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!

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