Wednesday, August 1, 2018


Our trip in Ontario

After coming back 5 days ago from our camping trip in the USA and Ontario (, we were again ready for another autumn adventure, just in Ontario—both of us drove separately and of course, we took the canoe with us. We had a reservation coming up in Killarney Park in several days and decided to spend this time in Grundy Lake Provincial Park. We left Mississauga early in the morning and our first stop was Parry Sound—we visited our favorite bookstore, “Bearly Used Books”. In the bookstore the radio was on and while Catherine was listening to the weather forecast, it mentioned Killbear Provincial Park—what an excellent idea, we had completely forgotten about this park! After a quick visit to No Frills & Heart Store, we had a traditional lunch under the railway trestle over the Seguin River and proceeded to Killbear. The park employee gave us a list of vacant campsites and we loved one of them, number 1042, it was gorgeous, overlooking the beach and rocks and allowing us to admire spectacular sunsets from our campsites. For some reasons it looked very familiar to me… As Catherine was backing up from the site’s parking, the van’s tailpipe got stuck in the gravel… and then I had the déjà vu moment: in 2014 we had spent one night at this park, camping on a nearby campsite number 1139 (just over the rocky hill from #1042)—but we had also checked out this campsite then and as Catherine had been backing up, exactly the same thing had taken place—her tailpipe had gotten stuck in the gravel!

We drove as fast as we could to the park office, paid for the campsite and soon I was setting up the tent. Usually I can easily do it by myself, but because of strong (and cool) wind, I had to ask Catherine to help me—as well as used the guy lines attached to the fly.

The view from our campsite. Amazing!

This time I brought with me a very absorbing book by Michael Weisskopf “Blood Brothers. Among the Soldiers of Ward 54”. The author, a senior correspondent for Time magazine and a Pulitzer Prize finalist, lost his hand while riding through Bagdad in the back of a U.S. s Army Humvee in 2003. He was sent for treatment to Ward 57 at Walter Reed Medical Center, the wing of the armed forces hospital reserved for amputees, where he met a lot of soldiers who had lost limbs in the war. It was a very powerful book, showing the usually unknown side of any war. Being wounded is one thing—but the recovery process, in many cases, was very long, torturous, painful and frustrating. It certainly presented that part of war we hardly ever think about. At 300 pages, it took me just a few nights to finish the whole book. It was very poignant and emotional.

We stayed at this park for 3 days (until Sunday) and every day went for a hike (a hiking path paralleled the road), saw plenty of deer, I took photographs of interesting-looking mushrooms as well as we spoke with a couple who had just purchased a new small silver camper. The Visitor Center was very nice, too—we chatted with a young employee for a while and she told us that in previous years the park had had plenty of issues with black bears: some had managed to break into locked cars (certainly without using the car keys!) and one bear alone had supposedly been responsible for over 20 such break-ins—it had to be euthanized and now we could see it on display in the Visitor’s Center. Every afternoon we admired sunsets from our campsite and later had a campfire. The campground filled up on Friday, but it was still quiet.

On Saturday we drove back to Parry Sound to do shopping at No Frills and Hart Store, as well as went again the “Bearly Used Books” bookstore, where we spent at least one hour. Catherine bough several autobiographies of Canadian comedy actors and audio disks to listen to on her drive back to the U.S.A. I spotted “The Secret Speech” by Tom Rob Smith, the author of “Child 44” and immediately bought it. Interestingly, but it was in Parry Sound where I had purchased “Child 44” in 2014 and devoured it while we were camping on Franking Island! This was the second part of the trilogy. Although probably not as good as the first one, I kept reading it every night while camping in Killarney and on Philip Edward Island. I also bought Leon Uris’ “Mila 18” and “Holocaust Journey. Travelling in Search of the Past” by Martin Gilbert—both books depicted many places which I knew or was familiar with. We talked to the bookstore’s owner for a while, who told us a lot of fascinating things about Parry Sound and her bookstore. I also spotted a few books authored by Terry Boyle (whom I had met twice, last time at “Gilly’s Restaurant” after the Franklin Island canoeing trip in 2015) and found out that he had passed away on July 11, 2016. He was just 63 years old. So sad-I loved his books about Ontario!

Parry Sound. Our traditional site, under the trestle, where we always have our lunch

We also checked out the abandoned hospital in Parry Sound (a new one had been built since) and a train station. It was closed—nowadays there were just several trains stopping there, going to Toronto and Sudbury.

Catherine just made a new friend, "The Hungry Bear"!

On Sunday, September 10, 2017, we left our splendid campsite at Killbear and drove up north on highway 400 to the Hungry Bear Restaurant, one of our de rigueur stops whenever we were in the area. It was still accessible from the highway, but there was major road construction taking place and when the two-lane road is turned into a freeway, there would be an off-ramp from the freeway leading to the restaurant and the Trading Post. I sincerely hoped that they would still remain in business for many decades!

Our campsite between Lake Carlyle and Terry Lake

Eventually we arrived at Killarney Park’s George Office. Even though we had a reservation, there was a big screw-up with the bill, they kept overcharging us and could not figure out how much we should pay (we had 2 vehicles), but at the end we left the office quite satisfied. I think that all provincial parks should simplify the reservation system so that we did not have to spend so much time lining up in the office—after all, in our case the whole reservation had already been made online months ago.

Our 'canoe parking'

It was very difficult to reserve a site in this park and of course, I had done it a few months prior. Interior camping does not allow to reserve a particular campsite—there were a number of campsites on each lake and in our case, we just booked a campsite on Carlyle & Terry Lake—once we came to the park, we could stay on any campsite that was not occupied. It was our fourth visit to this particular area and we knew which campsite we wanted (altogether, there were a total of 6 campsites). Luckily, all the campsites were vacant, so we got site #55. It was very nice, offering the view of both lakes (Carlyle and Terry) and there was a small waterfall, but whereas those camping on the opposite campsite could see (and especially hear) it, we could not. The only drawback was the very precipitous hill leading up to the campsite. We had to carefully attach the canoe to the rocks & roots and then carry all our equipment up the rugged ridge. I felt ‘at home’ and in no time the tent was up and ready for our habitation and Catherine set up a great kitchen, ready for our gourmet meals!

View from our campsite-from time to time we saw canoes

During our stay we had an excellent weather—it was sunny, not one drop of rain, warm and we did not see too many campers on the lake. Once we talked to an Irish paddler who had sprained her leg and was unable to follow her group on a hiking sally. From the outset Catherine refused to hang the food, but I insisted and after several attempts succeeded in throwing the rope over the branch. Although the food hanging area was relatively close to our tent and fire pit, it was certainly better than just leaving the barrel with food on the ground. We never saw any bears anyway, although twice we heard a very noisy thump or crash—Catherine thought it might have been a bear, but since no other noises followed, we assumed that perhaps a tree or a branch fell to the ground.

Some mornings were very foggy and I was glad Catherine woke me up; I took a lot of lovely photographs. In the evening we paddled towards Johnnie Lake, through a narrow channel, where beavers had made a dam (yet it was not very sturdy and we did not have to lift over the canoe) and we also saw a couple of beaver lodges.

Almost daily we paddled from our campsite to the parking lot (about 30 minutes) and drove to the town of Killarney, where we had fish & chips in the Herbert Fisheries Restaurant. It looked so differently now, as the small school bus (which had become almost a symbol of Killarney) had been gone and a new building had been erected. The food was good, but the décor in the new place was so-so… I think that more old, historical photographs from the area and fishing artifacts would make the place much more original—and it would not take a lot of money. In any case, each time we consumed the food outside, sitting on the dock. We also went to the LCBO store (which sold liquor and beer) and Pittfield’s (the only grocery store in town).

One evening we walked to the Killarney Mountain Lodge, which had just undergone very major & expensive renovations. We ran into Mr. Kelly McAree, General Manager, a very nice, no-nonsense man, with many years of experience in the hospitality industry. Considering that he must have constantly dealt with employees and guests, he certainly had to possess very exceptional qualities to successfully run such a place. He immediately offered to show us the whole property. He even took us to the chalet which used to be the residence of the original owner/builder and his family. The view from the Chalets was breathtaking and they offered very luxurious, yet still rustic experience.

From the hotel’s balcony we spotted a van towing a kayak. He told us it belonged to Traci Lynn Martin (, a brave and extremely adventurous Missouri woman, who had embarked on an 8,600-mile Great Lakes odyssey in March, 2017, hoping to complete it in 2017. According to the “Detroit News”, she stopped her journey in late 2017 because of the rigors of wintry weather on Lake Ontario. Still, she paddled 3,582 miles from March and completed lakes Superior, Huron and Michigan. On October 15, 2017 she became the first person to circumnavigate the three lakes in one calendar year. She said she would try again in 2019. What a spirit!
The next night we went to Killarney Mountain Lodge and had a tasty dinner, sitting outside on the porch.

We also drove to the park and had a hot shower (what a luxury!). Then we did the 4 km Cranberry Bog Trail, which was very picturesque, meandering among bogs, wetlands, marshes and lakes. At one point we had to hike up and then down a very steep, rocky hill. We saw plenty of pretty looking mushrooms. I was quite sure I saw the most deadly mushroom, the Amanita Ocreata, a.k.a. the death angel, destroying angel or angel of death. Once eaten, it causes only a mild gastrointestinal and include abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. They go away after 2–3 days, but all the while the damage to the internal organs us is taking place during this time, leading to a coma, liver & kidney failure, and eventually death. While hiking, we saw the La Cloche Silhouette Trail—there was a sign warning that once you started it, you had to walk for the next 78 km. Even usually courageous Catherine was not interested in following this trail…

We spotted this snapping turtle on the main road as it was trying to cross it. I made a U-turn and helped it safely get to its destination

On two occasions, when we were coming back to the Carlyle Lake access point parking from the town of Killarney, we saw two ladies, who were setting up their cameras on tripods in order to take photographs of the Northern Lights. They were quite surprised that we were going to paddle to our campsite in total darkness! While canoeing back to our campsite, we told the campers staying on campsite #56 about this phenomenon. However, I believe no aurora became visible that night—well, it is a hit or miss.

The new Herbert Fisheries Restaurant in Killarney

September 16/17, 2017 (Saturday/Sunday) was our last night at Killarney. We did want to extend our stay and each day went to the park office, inquiring if any campsites on Carlyle/Terry Lakes had become vacant, but none had, all had been solidly booked-up. On Saturday we left for the town of Killarney late afternoon—there was a lone camper on the site across from ours. When we returned to the Carlyle access point, it was about 9:45 p.m. and we headed to our campsite in total darkness. Although the route was easy and straightforward, as we were approaching the location of the campsite, we had to use my powerful 1,000 lumen flashlight to pinpoint our campsite—we had forgotten to attach a blinking light to a tree, which we usually did and it was always a great idea.

When we were disembarking from the canoe (which was tricky, as the rocks were slippery and it was dark) and unloading our bags, suddenly Catherine gave a shirking, very loud cry, as she spotted one or two water snakes, perfectly visible in the flashlights’ shining light, swimming near the canoe—and she was quite certain that at any moment they would try to jump into the canoe and attack her! I did not much care about the snakes, so I slowly lifted the canoe and pulled it up the sloping, rugged ridge and then tied it to the roots and rocks. Just seconds later I was startled by a very thunderous noise (considering it was so still and quiet around, it sounded absolutely deafening). The canoe simply slid down the ridge, ended up in the water and was slowly, but surely, floating away! It turned out that in the darkness I had not properly attached the rope to the canoe. We had to make a very quick decision. Catherine instantaneously took the initiative, unwaveringly stating,

“I’m not going into the water, no way!”

What a mess! Fortunately, Catherine is responsible for the kitchen

Fortunately, we still had the rope and a few powerful flashlights & headlights. Besides, long ago we had attached reflective stickers on the canoe, so even though it was drifting farther and farther away, we could still see it. I was a little reluctant to swim in total darkness and thought about wearing a lifejacket, but it was impossible: we always left lifejackets in the canoe, so I did not have one—but before I could even contemplate this predicament any further, I took my clothes off and got immersed in the water (forgetting about the water snakes and the legendary Killarney lake monster, if there was one). My headlight shining bright, the rope in one hand, I commenced swimming towards the canoe as Catherine kept shining the 1,000 lumen flashlight, using only 1/3 of its maximum output. I did not know how long it took me to reach the canoe, but once I did, I fastened the rope to the canoe (this time, correctly!) and swam back, pulling the canoe behind. Although the water was quite cool, it was warm outside. Within 10 minutes I was dry, dressed up and sitting near the warm campfire! I felt sorry for the camper at the campsite vis-à-vis ours… he must have thought of us as some total neophytes, with no canoe & camping skills and no outdoors etiquette!

The next several nights we were planning to spend on Philip Edward Island, which still constituted Crown Land. However, first we had to buy from the park office two vehicle stickers to park my car and her van at the Chikanishing access point. There was another major screw-up in the park office and it took us a while to finally make the proper payment.

At 4:00 p.m. we paddled on the Chikanishing creek, but once we reached its mouth, we saw it was windy and the water was relatively rough. Although we were going to set up our tent on the western tip of the island (South Point Island), we still had to paddle across the open water, some 700-800 meters. I kept trying, but each time we were on the open water, we felt the somewhat powerful waves. I still had fresh memories of our paddling the same stretch of the water, when the waves had been so big that from time to time the water had been flowing into the canoe.

We stopped near the mouth of the creek and even considered camping there, not sure if it was the park’s land or Crown Land (later I determined it was the park’s), but I did not like that spot. I pulled out my marine radio and listened to the most recent marine weather forecast—which fortunately said that the wind would subside in the late afternoon! So we waited for a while and in less than one hour ventured out again. I kept the canoe perpendicular to the waves, paddling not towards the island, but towards the open water of Georgian Bay, since the waves were coming from that direction. Eventually we made a sharp left turn, paddled very fast and entered a small narrows between South Point Island and some rocks. After exploring the area, we disembarked on the rocky shore and decided to stay in that pristine spot. On the other side was a family of 2 adults & 2 girls, with 2 golden labs, which came over to our side to say ‘hi’. They were very quiet and we hardly noticed them.

The view was spectacular—whenever I am paddling in that area, I just love the scenery! We set up the tent, but did not have the fire that night. We could admire blinking lighthouses and buoys in front of us. The family left the next day and we wandered at their former campsite and explored the island. We had stayed on a ‘campsite’ located just 50 or so meters in 2012, but this spot was much better. There were plenty of fire pits here and there, as well as broken layers of rocks, indicating that somebody had had a fire there long time ago. We chose one of the existing fire pits because it was large and there was also a primitive table.

The first morning, at about 4:00 a.m., we were awakened by some voices. We looked out the tent and saw a flotilla of canoes, moving towards the parking lot. Each canoe had a glow stick attached and it looked marvelously from our campsite! Of course, the canoers must have left very early to avoid potential winds and waves, which could have made their return journey impossible.

We were planning to stay longer, but the next morning (Tuesday) the weather was iffy—it did not rain, but the sky was cloudy and eventually it did rain a little. I was not concerned about the rain, but rather about the rocks becoming slippery and immediately we decided to pack up and paddle back. At least there was no wind, so we did not have to worry about the non-existent waves.

We went to Herbert Fisheries in Killarney for chips & fish and drove to Point Grondine Park. We had found out about this new park from a brochure, located on Native Land and run by First Nations, and called the number given in the brochure, but there was a recording directing us to their… website! Well, considering that there was no cell coverage in most of the park, it would have been quite difficult to follow their instructions! There was a map and self-serve payment station. We talked to a young guy with a big dog who was about to embark on a long hike—he had encountered problems while trying to make the payment, the machine did not want to accept his money and when we changed some bills for him, he was finally able to pay. There was a guest book and according to recent entries, some tourists, unable to make the payment, left the park. I hope that the management will eliminate those issues which discouraged many potential visitors. I think that there are only hiking trails and a water trail, which includes a 3 km portage—or the ‘portage-less’ loop around Philip Edward Island. Nevertheless, I though it was a great idea to have established the park and I sincerely hope that next year all the glitches would be resolved.

In Chutes Provincial Park, we got the same campsite we had stayed on just one month ago!

We drove to Sudbury, where Catherine went to the TD Bank regarding a money order: unfortunately, she had experienced so many problems with this bank and spent so much time on the phone that the quality of her vacations certainly suffered. And it was a clear fault of a TD Bank employee in Mississauga, who did not enter just one number on the money transfer!

There were plenty of falls and rapids in the park

We also went to Independent (a big grocery store), where we bought plenty of food items bearing the sign of quality (i.e., a pink sticker staying “50% OFF”). Then we drove to Massey, to Chutes Provincial Park—yes, the same park we had camped at just over 2 weeks ago and we even got the same campsite! The park was quite empty—very few people expected that the summer was going to start a couple of months later! Later, we spoke to a park employee, Amanda, who grew up in Massey.

We liked sitting at this scenic campsite, which was just vis-a-vis our

Catherine often went over to the other campsite, which was covered with falling leaves, to have her coffee, listen to the radio or just listen to the nearby falls and meditate. One day we met a young Thai lady with a 13 week old miniature dog (Chow/Australian Sheep Herder), she got it from a breeder and it was ADORABLE! I loved stroking it—its fur so soft! She caught a salmon in the river and wrapped it up to take home. Then her husband came and we chatted with him too. A few days later we again ran into them on the beach, talked to her husband’s father from Sudbury (he was wearing a pink ‘prison suit’’), quite an interesting chap in his 80s.

And this was another spot where we loved sitting, watching the falls and listening to sound of the water

My last book that I started reading at Chutes was “Red Heat: Conspiracy, Murder, and the Cold War in the Caribbean” by Alex von Tunzelmann, which I had picked from a second-hand book store in Toronto. I immediately found the book totally fascinating and captivating—after all, I had been going to Cuba for many years and even in my teens I had been interested in that region and its politics. The book was about the Caribbean (Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic) and its leaders (Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Rafael Trujillo and François "Papa Doc") during the presidencies of Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson. The superpowers thought they could use those countries as puppets during the cold war, but what neither bargained on was that their puppets would come to life. I could not put this book down, it was remarkable! By the way, I thought that the author was an older, distinguished looking gentleman, coming from an aristocratic German family. Nothing could be further from the truth: Alex von Tunzelmann was actually a British, Oxford-educated woman historian, born in 1977. And she wrote this exceptional book when she was just 34 years old!

On Sunday, as we were leaving the LCBO store in Massey, we saw about 10 Mennonite horse-drawn carriages on the road leading towards the park. There were plenty of Mennonites in the area—some were even selling home-made pastries at the corner of highways 17 & 553—and on the other corner there was a… how can I call it… a second-hand store with thousands of items, including furniture. The Home Hardware store had a special parking designed for the horse-drawn buggies!

We again walked part of the Twin Bridge trail. The weather, as I said before, gradually kept becoming summer-like, it was sunny and humid and the mercury in Sudbury hit a record of +35C. Several times we drove to Espanola and once Catherine went to the TD Bank there, sat with a consultant, trying to setup cross-border account—for some inexplicable reasons it was NOT possible!

Paddling on the Spanish River in Massey, ON

While in Chutes, we did a number of canoeing trips—it was a great base for paddling on lakes in the vicinity. We drove to Espanola, took Panache Lake Road and parked near the bridge. First we paddled on the Darkies Creek, which soon merged with the Spanish River. It was a lovely, quiet paddle; we did not see any other people around. The ridges along the shores were sandy. From afar we saw the Domtar Paper Mill in Espanola. We still managed to go to Hart, Independent, Canadian Tire and Dollarama for more deals.

Very picturesque road to Willisville

On Thursday we drove to Espanola, then took road number 6 (leading to Manitoulin Island) and turned left, to a small settlement of Willisville. By the way, the road was quite steep, but it was also very scenic and offered awesome views of the area. Once I reached the town, I kept driving on what I though was a regular road, but when that “road” became very narrow and rough, I realized that I was driving on the abandoned railway! So, I had to back up and finally reached Bearskin Resort.

Old train station in Willisville. By permission. Source: 

Willisville was settled over 100 years ago and at that time the Algoma Eastern Railway was opened from Sudbury to Little Current (on Manitoulin Island). Passenger service to Little Current ended by 1963 and the line itself beyond Espanola went into disuse and abandoned. Nowadays, much of the former right-of-way remains visible and is used in certain areas as a road or path—we spotted a few motorcyclists using it. Many Group of Seven members painted in the area.

The Willis family, from whom the town derives its name. By permission. Source: 

We parked at Bearskin Lodge & Outfitters and talked for a while with Darcy, who regaled us with many interesting stories from the area and told us that Franklin Carmichael’s (one of the Group of Seven’s members) cabin was on the lake nearby. The Lodge was situated on both sides of the narrows and a small ferry transported tourists to their cabins on the other side of the narrows. It cost us $5 to park the car.

Canoeing near Willisville

We paddled on Frood Lake—there were a lot of rolling, white quartz mountains. Then we paddled on the lake north Bearskin Lodge, reaching a small channel leading to Charloton Lake. There were lots of islands with nice cottages, otherwise known as “camps” up north here. The other day we paddled along the shores of Frood Lake towards the Lawson Quarry, there we saw the former right-of way of the Algoma Eastern Railway. We reached the dam—there were some small, abandoned buildings—and walked a little. I spotted a nice, albeit abandoned and dilapidated house—somebody had sprayed on the door, “Come In”, so we did. It must have been occupied not long ago, but now was deserted and covered with graffiti. I wonder why nobody had bought it—after all, there was a road leading to highway 6. Near the house I walked for a while on the former railway path and there were still some decayed railway ties deep in the ground.

Abandoned house near highway 6

We also drove to Espanola and then to Widgawa Lodge & Outfitters, where were wanted to put in the canoe, but it turned out that the lady charged $20 for parking (vs. $5 at Bearskin Lodge) and there was no accessible dock—we had to carry the canoe over a hill. Besides, I realized that we could reach exactly the same lakes from Bearskin Lodge, so we went there again.

La Cloche Provincial Park

Another day we took La Cloche Lake Road to the very end (upon the park warden’s suggestion) and reached La Cloche Lake—part of this lake was crown land, park a provincial park, part belonged to Sagamok Indian Reserve. It was very hot and sunny and it was very difficult to paddle on the open water, so we headed towards a rocky clearing with a rock table. There was a shady spot where we spent a few hours reading, drinking and then went for an invigorating swim.

Our last paddle was in Massey on the Spanish River, we put in near the old bridge (just the abutments remained). We were told that it used to be a very narrow bridge and had been abandoned decades ago, when the new bridge was built. We turned left into the Sables-Spanish River and paddled to the very end—i.e., three bridges—a train bridge, highway 17 bridge and an old, abandoned arched bridge, now used for foot traffic. As we were paddling back, we started chatting with a fisherman; he was, if my memory serves me well, from Hamilton and retired here with his wife. He loved this area. He said that his wife was volunteering in the Massey Museum—indeed, when we went there the next day, she instantly recognized us (or, to be precise, me) from her husband’s account of his meeting us the day before. We enjoyed a wonderful sunset on the river and I took a lot of photos. Once we arrived at the launch site and were loading the canoe on the car, a big truck drove up and we also saw a 24” pontoon boat on the river—both were waiting for us to drive away. The lady from the truck was Native and we spoke with her for a while—she was getting her Master’s degree at Queen’s University in Entrepreneurship. They just had a fishing tournament with big prizes! I told her that over 10 years ago my friend had won the 1st price at such a tournament—a car—but he had not been able to even come close to repeating this feat since then. I think that luck always has A LOT to do with succeeding—especially catching a big fish!

The site of the Garnier High School. Only the pedestal remains, on which a statue of Jesus once stood in front of the school's entrance

The day before leaving the park we drove to the town of Spanish, called “the gateway to the north channel”. We drove on Garnier Road to the Spanish Municipal Marina. There was a modern building with fitness facilities as well as a trail which Catherine decided to do—I was waiting for her in the car and had to find a shaded location because it was extremely hot (September 25-unbelievable-over +30C!).

The Garnier High School for Boys, as it looked many years ago. The pedestal, with the statue of Jesus, is visible.

Very close to the marina there used to be two Residential Schools. One was for boys (The St. Peter Claver School and the Garnier High School, operated out of the boys school) and run by Jesuits. The other school, St. Joseph's School for Girls, was run by the Daughters of the Heart of Mary. The Garnier High School (also referred to as “Garnier College”) was closed by 1965 and the Garnier building was demolished in 2004. The St. Joseph's School for Girls closed in 1962 and the building sustained a fire in 1981.

The ruins of St. Joseph's School for Girls

When I had visited that very same area in 1994, I still remember the ruins of the Garnier School, along with the pedestal, albeit empty. According to old photographs of the school, the statue of Jesus, his arms outstretched, used to be there. When we were there in 2017, the school building was gone and the only remnant was that lonesome pedestal. There was also a new granite monument, on which both schools were depicted, with the following inscription:

The Granite Monument

Dreams flash across the minds of many, gratifying, satisfying, unrelenting, but dreams pass and we find peace at last.” Mae Evelyn Smith, Buswa, a student. “This memorial is in honour of all children who attended these schools.”

An old photo of the two schools-the Garnier High School for Boys and St. Joseph's School for Girls

The building, or rather its shell, that used to house St. Joseph's School for Girls, still stood a few hundred meters from the site of the other school. The statue of St. Joseph was still there. The gate was open, so we entered the premises—I think that somebody was next to the building, the place was quite interesting and we wished we could have talked to the owner.

The residential schools had left a painful legacy and for many years those who attended the schools had often been publicly reminiscing about the years spent there.

Incidentally, since 1994 I have been attending annual Jesuit retreats at Manresa, Pickering, Ontario. Adjacent to the Retreat House is the Jesuit Infirmary (René Goupil House), where most older and infirm Jesuits come there to retire—and eventually die. Over the years I had read their obituaries and from time to time they mentioned that a given Jesuit brother or father used to teach or work at the Spanish Residential School. During my last retreat, at the end of 2017, I was told that only one Jesuit associated with the Residential School in Spanish was still alive and resided in the Jesuit Infirmary.

On our way back to the park, we stopped at Variety Store for ice cream and talked with a French couple who were tandem riding from Vancouver to Quebec City—they started in July. I always have a high regard for such adventurous individuals!

And then inevitably came September 26, 2017, our last day at the park and our last day together, period! After packing up, we went to the Massey Museum, but only spent 10 minutes there, getting low-priced books and videos. Just before noon, after 36 days travelling together, we bid farewell! Catherine drove west to Minnesota; I was on my way to Mississauga. I still stopped at Espanola as Catherine had asked me to buy her some headlights. I also went to The Giant Tiger to buy a simple t-shirt: it was very hot, +32 C, and I had run out of t-shirts, not expecting it would be so hot at that time! Next to the store there were rail tracks, leading from the Domtar Paper Mill towards the south. I believe it was the only existing and seldom used spur of the Algoma Eastern Railway.

I made a quick stop at the Hungry Bear Restaurant and went to the Trading Post and next I arrived at the intersection of highway 69 & road 522, where the Grundy Supply Post used to be located—and where we had purchased our canoe in 2010. Now it was gone, only the rusty shells of the gas dispensers remained. Fortunately, it had just relocated to the entrance of Grundy Lake Provincial Park—most likely the new highway would pass through its former location.

The former location of Grundy Lake Supply Post, at the intersection of Highway 69 & Road 522. In 2010 we bought our canoe here! Fortunately, it moved just 1 km and now is located in front of of the entrance to Grundy Lake Provincial Park

I was planning on spending the night at Six Mile Lake Provincial Park, but soon realized that I would not make it there on time. Instead, I drove to Oastler Lake Provincial Park, several kilometers south of Parry Sound. The park was almost deserted, the park offices were closed and I quickly drove to campsite number 132, where we had stayed once. Since I only had Catherine’s very small ‘emergency tent’, my inflatable matters did not even fit in, but well, it was for only one night, so I kind of made it fit! To make the tent waterproof, I covered it with a tarp. It was still very hot and humid, but the weather forecast called for a much cooler weather from then on—it was a perfect timing to end our vacation where we did.

Campsite #131 in Oastler Lake Provincial Park and my 'emergency' tent, much too small, but OK for just one night

I drove to the park’s office and made a call from the pay phone outside. Then for the first time I heard the train. OMG, it was so noisy! Without any exaggeration, I thought the train would suddenly materialize on the road and run me over, like in some horror movies! I had to postpone the call because it was impossible to hear anything. Then I drove back to the campsite and spent some time reading and sipping wine. Several times I heard the trains (there were two railway tracks very close to the park, one for eastbound, the other one for westbound trains). Whenever the train approached, first I hear the train whistle blowing, it became lauder and lauder and finally I could hear the rhythmic sounds of the train, so acute that sometimes I had a feeling that trains were crisscrossing the park, just next to my tent! I did manage to fall asleep after 1:00 a.m., yet at least once during the night I was awakened by the train. Just before 6:00 a.m. I woke up due to a shrieking train whistles—falling back asleep was pointless, as in no time I heard another train and yet another. I had stayed in this park several times before and honestly, I had no idea why those trains had not bothered me then! I quickly packed up the tent—which was a good idea as it started raining a little—and left the park just after 7:00 am. After making one quick stop at MEC in Barrie, I arrived at home before 11 a.m.

Monday, July 30, 2018


Our route from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Mississauga, Ontario

In the late 1990s I got my Air Miles card and for the next 20 years I used it while making purchases at certain stores, collecting air miles. I guess it was not one of the best air miles cards—when I finally redeemed most of my points for the one-way flight from Toronto to Minneapolis in 2017, I saved about $200 (still had to pay over $100 in taxes). Wow, it is like ‘earning’ $10 per year!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The good thing was the Air Canada flight was departing at 9:00 a.m., not at 6:00 a.m., like last time; at least I was able to get a good night’s sleep! At the Pearson’s Airport for the first time I used the self-checking option (having printed my boarding pass at home), which worked without any glitches. As expected, my carry-on baggage had to be scanned twice due to all the electronics I was carrying (i.e., three cameras, two GPS units, chargers, batteries, flashlights, headlights, recorder…), but surprisingly I did not even have to open it. While I was waiting for the re-scan, I was observing several people who, despite clear rules, still brought big bottles of liquids and lotions; needless to say, they were confiscated in most cases.

Since Pearson Airport provides United States border preclearance facilities, operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers (in 1952 it became the first airport in the world to provide such facilities), there was another line. Most of the travelers in the line were not apparently American or Canadian citizens and thus some of them had to answer a number of questions as well as were fingerprinted. When it was my turn, the officer just scanned my passport, took a look at the monitor and asked what the purpose of my visit was.

“Camping”, I said.

My passport was stamped and voilà, I entered the United States! Well, not exactly, as legally I still remained in Canada: the U.S. officials could question me, but did not have the power to detain/arrest me, yet of course, could deny my boarding (or I could just abandon my flight).

Since the boarding was not going to occur for at least one hour—and did not have breakfast—I decided to head towards Tim Horton’s—but when I saw a HUGE lineup to this so-popular Canadian coffee shop, I immediately gave up—I did not want to miss my plane ;)!

The aircraft was a smallish Embraer E175, which seated around 80 passengers. The flight’s total time was 1 hour and 48 minutes and after landing at the Minneapolis/Saint Paul (MSP) airport, I quickly proceeded to the baggage pick-up area—my suitcase had already been waiting for me!

Once I found a good waiting spot, I called Catherine and told her where I exactly was. Of course, she was still at home, tied up with something, and apologetically said the she would be late.

“Don’t worry about it! I have plenty of experience waiting for you at this airport”, I said.

Well, when had arrived here the previous year, I had had to wait for her for over one hour too.

Once I saw Catherine’s distinct white Dodge Caravan (albeit now with Minnesota plates and a new front windshield, as the old one got damaged during our last trip in the USA), I quickly got in, installed the GPS unit and we were on our way!

After leaving the city (I was not interested in stopping there), we got on highway 35 and stopped at Forest Lake, where we went to Walmart and Aldi. I was quite impressed with the Aldi. It is a chain of very inexpensive stores (not in Canada, though) and indeed, we bought a lot of food items for our trip. There was also a big sign on the store’s building: “Now Hiring! All positions $14-$24 per hour.” It appeared that, like in Canada, there was a shortage of certain workers in Minnesota, too! However, I was quite disappointed with the Walmart. Beforehand, I had made a list of things I wanted to buy, hoping that I would get them for less than in Canada. Unfortunately, after factoring in the exchange rate, I did not find any deals and we just bought a few basic items for our trip. Since most of Walmart stores (and others too) were conveniently located very close to main highways, it took us just minutes to get back on the highway and we continued driving for some time, eventually stopping at a rest stop and having our lunch.

Several hours later we reached Duluth, a major port city in Minnesota, accessible to oceangoing vessels from the Atlantic Ocean via the Great Lakes Waterway and the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Although we did not stop, I admired the impressive bays, ports, shipyards (?), freighters and railways. At one point it must have been a very important industrial city, but I think its days of glory have been over for some time. By the way, once we drove on the John A. Blatnik Bridge over Saint Louis Bay, we entered the state of Wisconsin and later drove on road number 13, more-less along the south shores of Lake Superior.

We stopped in a small town of Cornucopia (meaning ‘horn of plenty’) and went to Ehler’s Store, where we spoke with a very nice lady, the store owner, who also happened to be Canadian. The store was quite old and it carried groceries, camping supplies, hardware, souvenirs, arts & crafts—as well as it served food. Vis-à-vis the store, there was a small post office and the sign said, “Wisconsin’s Northern Most Post Office”. Once we reached Madeline Island, I saw a post office there, too. Since Madeline Island appeared to be north of Cornucopia, I had some doubts about this assertion—but later took a good look at the map and realized that indeed, part of the island where the post office was located was south of Cornucopia, thus making this claim totally legitimate!

Interestingly, the first farmers who came to this area from the Austrian Empire were Carpatho-Russians, the Rusyns, an ethnic group found in the mountainous borderlands of Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, and Romania. Rusyn surnames found in Cornucopia include Kaseno, Celinsky, Sveda, Roman, and Pristash.

We wished we could have spent more time exploring this town, but still had to catch the ferry to Madeline Island. In spite of our (or rather Catherine’s) driving efforts, we missed the 6:00 p.m. ferry and thus had enough time to drive around the town of Bayfield. There were several ferries and it cost (round trip) $25 per car and $14 per person, altogether $53. It was a nice, leisurely 20 minute ride during which we had an interesting conversation with an American couple about our and their travels.

Madeline Island, originally called Moningwunakauning ("The Home of the Golden Breasted Woodpecker"), is one of a group of 22 “Apostle Islands” and is the largest. It is the only island in the Apostle Island chain open to commercial development and private ownership. Just north of Madeline Island is Stockton Island (Gigawekamingo), which had one of the greatest concentrations of black bears in North America!

As I had made the campsite reservation weeks ago—the choice was quite limited due to the park’s popularity—we went to the park office and quickly got our permits, bought fire wood ($5) and headed to campsite number 7, which was quite nice. The cost was $20 per night, but the van had to have a Wisconsin vehicle admission sticker, valid for one year—it cost $38. It was raining a little, so I quickly set up the tent and we went to sleep skipping having the fire.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

So, we woke up in Big Bay State Park! After having a quick breakfast, we talked to a family with 4 kids and a lovely dog—a Border Collie puppy! Then we went for a walk along the Barrier Beach Trail, meandering along lagoons and sand dunes. There were pine trees, which, according to informative plaques, “can continue to grow year-round because their waxy, evergreen leaves retain water against drying winter winds. Because they do not grow new leaves each spring, they also need less nutrition from the soil.” There were also mushrooms and other plants, growing thanks to the humus layer, made up of pine needles, leaves, wood, animal waste, dead organism and other particles. There was also reindeer moss—which actually is lichen, consisting of a fungus and an alga in a symbiotic relationship. It was a very nice walk!

The park was very well maintained, thanks to the campground hosts, who kept all campsites meticulously clean. We had a very interesting chat with them and learned a lot of interesting things not only about the park, but also about Madeline Island.

Later we drove to town of La Pointe, parked the car and walked along several streets. There were stores, a Catholic church & cemetery as well as an Indian cemetery (where also non-native people were buried). The cemetery’s origins went back to 1835, to a Catholic mission started by Frederic Baraga. Some of the more prominent individuals buried there were Chief Kechewaishke and Madeline Cadotte, after whom Madeline island is named. Many graves of Ojibwe people were covered with a "Spirit House", meant to protect the deceased buried there. Visitors were not allowed inside the cemetery which was fenced—there were plenty of various offerings left on the fence (money, dreamcatchers, stones, pieces of wood).

Most of signs on the island were bilingual—in English and Anishinaabe (also called Ojibwe). The latter language seemed a tad difficult—we did not even try to pronounce it! Some examples:

Gidanamikaagoo Omaa Mooningwanekaaning—welcome to Madeline Island.
Gichi-Wilkwedong Danakamigiziwining—Town Park
Giigidoowigamigong—Town Hall
Agindaasoowigamigong—Public Library
Wemitigoozhi-Anama Ewigamigong—Catholic Church
And when we went to the bathroom, I used the one for “Ininiwag”, Catherine for “Ikwewag”!

We also talked to a few locals (always a very interesting experience), went to the museum (which was just closing) and drove to another park (Big Bay Town Park), owned by the town, where campsites were $25 per night (and no vehicle admission sticker was required!). There were a bunch of canoes on the beach; we grabbed one and went for a relaxing paddle on the lagoon and then made an appropriate donation.

Catherine loves ice cream-even if it's not real!

We had a campfire in the evening and grilled some steaks that Catherine had brought from home—unfortunately, they turned out to be very bad and we discarded them, having something else instead. Later a group of 6 raccoons came over to check out our campsite for food, but quickly left dissatisfied as no food was left outside.

I always bring a bunch of books with me, which I love reading at the campsite—the new, powerful LED headlights come very handy. Although I try to avoid fiction, some books are certainly worth reading. One of them was “Vatican” by Malachi Martin, a former Jesuit, who at was a close confidante of Pope John XXIII and a Vatican insider. Even though the names and some dates were changed, the book basically followed the rein of Popes Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul II. At over 800 pages, it took me a while to finish it (probably I did at the very end of the trip), but it was a very satisfying experience, I learned a lot about the inner workings of the Vatican and the ever-present clash between Good and Evil.

Friday, August 25, 2017

We packed up, headed to the ferry terminal. There was a slight lineup, I went to the post office and mailed several post cards. There were several ferries running, one of which had a Russian-sounding name “Nichevo”. The ferry operator told us that the guy who was building the ferries (or some boats) was Russian and each time people asked him what he was doing, he would answer, “Nichevo” (‘nothing’ in English). 

It was a beautiful day and the ferry ride took about 20 minutes over to Bayfield. After driving off the ferry, we parked the van and went to the visitor center, where we spoke with a very interesting young girl in her 20s, who was a student at The College of Saint Scholastica at Duluth, taking global studies. She looked French-Canadian, but she had a bunch of Ojibwy, Russian and other blood because she was adopted. She spoke several different languages, she had been over to Russia twice and we spoke with her for at least half an hour.

Then we drove to the main highway and decided that we would not stay overnight in the National Forest, but instead go to Copper Falls State Park, which was closer—and we already had the Wisconsin car sticker. The park was perhaps 30 minutes from Bayfield. We drove around it, checking out south campground—it had three circular roads with numerous campsites, which were not bad—yet I decided to go to the north campground too. We picked a very private campsite in the northern loop (number 33), located near one park road, close to two other roads, but of course, the park traffic was very light. We set up the tent and as we started our hike to the falls, it started raining. We took shelter under a fantastic picnic log shelter, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The architecture of the whole area was amazing. Finally it stopped raining and we set forth on our hike to see the Copper Falls and Brownstone Falls. We did not do the complete loop because it was getting dark and it seemed as if it was going to rain again, but we did see the falls and they were certainly worth seeing. We went back to the campsite, had a campfire and went to bed.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Catherine woke up quite early and she knew it was going to rain, so she woke me up, we packed up very quickly and did a quick hike on the North Country National Scenic Trail, which was stretching approximately 4,600 miles (7,400 km) from Crown Point in eastern New York to Lake Sakakawea State Park in central North Dakota. It was very scenic and a little rugged—after probably walking 0.0001% of the whole trail’s length, we turned back and drove to the park’s office. The other day Catherine had noticed a cabin in the park and she wondered if any tourists could stay there. The park employee told us that if you had a disability, you could stay there for the same price we paid ($20).

Our campsite nr 33 at Copper Falls State Park

We drove back to highway 28 and headed east, dropping in to a Visitor Center on the border between Michigan and Wisconsin. Then we spent another half an hour, talking to the lady working there, she told us plenty of fascinating stories and we also picked up several brochures about Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. We headed towards Au Train in the Hiawatha National Forest, which was not too far, but since Catherine got sleepy, we stopped in a small town, parked the van on a museum property and took a refreshing nap. We also went to a Family Dollar Store—which I found somehow overpriced—where I saw the second black person on this trip.

We also stopped at Marquette, it was very crowded as there was some festival. We drove along the waterfront and parked near the museum, near the coastguard station. There was a lighthouse and some old boats outside the museum. We had some dip and cheese and had a nice picnic there!

Finally we reached Au Train Lake Campground. It had two loops, we drove around, trying to find a nice campsite and eventually picked campsite number 13, near the lake. Because of Catherine’s special pass, we only paid half of the regular price, $9.00. The park had a self-reservation system, so I picked an envelope, wrote information about us and our vehicle, put money in and was supposed to slide it into a special money collection slot, but as we were walking to the payment station, we started talking to the campground host. He told us that the Federal Government had run out of money and there was no water for the pump and no electricity. So we were glad we had plenty of water with us. I gave the envelope with the money to the host and bought some wood from him. He was a very outgoing man, who certainly enjoyed his semi-volunteering occupation very much.

We had a very nice fire, but later it started spitting a bit. The park was very quiet and we quickly fell asleep.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

It was still raining a little, so at 9:00 am we packed up and drove north through absolutely beautiful Hiawatha National Forest on road 552—if we had not had the GPS, we would have thought we were lost—thanks goodness for this wonderful invention! Just before the junction with highway 28, I spotted the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Railway Rail Trail.

We drove to Munising and wanted to go on to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, but the road did not look that great and we decided to pass. Instead we bought groceries and a bunch of cheap t-shirts.

On August 27, 2017, somebody saw a 'human'!

While driving on highway 28, Catherine spotted a big sign inviting us to the “Seney National Wildlife Refuge”, so we drove for several miles out of our way to the Visitor Center. It was truly fascinating! The volunteers were really pleasant and knowledgeable, they showed us a film about the wildlife refuge and they had a lot of hands-on exhibits. We wished we could have stayed there longer. Then we got into the van—it started raining again—and drove the 7 mile loop (Marshland Wildlife Drive), which was the highlight of our trip! We passed through wetlands and forests, stopping from time to time and observing wildlife. We saw plenty of trumpeter swans and Canada geese. At one point we spotted an eagle at a distance, sitting on top of a tree. As I was looking at it through my camera telephoto lenses, Catherine was intensely staring at the eagle.

“Is this a golden eagle or a bald eagle?”, she asked.

“If it looks like you, it’s a golden eagle, if it looks like me, it’s a bald eagle”, I said.

Overall, it was an awesome drive and we enjoyed every second if it!

We had three places in mind where could camp. The one that we ended up stopping at first was just outside of Strong, south of highway 28. It was called “Three Lakes Campground” in the Hiawatha National Forest—and we liked it so much that we did not bother checking out the other locations. The campground was empty save for one car. We picked campsite number 8, beside the trail, near Walker Lake, and got settled in. The rain was on and off and Catherine used her umbrella-she wished she had bought a big umbrella which she saw in Shopko recently.

There were plenty of broken and semi-melted beer bottles inside the fire pit and it took me a while to carefully remove as much glass as possible. I could never understand why people do that! We had a nice campfire and grilled tasty pork chops. We did not see anybody else on the campground—whoever was in the car, never set up any tent and must have slept inside—around 6:00 a.m. next morning I heard some noise and when I got up, the car was gone. We paid $8.00 for the campsite per night—the only person we saw was the park attendant who came two days later, collected the envelopes with the money, removed the garbage and cleaned the washrooms.

We spent two nights in the park and loved it! We hardly ever heard cars which very infrequently drove on the road. Just once, as we were enjoying the small beach on the shores of the lake, we spotted some people who were putting their canoe on the water. They were fishing and as they were close to the shore, we talked to them for a while.

The campground had about 10 campsites (28 according to the official government website) and save for the washroom and the water pump, there were no other facilities—campers were not supposed to even leave their garbage there. Our campsite number 8 was at the end of the loop road, near a trail. The next day I went for a walk beyond our campsite. Surprisingly, there was a road, albeit unused for a while… and then I spotted a bunch of overgrown campsites! So, there was another loop with many camping sites, now closed off—I wondered why? Perhaps the campground’s low popularity did not justify maintaining all the campsites… or perhaps the closed off sites were being rehabilitated. In any case, we enjoyed our stay at this park very much and we hated to leave our lovely campsite which was very large, very scenic and very private!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

In the morning we left our lovely campsite, drove north and took West Lakeshore Drive along the south shores of Lake Superior. We also stopped at Bay View Campground—one of the campgrounds we had considered staying at—it was nice, but there were campers here and there and we were glad we picked Three Lakes Campground over this one! Then we arrived at the Point Iroquois Lighthouse. It was built in 1870, after the first lighthouse was demolished. Since at one time it was manned by a head keeper and two assistants, it had living quarters for three families. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1962 and now it is a museum. We spent there over one hour, talking to the rangers and museum employees, walking in the re-created rooms and examining exhibits. Later we took a stroll on the boardwalk. While having lunch outside, we chatted with one lady who had, for many years, travelled all over the USA in her RV.

We continued driving along the shore and reached Sault Ste. Marie (still in the USA), went to a dollar store where we bought some food, as well as dropped into the duty-free store before continuing on the huge bridge over St. Mary’s River to Canada. From the bridge we spotted a cruise ship, called “The Pearl Mist”—which we would see again on our trip. Below we saw the US locks, which pass about 10,000 ships per year—the Canadian locks were only used for recreational boats.

There was a 10 minute wait to get to the border. The immigration officer did not ask us much—mainly about firearms, mace and pepper spray—as well as he told us more about “The Pearl Mist”.

We took highway 17 and our next stop was a picnic spot near the bridge leading to St. Joseph Island, on a small island called Bamford Island. In 2015, when we were driving back to Canada, we also stopped at this very spot.

In Serpent River, just meters after passing highway 108 (leading to Elliot Lake), there was a big traffic jam, a big lineup of cars & trucks, and we saw a police cruiser that passed us, yet police were not directing traffic or trying to explain to us what was the problem. Apparently, there was an accident—later was saw a damaged RV, but nobody really knew what was going on. The road was blocked and we had no choice but wait. However, I noticed that some cars in front of us made U-turns, but a few turned right into a side road called Riverview Road. I glanced at my GPS and it showed that by taking this road, we could bypass the accident, as its other end of the road connected to the highway. Yet I was puzzled why the police officers did not re-direct the traffic then? Did they know something that we did not know—or were just incompetent or not very intelligent? Well, it was the latter, as we were about to find out… We decided to take our chances and drove on the road—and it was a great idea and perfect timing! After a relatively short drive we were back on highway 17—and this time we saw over 100 vehicles (Catherine said it stretched for miles) stocked on the other side of the highway due to the accident—and we did not see ONE car taking the detour! Unfortunately, the cops had the road blocked, yet they did not care about the existing alternative route and re-directing the traffic.

Massey, Ontario

We kept driving for a few hours and finally reached the town of Massey, turned north and in a couple of minutes arrived at Chutes Provincial Park. First we drove around the park and picked a nice campsite number 98, then went back to the gatehouse and paid for the campsite. It was our second visit in this park—several years ago we had camped on campsite #95, but it was taken. Our current campsite was near the trail leading to the chutes and we could even hear the water. The campground was quite full and we had neighbors on both sides, but it was remarkably quiet. 

While I was setting up the tent, Catherine unpacked the car and as she was setting up kitchen stuff on the table, suddenly she started screaming—there was a black snake underneath the picnic table! Immediately I bravely came over to the rescue, which was fairly easy—it was one of those very realistically looking rubber snakes! Catherine even decided to keep it as a souvenir. Whoever had placed the snake there, trying to frighten unsuspecting camper, certainly DID succeed! We had a nice fire, nice grill and slept like a log! Turning back to that accident on the road—around 9:00 p.m. we heard a bunch of traffic passing by on highway 17, while we were setting up our tent, and we assumed that they had finally cleared the accident and all the vehicles were allowed to proceed.

Thursday, August 30, 2017

We awoke at Chutes Park to what we thought was a neighbor pelting us with pine cones. Catherine looked out from the tent and saw plenty of those hard, long, green cones all over the ground. It turned out that it was the squirrels doing that—they climbed up the tree, bit off the pine cones which fell off the tree and later picked them up and carried to their burrows.

It was a wonderful, sunny day and after breakfast we went for a hike along the trail. We saw a several scenic falls & rapids and enjoyed the walk very much. Sadly, we could not stay another day at this park as we had a reservation on Manitoulin Island, so we left the park at 2:00 p.m. Little did we know then, but in less than one month we would come back to this park again and stay on the very same campsite for one week!

We drove to Massey, where we saw some Mennonite people riding in horse-drawn buggies. Massey was an old mining town, so there were several exhibits all over the town about its mining past. We got back on highway #17 and headed towards Espanola. As we were passing the bridge, we saw a huge Domtar Paper Mill—its chimneys were spewing smoke and there was a very distinct whiff hanging all over the town. We stopped at Giant Tiger, Dollarama and a grocery store, where we did some shopping, and kept driving on very scenic highway 6. Finally we reached the Little Current Swing Bridge, the only land access to Manitoulin Island. The bridge was built in 1913 and the Algoma Eastern Railway began operating trains across the bridge the same year. At that time the bridge was left in the open position at all times for marine traffic except when a train needed to cross. In the 1940s the bridge was modified to permit both rail and road traffic to cross. Rail service ceased to use the bridge in the 1980s and since then it has been used by vehicular traffic only.

Once we reached the town of Little Current, the first thing that appeared in front of our eyes was the cruise ship “The Pearl Mist”, which we had briefly seen two days ago from the bridge in Sault Ste. Marie. The passengers were disembarking from several tour buses—they had just returned from a bus excursion on Manitoulin Island. We talked to a young man working at the port and he told us more about the cruiser. It belonged to Great Lake Cruise Company which organized cruises from Chicago to Midland & Toronto. The ship’s length was 100 meters, it had 6 decks, passenger capacity of 210 and a diesel engine 6,300 hp. 

Since it was relatively light (e.g., it did not have a swimming pool), its draft was only 3.1 m, perfect for cruising on the Great Lakes. However, such cruises were quite expensive—from approximately U.S. $5,500 to $11,000. While we were at the port, the ship cast off the docking lines and slowly headed towards the swing bride. I did not think I would really enjoy this kind vacation—but Catherine was much blunter in her assessment: “It (the cruise ship) kind of looked like an old painted rust bucket to me, with a lot of old people sitting on it,” she said.

Since almost everything was shut down at 6:00 pm, we headed to Kicking Mule Ranch, which Catherine had booked on Airbnb. She booked the “Slice of Country” cabin and when we arrived, there was a sign saying “Welcome Jack and Catherine”. Yet after wandering around the ranch and checking out other seemingly vacant cabin, Catherine decided that she preferred the “Home, Tweet Home” cabin better, it was more private. 

By the way, several years ago we had stayed at Kicking Mule Ranch for a couple nights, camping in our tent. Now the campsites were gone—the owner had expanded the place and added cabins and tipis. There was a British family with 2 kids along with their parents from the U.K. They were renting one of the tipis. Since the owner was not around—and we did not know if the other cabin would be available—we just waited for her to make sure we could switch. It started raining a little, so we sat under the roof of the one we had rented. When she came, she said we could switch, so we did. The people in the tipi next door relocated to the cabin since the tipi was leaking. We did not have a fire that night, but we did not mind. There were three kitties! I took pity on one of them and brought it into our cabin. It curled up and it purred and slept with us, so we had a good night sleep.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

We got up and were glad that the weather had improved. The other, orange kitty, came over and curled up in our bed and probably wanted to sleep there all day, but since we were going to be away most of the day, we put it outside. Then we drove to see the Wikwemikong Unceded Reserve and the town of Wikwemikong. Before we even got into that territory, there was a bargain barn which Catherine could not resist pulling into. There were numerous bins full of mainly Perrier bottles—we thought they were empty to be recycled, but we were told they were free. Maybe they were expired or damaged, but they were, in our opinion, perfect to drink and we got plenty of them. Then we went into the shop which had plenty of food items which had just expired, but it was still totally safe to eat and very cheap. Catherine ended up getting Lind chocolate bars, they were $1 apiece (at other stores they retailed for $5.00)—yet she succeeding in negotiating a case for $0.50 apiece! I got some very inexpensive razors and an adding machine (hopefully, they had not expired!). Having filled the van with all the goodies, we proceeded to, stopping at a gas station called “Quick Gas Station” or so, but it was anything but quick, it was the slowest bar gas we had been to, in fact we had to do everything ourselves, including pumping the gas and doing the windshields. 

Then we stopped at a rest area, there was a cross and a plaque, listing natives from this district who were killed in the First and Second War, as well as a bunch of rocks painted with original Native motives. Finally, we reached the town of Wikwemikong. There was a stone structure, just the walls, no roof, no windows; it turned out it had been a school that had burned down. 

On one side of that school’s remains was a church and on the other side, the church rectory. We wanted to look into the church, but it was locked. Suddenly a car pulled up and a man stepped out if it—he was a Belgian Jesuit priest. I talked to him for a while and told him that I knew the former pastor, Father Doug McCarthy, S.J., whom I had first met at Manresa Retreat in Pickering, Ontario in 1994.

He said that Father Paul Robson, S.J., was the pastor now. Well, the world is a small place—Fr. Robson had given a retreat in 2016 at Manresa and I had even spoken to him for a while! In any case, the priest told us that the door was actually opened and we could go inside the church. 

It was fascinating, it was a combination of traditional European and Native culture. The Stations of the Cross were represented by very original Native paintings, very brilliant and fluorescent, in the unmistakable Native style. There were dream catchers inside and some Native carvings—and a totem pole outside the church, representing the Trinity. We were so glad we could see the church—it would have been awesome to be able to attend a mass.

We drove to the town of Manitowaning (outside the reserve). There was a rather dilapidated ship The Norisle and a couple of interesting buildings, albeit all closed. Later I found out that the S.S. Norsile was the first passenger steam ship (ferry) built in Canada just after World War II and she sailed the route between Tobermory and South-Baymouth on Manitoulin Island until 1974. Later she served as a major tourist attraction and floating museum. However, she had been closed to the public for some time and her future was uncertain.

We pulled into a grocery store to buy ice and at the same time rearranged the cooler. We also went into a gun store and some other places, but most of them were closing, so we headed back to Kicking Mule Ranch. We spoke to the British tourists and then we had a fire in front of our cabin, grilling tasty pork chops over the fire, and around 11 p.m. we turned in. We wanted to have a kitty in our cabin for the night, but we could not find any of them, they just disappeared… or perhaps other campers had already taken them to their cabins!

Friday, September 1, 2017

We packed up and were ready to leave, but before I went to the owner and showed her my printed blog from 2013, in which were the photos of Kicking Mule Ranch and her grandson, riding a pony. We headed out and we did not make it very far as Catherine saw a sign saying “Fishery” and of course pulled it. The Blue Jay Creek Fish Culture Station was interesting—there was a short trail by the creek and a lot of interpretive signs. There were a couple of plaques about McGauley’s Gristmil, which was constructed in the 1880s at that site and operated until the 1930s. Inside the building there were a lot of displays and information.

Then we kept driving towards South Baymouth to catch the ferry. We parked on the main street and walked on back streets, visited a gallery where Catherine bought a poster, and then we got into the line to the ferry (just in case, we had made a reservation several weeks ago), paid the fare and left the van there. Catherine spotted a trail with a nice picnic area and of course, decided to quickly do a little walk around the small bay. She somehow assumed that there was a bridge crossing over back to the main parking—and there was none! Suddenly she saw the Chi Cheemaun (the ferry) coming in and she ended up running, discovering that she was not a runner at all! But we had plenty of time—first, it took a while before all the vehicle drove off the ferry; then the ferry employees were directing vehicles to drive onto the ferry. It turned out that our lane was almost the last one to drive onto the ferry. We climbed up on the upper deck and found two chairs in the stern section of the ferry, having a great view. I had my GPS—the ferry was doing 30 km/h, I could identify plenty of islands that we saw around, but it was a little bit noisy and reeked of diesel. It was a sunny, warm day—Catherine’s daughter called and she spent well over 30 minutes talking to her.

Then in Tobermory we drove off the ferry, parked the car and walked around the town, which was just crawling with people. We went to the Visitor Centre at Bruce Peninsula National Park. Because of Canada’s 150th birthday, the fees for using the National Parks (only day visits, I presumed) were waived and maybe that was way we had to drive around the parking lot several times to find a parking spot. There were plenty of exhibits, including the "Fathom Five 3D" exhibit and the Franklin Expedition exhibit. We spent at least 30 minutes there and it was very busy, teeming with visitors. At one point we realized that save for the Visitor Center’s employees, we were the only Caucasians there! I found it amusing—I had expected to see a lot of black people in in the U.S.A., but I saw no more than 5 African-Americans during the American leg of our trip!

In the town of Tobermory there were plenty of gift shops and restaurants—so busy that we did not even bother waiting in line to have a snack. After one hour we headed off to our campsite where Catherine had made a reservation. Once Catherine saw the sign “Happy Hearts Tent and Trailer Park”, she drove there and gave her name to the gentleman at the reception. However, he was a little confused and could find the reservation, so I went to the car to get the printout of the reservation receipt—and of course, we immediately realized we were at the wrong campground—we were supposed to go to the Harmony Acres Campground!

So we drove down on highway 6 for another 7 or so kilometers and this time reached the correct destination. It was a mother and a daughter who had bought the place several years ago. In the past, it had been a restaurant, but they had turned it into a horse sanctuary for abused horses and made it into a very nice campground. When we had made the reservation, it was one of the few places that had available campsites during the Labour Day Long Weekend. Upon arrival, we were told that all campsites were booked, so we expected to see throngs of campers. Well, there were plenty of campsites vacant. Fortunately, nobody else was camping in adjacent campsites and we were enjoying plenty of privacy. However, had the place been full with campers, I did not think that would have been the case! The campsites were a little similar to those in provincial parks, albeit much smaller and much closer to one another. At the office we were given a long list of rules which were also read to us—kind of unusual, in comparison to provincial/state parks. Whereas the rule about not having a fire after 11:00 p.m. did not bother us while we were camping, it was kind of weird: at other parks we often sat around the campfire till the wee hours of the morning and did not disturb any other campers. For us the only problem was that the highway backed up onto the campground, particularly where we were located (#36) and we could hear the traffic all the time, especially after the last ferry of the day arrived from Manitoulin Island, the traffic noise on highway 6 heading south lasted for a while. Since the campsite was small, once we parked the van, it blocked the view, so the next morning Catherine parked the car on one of the adjacent campsites. It was a cool night and we enjoyed the fire very much.

September 2, 2017, Saturday

We packed up and we were out by their strict rule of 11 a.m. We headed on highway 6 south and our first stop was a Thrift Shop, located in a former church. We must have spent close to one hour there—Catherine bought a chair, I ended with a bunch of books and magazines. Then we stopped at the Lone Wolf Fish & Chips, located on the Cape Croker Hunting Ground Indian Reserve and split an order of delicious fish & chips. We kept driving and we hit the town of Wiarton and went to a store—it was an old Emporium, smelled like mildew, we did not buy anything and walked up and down the street. Later we headed to Owen Sound, where we went to The Giant Tiger and Dollarama for just 30 minutes; once we were done, we headed towards Mississauga. Instead of a nice sunset, right around 6:30 p.m. we could see very dark clouds, they sky got almost black, like an eclipse. We stopped at the Nellie Mooney McClung (1873-1951) stone monument. Born in Chatsworth, she was a feminist, author, social activist and politician. She was also a temperance activist—how ironic… because I just had a can of cold beer next to her monument!

Then we kind of got lost, but the GPS showed us a cut through over the highway 10 (Sideroad 1) and even though the sign said, “No Exit”, we took a deep breath and entered it. It was one of the most beautiful roads I had ever driven on! It was a gravel road, some places were a little muddy and wet and we were afraid that once we would get to the end, there would be no exit, but sure enough, there was a stop sign and we came out on highway 10. Eventually it started raining where we were in Caledon. We took highway 410 to Cawthra and arrived home past 8:00 pm. Altogether we drove 2,080 km and had a wonderful time!