Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ottawa at Last?

Aug 19 and 20

odometer 100700

First off, our odometer started at 87700, so that means we've travelled 13,000 kms on this trip - a lot more than the 11,000 we'd estimated in advance. I don't know if our van will ever forgive us.

Spent a couple of days in Renfrew with my Mom. On Thursday we tried to go to the splash Pad at Mateway park, but by the time girls got their swimsuits on (it took them forever) the rain had started. So we hung out at the house - the girls sure made up for their lack of TV!

Enjoyed a supper of BBQ steak and our first Ottawa-valley corn of the season - delicious!

Friday morning I went grocery shopping for some essentials, then we headed out to Burnstown beach for the afternoon. It's a great beach along the Calabogie road, about 45 minutes from Ottawa. It was a cool day so I didn't swim, but the rest of the family enjoyed it.
Said goodbye to Mom for our final drive home. Couldn't get over that we going back. The neighbourhood looked pretty much the same. We had housesitters staying with cats while we were away and they had left us flowers and balloons for the girls. The girls were VERY excited about the balloons.

Did a bit of cleaning and unpacking before heading to bed - our OWN beds. How sweet it is.

I'm happy to be home, but sad the trip is over. Despite our struggles, I enjoyed it. In fact, none of us are tired of camping yet and already planning to fit a few more trips in before the season ends. Camping with the travel trailer is sooooo much easier then the tent trailer - I wouldn't hesitate to go out again this weekend. Well, except for all the unpacking and cleaning that needs to be done!

Our Canada Parks pass is good until July of next year, so we are hoping to go to Georgian Bay and Manitoulin Island in the fall, and Point Pelee and Parks of the St Lawrence in the spring! Got to make the most of it!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Mattawa to Renfrew

Decided to spend the day here at Samuel de Champlain - it is a great provincial park. After 3 days of early morning and driving it was nice to sleep in! Woke up to fog on the Mattawa river.

The girls played at Howley beach for the morning, it was too cold to swim but they played in the sand - DD2 enjoyed filling buckets of water and dumping them into the system of moats DD1 built.

My mom joined us at the park later in the morning - we sat on the beach and enjoyed the view of the Mattawa river and the breeze off the water.

This was our last time camping on the trip so we had a 'clear out the fridge ' lunch - a salad with everything imaginable in it (grapes, cheese, roast beef, peanuts, etc). It was surprisingly delicious.

Checked out around 2 pm and drove 3 hours to Renfrew - we saw more construction on the T-Can between Deep River and Renfrew them anywhere else on our trip! Got this final picture of the T-Can sign while waiting in a construction line up.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sault Ste Marie to Mattawa

Aug 17

Good start this morning and easy driving now that we away from the lake. After the SOO (aka Sault Ste Marie, according to the locals) the highway goes along the North Channel of Lake Huron (Mantioulin Island is just south of us). It is very flat and touristy along here, lots of campgrounds, cottages and motels. Stopped in Blind River for lunch and a play. The girls were very happy to spot a playground in the rest area. DS went for his first slide, all by himself, and loved it! He also loves the swings.

Leaving Blind River, the T-can veered away from Lake Huron and the landscape was more familiar, much like the Ottawa Valley where I've lived almost my whole life. The odometer turned to 100,000 soon after the rest stop - DH was very excited!

Made a detour into Sudbury to see the Big Nickel and was shocked to find out that you had to pay 5$ for parking. No thanks, we just turned around in the parking lot while I snapped a photo from the car.

Gave the girls nickels to look at and compare to what we'd seen. Made me think that it's time to teach DD1 about the value of money. She can count to a hundred and understands the order of numbers (i.e. which number is higher), so I figure she's ready. The detour took us off the T-Can, during which time there was fatal collision on the section we should have travelled. But for the grace of God… A traffic accident is my biggest fear on this trip, and given we've travelled over 10000 km a legitimate one too. Pulling a travel travel just ads to the risk . Ugh - I had trouble sleeping last night worrying about it, I think because we are so close to home now.

While in Sudbury we stopped for gas, tea, Timbits, and milk at Mac's. I was so happy to see the 4L jugs of Mac's milk! Haven't seen that since we left home!

North Bay, we saw our first sign for Ottawa - its so close now!

Pulled into Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park, just east of Mattawa, around supper time. What a beautiful park, we even got a site along the lake with our very own beach - our very first of the trip. The girls played on Howley Beach while I made supper.

Got the kids to bed, then DH left for a night hike at 10 pm to look for bugs. DD1 was so disappointed that she couldn't go: 'I bet he even gets to see fireflies!' she said despondently. There is a kids program tomorrow morning, so that should make up for it. Lots of activities at the park, plus a Voyageur Museum, Ecology Research Centre, and Forestry Research Centre. Looking forward to checking out some stuff tomorrow. We'll probably stay until check out (2pm) before heading to Renfrew to spend time with my mom. Looking forward to travelling along the Ottawa River at last, the T-Can begins to follow the river east of Mattawa. We are now seeing mileage signs for Ottawa - a welcome site!

Pukaskwa NP to Sault Ste Marie

Aug 16

odometer 99782

Finished driving around Lake Superior today to Pancake Bay Provincial Park, just north of Sault Ste Marie, the south eastern edge of the lake. It was raining leaving Pukaskwa and the road was very twisty and up and down, I think I only saw two straightaways on the entire drive this morning. The drive from Pukaskwa to Wawa is away from the lake, just miles and miles of boreal forest. Stopped at Wawa for lunch and the mandatory shot with the Goose:

After Wawa, the T-Can goes along the shore of Lake Superior, and the views are spectacular. Luckily for us, the weather improved and we had sun and clouds. It is extremely windy again today and the waves are huge. I guess those poor kayakers are still stuck back in Hattie Cove. The views remind us of the Cape Breton Highlands - boreal forest, curvy roads, and choppy waters.

Got into Pancake Bay mid-afternoon and headed straight for the beach - we didn't even drop the trailer off at the site. We went to the doggy section of the beach so Fenten could play.

The water was a lot warmer then I remember as a kid but the air was quite cool The thundering of the waves was deafening, and you could see them pulling up the sand from the bottom and rolling it over. DD1 and I had fun playing in the water, although bystanders stared at us because the air was too cold for swimsuits. There was a bit of an undertow because of the pounding surf. I wished we had our PFDs (we didn't bring them or any of our boats to reduce weight and bulk), because then I would have let DD1 venture further into the water. DD2 had fun running to and away from the waves.

The girls also spent a while burying DD2 in the sand, while DS and I relaxed in the soft sand.

We finally got to fly the kite my cousin bought for us when we were on Granville Island. Unfortunately the string had knots in it and DH spent an hour untangling it. It was pretty blustery and hard to keep the kite up for very long.

Headed back for supper and early bed. Getting up early tomorrow - we think we will fast track our trip home to spend some time at my mom's in Renfrew.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sleeping Giant Provincial Park to Pukaskwa

August 15
odometer 99101

Short drive to Pukaswka today, the scenery is very dull (endless boreal forest, very little civilization) until you get a glimpse of the lake. A lot of the road has been blasted through rock, in all sorts of colours.

Took pics from Nipigon Bay, it's sheltered from Superior with lots of islands near the shore.

There were tons of picnic stops along the way with scenic views. We decided to stop at Rossport - our first view of the lake proper - with lots of waves and wind. Fenten went for a swim, so he's happy. We forgot to look for blueberries like my cousin had suggested, maybe next time.

Pulled into the Hattie Cove campground mid-afternoon. I got to practice backing the trailer up into the site. There's a test of marital harmony for you! After 15 minutes of frustration I think I got the hang of it. DH may differ :)

Had a quick supper as we were anxious to do a small hike before retiring for the night. We did the beach hike along Hattie Cove. The waves are HUGE and the wind is fierce! I wouldn't want to be in a boat today. You can gauge the wind speed by the craziness of DD1's hair or the curve of Fenten's leash.

It was fun walking along the beaches. They were sandy but covered in driftwood so you had to walk right along the edge. Every once in a while we would run for higher ground when a big wave came in.

After our walk we went to the Visitor's centre to watch a film about Pukaskwa. Hoorah - they have WiFi. Took this opportunity to update the blog. Probably won't be able to much more until I get home. Saw a few backcountry campers stranded at the Centre - the water is too dangerous for kayaking to their campsites.

Wish we had more time here. DH really loves it - 'I could make this home' he said - Superior is so big it's like an ocean, with the wind and the waves and the sound. Should be a nice lullaby tonight.

We're supposed to be in Pancake Bay, just north of Sault Ste Marie, tomorrow but we may drive further. We want to be in Renfrew for Thursday.

Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

Aug 13

I think we are sleeping on the head of the Giant!

Started the day with a visit to the Visitor's Centre. It was really good - lots of displays and DD1 got to complete her first challenge as a 'junior naturalist'. She did all the tasks and was very excited to get a certificate. DD2 was disappointed she didn't get a certificate, but this was soothed with a cookie.

Had avocado salad for lunch, a recipe from my mom. You scoop out the avocado flesh and dice it, mix it with mayo, drained cocktail shrimp, and salt and pepper. Put the mix back into the avocado skins and enjoy. Delicious after months of cold sandwiches.

DH and DS needed a nap, so the girls and I went to the beach. The water was nice and there was a strong breeze, so it wasn't hot. It was the usual beach day - DD1 went in and out practicing her swimming while DD2 played by the shore. They both played in the two playgrounds for a bit.

Back for supper, then showers and a campfire. Banana boats for a special treat then bed. Off to Pukaskwa National Park, further along the Superior's shore, for tomorrow.

Thunder Bay to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

August 12

After blogging last night I went to bed and discovered this:

looks like Fenten thought DS's makeshift crib was his dog bed. I think he even shoved him over!

Late start today - had a leisurely morning and then had to stock up on groceries...hopefully our last time before home. My
daughter came to visit before we left.

Here we are with our fantastic hostess:

Took the city route through Thunder Bay and drove through Marina Park for a good view of the Giant. Too bad it is so overcast, it really is an awesome sight, the camera can't pick it up so well.
The drive was pretty with views of Superior and the Giant. Stopped at the Terry Fox Memorial. I tried to explain to DD1 everything he overcame and what he did - a marathon everyday....kind of hard for a 5 year old to grasp. The monument is very nice with a good view of Lake Superior.
Short drive to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. Had a nice site, close to Marie Louise Lake. Took Fenten for a swim along the shore and encountered 'attack duck'. This duck took his job very seriously - I wish I had the camera! Even though Fenten wasn't really interested in the ducks (he just wanted to swim) the duck wasn't taking any chances. He would charge him, then pace him stroke for stroke - quacking the whole time. People were coming from their campsites to see the sight - it went on for about 10 minutes! Saw deer wandering between the campsites to go to the shore for a drink - a very beautiful place indeed.

Looking forward to checking out the park tomorrow.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fort William in Thunder Bay

August 12

Woke up late and enjoyed breakfast. Megs especially, as she had three courses (cereal, oatmeal, toast) and still didn't seem full. Headed out to Fort William, just down the road from my cousins.

We were voyageurs and paddled a birch bark canoe.

That wet our appetite so we headed to the cantina for lunch. Claire ordered pea soup (her favourite) and was given the biggest bowl of soup I have ever seen.

After lunch we danced with some of the town folk and went to the main gates to watch the arrival of the new brigade.

We checked out the trades stores (tinsmith, blacksmith, carpenter, seamstress) as well as all the various buildings in the fort. It was neat to see the garden, and DD1 had fun trying to identify all the vegetable growing there.

It was a wonderful day, but sunny and hot so we felt pretty worn out by the end.

Went back to my cousins for supper and met one of her sisters. We are hoping to meet more family. Finally got caught up with my blog after being without Internet for a week. Can't believe we are going to be home soon - 8 more sleeps!

Rushing River Provincial Park to Thunder Bay

Aug 11

Got an earlier start then we intended. I thought all of Ontario was on Eastern daylight time, but west of Thunder Bay is on Central time. The scenery was scenic leaving Rushing River, lots of rivers, lakes, and granite. More agriculture around Dryden, but you always know you are on the Shield. Had a lunch stop at Ignace - armpit of town but a nice rest stop. It had nice picnic area and playground and play area for the kids. Unfortunately it was raining so we had to eat in the trailer.

The drive from Ignace to Shabaqua Falls was dull dull dull - swamp and firs. I read and napped through all of it.

Arrived in Thunder Bay in late afternoon. We're staying at with my mom's cousin, just on the outskirts of town. We had a great supper - the girls picked they're own carrots out of the garden.

To get ready for bed, the girls had their first bath in 5 weeks. It was a jacuzzi tub - they had bubbles and were allowed to turn on the jets - so they had a blast. You wouldn't believe the dirt left on the bottom of the tub. Unless you've camped with young children, then you can imagine it!

Rushing River Provincial Park

August 10

What a beautiful park this is! 300 really nice and private sites, a beautiful, warm, and clean lake, and a pretty river with rapids.

DH and DD2 did the Beaver Pond trail in the morning so DS got to have a good nap while DD1 and I played 'kitchen'. Spent the afternoon at the beach - what a great spot. Warm water, lots of sand, and not busy. DD1 loves the water and swam all afternoon. She still sinks like a stone, but loves it. DD2 is more cautious around the water, but likes walking in and out and by the end of the day was walking up to her neck.

Had a campfire with the giant marshmallows. Still hot so its hard to get the kids and us to sleep. Heading to Thunder Bay tomorrow.

Riding Mountain National Park, MB to Kenora, ON

August 9
odometer 98456

Got our best start yet today, at 8 am. It was really nice having an on-site sewer, it made packing up faster. The landscape near the park was rolling, but flattened out along the Yellowhead. Finally got to see fields of sunflowers and flax. The flax was a neat purply-blue colour, but the fields of sunflowers were really pretty.

We also saw farmers harvesting wheat (I think). Had a rest stop at the Portage La Prairie spillway, then into Winnipeg for lunch. On the way into Winnipeg we stopped at a produce stand to pick up fresh corn and beans, as wells as homemade pickled beets and pickles. I love this time of year! Noticed Newfoundland plates at the produce stand, and saw NB plates on the Yellowhead.

I am really interested in Winnipeg - there is so much Canadian history there. We didn't have much time, so I decided to go to 'The Forks' - a park where the Assiniboine and Red rivers meet. This is a very historic area with deep roots for the native peoples. So we drove to The Forks only to find there was NO parking for RVs or buses. It was noon and the parking lots were packed, so it was a challenge to find a double spot to park the van and trailer, but we did it!

First stop was to get a picture of where the Assiniboine meets the Red River.

Then we walked to the Oodena Celebration ciricle, the site where Aboriginals have been meeting for centuries.

We also went to the National Historic Site and saw the 'Path in Time' sculpture.

Grabbed some lunch before carefully pulling out of the parking lot - again a challenge but DH did great. All the kids fell asleep, so they didn't get lunch. Not so bad because they were the worst perogies and cabbage rolls I've ever had. The perogies were starchy and bland and the cabbage rolls had the taste and texture of cat food.

As we drove east of Winnipeg I noticed that there was less farmland and more deciduous forests. Manitoba also has 'odometer checks'. There is a sign that tells you when to restart your odometer and then a second sign to mark the distance. Not sure the point of these - I never knew odometer accuracy was a problem in MB! We did them anyway, just for fun.

Almost immediately after crossing the border into Ontario the scenery changed. You can tell we are on the Shield! Lots of granite outcrops along the roadside and much more conifers. The scenery is not that exciting - how can you compare with mountains - but it feels sooooo good to be back in Ontario even if we are still very far from home!

Pulled into Rushing River Provincial Park, just east of Kenora around supper time. It is so hot in Ontario, I guess they have been having this weather since we left. Made perogies for supper along with some fresh corn, just to repair the damage done by the awful ones at lunch. Headed out to the beach to cool off. The weather was gorgeous and there was a really nice playground. We are looking forward to checking out more of the park tomorrow. Really really hot tonight!

Riding Mountain National Park, MB

August 8

Had another great day at the Park today. DH took the 3 kids on a short hike this morning, so I got to hang out in the trailer. I was supposed to relax, but I'm not very good at that and ended up cleaning the trailer. It sure needed it, and now we should be good until we get home.

After lunch we went to the Wasagaming playground and watched the Park interpreters put on a puppet show. It was a love story between a red tailed hawk and a bison made Martha.

Checked out the sandcastles on the beach, there had been a contest earlier. My favourite was a sand sculpture of a beaver with 'Happy 125th Parks Canada' written on a banner below it.

Went to town for ice cream and some groceries, then back to the campsite for supper. Too tired for a fire tonight, and wanted to get the girls to bed at a good time because it we have a big drive in the am.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Riding Mountain National Park

August 7

Had an easy morning, packed a lunch and headed for the town of Wasagaming for a day at the beach. Didn't realize it was my birthday until DH and the girls gave me cards. I also opened the gift my mom gave me before we left - it's a necklace and earrings that goes with the cover up I bought yesterday and am wearing today - cool!

We walked from our campsite to the town, and happened upon a parade! It is Chamber Days and they hold a parade which involves local business driving in their vehicles and throwing candy at the watching children. We ate our lunch while watching the parade - the highlight was the Shriners in their miniature cars. DH sneaked off during the parade to buy ice cream - it was only a block away but because of the heat it was melting pretty fast by the time it got to us. After the parade we walked to the beach, only to be confronted with a sign warning against swimmer's itch. Kinda dampened my desire to swim! The girls had brought sand toys so they played happily while DH and I enjoyed the breeze and the shade. Spent the afternoon there and went back to the campsite for supper then to the campground campfire to learning Riding Mountain songs. DD1 sang along and DD2 danced.

Wynyard, SK to Riding Mountain National Park, MB.

August 6

odometer 9600

Another early morning, on the road by 8:30. Nobody came around this morning to collect a fee, so I guess we camped for free.

The drive is still boring, so I'm reading a lot, but the landscape started rolling again as we approached Yorkton and then flattened out after.

We decided to stop for lunch at a mom and pop restaurant. After our awful experience in Chase, BC I was a bit gun shy. But when we drove by 'Chicken Chef' in Lagenburg SK and the parking lot was full I was hopeful. It ended up being a good lunch, and their fried chicken was really good - but not as good as the Lick A Chick in Bras d'Or NS!

Stopped in Shoal Lake for gas and groceries before leaving the Yellowhead to head north into Riding Mountain. I can't get used to all the dirt and gravel roads in the Prairies and how fast the locals drive on them! Coming from Ontario, where most roads are paved, we treat gravel and dirt gingerly. It's fun to watch the locals tear down them, with a huge dust cloud behind them!

We are camping at Wasagaming in Riding Mountain National Park. It's like a small resort town - it reminds me of Martha's Vineyard. On recommendation from a friend, we checked out Poor Michael's Bookshop in Onanole, just outside the park. It was very cool. I picked up a book, a batik coverup for the beach, and a Chai latte.

We have a three-way site (electricity, water, sewer) and it's a luxury for us. I was able to give both girls a shower in the trailer, which they love and not worry about running out of fresh water or grey water capacity. It's also nice not to worry about the trailer battery. When we camp dry (no services) the battery only lasts about two nights, even when we're careful. We're used to our tent trailer, which could go a long weekend no problem. But the travel trailer has a big fridge and water pump that wear down the battery quite a bit.

Two weeks 'till we are home. I'm enjoying myself, but the thought of doing nothing and spending a day at home is sounding nice! I told DD1 that it was 14 sleeps until she slept in her own bed. She looked confused - she didn't know what I meant. Even after a said 'you know, your bed at your house' it took her awhile to get it. Surely she didn't think camping would go on forever?

Elk Island National Park, AB to Wynyard, SK

Aug 5
odometer 97483

Big drive today, so we go an early start - on the road by 8:30. The bison drive last night was overshadowed by the bison traffic jams we saw this morning on the way out. We were passing by them very slowly when a bull in front of us grunted and started walking directly toward the car. Perhaps 'walking' is not the best way to describe the movement of a 800 kg animal - lumbering maybe? In any case, he was just getting his cows and calves off the road, so nobody was hurt.

I don't find the landscape very interesting anymore - its kind of hard to compete with the Rockies! Nevertheless, I noticed that landscape is flattening again, with large stretches of farmlands. We had a lunch in Lloydminster, Canada's only border town, on the SK side. Around Saskatoon, it was more like the prairie we saw on the southern route (highway 1). Saskatoon held nothing of interest to us, so we decided to push on and stopped in Wynyard.

There was a cheap municipal campground just off the Yellowhead. We went to a deserted section of the campground, right across the from the park and had it pretty much to ourselves. The girls loved it - they played while we made supper and DS rolled and scooted around on his blanket trying to eat grass. I don't think DS will ever crawl, he has no interest whatsoever - he just rolls. If you sit him up, he's quite able to turn around and move forward a bit, so I think he may 'scoot' around on his bum instead.

Everybody went to bed well, and DH and I had time for a drink and game of Gin before bed. No one ever came around to collect our camping fee, and there doesn't seem to be anywhere to leave it. Maybe they will catch us in the am.