Friday, September 22, 2023

Home via Parry Sound after a surprise morning sight

Unexpected sight cruising by our site at 8am

We hadn't been awake very long when we noticed this cruise ship slipping by, on its way to Parry Sound we assumed. We looked up the ship, the Viking Polaris. Here's a link to the ship and cruises: Viking Polaris

You'll see from the information it's considered a small cruiser, with "only" 378 guests and 256 crew. This is a newer Adventure cruise ship, and it offers several different tours, including the Great Lakes versions. The link shows tour prices and info. Be prepared for a bit of sticker shock at the prices. C'mon lottery win!

After packing up we headed in to Parry Sound, partly to see if the ship did stop there. Yes it did:

Anchored in the Sound

The ship is too large to dock right at the Parry Sound docks, so passengers are ferried back and forth via a couple of tenders, they look like they could double as lifeboats:

Heading over to the main town docks, we were able to see a tender close up:

Because the cruise is International (US and Canada) the dock is controlled access, similar to Charlottetown PEI but on a much smaller scale:

See the Security Guard at the left?  "Hi" security!

Just across from the cruise passenger dock is a company offering local air tours:

We briefly considered taking a flight but didn't try. Flights range from 25 minutes at $142 per person plus tax and tip, to an hour-long flight for $240 pp+. Pricey but appealing.

There are other attractions in the dock area too, like boat tours on the Island Queen which we took and enjoyed a few years ago:

Tour plane taxiing in

Then we cruised homeward on this beautiful fall day, with a few stops along the way. A short but very enjoyable trip.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Six Mile Lake to Killbear Prov Park

Big Chute Marine Railway

After a good sleep at our Six Mile Lake site, we decided to take a side trip on the way out to the highway. Just a few km east is the Big Chute Marina and Marine Railway. We had visited this once, years ago with my parents. 

The railway handles transporting boats, some fairly large. 

<Wiki Note link>

It works on an inclined plane to carry boats in individual cradles over a change of height of about 60 feet (18 m). It is the only marine railway (or canal inclined plane) of its kind in North America still in use, and is overseen by federally operated Parks Canada.

It moves pretty slowly, but is neat to see in operation. Here is a series of stills to give you a flavor:

It's in a beautiful setting
Boats waiting for a lift

The large carriage starts down for pickup

The carriage base goes underwater so the boats can drive right on

The trip up

Crossing the road at the top - like a RR crossing

Starting to descend at the high side

The carriage goes underwater here too, allowing the boats to drive off

The traffic goes both ways of course, much busier in the summer than it was today.

After a short stop at a Sobey's in Parry Sound we decided to head for Killbear Provincial Park for the night, another short drive today. We were a little apprehensive, as the web site says "all sites must be reserved" and we hadn't. It also said September bookings drop 50-60% from August peaks, so we figured that surely they'd have a site. As it turned out we had a large selection ($10 cheaper than Six Mile Lake per day), and no grief for not having a reservation. It would be different in the summer though.

We got a very nice site for 2 nights. We've never been to Killbear before. We used the GPS to route us to Killbear, but realized fairly quickly it was taking us off in the wrong direction, on Hwy 124 easterly towards Magnetawan. Correcting from that we headed north and west, arriving about 3pm this time. 

Killbear is a nice wooded park, quite large with several different camping areas, with hundreds of individual sites. Mostly the sites are pretty level and large, with many mature trees, including large oak trees.

Here is the site we had, #64 in the
Kilcoursie section:

That's a walking path, not the driveway :))


One of the pleasant surprises was that the smaller washroom nearest us (as opposed to the larger central "comfort stations" with showers) was complete with flush toilets and a sink with running water and soap. Much nicer than the usual vault toilets.

You remember I mentioned the large oak trees? This is a picture looking up at the washroom roof, corrugated plastic. When the wind blows just right, any number of acorns can land on that roof with a loud CRACK, a real surprise if you're not expecting it. We had heard and seen acorns landing on nearby campers though, and even on our van (only one on the van so far though):



Monday, September 18, 2023

A little Fall trip in Ontario

We've been wanting to go for a local trip this month, and with a good-looking forecast decided this was the week. 

After a quick stop in Goderich to pick up a couple of things from the car (parked in the van storage spot), we headed north and east. The GPS took us on some good back roads we hadn't been on before, really pleasant. 

Along the way:

Lots of alpacas, a real variety of colours

The next field over, a bull surveys his realm

Stopping for fuel at a station near Severn Bridge, these red and white devices matched the PetroCan colours. They are a large bank of hi-speed Tesla EV chargers. Unfortunately today we were paying for diesel. Ugh $$. That sign was the gas price, diesel quite a bit more.

We decided on an early stop today, so headed in to Six Mile Lake Provincial Park for the night, all set up by 4pm. This is a nice park, although quite close to the 400 Highway traffic noise. Just a dull noise  though, that soon we didn't hear any more.

Fall is nice for early campfires

Six Mile Lake view, a short walk from our site

Cathie took this about 8:30 pm - lots of stars!

A good night, we didn't even hear traffic overnight from inside the van.



Sunday, July 9, 2023

*END* of Nfld trip, wrapup

Saying bye to PEI once again

We really enjoyed our trip to Newfoundland, seeing more icebergs and whales than we ever have before. Cathie's finger injury seems to be coming along well, hopefully will "just" be the 6-8 weeks of keeping the support on before the recovery is complete (although some physio may be needed after that). 

We enjoyed our short PEI visit as usual. One day Pat, Nancy and Cathie went on a bit of a tour downtown, and had a good look at this amazing creation on display at Confederation Landing on the Charlottetown waterfront. This is the Canada Tree, and has been in storage for 20 years. It's on display from June 28 - July 16, 2023,  as part of the 150th anniversary of PEI.

It's kind of like a totem pole, being hollow inside, with many carvings on the outside. Much Canadiana is incorporated into the carving:

One evening the Bluenose slipped quietly into Charlottetown Harbour,  maybe needing shelter for the night while in transit elsewhere:

The PEI weather was erratic, and the plants should not need watering anytime soon. This ditch beside our van parking spot is normally dry this time of year:

On Monday afternoon the 4 of us attended a musical play put on at Holland College, Anne and Gilbert. This is part of the ongoing story of Anne of Green Gables, when she and Gilbert finally got together:


We reluctantly left PEI Wednesday morning, July 5, expecting to take several days to come home via the US. The trip always takes longer than the Trans Canada Highway through New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario, but we prefer the US route overall.

Wednesday July 5:

We expected to make it to St Stephen New Brunswick today and stay there overnight. Even with a short detour to Blacks Harbour NB so Cathie could pop in to a yarn supply shop she likes, Cricket Cove, we still got to St Stephen in early afternoon. The weather was hot and muggy, and once we stop we have no AC to keep us cool for camping, so we pressed on, crossing into the US about 2:30. 

The weather worsened, cloudy and rain with thunder and lightning, but didn't cool off. So we kept going through Bangor Maine, and on to a nice Walmart in Skowhegan ME. It even had a tree-lined parking lot with some shade.

Thursday July 6

After a good night at Walmart we headed out fairly early. We planned to get to a L L Beans store in West Lebanon NH today, and did. It was a similar route to our way east, but we did get on I90 for the second half of the drive today. 

The Beans store is in a plaza along with other stores. This is not the principal Bean store, which is a huge multi-building site in Freeport ME. The West Lebanon store is much smaller but still has a good selection of Bean's items, is much easier to navigate, and there is no sales tax in NH.

One of the other stores is a Woodfire Pizza place, where we had a good lunch a number of years ago. Still good today:

After a good browse at Beans, and a couple of small purchases, we pressed on. Like yesterday it was still hot and humid, so once again we drove further than we expected, and ended up in Molly Stark State Park, a small Vermont camping park. Very threatening skies, and the park ranger came around warning campers about reported hail in the area, and to get things put away. Luckily no hail, but more rain and thunderstorms. The camp showers were very welcome before the rains came.

Friday July 7

We decided to try for home today, if we could get across the border by early afternoon. Heading out about 6:20 we got to I90 about 9, and cruised from there. 

I90 is pretty straight, even for a turnpike, and avoids most cities and towns. Coming east we had reluctantly used I90 from Buffalo to Troy, and still didn't know what the toll had cost us then. Today we decided we didn't care, it was hot and humid again, not nice camping weather, and we wanted to get home. 

I90 toll note: after we got home we found we could access a NY web site, find out what our toll bill was, and pay it online. On the way east it was $31 US for 300 miles/ 480 km, which seemed pretty reasonable as it likely saved us several hours driving. There are no toll booths now, detectors pick up our license plate and NY will send us a bill eventually, even to Canada. It's cheaper to pay the bill proactively though. If travelling toll roads frequently it's likely worth buying a pass, I think it was called EZ-pass, good in some 13 states. We found the road signs on I90 did very little to explain any of this process, they mostly just threatened dire consequences if you didn't pay your toll.

Anyway, we made it to the border by 1:15, and after a short delay were on our way home in Canada. It's great to be away, and always nice to get home (even if there is a lot of unpacking and cleanup!).