Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Kenora 2013: The Road Trip Begins

The "quick-up" tent we use for travelling
I don't know why we don't make the journey more often than triennially. I truly don't. As a young lad I spent many summer days and nights in the bosom of the Laurentians in Quebec and I thought I would never experience a natural beauty more soul-lifting and breathtaking. I was wrong. I've travelled the breadth of this country from the Atlantic to the Pacific—missing only Newfoundland and the territories to this point—and I have never found any part of it that makes me feel the way the drive around the north shore of Lake Superior does, with the possible exception of our ultimate destination: the incomparable Lake of the Woods. If there were no other claims to our time, attention or pocketbook, I am absolutely certain we would take this trip a minimum of once per year. But then, I am also absolutely certain that if there were no other claims to my own time, attention or pocketbook, I would already be living in that region of the country permanently. But I am not, so I must take full advantage of the life-giving forces of the Near North whenever they present themselves to me. Here—and continuing over the next two weeks—is my account of our most recent Road Trip to Kenora.

Kayaks on the beach at Pancake Bay
We finished packing the car a little after 8 a.m. and were thankful that, for once, we didn't have too much trouble with the elevators in the building in which we live. We said our goodbyes to my daughter, Jill (the first of the cat-sitters), and our cat, Addie, whom we had never been away from for so long a time before. (The most recent time we drove to Kenora, three years ago (of course), we adopted Addie as a kitten within a few days of our return.) After quick fuel-up stops at our local Timmy's and Esso, we got on the Don Valley Parkway and crawled our way up to the 407 toll highway, gritting our teeth against the ubiquitous Toronto traffic. Having made this trip a few times before, we travelled in confidence that we knew where all the rest stops were that we needed to hit to keep our tanks (and that of our car) from emptying out. 407 to 400; 400 north to 69 and then follow that all the way up to Sudbury. When we finally hit the beginning of the Canadian Shield (near Parry Sound), we knew we could finally relax and really "start our holiday".

View of the point at Pancake Bay Provincial Park
There was a bit of a "hiccough" in our plans, though, once we passed Parry Sound. We have always hit the Esso/Timmy's combination on Highway 69 about 30 minutes north of that city; it has been in a perfect spot for us to stretch our legs and gas up so that we can bypass Sudbury altogether. However, after an hour had elapsed since we passed Parry Sound, we realized that we had somehow missed the rest stop completely, which confused us greatly. We continued on up 69 to the junction with 17, but we had to then proceed into the outskirts of Sudbury to fill up the car, which we really did not want to do. As compensation for this diversion, we treated ourselves to a DQ treat and got back on our way as quickly as we possibly could, scratching our heads at our "mistake". From there, though, it was pretty smooth sailing all the way into the Soo (save for the frequent full stops we had to make at virtually every bridge along the way, as this is the "Summer of Bridge Repair" in Ontario, apparently). Having brought with us the bare minimum of camping essentials—which did not include a stove or food—we decided to pick up some subs in the Soo and eat them at Pancake Bay once the tent was set up. Unfortunately, "once the tent was set up" did not arrive for quite a while. There was a long line of people checking in ahead of us (all of whom seemed to need v-e-r-y particular instructions from the lone camp staffer on hand). We eventually made our way to the counter and informed the lad that we wanted a spot in the "Radio Free" zone and knew pretty much which one we would like. He seemed extremely relieved to be able to serve us in just a couple of minutes and we proceeded to a part of the park that we know very well indeed. Alas, however, we had a brand-new air mattress with us and it took a very, very long time to figure out how to inflate it....because underneath the mattress there was a second, unplugged, gaping hole and nowhere in the instructions did it mention this minor detail. This was a very frustrating start to our evening and, coupled with the plethora of mosquitoes and suddenly-cool temperatures, did not seem to bode well for the rest of our journey. However, the intrepid Sarah got everything straightened out and made a sensational fire for us to enjoy (and to scare away the blood-suckers....but only from in front of us; more on that later). We ate our soggy subs and chased them down with some of the best-tasting beer I've ever had.

And before the sun went down, I was able to sit on the beach for a few minutes. I was rewarded with this:

And that is why we always camp there on our way to Kenora. Always.

Tomorrow: pressures of home continue to melt away as we drive the North Shore of Superior.

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