The Great Canadian Tour Begins

Bruce Peninsula – Park #1

Inspired by Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation, we are visiting as many national parks as we can.  And we’re going to throw some learnin’ in as well.

Bruce Peninsula National Park is located at the end of, well Bruce Peninsula just outside of the town of Tobermory.  The park is 125 sq km or 30888 acres stretching across the peninsula so that you can visit both the north and south shores.  The peninsula contains part of the Niagara Escarpment and was designated as part of the Niagara Escarpment UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.  The 843 km (524 mile) Bruce Trail, the oldest and longest hiking trail in Canada also runs through the park, beginning in Tobermory and ending in Niagara.  There is a wide range of plants and animals found here, including the endangered Massassauga Rattlesnake.

It also has a sister park in the Fathom Five National Marine Conservation Park which is home to some incredible diving and snorkelling as the water is unbelievably clear.  Last year we took a boat tour to Flowerpot Island and the boat passed over some shipwrecks that looked like they were right under the surface.  We decided to forgo the boat tour this time and spend more time exploring the park on foot.

First things first, after the long drive and lots of hiking ahead, I needed to fuel and stopped at Little Tub Bakery.  I left a short time later cradling a couple of slices of pizza that I had devoured before we got to the park.  Hey they were small so I had to get two.  And a blueberry tart for later.  And some bread to take home.

For some reason, both times we visited this park was around Canada Day weekend and this year with free national park passes being literally given away, I should have expected the crowds.  However, I thought that I was being clever by going on the holiday Monday when I figured most people would be heading back to their homes.  If that was the case, there were still lots of people in the park.  In fact, when I went to go into the main entrance at Cyprus Lake on the north side of the peninsula, there was a long line up of cars.  Then when I got to the booth, I was told that they were trying something new this year and issuing timed parking permits.  Each permit was for a total of four hours on a first-come basis.  I had to ask why this was and it was to prevent people from spending all day there.  I always thought that they wanted people to spend time in parks but I guess they also wanted to speed up visitor turn-over.  Cyprus Lake seems to get the majority of visits because of The Grotto, a cave that begs exploration.  The last permit available was for 5:00 pm so after thinking about it for a second, I took it.  Seeing as how it was not even noon, we had some time to kill.

I decided to go to the south side of the peninsula and was quite surprised to see there were plenty of spots in the one small parking lot for Singing Sands.  The south side of the peninsula is remarkably different from the north side: the land is less dramatic and eases into the waters of Lake Huron while the north stands in stark, craggy defiance of Georgian Bay.  There was a small beach with lots of people enjoying the sun but we continued past them and soon found that we were by ourselves on the rocky shore of the lake.

The water surrounding the Bruce Peninsula is that shocking shade of blue that is usually reserved for Caribbean islands.  It was a hot day and the cold water was a wonderful contrast.  The best part was the almost complete lack of any bugs.  Nary a nibble was felt by anyone.

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If you look long enough, you’ll find these in National Parks.  The chairs.  The dogs are passing through.

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Jack enjoying the water.

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Leo looking majestic.

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Leo photobomb.

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Pack photo!

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Wish I knew what this was.

We found some interesting plants that I had never seen before and I kept my eyes peeled for snakes.  We didn’t see snakes but I did see a large leech swimming in a shallow pool.  Leeches, the ticks of the water (shudder).   The dogs had a blast jumping and and out of the water.  Leo discovered his inner water dog and started chasing after sticks into the water.  Jack would wait until Leo brought it in and then try and take it from him.  Jack seems to have adopted the motto “Work smarter not harder”.  Piper kept to herself for the most part, until she wanted attention and then she leaned her soggy body against me.  Although she did try to get the stick from Leo a few times.

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Get the stick!

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Even Piper can get in on the fun.

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Leo pounces!

As we walked back to the parking lot, there is a boardwalk through some marshland.  I thought that we would walk that way to use up time since we had plenty before we could go to the north shore.  However, after taking about ten steps onto the boardwalk, I saw some brown rumps out in the grass.  Deer…must be deer.  The dogs and deer are not a good combination so we backed away and continued to the lot.  I saw a family with some small children and mentioned the deer to them in case the kids wanted to see them.  When we reached an open area, I looked back to see if the deer were still there.  They were…no wait…those aren’t deer…it looks like…no…ostrich?  Emu?  Definitely not deer.  Well don’t I feel the fool.

I shrugged it off and walked back to the car, loaded the dogs up, and drove into Tobermory.  It’s obviously a town that is sustained by tourism and the streets were packed with people.  People that apparently don’t believe in looking both ways before they cross the street.  And paid parking everywhere.  So irritating.  We parked the car and sauntered over to Tobermory Brewing Company.  What better way to ease some anger than with a locally brewed beer.  Yaaaaaa I’d have to leave the dogs on the outside of the patio.  Which wouldn’t be so bad if the patio were at ground level.  It wasn’t.  Grrrrrrrrr.

OK no beer.  A few doors down is the Sweet Shop so we went there and I got an ice cream cone to help me think.  Chocolate and peanut butter if anyone is wondering.  Once I’d finished the ice cream we started walking around, beginning through the marina.  After almost getting walked into by more than a few people that seemed intent on walking into me even though we were at the side of the sidewalk and not spread out all over the place, we headed out of town.  The park’s visitor centre is at the edge of town and you can reach the Bruce Trail behind the hotel.  At least the people we met there were friendlier and didn’t try to run us over.  Then it was time to make our way back to Cyprus Lake.

Back into the line-up we went and even though I was early, I was allowed to park in a nearly empty lot.  We followed the signs that directed us towards The Grotto.  When we emerged from the trees to see a small crowd of people lounging on the rocks at water’s edge, I thought that since there weren’t anymore Grotto signs that we had arrived and that I had mis-interpreted what we were looking for.  Nope, turns out we were at Indian Head Cove and that The Grotto was a few more minutes down the trail.  I actually don’t mind that we didn’t get there since I’m sure it would have been even more crowded and the rocks were hard enough to scale to the cove especially with my two senior citizens.

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Monks on the cliff.

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Is it just me or is she smiling?

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Look at all that blue.

We sat on the edge of the water for a little while, me enjoying the breeze and the water and the dogs enjoying the attention from everyone around them.  Finally tiring of the squealing of children, we climbed back up to the trail and continued south.  Soon we left all the noise behind us and found a quiet stretch of rocky beach.  The rocks here were Leo-sized and made walking a bit more challenging so it was slow going.  Once we got back to the trail proper, it was a much easier walk.

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A moment of peace.

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Jack always seems to know when the camera is pointing at him.

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A section of the Bruce Trail.

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When we arrived back at the lot, I was torn between walking another trail or heading back home.  The dogs decided for me when they all flopped back into the dirt.  They were tired and had had a busy day so I got them back into the car.

Now I had wanted to eat fish and chips as the fish would have been fresh from the lake but I did not want to go back into Tobermory again.  There is a food stand outside of the park that is legendary for fish and chips (Lone Wolf) but it was closed.  The last time we had passed through the area, I had stumbled onto Katemma’s Diner and had the most amazing burger.  I figured if the burgers were great, then fish and chips would be on the menu.  So I drove there and was a little disappointed to see that fish and chips were not on the menu.  Darn.  I guess I’ll just have to console myself with a burger.  And yes I would like bacon and cheese with that.  The back patio was a wonderful place to sit but this late in the day, it was a little too chilly for me so I planted my butt on some rocks in the front parking lot and inhaled that burger and fries.

This burger is by far the BEST traditional burger I have ever eaten and I have eaten a lot of burgers.  It is beefy and the texture is fantastic.  Seriously, if you are a fan of burgers then you must go there.

Feeling satisfied and a little embarrassed that I didn’t share my burger with the dogs, we set back out down the road and found ourselves driving along the south shore of the peninsula.  The first thing you notice is how calm the water looks.  The second is that EVERYONE waves as you drive by.

I stopped the car at a small parking area and let the dogs out for one more play.  OK I’ll admit it: the light was so gorgeous that I wanted to take advantage of it for a few more pictures.  Leo and Piper went exploring but Jack pretty much plopped his butt down and waited for us to come back to him.  He’s an expert at conserving his energy.

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Sun setting over the shore shore.

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I love this pic of Piper.

Finally, with the light fading and a bunch of tired dogs, I strapped everyone back into the car and made the trip home.

One park down.

HOW TO GET THERE

Take Highway 6 once you get out of Owen Sound.  There are several signs on the highway for the park.  Cyprus Lake Road is the first road as you’re driving north.  It will be on your right and will take you to the north shore which includes The Grotto and Indian Head Cove.

A little further down Highway 6 and on your left, you’ll find Dorcas Bay Road which will take you to Singing Sands.  The parking lot is on the left side of the road and then you cross over to go to the beach and trails.

If you continue north on Highway 6, you’ll find the visitor centre before you enter Tobermory proper.  If you follow the highway straight through town, you’ll find the ferries to take you on tours of the islands and to Manitoulin Island.

All of the campgrounds are on the north side of the peninsula and there are both drive-in and backcountry sites.

WHAT TO DO

Hiking is obviously a big draw.  Some of the trails were wide, level, and covered with crushed gravel or hard-parked dirt.  Part of the Bruce Trail that runs along the north shore was rounded rock so would not be good for a stroller or anyone who has trouble with their balance.  The most difficult part was climbing down to Indian Head Cove you have to pick your way down slabs of rock.

The water can be frigid and sometimes the currents make swimming treacherous.  Canoeing and kayaking are other popular ways to enjoy the water.

Bring lots of bug spray and sunblock.

WHERE TO EAT

There are plenty of different restaurants in Tobermory.  However, aside from The Sweet Shop at 18 Bay Street and the Beavertails stand in the marina, I have done most of my eating outside of town.  I will say this: the ice cream at The Sweet Shop is wonderful.

Little Tub Bakery at 4 Warner Road (on the left side of Highway 6 right at Warner Road) makes some great pizza and the baked goods are lovely.  There’s also Harvest Moon Organic Bakery at 3927 Highway 6 which makes some really good organic baked goods.

For fish and chips, I would recommend Lone Wolf which is at 5992 Highway 6 before you get to Cyprus Lake Road.  The food is cooked in a trailer so it’s all outdoor seating.  Be prepared for mosquitoes.

At 7178 Highway 6, you’ll find Ancient Cedars Cafe.  Just keep your eyes peeled for the golf course and swing on in (get it?).  They have a decent vegetarian and vegan selection.  When I went there last year, I ordered the burger bar and built my own burger.  The burger was good.  I liked that I could sit on the patio with the dogs and the staff were super friendly.

But if you’re looking for a burger, then you want Katemma’s Diner at 607 Pike Bay Road and is about 30 minutes south of Bruce Peninsula National Park.  There is indoor and outdoor seating and the back patio is large and well-shaded.

The End of the Trip

July 2, 2016

Starting Mileage: 540.2

The morning in the KOA seemed to be a little less hectic which is good because my sleep had been far from restful.  I wanted to find the couple who’s amorous activities had woken me up at 3:00 am and give them a high five.  Unfortunately there were a number of suspects around me, so I just broke camp and rolled out of there.

We headed into Owen Sound and stumbled across a farmer’s market.  I love farmer’s markets but this was considerably larger than the ones I am used to, actually closing down a stretch of downtown.  I circled the vicinity looking for a parking spot but there were none to be found within a decent hike.  And with a crowd that large I decided to continue on, looking longingly in the rearview mirror.

I stopped at the Dragonfly Cafe just outside of town.  Not only is it a restaurant but they also make over 30 different kinds of bread there. I ordered the french toast made with cinnamon nut bread and bacon which we devoured on the patio. The french toast wasn’t pretty but what it lacked in looks it made up in flavour.  There was a steady stream of people and the small dining room was packed.  Always a good sign.  And the coffee was decent.

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Cinnamon nut bread french toast and bacon. What a great way to start the day.

I had two destinations that I had identified after studying the map the previous night and I soon found myself parking in the lot at Beaver Valley Orchard and Cidery just outside of Kimberly.  The barn had been converted into a tasting room and if I didn’t have a car load of canine waiting for me, it would have nice to belly up to the bar and enjoy samples.  Since that wasn’t an option, I just grabbed a bottle of each of the ciders they had: their plain cider, a ginger cider, and a bumbleberry cider.  With my purchases safely stored in the car, I took the dogs for a walk.  A patio was near the barn and some gardens with a small stream flowed towards the back of the property.  Of course the dogs had to get right in the water.  We sat in the shade for a while and it would have been easy to stretch out on the grass and just let the day pass.  But I never really was one for easy and we had one more stop I wanted to make.

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Jack contemplating life at Beaver Valley Orchard and Cidery.

As we were driving through Markdale there something about one storefront that caught my eye and I nearly twisted my head right around to see…yes…a roastery!  I quickly parked the car and bounded into Fire & Ice for a much needed americano before we were back on the road.  It’s a cafe, roastery, and bar all rolled into one.  Piper seemed to give me the dirty eye since I didn’t take them for a walk.  Well I had plans for that and we went to Eugenia Falls Conservation Area.

The conservation area is on the edge of Flesherton and it was very busy.  The trails are easy to walk, well marked, and there’s even a stretch of the Bruce Trail so we were able to hike a bit more of it.  There’s one place right near to the top of the falls where you can walk across the rocks and get to the other side, which we did and then after stepping into the shade, we found a stone arch.  Just an arch.  It was kind of haunting.  With the crowds of people and dogs, and heat, we didn’t stay long and were soon back on the road.

Fortunately my second destination was in Flesherton: Leslieville Cheese Market.  After sampling and more sampling, I left with a Hungarian paprika cheddar dip, three very different cheeses, and a grilled cheese sandwich.  I sat on the curb with the dogs and shared my sandwich as the people driving by stared at us.

We went for a short walk and when we crossed the street we found Highland Grounds.  I looked around for a place to tie the dogs but couldn’t find anything.  I stood on the sidewalk, looked back at the car, at the cafe, at the car, at the cafe, at the car, at the cafe then walked back to the car.  They piled in, I drove the 200 metres to the cafe, and parked the car.  When I went inside, what I can only assume was the owner seemed to have been waiting for me and asked if he could give the dogs treats.  I didn’t think they would mind so I told him they would like that.  I offered to get them out but he declined, saying this would be easier.  I couldn’t argue with his logic on that one.  I left armed with an iced coffee, somehow leaving all the baked goods in the display cases.

I drove the back roads, slowly making my way south east, not really planning to stop anywhere.  Then we came into Brechin and I saw the Sweet Tooth Caboose.  Well, I have a sweet tooth and I must admit the sign proclaiming world famous butter tarts piqued my interest.  Of course, the menu for ice cream piqued it even more and when I stepped back from the caboose I was clutching a cone of salted caramel truffle ice cream and a butter tart for the road.  Anything that can combine ice cream, caramel, and chocolate is good in my books.  The dogs wanted to help me with the ice cream but they made due with little tiny bits of plain cone.

In less than an hour, we were back home.  It was one of our shorter trips and the impromptu Canada Day trip was not something that I would normally have done.  But it somehow seemed so right.  We were greeted by strangers with shouts of “Happy Canada Day!”, Canadian flags flying everywhere, listening to coverage of celebrations in Ottawa on the radio.  It wasn’t just that people were happy to have a long weekend but they seemed happy to be HERE and experiencing the beauty that can be found in the wilderness that is inherently Canada.  There were none of the majestic mountains of the Rockies or the dramatic coastline of the Maritimes but there was something different and something very special.

Finishing mileage: 814.2

The Rain and the Trail

July 1, 2016

Starting Mileage: 346.8

HAPPY CANADA DAY!!!

Too bad the day started off the way that it did.  We’ve been lucky with the weather so far and when the forecast calls for rain, we are usually able to get a hotel.  The problem with freestyle road tripping is that is not always an option, especially on a long weekend.  And when I woke up, I heard the patter of rain on the tent.  Fortunately it was a fairly light rain and I was able to pack the tent without getting drenched.  I put the dogs in the car and they seemed content to lounge about and wait for me.  I ended up sleeping quite late so it was only a short wait for Lone Wolf to open by the time we were all loaded.  I was on my way back into Tobermory to get a coffee when I saw Little Tub Bakery.  That will do just fine.  I got a good cup of coffee and bought some strawberry jam, pickled garlic scapes (yummy), and asked if they had anything that they were known for.  I should have expected that they would say the butter tarts.  I ordered a plain and sat outside with the dogs under an awning so they could have their breakfast.  I will say it was a damned fine butter tart, even if the raisins were a bit of a surprise.

And then to Lone Wolf.  It looks like a shed in a parking lot next to a trailer that’s open 24 hours to sell coffee and smokes I’m guessing.  I was there a little early and was staring through the windows at the women working inside, trying to will them to open faster, hoping my puppy dog eyes might garner some sympathy.  It didn’t.  When they finally did open, I ordered the whitefish and chip dinner.  If the closest you ever get to fish is Captain Highliner in the freezer section, you will not like this because it tastes like fish.  I started chatting with one of the women working there and she told me how she comes from a family of fishermen and they work for the man that owns Lone Wolf.  The only way to get fresher fish is to catch it yourself.  It came with a fantastic cup of tartar sauce and some coleslaw that was covered with fresh dill.  It was so good I didn’t share any of the fish with the dogs.  They did have a few little bites of fries but the fish was mine.  I considered going back for more but the parking lot was filling up and we had some road to put under the tires.

Highway 6 is the only road that seems to lead out of the Peninsula and I kept my eyes open for things to do.  I saw a sign for a lighthouse and decided to check that out.  The signage left much to be desired and there were a few wrong turns before we figured out where we were going.  To be fair, there was a truck in front of me that was doing the same thing so I wasn’t the only one that didn’t know where I was going.

We finally ended up on a long, narrow, dirt road that ended at Cabot Head Lightstation.  There’s a small museum in the lighthouse and some trails that run along the water.  I couldn’t take the dogs into the lighthouse so we hiked the trails instead.  The museum and grounds were maintained by volunteers and they rely on donations to keep everything running instead of charging admission.  For some reason, it makes me feel better about paying rather than have someone tell me how much to pay.

A short trip down the road and I saw Harvest Moon Organic Bakery.  Well I’m never one to let a bakery go past so in I went and I left with a loaded scone consisting of a scone with whipped cream and strawberries and a chocolate crossie (chocolate clusters with coffee beans, crunchy flakes, and a heavy hit of ginger).  This was one time the dogs had to sit out since the scone had currants and the crossie was chocolate.  Then back on the road.IMG_7040

But not for long because we stopped a short distance away in Lion’s Head and hiked a section of the Bruce Trail while there was a break in the rain.  It was a little strange for me because this trail went through town and in one section, along a driveway.  I was a little confused when I came out of the trees and was staring at a shed and the back of a car.  I started looking around thinking I had missed a turn but then I saw blazes on the shed and some boulders along the driveway.

So there I am walking along this driveway and I look to my right and there’s the water and more rocky beaches.  There are steps leading to the beach so I figure “why not go look down there?” A woman was standing on the beach and we exchange greetings as we passed each other on the steps.  Then I hear her talking to people who came up behind me and apparently the steps are not part of the trail and they are her private steps.  Well didn’t I feel the ass.  Of course there were no signs indicating that and she could have told me when we were face to face.  I thought for a split second that maybe she was scared of the dogs but she didn’t give that impression when I spoke to her.  We walked down the beach for a while and when we made our way back, there was a statue blocking the steps.

Another thing I noticed was just how volatile the weather can be.  I had often heard about how unpredictable the Great Lakes are and we experienced it first hand.  The skies never really got clear but it would go from overcast to downpour and back again in the matter of seconds.  Another reason to keep our hikes short.  The dogs love to swim but they hate the rain.  Go figure.

While walking along the harbour, I learned where the town got it’s name.  There’s a section of cliffs across the harbour that apparently has the profile of a lion’s head.  I couldn’t see it.  What I did see was a stage set up just off the water and I could only imagine how awesome a show there would be.DSC05061

As we were leaving Lion’s Head, I passed by a sign for summer sausage outside a house.  I turned into the driveway and there was a sign on the front door saying to go around back.  So I go around to the back and on the garage is another sign saying to use the side door and the sausage is in the fridge.  I started to giggle as I opened the door and sure enough there’s a fridge with a price list on it.  Not only were there summer sausages but also pepperettes.  Well I bought a half sausage and a pack of pepperettes and turned to leave, after depositing my payment of course, and there in the yard was a husky.  In it’s run.  Just staring at me.  I didn’t even see it blink.  I almost felt guilty for some reason.  “I paid.  Really I did,” I said to the dog, even pausing to redo the math just to make sure.  I left, but not without a picture.

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Well I didn’t get very far before I stopped into a farmers market.  I already have a pantry full of preserves and there wasn’t much in the way of vegetables that I could take with me, but there were strawberry and carrot muffins and those travel very well.  I asked about a good place to eat and was given directions to a diner just down the road.  Now let me tell you dear reader: if there was ever a time that talking to locals paid off, this was it.

I stopped in at Katemma’s Diner and if I hadn’t been told how to get there, I never would have found it.  I ordered the burger on a recommendation and it was by far the best burger I can remember having.  The patty was juicy and flavourful and the bun was perfect.  I took one bite and literally felt my eyes bug out of my head.  The dogs got a few crumbs from the bun and some fries.  I ate the burger.  All of it.  I don’t think I breathed at all.

I went back inside to tell them how much I enjoyed it and ended up speaking with the owner for a few minutes.  There were also a few regulars that came in and I always love to watch the banter between the customer and proprietor.  It’s why I love going to independent businesses.  I had noticed a steady stream of cars going down one road and asked what was down there.  She told me they were probably going to Shoreline Drive.  Well then…so were we.

Shoreline Drive follows the water and when I first turned onto the road, I was stunned to see the sky full of kite surfers.  I had never seen so many in one place and I stopped to watch them for a while.  We went down the road from the kite surfers and walked along the shore a little but I didn’t want to stress the dogs out too much.  With all the rock climbing we had done, I figured a few short and easy stretches would be good for everyone.

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Kite surfing.

I wound my way through the roads, crisscrossing to the other side of the peninsula until we ended up in Wiarton which is known for one little fella: Wiarton Willie, an albino weather forecasting groundhog.  But before we went to see Willie, we stopped at Northern Confections.  Oddly enough, all I got was the coffee.  And an agricultural and culinary map of the area.  Score!

There is a large stature dedicated to Willie and we stopped for a few quick photos, causing ooooohs and aaahhhhs as people watched the dogs pose but the park was busy setting up for fireworks so we very quickly left.DSC05125

As I was driving along, I noticed a sign for a KOA Campground and decided to see if they had spots available.  One of my co-workers had raved about them so I decided to check them out.  And they did have a spot available.  Then as soon as I drove to my site, I felt my heart sink.  There were so many people and the sites were TINY.  But it was a place to rest my head and a chance to spend at least one more day out roaming so I pitched my tent and went to sleep.

 

A Canada Day Trip

Well I didn’t intend for it to be a Canada Day trip.  One of the downsides of shift work is that I often lose track of time.  I mean, I’m not the best at it to begin with as most of my friends or family will attest, but throw in weird hours and I’m a mess.  All I think about is that I finish work on one day and don’t have to be back until another day.

I had been thinking about making a trip somewhere and after rambling off a few destinations to my friend Liz, she handed me a book of 100 Nature Hot Spots in Ontario.  Now let me tell you: Ontario is HUGE.  It easily takes more than a day to go from the east border to the west border.  In fact, I’m not sure how long that would take.  It takes me almost 20 hours of driving from my house in the south-central area to the west border with Manitoba.  She flipped through the pages and there on page 182 was Flower Pot Island in Tobermory on Georgian Bay.  Done. It did briefly cross my mind that it was a long weekend but no big deal.  It’s a four hour drive and I could always come back home if need be.

I finished work early the morning of June 30 and by the time I fell into bed, dawn was not  far away.  I slept for a couple of hours before I woke up and packed the car.  I keep most of my gear ready to go so packing is actually quite quick.  I didn’t pack lots of food and almost didn’t bring my tent because I half expected to be back home that night.  I did pack my little cooler, just in case, and left home just after 8:30 am.  I was feeling a little anxious as I usually like to get on the road early until I realized that I wasn’t going anywhere near major roadways and would not have to face the crazy traffic that plagues major urban centres.

Of course the Standard Road Trip Rules would apply.  I took a break from my usual choice of road trip bottle since this would be a very short trip, by my standards anyway, and brought a bottle of Cotton Candy Rose.

Having never been to Tobermory before, I was not quite sure what to expect.  I just typed in the destination into my phone and picked the quickest route.  The map took us through farm lands and rolling hills which gradually gave way to long stretches of thick trees.  I drove into Bruce Peninsula National Park which is just outside Tobermory to ask if there were any campsites available.  As I expected, there were none.  However, the wonderful staff there gave me some brochures and the number for the Chamber of Commerce in an attempt to find a place to stay.

One of the brochures they gave me was for Blue Heron Cruises and it says right on the back that there is a pet policy in regards to their cruises to Flower Pot Island.  I called and was able to get a spot on the jet boat at 3:45 pm and there was only one spot left for the return at 5:45 pm.  Now initially I booked for the following day which would give me more time on the island but after some frantic calls and no accommodation, I was able to book for later that day.  The young woman on the line was so incredibly patient with me as I was on the phone trying to make plans while walking with the dogs.

Less than four hours after leaving home, we drove into Tobermory.  It’s a small town with a very tourist and hip vibe to it.  I picked up my tickets for the cruise, got a recommendation for dinner, and walked the dogs around the harbour.  They had no problem with the activity around them and when it was time to board the boat, they climbed up like champions.  Jack jumped up on the seat next to me to sun himself as Piper sprawled out on the deck and Leo watched everything around him.  The cruise out to the island also had a short tour with it and we passed by lighthouses and even over two sunken ships that you could see from the surface.  The water was so clear that it looked like you could reach in and touch them.  I was impressed with how well the captain was able to spin the boat around in a tiny harbour to put us in position to see them.

A short trip over open water and we docked at the island.  The entire loop trail is supposed to be six kilometres and with just over an hour decided to stick to the shoreline and leave the trail through the interior.  The trails are very easy to walk as evidenced by the people I saw in flip flops and heels.  The only difficult spots were off the main trail as there were plenty of spots for photos and scenic places to enjoy.  I was actually flabbergasted by the sheer numbers of people walking through there.  Some were not impressed by the dogs and a few actually squealed and tried to climb up the rock walls to get away from them.  Of course the dogs didn’t help because they thought it was a game of chase.  Oh well.

We hiked to both the Little and Big Flower Pots which were carved from the rock by receding glaciers and the waters of Lake Huron.  The beaches are made up entirely of what almost seems like paving stones because there are piles of thick slabs of rock.  It’s very different from what I am used to.  Even the rockiest beaches that we have been on have had the rocks smoothed by the waves.  It made for slow and unsteady walking.  It was also fun climbing up almost sheer cliffs because there were plenty of hand-and footholds.  The dogs just switched to four wheel drive mode and powered up.  I was a little worried about Piper at first since she still was having some problems with her balance but she did not put a single foot wrong and was having fun playing in the water and climbing the rocks.

On the way back, there was a sign for a cave.  I thought it sounded fun so we climbed up the stairs to find ourselves in a hollow space in the rock and not the deep hole that I had expected.  It was almost time to leave anyway so we hustled back to the dock.  The ride to the mainland was much more crowded than the ride over but at least it was an express so we weren’t on the boat for long.

Back on solid ground and I was feeling a bit peckish.  There were several restaurants and stores but one in particular had caught my eye earlier so we walked over to The Sweet Shop.  After all the hiking, I needed to refuel of course.  Which I did with a Heath Bar Ice Cream.  It had everything a girl could ask for: vanilla ice cream, chocolate, skor pieces.  It would tide me over until I got some real food.

Most of the places I passed by in town were packed and with three dogs I decided to move on.  Besides, I had been told that I had to eat the fish and chips at Lone Wolf outside of town.  As I was driving there, I saw flags for camping and I quickly turned in to Harmony Acres Campground.  And they had tent sites available!

Things were looking up for me as I continued to Lone Wolf.  Until I got there and learned that they had closed.  Quickly turning to Yelp, I found a highly recommended restaurant back the way I had come.  So I drive back, passing Harmony Acres to go to Ancient Cedars Cafe.  It is part of the golf course so I almost missed it.  The best part was that I could take the dogs onto the patio with me.

I ordered the burger bar which was a burger and a buffet of sides.  I think they were getting ready to shut it down because the potato wedges were cool and the pasta salad had been sitting out for a while but after the busy day we had, it all tasted good.  And the burger was good all on it’s own.

We went back to the campground and I have to say that it was one of the nicer private places I had been in.  The section that my site was in was fairly new and the sites were fairly spacious.  I even had one of my neighbours invite me to join them at their fire.  And I would have except that after setting up camp and walking the dogs to stretch our legs and get familiar with the site, I actually fell asleep while I was sitting at the picnic table waiting for them to eat their food.  And not over the table part; I was sitting facing out so I woke up when my elbows slipped off my thighs.  I was just able to climb into the tent and was asleep in no time.  And the dogs were still snoring before me.