September 10, 2007
121: Great Lakes
Top row (left to right): our only photo together, road-weary in Manistique; Riley the golden doodle; Frank and Sue on the Toronto Islands ferry. Middle row (left to right): blown away on the Bruce Peninsula; Kerry with Big Bay home-made ice-cream; a campsite squirrel prepares to speak. Bottom row (left to right): a Flowerpot Island duck stares me down; I show my good side; Kerry channels The King.
I've just completed the most wonderful vacation.
Following the 2005 meteorological disaster that was our venture into the Rockies, it took us a couple of years to fully lick our road-trip wounds. This time we chose the more predicable climes of Ontario, a two-week sojourn chock full of pit-stops, visits to friends and family, toe-dips in four of five Great Lakes (sorry, Erie) and a holiday schedule about as varied as they come.
Beginning with a two-and-a-bit day trek south through the hugh-nigh steaks (as I referred to the U.S. as a tot) from home to London, Ont., the trip started with a late night on the road due to a dirt rally in the metropolis of Bemidji, Minn., that booked the entire town's worth of rooms. Not the best start – but in Grand Rapids we scored a cheap penthouse suite when the late-night hotel-dude couldn't figure out the computer. Our next night in the deathly quiet burgh of Manistique, Mich., also wound up fabulous with the twin discovery of whitefish dinners and Jilbert's ice cream (much props to buddy Lew, the northern Michigan expert, for cluing us in on both).
Back in Canada on our third night, we arrived unscathed at the house of Kerry's friend (and bursting with pregnancy) Christen, husband Phil and golden doodle Riley. Our two days in London were spent enjoying Ontario heat, an amazing performance of King Lear at the nearby Stratford Theater Festival and boundless tomfoolery from Riley the dog. Our time was capped with a day on our own at Pinery Provincial Park on the southern shores of Lake Huron, hiking some stubby trails and renting bikes. We learned that the tulip-tree is the largest in eastern North America. I never heard of the thing, but them suckers are indeed huge.
Our next stop leading into the long weekend was up-the-road Kitchener where daddy Frank and wife Sue lay waiting with an unbelievable palette of food (peaches!), wine and scheduling – a canoe trip on the Grand River, shopping for a brilliant decorative stained-glass window for our home and a day in The Big Smoke exploring Kensington Market, a brick-in-the-belly lunch at Big Fat Burrito with Kerry's now-Torontonian sister Kath, and the Toronto Islands. One day does not do the country's finest city justice, but we came as close as anyone.
The unofficial third leg of our grand tour had us striking out on our own to the Great Outdoors, beginning on the Bruce Peninsula with a one-night stay in tacky Tobermory – and with what now seems like a vacation staple of ours: stumbling into a place airing The Sopranos (a rarity for those on the cheap in Winnipeg). And to answer your next question, yes, Tobermory – population 500 – does have an Indonesian restaurant. Our days on the peninsula were spent in the (by now) never-ending sun trying to get lost on busy-busy Flowerpot Island, camping in the much-appreciated post-Labour Day solitude at Cyprus Lake and hiking scenic spurs of the world-renowned Bruce Trail.
Eleven sunny days into our trip, we left the Bruce after a wet, stormy night in the tent for the ferry that would take our little workhorse Civic to Manitoulin Island and onward to the wild north coast of Lake Superior. What had become our first lousy day of weather culminated in a gloriously colourful hazy evening sky over the aptly-named Lake Superior Provincial Park. And it was here, steps from our tent, on a miles-long beach, before a red-dot sun and after a campfire-trout dinner, that I proposed to Kerry and we decided to get married.
Lake Superior Park, for this reason and so much more, is now entrenched in my memory as one of the more beautiful locales I have seen in my lifetime. It was here my camera was stuffed with multi-part panoramic attempts and my chest caved in a way it only does before the most majestic surroundings. It is a sight to behold first-hand. Besides a pair of beachside sunset meals, Kerry and I viewed Ojibwa pictographs, the tumbling cascades of Sand River, the knee-busting slopes of the Orphan Lake trail and postcard gawkings of the planet's Great Lake. The region's tempestuous weather was on our trail again, and after time that seemed so much longer than it was, we continued on.
And on, as things turned out. Our final two nights intended to be at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park near Thunder Bay were scuttled following a day of rainy, foggy, hilly, winding and semi-trucky driving and the frigid north winds that eventually chased it all away. We had few regrets though. Our time was done.
Stay tuned to Flickr for all the photos as they get uploaded over the following days and weeks.