Ontario 2: Lake Huron and Lake Ontario

May 28 to June 9

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Mainly photos on this post, as we try to get caught up.

Sault St. Marie was the first city we’d seen since leaving Thunder Bay about two weeks earlier. We were ready to restock, but sad to say goodbye to Lake Superior. We stayed a quick overnight at the Serpent River Campground near Lake Huron before taking the Chi Cheemaun Ferry from Manitoulin Island across to Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula. The ferry was huge and easy to get the RV on and the reward on the Bruce was well worth it. We checked out Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park. Both were stunning!

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We hiked to The Grotto, enjoyed a really nice visitor center, traipsed over a crazy rocky beach and watched the emergency folks conduct a missing persons search.

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What still stands out the most is the Caribbean-blue water. It was one of the most unexpectedly beautiful places on the trip.

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After a few days there, we stopped at Lions Head to see a shipwreck. As a bonus, we ran into a farmers market where we picked up real Canadian maple syrup and crepes. It was also here where we adopted the phrase, “Never go to bed with an empty milk jug” because if you have to pour the bag of milk into the jug, that’s fine, but don’t make yourself do it before breakfast.

After leaving The Bruce, we chugged into Toronto. We had expected an Atlanta-sized city, but really, Toronto felt more on that mega-sized Chicago level city. It was huge! We really enjoyed the cosmopolitan diverse feel of the city. We stayed at Rouge National Urban Park, went to a Blue Jays game and got to see a little bit of the city with our excellent guides Christian and Julie. Loyal blog readers will remember that we met Christian, Julie and their green VW van up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan last summer. We then saw them at another park in Michigan, randomly on the road in Wisconsin, met up at a park in Florida and then got to visit more when they stopped through Chattanooga in January. Now we were on their home turf in Toronto and they were excellent hosts, tour guides and even cooks when they invited us over for dinner at their bricks and mortar home. They met at the Blue Jays game and introduced us to poutine. If poutine had been called “gravy fries” and been invented in the South, everyone would have heard of it by now. Instead, it’s a Canadian specialty consisting of french fries, brown gravy and cheese curds. After this first bath at a Rogers Centre concession stand, we would enjoy poutine a dozen more times across Quebec and New Brunswick.

While at Rouge, Braden had a tick attach itself to him and since the area is known to have Lyme disease, we sent it off to the health officials. Everything came back negative and he was fine.

Interestingly, Jess’s driver’s license expired while we were in Canada. We knew this was coming and had applied for a replacement and had it shipped to my parents’ house for them to ship to Christian and Julie to hold for us. Except there was a snag. The package not only took several extra days at the border, but when it arrived (on our last day in Toronto) there was an additional $36 fee that the recipient had to pay, despite the $40+ already paid in the states to ship it. We didn’t know this, so when the UPS man arrived, Christian had know idea he would need to pay the cash only fee. As the UPS driver left to take our package away, Julie drove up downstairs and I believe Christian had to shout down stairs at the window for her to stop the UPS driver and pay for the package. Whew. We paid them back, but surely not enough for their heroic efforts.

IMG_0882From Toronto we went east to camp on the shores of our fourth Great Lake (Ontatio) to Sand Banks Provincial Park. The park was nice with sandy beaches, though more people and trash than Huron or Superior, but what dominates the memories of our time there is our first vet emergency of the trip. While we were out, our black dog Wrigley ate an entire large box of raisins, which we had heard can be deadly for dogs. We called our vet back in Tennessee who said she might be fine or she might die of kidney failure. They advised finding an emergency vet. Knowing we were a day or two from heading into Quebec and wanting to avoid a French-speaking vet, we found a vet’s office opened late and they took care of her. Aside from being  about $500 Canadian lighter, there have been no side effects. The two dogs in front of us were both having porcupine quills removed. One had gotten in a fight with a porcupine (bad idea) and the other dog had rolled on a stinking dead porcupine (worse idea).

From there, we headed east to Ottawa, which may be the prettiest city we’d ever seen. The buildings around Parliament Hill with their European gothic revival architecture were beautiful and that area of the city is poised above the picturesque Ottawa River. There’s a beautiful terraced canal that runs right through the middle of the city with statues of various monarchs and national heroes around. While Jess had been to Spain before, I’d never been anywhere with statues of kings and queens before.

IMG_4891We also had a very nice visit to the Canadian History Museum (open until 8 on Fridays) and saw a blue whale skeleton, cool bugs, dioramas of other animals and a real Narwhal tusk.

I’d heard Canadians speak poorly of Ottawa for being boring or plain, but it was an excellent stop for our brief stop over.

On our way out of Ottawa into Quebec, we passed a car, which was “passed vehicle number 36” on the trip for us.

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