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Northern Ontario

Today’s the day… ten years since I first became a Canadian immigrant and permanent resident! So in honour of that momentous day, I thought I’d share some of the most memorable moments of my life in Canada to date.

Welcome to Canada!
I became a Canadian permanent resident in July 2005. My husband and I landed at Pearson airport and were amazed at how quickly all the formalities were dispensed with. The immigration officials were more interested in the fact that we were moving to Sudbury rather than anything else!

My first glimpse of Canadian wildlife
If only I’d had my camera with me… not long after we moved into our Canadian house we took a walk up the bank behind the house that leads to a rocky ridge. From there we watched transfixed as we saw a bear lumbering around  in the bush below. Then just when we thought the show was over, a pair of moose galloped by. On a smaller scale, here’s Charles the chipmunk, a constant visitor during our first Canadian summer.

Sir Charles

Sir Charles

Corvette fun
We’ve had some fantastic road trips in our Corvette and met some wonderful people, both locally and further afield. But the moment that will always remain with me is seeing the look on my husband’s face when he took finally possession of his dream car in the winter of 2007. Yes, that’s right… winter…

1991 ZR-1 Corvette

My wedding!
My  husband and I were married in a gazebo overlooking Ramsey Lake in Sudbury. It had been a really wet September that year, but amazingly the sun came out to make it the perfect day. My Dad, bridesmaids, and I were driven to the park in a 1960s Chevy Impala, and our own classic car had to get in on the action too. Once we’d said “I do,” the nerves disappeared and I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day.

Wedding day in Bell Park

Camping in March!
2010 was the only year since I’ve been here that we’ve ever been able to camp so early. Killarney Provincial Park was taken by surprise too. The shower block wasn’t even open when we first arrived, but due to popular demand they opened it up earlier than normal.  Being able to enjoy breakfast by George Lake in complete peace and quiet was a magical experience and definitely one of my best camping memories.

George Lake, Killarney Park

George Lake, Killarney Park

 

Some Superior moments…

Introducing three generations of the Kelly family to camping at Lake Superior Park
At various times we’ve camped at Rabbit Blanket campground with my husband’s siblings, nieces, and his Mum.  Superior was my Mum-in-law’s first ever camping holiday and she was a bit apprehensive about the bears, so she was given the luxury berth in the camper van. It was really special to be able to share the Superior experience with them.

Swimming in Lake Superior for Thanksgiving…
When I returned to work after the Thanksgiving long weekend in 2011, people couldn’t believe I’d swum in Superior in October! It was a really warm fall that year following a very hot summer, so the water temperature really wasn’t too bad. The six-foot waves were an added bonus!

…and getting drenched on the Towab Trail
On one of our May camping trips to Superior, we hiked part of the Towab Trail as far as Burnt Rock Pool. We heard the thunder before we arrived there, but didn’t want to turn back. Burnt Rock Pool is a really picturesque spot on the Agawa River surrounded by towering cliffs. Sitting there on the rocks while the storm broke around us was an amazing experience. After that, it was a very long, wet walk back!

Becoming a Canadian citizen
Oh Canada! It was a really proud and emotional moment back in the summer of 2010 when my husband and I took the oath of citizenship at a ceremony in Sudbury.  We’d had to wait for this for several months after passing the citizenship test; apparently the citizenship judges don’t like coming up north too often :)

Summer in the screen room
I posted recently about our wonderful new screen room. Let’s just say the novelty hasn’t yet worn off and I’ll be spending as much time as I can in there this summer. And it’s fairly safe to say that tonight I’ll be sitting in there, raising a glass to the last ten years–and to the next ten. Here’s hoping they’re even better!

Bug free!

Bug free!

 

Picture the scene… It’s a Friday night in the middle of summer, time to collapse on the deck with a beer and a huge bowl of chips. You’ve just settled down in one of your comfortable patio chairs, reached for your drink, then you hear it–the noise you dread. The mosquitos are out….again… So you grab everything and retreat into the dark, cool basement leaving the bugs– and the sunshine–behind.

This was the weekly scenario at my house for several years. We just couldn’t sit outside at all because of the bugs. As for all those new, “innovative” anti-bug products, we must have tested them all and they just didn’t live up to their claims. It was time to tackle the situation and properly reclaim our deck.

Our first purchase was an 8 x 12 canvas-topped screen room bought from Sears.ca. This attached to the side of our house and allowed us to walk from the kitchen straight into the screen room. As usual, the installation instructions were terrible, but my husband and a friend nonetheless managed to set everything up within a day. Then we just had to buy some outdoor carpet for the deck, to stop the bugs coming up between the planks of wood.

This solution worked really well for several years and allowed us to sit out late into the night bug free. However, we couldn’t leave the screen room up over winter because the canvas roof wouldn’t cope with the snow load. Plus, every year the frame deteriorated a little more and we’d find ourselves with more and more little gaps that needing stuffing with foam. We decided that what we really wanted was something we could install and just forget about, something which would cope with winter conditions and which was going to last.

After some research on the web, we came across this option at Costco. With a polycarbonate roof and PVC panels, it could function as a 3-season room plus we could leave it up over winter. I talked with a work colleague who owned a free-standing model in the same range. She was really pleased with hers. I also read a great detailed review from someone in London, Ontario who was similarly happy.

However, I also came across some very mixed reviews on the Costo.com site. Comments referred to terrible installation instructions (“Took 4 of us 6 hours to assemble and a case of beer. ..trust me , your gonna need beer….”), leaking roof, damage from hail stones and the possibility of having to clear snow from the roof–which was something we definitely didn’t want. I was also concerned that it might get too hot inside the screenroom to be able to use it in summer. That side of our deck is a real sun trap.

We then went to talk to a local company that manufactures sun rooms and gazebos. They suggested the idea of a custom screen room with a permanent insulated roof. This would be a structure we could leave up in winter with no worries, but having screens instead of panels would keep the area cooler and more usable in summer. We could also get a skylight fitted which would help to let in more light to the adjoining kitchen in the winter. Plus if we ever changed our minds and wanted to go for the three-season option, it would be straightforward to switch out the screen for panels.

So someone came to take some measurements and said they would get back to us with a quote. I was really excited and all ready to sign up for this option if the price came back at a reasonable level. However… when we finally heard from them over a month later, the rough in-store estimate had magically doubled in price. I guess they really didn’t want our business. So we’re now considering building something ourselves. And for now, it’s back to the basement!

I just returned from a peaceful evening stroll along the beach at Windy Lake–an hour from Sudbury; it reminded me of how lucky I am to be living so close to so many beautiful provincial parks here in Northern Ontario.I actually feel quite guilty that I’ve not supported the parks as much as usual this year. So far I haven’t even swum in a lake and now I’m running out of time!

Fall colours at Killarney Park

Fall colours at Killarney Park

Normally I camp several times a year – a week’s trip to Lake Superior and a few long weekends, but this year we didn’t put the camper van on the road and I didn’t feel up to the challenges of tent camping. “Betty” has been sitting forlornly in the yard with a flat battery and I was even at the point where I was thinking of selling her next year. After all, camping is so much hard work, or so I told myself – packing, unpacking, cleaning the van…

For Labour Day weekend (the first weekend of September), my husband and I chose to rent a cabin at a small motel resort just outside Wawa. There was nothing wrong with the cabin, but I was surprised to discover that I really missed camping and the whole parks experience – the outdoor meals, meeting other campers and their dogs, and spying on the different RVs, because I’m always “shopping” for a new one (much like houses :)).

 

Wanapitei River,

Wanapitei River, close to home

If camping doesn’t appeal, don’t be put off the idea of visiting the parks. Passes are available for day trips if you want to hit the trails, paddle a canoe or just laze on the beach. And if you plan to be a frequent visitor, season passes are great value. There are also various roofed accommodation options available within some of the parks.

My first ever visit to Canada was during September and so I always associate this time of year with the magic of that first visit: crisp mornings and nights—perfect campfire weather, warm days and fabulous fall colours. I’m aiming to make the most of every day of good weather before the long winter sets in. And next year, I’ll definitely be back on the road in Betty visiting  my favourite campgrounds and exploring new ones. Only another eight months to go!

Sunset over Superior

Sunset over Superior

 

 

 

Ever since my husband and I took our first camping trip to Lake Superior Park, we’d longed to travel  the circle tour right around the lake. The scenery along Highway 17 from Sault Ste Maire through to Wawa is stunning and we were impatient to see what the rest of the route around the lake had to offer. So back in summer 2009, we decided that this would be our much-delayed honeymoon. The circle tour is a popular route for RVs and motorbikes; but for us it had to be our Corvette.

A night in Paradise?

We picked Paradise, Michigan for the first night of our stay, just so we could say we’d “stayed in paradise.” Sadly it didn’t really live up to the name. Our Best Western Inn (now the Magnuson Grand Hotel Lakefront Paradise) was a comfortable spot to stay, but appeared to be one of the few businesses in Paradise that was actually open. There was a very big “closed” sign hanging over Paradise, and this at the height of tourist season too. This became a familiar theme throughout the rest of our journey in the U.S.: “for sale” signs lining the streets and businesses closed up.

Sleeping wolf

Sleeping wolf

Roads less traveled
 
Heading up Highway 61 towards Thunder Bay, we took a detour to the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota.  This was such a fun, twisty drive in lush, green countryside with towering evergreens. Ely appeared to be one of the most thriving places we’d experienced during the trip. We squashed our way into the “Chocolate Moose” café for lunch, then headed to the Wolf Center where we became members and learnt about the valuable work the Center is doing to support the wolf species.

Another highlight of the trip was a visit to the Thunder Bay Inn – not found as you might expect in Thunder Bay, but in Big Bay, Michigan. Once owned by Henry Ford, the Inn was used in the 1940s for filming the James Stewart movie “Anatomy of a Murder.” The Inn served up a delicious lunch and we enjoyed looking at the display of old photos and press clippings relating to the movie.

Serendipity Cafe in Rossport

Serendipity Cafe in Rossport

Time for lunch

Food is always an important part of any ‘vette trip and both of my favourite eating spots were on the Canadian side of Superior. Even in the rain, the village of Rossport was still an attractive place to visit, offering two choices for lunch: the Rossport Inn (currently closed) or the Serendipity Café and gardens. We chose the latter. Unfortunately, as we discovered after we’d made our menu choices, most of the items weren’t available due to a power outage. The owners were coping as best they could though, and we still enjoyed the food, the beautiful front garden, and friendly cat.

My other favourite was the “Kinniwabi Pines” just outside Wawa, offering a wide range of international dishes and an elegance I hadn’t expected to find in this area. Rain had forced everyone inside, but for sunny days there’s a beautiful patio area overlooking the river and it’s another one on my list of places to return to.

Kakabeka Falls

Kakabeka Falls

There were many other highlights: Kakabeka Falls (the “Niagara of the North”), Tahquamenon Falls State Park, and the monument to George “Win one for the Gipper” Gipp.  I returned home with mixed emotions: saddened by the all-too visible signs of economic problems, but with some great memories. This one is definitely worth a repeat trip in the future.