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Published: November 21st 2018
September 15th 2018
Canada - Creating some new Memories
Our lives are full to the brim with memories aren’t they? Memories of special people and wonderful places, delights and disasters, the exciting, the good - and just now and again, the not quite so good.
But all memories have first to be created.
Come, join us here by the fire pit beside our cabin in the woods in the Blue Rocks Campground, Lenhartsville, Pennsylvania, and we’ll tell you a little of what we have been up to for the past two weeks.
We’re here to catch up with some very special friends in Huntsville, Ontario, Canada, and Upper New York State, USA, to revisit a few old haunts and discover more of Canada and North America’s delights. But first, let me introduce you to Jon and Lynn, a couple of wonderful people from Ithaca, NY, whom we chanced to meet whilst motorhoming around North America back in 2006. They have been our generous hosts and experienced guides for the past week.
So, if you are ready, let’s take a little peek at the
past and go make some more memories. ‘Are you warm enough? Come closer to the fire - and let me refill that glass.’
There’s a lovely little town a couple of hours’ drive north of Toronto where Janice first came as an exchange teacher back in 1985, trading jobs, homes and cars for a year with Canadian teacher, Lexi. Her home for that year was Lexi and husband Tom’s delightful lakeside cottage in Huntsville, Ontario. Three years later, on the eighth day of the eighth month of 1988, we were married there on the shore of Lake Waseosa.
Now, how’s that for Memory number one? Lucky numbers too, 08/08/’88!
Thirty years on and we were back again, settled into the romantic boathouse annexe (now listed as an Airbnb), our very own ‘home from home’ for the week. The cottage is now a substantial family home, built by Tom and Lexi on the original footprint beside the lake, complete with the existing stone fireplace. Forget the black-flies, the mosquitos and the snow – it’s a home to dream of in all seasons. Tom’s my kind of guy, the picture
The Boathouse Cabin
Lexi's wonderful Airbnb Boathouse!
of your true Canadian pioneer complete with rustic beard, sparkling eyes and seventy rings of sugar maple under his belt. He keeps fit playing ice hockey twice a week with Huntsville’s seniors. We helped to stack the logs for winter waiting impatiently there just over the horizon, as the maple leaves started to turn from green to yellow and from yellow to that dazzling red to light up the sky and set our hearts racing once again.
Janice has been doing all the driving here in our upgraded Alamo rental hired at Toronto Pearson Airport: left-hand-drive, automatic, on the ‘wrong side’ of the road. She’s more than capable. Car rental companies don’t want to know the over 75s, here or anywhere else these days, so I’ve been sitting back, enjoying the scenery and trying my best to keep us pointing in the right direction. ‘Drive on the right please, Janice.’
We were last in Huntsville in 2006, so Tom took us around town to introduce us to the new G8 Summit Centre, built for the world leaders who visited for the Muskoka G8 Summit here in June 2010. It’s built on a grand scale
The mural in the G8 Centre, Huntsville
Tom showing David the G8 leader's contribution.
and now houses a most impressive ice rink and swimming pool. Not to be missed is the wonderful mural to which the eight world leaders each contributed on their visit. I think a Canadian would doubtless comment, ‘Cool, eh?”
Autumn was just around the corner and a brief visit to Lions Lookout was called for, for that spectacular view over Fairy Lake and the town that Janice will never be allowed to forget. It was still a little early for the full fall colours this year. At a balmy 28C the trees were thinking it was still summer. It was also warm enough for Janice to take a dip in the lake when we returned, always there, just a few metres away from the front door…tempting. We managed to resist the canoes on the dock for the moment.
Driving here is quite a delight; the roads are long and wide and every now and again there might be a car or two somewhere in the distance. The sun was still shining when Tom suggested we should take a ride out through the forest of the Canadian Shield on Highway 60, to Dwight and the
Oxtongue Rapids. He challenged us to take some enigmatic photographs of the falls and we were mighty suspicious he had an ulterior motive. The rapids were certainly worthy of a whole reel of film – that’s 36 shots with the old camera, isn’t it?
With time to spare we took a short drive beyond the falls to the quiet town of Dorset, so named by early settlers from Dorset, England, tucked away just off the highway. It celebrates its beauty with the slogan, ‘A community with a view’ for good reason.
Dorset has a 30m high scenic lookout tower, once a forest fire watch-tower, looking out over the arboreal landscape and Lake of Bays on the fringe of Algonquin Highlands. The guy taking the money at the gate was dressed as a pirate, complete with eye patch and knee-high boots. If there was a dress code for a party we certainly missed it – but we suspect it’s school visit time and he was playing his part for the kids. It’s a long climb up those ninety-odd steep steel steps, but when the heavy breathing stops the view is truly magnificent and there to enjoy! It’s
From the lookout
difficult to estimate how far you can see from the top, but it’s the trees that stun the mind: trees, trees and more trees in every direction. If you should ever get to Dorset you might also want to check out Robinson’s General Store. Think of something – anything you like, and I’ll bet they have it in stock and they might even be able to find it somewhere.
The following day we found our way to the Aspen Wildlife Recovery Sanctuary, near Rosseau. A small donation to this most worthy charitable cause gave us a rather muddy but fascinating walk with a guide to say ‘hello’ to some of the permanent residents. It’s possible to get quite close to those animals already accustomed to humans: previously kept as pets, on fur farms, zoos and petting farms, performing bears and the like, but otherwise injured animals are kept in more secluded enclosures away from humans with hopes of recovery and return to the wild. Those there for the long term included arctic foxes, a silver fox, two black bears, a moose, wolf-dogs (domestic dog/wolf cross), coyotes, a porcupine and a racoon – one of those unfortunate animals
more often than not seen flattened on the road, like our poor old hedgehogs in the UK. We fell in love with one rather beautiful wolf that howled for us in response to a recorded call! I can still feel that tingle down my spine. You all know of our love of wildlife and this little interlude had something so very touching about it; man’s special relationship with animals.
Back in Huntsville we were treated to a spectacular afternoon tea with Joyce and Elmer: Joyce taught with Janice there all those years ago, and Elmer, now a sprightly 93, taught Janice to ski that winter. They’re both defying old age: Elmer with his daringly colourful John Daly golfing trousers (he’s still golfing twice a week) and lovely Joyce showing off her cowboy boots, jewel bedecked rings on every finger and a little backless number. Boy, what an inspiration to all of us. They’re never going to allow themselves to grow old! I’ll drink to that.
As you will come to realise, this journey has been as much about friends as it has about travel, rekindling memories of those people who have chanced to touch
Oxtongue Rapids, Ontario
Tom had a surprise for us
our lives: Tom and Lexi, Nick and Carole, Marjorie, Diane, Grant, Kirsty, Tim and Barb, Joyce and Elmer. We have to thank all of them and the many we missed on this journey, for their friendship and generous hospitality till next we meet.
Tom had been busy while we were out. He’d painted a wonderful watercolour of the Oxtongue Rapids from our photographs. We’ll treasure it Tom, if you’re listening.
Dawn across water can come dressed in many different cloaks through the seasons and what better viewpoint could one have than from your very own bedroom? A giant thunderclap rocked our little boathouse in the night, driven by the unseasonably warm weather. Janice woke first, to a quiet dawn and sparkling reflections on the wall: ochre, orange, red and crimson, sunlit white – with the realisation that a true autumnal sunrise was about to welcome us over Lake Waseosa. The sky was truly afire in all its glorious colours – and the lake’s loon passed by as we watched in awe, a dark shadow of that wonderful bird with its eerie enigmatic call. That’s one more memory we’ll not forget in a hurry. But
Lake Waseosa sunrise
From Tom and Lexi's back door
weather can change swiftly in this neck of the woods and by evening, gales were sweeping madly through the area sending trees and branches crashing across the roads and cutting power lines from thousands of homes, including ours! There’s no end to the excitement we bring to the places we visit!
Foodies amongst you would appreciate our dining experience that particular evening. It’s a rather long drive from Huntsville out to Bartlett Lodge on Cache Lake in the Algonquin Provincial Park, but the requisite boat ride and ‘olde world’ atmosphere add to the delight of this island retreat. There are lodges to rent at Bartlett, but we were there to enjoy the up-market cuisine with Tom and Lexi, to celebrate our friendship and put a shine on our thirtieth wedding anniversary, in Canada. That gale I was talking about hit us on the way home!
Help yourself to another glass of wine whilst I fetch a few logs for the fire, then we’ll tell you about the next stage of our journey: south to Kingston, Ontario, then down through the Adirondack Mountains in upper New York State, USA, to Ithaca at the foot of
the Finger Lakes.
A number of our friends had recommended that we should visit Kingston, Ontario, a city we have by-passed on numerous previous occasions and this trip offered us the ideal opportunity, en route from Huntsville, Canada, to the USA across the other side of the mighty St Lawrence River and Lake Ontario.
Kingston is everything we were promised: a lively and smart university town simply oozing with atmosphere. Our early evening arrival at a conveniently situated, pre-booked AirBnb, allowed us to wander the town centre for a while to relax after the long drive and get our bearings. Market-stall holders were closing down for the day, but Tourist Information gave us a warm welcome and provided the necessary maps and guidance to get us under way.
The Kingston skyline is dominated by the dome of St George’s Cathedral, glistening in the evening sunlight, looking out over the harbour of moored boats towards the twin Martello towers of yesteryear and the tourists’ ‘must do’ repro paddle steamer, there for trips around the “Thousand Islands” of the St Lawrence. Tempting pavement menus drew us into several fine looking restaurants before we
Delightful Queen's University area
found one with seating available and we finally had to settle for a pizza under a patio heater in a nearby cobbled courtyard. It was Saturday night, the bars and restaurants were heaving with students just back at Uni with money to spend.
After an exhausting walk on Sunday morning, we finally found the Memorial Park Farmers’ Market. I must admit we were somewhat misled by the tourist map as we walked seemingly for miles to get there, but we just love local markets, don’t you? We can chat and laugh with the stallholders, admire their work or their produce and come away two hours later with smiles on our faces having bought nothing but a coffee. The market tills ring with sales of organic veg in all colours, shapes and sizes, spinning materials, ‘grow your own’ mushroom kits, Kombucha (which you might know as a ‘health drink’, of fermented, slightly effervescent, sweetened, black or green tea), pickles, jams, maple syrup, wood carving and wood turning, pastries and bread … and donkey milk soap, it’s all there. It takes a strong will to resist all that!
Kingston’s broad and quiet streets finally led us
to the delightfully airy Queen’s University area for the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, which is worth a look if you’re ever in the area, though the Rembrandt van Rijn we particularly wanted to see, ‘ Head of an Old Man in a Cap’, was away on loan elsewhere. Most disappointing, but there ‘ya go, you can’t win ‘em all. Along the peaceful waterfront greensward is the Isabel Bader Centre for Performing Arts (some lovely local art and a great café!) and Belevue House, the home of Canada’s first Prime minister, Sir John A Macdonald, with its rather interesting little museum.
I seem to recall that we did the Thousand Island cruise the last time we were in this locality, en route to nearby spectacular Vermont, so this time we opted for the free twenty-minute ferry across to Wolfe Island instead. Why I’m not quite sure, although apparently there was a festival of some sort that weekend we’d seen advertised somewhere - and the ferry is free! We still don’t know what the festival was all about, but we did enjoy the amateur art exhibition and a most welcome ice cream. The other bonus was the view of
General Wolfe mural
the Kingston skyline and Fort Henry, seen from the ferry – quite stunning.
The scenic Thousand Island Parkway follows the Canadian bank of the St Lawrence River west for 50 miles to the two-mile long bridge crossing into the USA at Cornwall. It was hard to get more than a smile from the laid-back US Border officers who offered us a cool but polite reception, probably in fear of Mr Trump watching their every move from behind the curtains. Janice fielded all the questions:
How long will you be staying?
What’s the purpose of your visit?
May I see your US ESTA please? (Electronic System for Travel Authorization – cheap and easy ‘on line’ visa application pre travel))
Evidently oldies like me don’t get the first degree. I might just as well have not been there. We were through in just a few minutes, but two young hippies got the full going over including a thorough search of their car.
Welcome to New York, US of A with more fond memories of Canada. If you're still warm enough outside by the fire, we'll tell you
all about our adventures in the Adirondacks and the Finger Lakes in our next blog. Be sure not to miss it!
Pass me another log please, Janice.
David and Janice
The grey haired nomads
* Scroll down for more pictures - and don't forget the panorama show at the top!
Ontario: Airbnb - Boathouse Cabin. Fantastic location, right on the lake, canoeing, hiking, biking or just relaxing - and great hosts to make your stay memorable. Kingston,
Ontario: Airbnb - A Carriage House (self contained over a pair of garages with off-street parking) 232, King St E, Kingston. Very adequate, spacious, with few frills. Sleeps 2 (or more on sofas) and right in the heart of town!
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