Adventures to be had, memories to be made...we are committed to exploring and experiencing all that Northern Ontario has to offer us. Our plan is to immerse ourselves in the rugged beauty and vast vistas one step at time.
Muskoka is a fabled part of Canada. Novar is just north of Huntsville. It is the boundary between receiving a discount on your license because you live in the north and not. It is also just south of a beautiful place called Clear Lake. Clear Lake is spring fed hence a little cool, but clear and fresh and gorgeous. We spent a sunny, blue sky day fishing Clear Lake. While the kids fished, I swam off the boat. It was an idyllic experience.
My friend Jim, with whom I am privileged to work, and his wife Elisa invited us to enjoy a day of fishing and tubing off their boat. It is a shiny 2019 pontoon boat. His 19-year-old son Alex is an acclaimed MMA fighter and expert fisherman, having fished over 20 lakes in Ontario with success. He was brilliant at finding the right spot, trolling for fish, setting everyone up for catching, and helping remove the fish from the lines when the hook caught in their gills. We caught small mouth bass and rainbow trout until my 10-year old daughter reeled in a Ling. Rare in this lake, with only one other that Alex knew about having been caught, it was ugly but apparently makes really good eating, tasting a bit like lobster. Part of the cod family, Ling is tall and slim with olive and brown colouring. The white flesh is incredibly tasty.
Canadians have a short but gorgeous summer season and any sunny days spent on a boat are treasured. We took full advantage of the opportunity, with a few of the group tubing off the back of the sea doo and all of us enjoying the snacks Elisa brought on board. Novar and Emsdale are called the southern gateway to the beautiful Amalguin Highlands. Novar was founded in 1910 as a logging town. Emsdale is a bit north of Novar, and both communities highlight Brooks Falls as being worth the hike. We spent the day on Clear Lake, which is in between the two, so did not see the falls, but will explore when we are next in the area.
Clear Lake Ling Fishing was wonderful, and the lake was the perfect place to spend a relaxing afternoon. There was no place I would have rather been.
Art is personal. Different people are attracted to different genres, styles and mediums. I love colour so French Impressionism is a favourite. My youngest daughter loves using pencils to draw facial features, having recently published a few videos on Youtube of her pencil drawings of eyes and thereby generating more than 4,000 views. Peter Camani loves making massive sculptures out of concrete. He owns a 310 acre property just north of Burk's Falls. In it, he has created a weirdly wonderful park full of massive art. It is fascinating and neat, strange and evocative. Some people find the erections creepy and reminiscent of black magic. Others find they bring to mind medieval designs. Unquestionably they are interesting, thought provoking and beautiful in a strange, somewhat unsettling way.
The day we were there, a lovely August afternoon, there were at least 50 cars and all sorts of families with children and dogs exploring the park. There is a farmer's market set up beside the parking lot, and the artisans there sold us fridge magnets, shoulder bags and a mirror, all featuring the screaming heads. The park itself is a marvelous wander. You move from large metal scaffolds to screaming heads made from concrete to wooden bridges to serene waterways with lily pads. Everywhere there is something to see, something to ponder, something to inspect and about which to form an opinion. Your mind scrambles from one installation to the next, always roving and wondering what inspired such an unusual output. The acreage is where the artist lives and his house is apparently also unusual, although we did not see it.
The same day we explored the Screaming Heads, we also toured the tiny town of Burk's Falls, a stone's throw away. There we found good food at the Burk's Falls Cafe and Grill. We ate a chicken Caesar wrap, club sandwich and homemade tomato rigatoni soup. It was bustling on a Monday afternoon, with about 50 people sitting inside and on the patio.
We also explored the covered bridge at the Visitor's Centre. There are a few hikes you can take around Burk's Falls that show you the beauty of the surrounding countryside and the water from which the town takes its name. Incorporated in 1890, it has stayed relatively stable in population over the years, with just under 1,000 residents. Cottage country means in the summer that number swells with all the beautiful lakes surrounding the village.
My daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring The Screaming Heads and the small village of Burk's Falls. We capped the day off with ice cream before heading home. It was yet another enjoyable northern adventure.
Friday afternoon of the long weekend, sunshine reflecting off the lake, wind rustling through the trees, old growth forest and rock, and spending time with friends. Where else would you rather be? One of this blog's readers recommended the trail to the Massasauga lighthouse as being quite beautiful, so that was our destination.
Canada's railroad united the country. It permitted people to travel from west coast to east coast and from north to south. The Canadian Atlantic Railway was a North American railway located in Quebec, Vermont and Ontario. It has since been decommissioned and turned into a walking trail. In Parry Sound on Oastler Lake you can pick it up and wander for many kilometres. We walked seven kilometres through lake, old growth forest, moss-covered rocks, pretty open expanses and bridges spanning rivers. There were benches along the trail engraved in memory of various people and lots of natural beauty all around. My friends and my daughter's dog were good company as we explored. But no lighthouse...
Parry Sound is known for being a cottage country community in northern Ontario with almost 7,000 permanent residents and at least double that during the warmer months. It has the deepest natural freshwater port. It is also the largest freshwater archipelago with 30,000 islands. With numerous lakes dotting the landscape in and around Parry Sound and three provincial parks, there is a lot to see and do. The downtown is simple and located on the water with the railroad in the background and the lake in front. We enjoyed Salty Dog ice cream after our walk while sitting looking at the Island Queen cruise boat that explores the islands. Still no lighthouse...
We checked out Oastler Lake Provincial Park, which has a lovely beach...but no lighthouse. There is also Massasauga Provincial Park which is great for boating...but no lighthouse. Finally we checked Killbear Provincial Park. Jackpot! Killbear has a lighthouse.
Parry Sound made for a relaxing and enjoyable day. The town is small and facilitates the enjoyment of summer. As for the elusive lighthouse, I now know it is in Killbear Provincial Park, not Massasauga, and will be back to see it someday soon.
Lake Panache looks like swiss cheese in the form of moose antlers and that is from where the name derives. It spans Sudbury, Sudbury District, Espanola and Lively and is fed by the Whitefish River system. 180 feet deep in the channel, it has an average depth of just under 50 feet. The channel can have very rough waters, when waves swell over 5 feet high. Navigating the lake often involves using the islands for shelter as you tack your way from one place to another.
Greg Cholkan writes a fishing blog and the map above comes from it. We tried fishing off the island but only caught two fish in over an hour before finding a great spot just under the docks of the boathouses where we reeled in fish after fish, albeit smaller ones, in just under 30 minutes. Fishing is way more fun when you are actually catching fish.
Through this blog, I connected with a former Killarney Park Ranger named John and his dog Simba. He was kind enough to tour us around the Panache Bay Marina, which he indicated is under great new ownership, and to show us the beauty of the lake and its surroundings. He also fed us spaghetti dinner in his unique log house that he built himself on the road to the marina. A really enjoyable afternoon.
My favourite photo came from the fishing spot my son found. The sky was blue and full of clouds and the sun seemed to be shining down on his specific spot, where he netted some great fish hiding under the dock.
The town of Mindemoya boasts a population of 1,750 and is known as the hub of Manitoulin. It is centrally located at the cross section of two of Manitoulin Island's highways, and has more amenities than its neighbouring towns. Lake Mindemoya is the third largest interior lake on the island with an island in the middle called Treasure Island. The water is warm and clear with lots of boats, canoes, kayaks, paddle boards and swimmers.
This is the first year that Splashtown has run an inflatable water park on the lake. We spent three gorgeous afternoons playing on the floaties in the water and soaking up the sunshine. All of us were brown as berries by week's end. The lake around the water park bustles with activity. The lake bottom is sandy and about 30 feet deep in most spots, although it boasts a shallow sandy entry along with a deeper cold water fishing hole where anglers wrestle whitefish into submission.
On Canada Day weekend, there was a delicious ribfest from Thursday through Sunday. The ribs and chicken were so mouth wateringly good that we attended two days running. The mac and cheese, fresh lemonade, funnel cakes and deep fried Mars bars also rate a mention. The place had country music playing all day long and a local craft fair on Saturday with artisans from near and far. One of them, We Have The Wood, was offering custom made cutting boards with various Ontario lakes featured. I ordered one as a gift for my business partner and his wife. The weekend weather was perfect with nary a cloud in the sky, and Saturday the place was hopping with lots of locals and tourists alike.
We had breakfast at Mum's Bakery one morning, enjoyed poutine at the GrillNChill, and grabbed delicious fresh sub sandwiches at Wilson's Corner Store a few afternoons. Wilson's is where we also filled up for gas, did our laundry, and bought tasty breakfast sausages. I visited the local library and City Hall and conducted a business meeting in the comfortable council chambers thanks to the kindness of the town staff. Mum's Bakery is not good for your waistline but is good for your taste buds, offering fresh pies, cookies and bars at the counter when you settle your bill. The local Foodland offers anything you need for groceries right at the four corners. I also had need of a tire change while on the island and Daniel Meneray from Meneray Towing and his colleagues Jayden and Barrie could not have been more helpful.
The hub of Manitoulin Island was good to us, leaving us with memories of playing in the sun and surf, eating exceedingly well, and enjoying the friendly charm of the island. It was worth the trip.
In Providence Bay on Manitoulin Island, fireworks were permitted to celebrate Canada Day. Fired from a barge in Lake Huron after the sun set, they lasted about 10 minutes and were a fitting end to a most enjoyable day. We sat on the beach with about 1,000 others and waited for the wonder to begin. It was a gorgeous night and the island has very few mosquitoes, so it was comfortable, warm and relaxing.
Providence Bay Beach is considered by many to be the best beach in Northern Ontario. It stretches around the bay in Lake Huron and is sandy and shallow with clear water and beautiful sunsets. The beach area has a small museum, an ice cream shop called Huron Island Time, a wonderful playground in the sand for the kids, a boardwalk, and an exercise area for adults. While wandering the small museum, I was shocked at the size of beavers - they can be as heavy as 110 pounds. While exploring, the children enjoyed Farquar's ice cream in bubble gum and cotton candy flavours.
We stayed at Glenn and Judy Black's place at Black's Bay. A completely off grid cottage, the setting was immensely beautiful set in 113 acres of forest. We saw plenty of bunnies, butterflies and deer. There were very few mosquitoes but lots of moths. The view from the back deck was relaxing and the breeze off the water coupled with the sound of the water lapping the shore was easy to get used to. They have a canoe which we enjoyed, and a farm with free range chickens and a couple of dogs. They were kind, welcoming hosts.
Being in Providence Bay on Canada Day weekend was glorious. The town gave away free lemonade along with a piece of chocolate or white cake from Mum's Bakery. There was a large yard sale, and everyone was happy and welcoming. We managed a meal at Mum's Bakery soon thereafter, and it was delicious as were the pies, brownies, cookies and bars that we bought after breakfast. We also made it over to Lake Huron Fish and Chips twice. Their fresh halibut and white fish with chips was mouth watering both times.
It would be hard to imagine a more enjoyable Canada Day weekend than the one we spent in Providence Bay.
Gore Bay is located on Manitoulin Island at Lake Huron's North Channel, a fabled waterway. Incorporated as a town in 1890, it has vast vistas of sea and forest along with a charming harbour, a couple of nice restaurants and a chocolate factory. We spent two days enjoying its charms earlier this month. The people were helpful and welcoming and the water was inviting.
Here you can rent boats at Canadian Yacht Charters to explore the North Channel, something on my TO-DO list albeit with a bit of trepidation. Here you can eat delicious pepperoni and cheese stuffed crust pizza at Buoy's Eatery looking out over the harbour. There is also a fish and chips restaurant at the pier along with a playground and water park on land and a bunch of fun floaties in the water operated by SplashnGo Adventure Parks. We spent a fun-filled afternoon in the water, bouncing around, pushing each other in and having a blast - kids and adults alike.
Our final destination was the Finnia Chocolate Shop in town. It boasts homemade chocolates made on the island, "from bean to bar." It had numerous chocolate options including gluten free and vegan chocolate and the pairing of both dark and milk chocolate with peanut butter, mint, raspberry, maple syrup and buttermilk. All of us grabbed something to savour and enjoy upon departing Gore Bay.
Gore Bay was such a delightful day trip for us that we did it two days in a row. Spending time in a lake town with so many enjoyable activities is never a bad idea. It was glorious.
Cascading 36 feet into a swimming hole, Bridal Veil Falls is a special spot. Located on Manitoulin Island just outside of Kagawong, a small town of less than 1,000 people, the waterfall is fed from the Kagawong River and flows into the North Channel of Lake Huron. We swam in the swimming hole three times during our week on the island, and the last time we had it completely to ourselves, which was exceptional. There is blue clay behind the waterfall that my children and their friends rubbed on their skin to soften it. They looked like the Incredible (Blue) Hulk. The swimming is lovely, with the depth ranging from one foot to six foot and permitting little ones to enjoy along with their parents and grandparents. There is also an easy hike down the river which my older children hiked by wading through the river rather than along the path beside the river. My eldest daughter spotted, captured and returned a baby loon to her mom while wading in the river. The only suggestion is to bring water shoes when you go.
Just down the road from the falls is Manitoulin Chocolate Works. We visited twice because their chocolate was so melt-in-your-mouth delicious. From chocolate covered licorice to homemade smore bars to chocolate covered peanut butter bars, the list goes on and on. It is a must-stop when you are at Bridal Veil Falls. Just up from there is a life size chess board along with a tick tack toe and other games. Just down from there is Sailor's Church, 120 years old and sitting on Mudge Bay in Lake Huron.
On your way home, Bridal Veil Variety has good ice cream, cute toques, and all manner of cottage-type items. Bridal Veil Falls makes for a lovely afternoon spent in and by the water.
North Bay was named based on its position vis a vis Lake Nipissing. Boasting a population of just over 50,000 and an OHL hockey club, it has become far more popular as a place to live due to COVID as people were untethered from the need to be proximate to their workplace. It also benefits from the price escalation in Muskoka pushing people further north for affordability.
Duchesnay Falls runs red with iron in the water. Given its northern location, North Bay has lots of rock and forests. Duchesnay is just one of those sites. It boasts an easy hiking trail up the falls and back down. You can stand on a rock in the middle of the falls and watch them cascade down around you on either side. It is peaceful and beautiful. You can hike for as little as 18 minutes or as long as an hour and a half.
In addition to hiking, the eating was good. Marigold Restaurant offered up excellent Indian and Nepalese food. My business partner and I enjoyed okra, butter chicken, chicken tikka masala and naan bread on the patio overlooking the water. Excellent spices and abundant sauce made the meal delicious and enjoyable.
Lake Nipissing is the third largest lake entirely in the province of Ontario. Known as a vast and powerful yet shallow body of water, you cannot take a small boat out on the lake and feel safe. It requires something at least 30 feet long because the waves are significant and an 18 foot aluminum boat will bounce around with the swells going over the craft itself. My friend owns an island about 30 minutes from shore and getting there is a harrowing experience if you don't like the choppiness of the waves. It is a mercurial body of water. Fishing is abundant on the lake with walleye, bass, northern pike and muskie available for the taking. It is 25 kilometres wide by 65 kilometres long but only 20 feet deep on average. It is known as one of the best places for ice fishing in the world.
It was a very nice day in North Bay.
I have done my share of driving over the past decade as a mom of hockey players. It wasn’t until we moved to Sudbury in September, though, that I began living the Stompin’ Tom song “I’ve Been Everywhere”. The north is vast and most small communities are a significant drive away. One of my sons plays in the NOJHL, taking him to Sudbury, Espanola, Powassun, Hearst, Cochrane, Timmins, Elliott Lake, Sault Ste. Marie, Noelville, Kirkland Lake and most recently Blind River. I try to see as many of his games as possible and my most recent adventure was to Blind River.
Blind River has approximately 3,500 residents. In this town, you can still buy a house for $100,000. The largest industry is uranium refining. Uranium was discovered in 1954 and Cameco has been running a large uranium refinery since 1983 processing uranium from around the world into uranium trioxide. There is a golf course beside Cameco called Huron Pines Country Club on the river, along with Lauzon Aviation offering fly-in fishing and hunting wilderness vacations.
There is also a hockey team, the Blind River Beavers. The mascot in the arena is a beaver puppet sported by a super fan. The arena would seat about 300 people maximum and was more than half full the night I went. The team is good, ranked third out of six teams in their conference with a record of winning 2/3 of their games. The players billet with local families and play hockey from September through April, providing a significant source of entertainment for the town residents.
The drive from Sudbury is just under two hours along Highway 17. I made plans to arrive around 5 pm so I could do some exploring before puck drop at 7. Situated on the North Channel, a fabled waterway in Lake Huron that many Canadians have on their bucket list, water is everywhere. In summer there are an abundance of beaches to enjoy. There has been a post office in town since 1877. The Canadian Pacific railroad expanded into town in the late 1800s bringing people and causing it to incorporate as a town in 1906. A logging company started and flourished there for many years logging white pine until a big fire in 1948 burned all the trees down.
Pier 17 is a local sports bar, known for fresh food and good times. It was fully renovated two years ago from a fancy restaurant and when I was there on a Saturday night, it was doing a brisk business. The pool tables were busy and the tables were almost full. The waitresses were friendly and the food was incredibly good. The special was fried pickerel, which was fresh and delicious, which I finished with a chocolate eruption cake. A large summer patio overlooks the water.
The Espanola Paper Kings lost to the Blind River Beavers 3-1. My son drove us home along Highway 17, noting deer along the highway but no hitchhikers. He played country music the whole way. It was an enjoyable Saturday night, adding to my own version of “I’ve Been (Almost) Everywhere.”
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“I urge you; go find buildings and mountains and oceans to swallow you whole. They will save you, in a way nothing else can.”