ago the Victoria Railway connected this town with Lindsay and Haliburton. Passenger service ceased in 1960, freight service ended in 1978 and the line was abandoned in 1981. According to a historical plaque near the station, Kinmount is one of the first sites of Icelanding settlements in Canada. The plaque was erected in 2000 and among 500 people gathered for the dedication was the Foreign Minister of Iceland and the Deputy Prime Minister of Canada:

In the 1870's, economic distress prompted mass emigration from Iceland. On September 25th, 1874, 352 Icelanders, exhausted and weakened by illness arrived at the emigration sheds in Toronto. When the Victoria Railway Company offered work constructing its line from near Kinmount, the provincial government housed the Icelanders in log shanties down river from here. Poor ventilation, sanitation and diet allowed sickness to rage through their cold, over-crowded quarters. Within six weeks, twelve children and a teenager had died. By the spring of 1875, the death toll had doubled and many of the settlers scattered in search of a better life. In the fall, most regrouped in Toronto and travelled west to found the settlement of Gimli, Manitoba.

Paddling to Algonquin Park
After a while we arrived at the White Pine Shore Resort and were assigned room #308. We were surprised at the way this ‘resort’ looked, as it resembled an office building in the middle of nowhere—which we later found it, once it had been. This time we did not bring our canoe and wanted to use the resort’s canoe to go paddling, but it was raining. We drove to the road leading to the beach area (some distance from the hotel) and walked to the beach where the kayaks and one canoe were located. In the evening we had an early dinner and chatted with a resort employee. Since there was a TV set in the room, with hundreds of channels available, we turned it on—after all, neither of us has a TV at home and we thought we would find something interesting to watch. We happened on the TLN channel, showing a documentary on Kenny, whose body ended at his waist and who walked on his hands. It was quite touching—but the commercials (which I had not seen for over 2 years) were just disgusting, in-your-face promotions, marketing crappy, unwholesome junk food. As much as I would like to watch some good documentaries, I was so glad I did not have TV, I could not stand that misleading and indoctrinating advertising, which by far exceeded the communist propaganda that I still remember from the old country.
Old, semi-abandoned bridge

The next morning after breakfast, we drove on Christine Road, parked at its end and walked to the Lodge’s beach. The lone canoe was still available, so we hopped in and paddled north towards Algonquin Park. From the York River we canoed to Benoir Lake and at Peterson Road saw an old, semi-abandoned bridge. We got out of the canoe and saw an abandoned lumber yard & mill called Martin Lumber. Later we found out that its owner, Grenville Martin, built up this business to become one of the most modern mills in the country—and the White Pine Shores Resort where we stayed (previously called MartinWood Resort) was originally built as the company’s office, housing the office staff. Grenville Martin died in a plane crash in 1984 at the age of 48 and perhaps his untimely demise eventually resulted in the demise of his company as well.
Abandoned buildings of W. Martin Lumber Limited

There were plenty of reeds and water vegetation and we truly enjoyed paddling in such a solitude, which was suddenly interrupted: we heard, and then saw, a low-flying big military (transport?) plane. At one point we thought it was going to land on the water, but fortunately (for us and the plane crew) it regained its altitude and soon disappeared. According to posted signs, we entered Algonquin Park. Benoir Lake ended and there were two routes: we took the one to the right, called Mink Creek, which was meandering among reeds and sometimes it was difficult to make turns with the canoe. Finally we reached a log jam; not wanting to carry the canoe, we turned back to Benoir Lake and in turn took the left passage (York River) and paddled up to the High Falls Rapids, where we left the canoe and walked along the river. The path was very muddy and slippery and we had to be very careful not to slip—portaging would have been quite challenging and treacherous! The rapids were quite picturesque and after taking several photos, we went to the canoe. We encountered only one other couple hiking from the opposite direction. We paddled back to the beach and went to the hotel to have dinner.
Paddling in Algonquin Park

Next day we had breakfast, checked out and drove towards Haliburton Forest, stopping at the town of Wilberforce (for some reasons called the Geocaching Capital of Canada). We also stopped at the town of Haliburton for a nice cup of tea. Since we were familiar with the historical/cultural venues of this nice town, we only took time to picnic and shop. Soon, we arrived at Haliburton Forest, where we were going to spend several days camping.

View from our campsite in Haliburton Forest
This forest (its full name being The Haliburton Forest & Wild Life Reserve Ltd.) is privately owned and encompasses an area of 300 square kilometres. It offers plenty of activities—camping, canoeing, boating, hiking, dog sledging, night sky gazing, snowmobiling, biking, fishing as well as canopy tour and a ride in the only freshwater submarine in the world! In addition, there is a wolf centre and it is possible to observe wolves living in an enclosed area through a one-way windows. There are still some forestry operations taking place in the forest. Furthermore, there are a number of trailers with no access to any amenities, yet the waiting list is long and a 10 year waiting time is normal. Incidentally, the Haliburton Forest official website prominently features my photo taken in the forest in 2008, although I do not recall ever being asked for permission to publish it…
Thanks to such signs, it was quite easy to find the right
road in the forest

Most campsites were vacant and we were recommended campsite at a small lake. We drove to check it out and indeed, it was awesome and we decided to take it. We drove back to the office to pay for the site and met the owner’s wife with a hybrid wolf on a leash—wow, a very impressive animal! She assured us it did not run off leash in the forest. Catherine thought it looked very much like her daughter's Siberian husky. Quickly, we drove back to the campsite—twice we had to open and close the gates leading on various roads—the only forest I know of that has actually gates! For a refundable fee, we were given a key to use during your stay. Somewhat of a 'pain' to stop, open and close several times a trip but it serves a purpose of keeping those who did not pay from driving in the forest. The fall colours were past their peak, we enjoyed driving on the forest roads very much.
Our lovely and private campsite
There were six campsites at this lake and ours was probably the best, just on Minnie Lake. Each campsite had a separate outhouses and the first night the other sites were not occupied. I quickly set up the tent and we enjoyed the sunset. There were plenty of chipmunks and squirrels on the campsite, a beaver dam on the lake and at night we heard beavers’ tails splashing against the water surface. We also spotted an otter and a lonely duck that from time to time showed up at the lake. Considering that it was almost mid-October, the weather was just perfect—it was sunny, warm and did not rain, so we could do some hiking in the forest, drove on its many forest roads and also drove on a road leading along Kennisis Lake. to check out a friend's cottage.  He had hand built it 20 years ago. Despite being the centre of attraction, we decided to forgo a visit to the wolf centre as we had toured it extensively a few years back. I must note it is well worth the time and admission fee if you go during one of the scheduled feeding times. We left the forest on October 13, 2013, after a quick use of their pay showers (yes, just like Europe , only loonies instead of euros). It was raining that evening, yet we were safely in the car by then. It was our last camping trip of 2013 and we figured out that in approximately 7 months we might again go camping!
Impressive mushrooms... but not edible!


  1. Impressive photos as in the former post. I have never read before about Islanders living in Canada, and XIXth century emigration to Canada. Interesting article about it can be found in polish:

    The photo of old train station resembles the situation with train stations in smaller cities and villages in Poland. Huge amount of them was liquidated during last 25 years. And the situation of polish railway economic sector is quite dramatic this time: Thanks for inspirations!

    1. Thanks for your comments. In fact, I had never known about Islanders in Canada-until I saw the plaque.
      At one point trains opened up the country and were essential for Canadian economy, hundreds of communities popped up along the tracks, but now most of them are gone.

  2. its really nice to read ...