We decided to travel in June because it’s usually such a beautiful month in Canada. Not so this year, however! It’s been a damp, chilly journey so far. It’s amazingly easy to find a place to camp though. In fact, we’ve had a couple of campgrounds entirely to ourselves! With the propane furnace running at night, we’ve managed not to freeze!
Once again, we’ve been reminded just how big this country of ours is. On day 1, we drove over 600 km and the scenery never changed. Most of Saskatchewan looks much like central east Alberta where we live so we didn’t plan to spend much time there. We made a short stop in Biggar, SK to visit with friends who moved there a couple of years ago then camped further east at Foam Lake.
Foam Lake is a small town that has a special place in our family story as it was just outside town that Matt and Robin had a car fire several years ago while returning home from university in Ottawa. They were treated so kindly by the members of the volunteer fire department that we continue to have fond feelings for the place.
Day 2 took us through rain, hail, wind, thunder and lightning to Winnipeg, Manitoba where we gratefully accepted Buck and Chrissy’s invitation to spend the night at their place. We took them out for dinner then curled up on the couch to enjoy a movie on their giant screen TV. It was nice to know that we’d have a warm bed and a solid roof over our head for the night! The temperature was only 6C when we drove away the next morning.
Early on day 3, we left the prairie behind and began our long journey across the Canadian Shield, an area characterized by exposed rock, swampy areas and many, many lakes. We also entered Ontario, Canada’s largest province. We camped at Kakabeka Provincial Park where we enjoyed beautiful views of spectacular Kakabeka Falls under the setting sun and again the next morning. Before leaving the park we also walked the short Mountain Portage trail where voyageurs of the past carried their canoes and heavy loads around the falls.
Continuing east on day 4, we stopped briefly at the Terry Fox monument overlooking Lake Superior. Though this was our third visit to the monument, I continue to be moved by the story of this young Canadian hero whose historic cross Canada run was cut short at this point when the cancer that had claimed his leg three years earlier returned. Sadly, he was never able to complete his dream of running across Canada as he succumbed to his disease at the young age of 22. He did, however, raise a large amount of money for the battle against cancer and his fight goes on with annual Terry Fox runs being held in schools and communities across the nation.
A little later in the morning, we visited Panorama Amethyst Mine where we learned that amethyst, the official stone of Ontario, is actually quartz crystals that contain iron. The more iron, the deeper the purple colour. We had the opportunity to collect and purchase amethyst samples from the rocky piles left behind by the mining operation. In spite of the fact that we continue to be impressed by the sheer size of this country, we were also reminded that it’s a small world when we met a nephew of an aquaintance from Sedgewick at the mine and also learned that the daughter of one of the women working in the gift store there spent a summer working in Sedgewick a few years ago!
Continuing on, we camped at Obatanga Provincial Park north of Sault Ste. Marie. Day 5 started early. During the wee hours of the morning, the propane bottle ran dry. Richard got up at 6:00 a.m. to replace it and discovered that the new tank, purchased the evening before, was faulty. The valve wouldn’t open. We decided to pack up and backtrack the 35 km to White River to exchange it. The temperature was 2C when we pulled out of the campground at 7:15! We were more than happy to enjoy a hearty breakfast at a truck stop along the highway rather than in a chilly campground. As we traveled, however, the temperature rose to 17C, the highest we’d seen so far and the afternoon was beautifully sunny. We camped at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park east of North Bay.
Day 6 took us into the city of Ottawa where we ate our lunch on the grass in front of the Canadian Parilament Buildings and enjoyed a walk around the area, familiar to us because Matt and Robin were both working for Members of Parliament when we last visited Ottawa during the summer of 2001. We continued on to nearby Russell where, after driving more than 3500 km in six days, we’ve been enjoying a visit with longtime friends, Anne and Steve. Anne and I first met when she and my sister were classmates in Yellowknife almost 40 years ago!
We spent most of the day yesterday at Upper Canada Village near Morrisburg on the St. Lawrence River. We found the 1860s reconstructed village just as interesting as we did when we visited it with our children 18 years ago. We especially enjoyed touring the 3 working mills – a lumber mill, a textile mill and a flour mill. The interpretive staff were excellent, helping bring life in small town Ontario in the early days to life for us.
We plan to visit the new Canadian War Museum in Ottawa this afternoon and will move on toward Quebec City tomorrow. Hopefully we find summer soon!