Friday, September 30, 2011

Restoule Provincial Park, Ontario, September 15-21, 2011

Blog in Polish/Blog po polsku: http://ontario-nature-polish.blogspot.com/2011/09/restoule-provincial-park-on.html
More photos:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jack_1962/sets/72157628606261077



Restoule Provincial Park, Ontario, September 2011

Restoule Provincial Park, Ontario, September 2011

In the past I had visited Restoule Provincial Park twice—in September 1999 and 2000, also with Christopher, with whom I went there this year. Our both trips were not very successful—in 1999, on the second day after our arrival, the temperature plummeted in the morning to below 0C and soon it started raining—after two miserable nights we rented a cottage on Lake Commanda where we spent the next ten days. It turned out to be a great decision since it would rain very often and once a power storm, with lighting and thunder, kept us awake for hours—but at least we were not roughing it in a tent! In 2000 our trip was nicer, but because we did not have a boat or canoe, we had to rely on renting them which was not an easy task: plenty of resorts had already been closed, those that rented boats were quite expensive and we had to travel far from the park, even to Lake Nipissing, to rent fishing boats—and frequently we were not satisfied with them. This year, however, we brought with us a canoe, so at least we knew we would be able to spend a lot of time on the water and do some fishing.

Restoule Provincial Park, Ontario, September 2011

When we left Toronto on September 15, 2011, it was so windy that I was somehow reluctant to drive on the highway (400) with the canoe attached to the roof. In fact, strong gusts of wind were whipping the canoe and twice we had to stop on the highway's shoulder to adjust the canoe—on one occasion 1/3 of the canoe shifted from the roof. Just before reaching Barrie, we got off the 400 and driving on side roads, arrived at the MEC Store (Mountain Equipment Co-Op), one of the best outdoor stores in Ontario. We talked to the store staff and one salesperson even took a look at the canoe and suggested we buy additional, higher canoe blocks. Maybe they helped a little, but we did not feel too confident to continue driving on the highway for the next 200 km. So, we decided to go to Six Mile Provincial Park instead (which we had visited many times for the past 20 years). I took a number of country roads and tried to drive just at the speed limit, yet at one point, when we were on the top of a hill, the wind again caused the canoe to shift a little, forcing us to stop and adjust it. In the town of Port Severn we bought a bag of firewood and after 10 minutes arrived at the park. As we expected, there were very few campers in the park and we could pick any site we wanted (not that we cared that much—after all, we were going to stay there for just one night). We picked site number 68, set up the tent, started the campfire and for the next few hours sat around the fire, drinking beer, grilling sausage and enjoying its warmth as it was quite chilly. Nobody drove nor walked by our campsite nor did we hear any other people. I also realized that I had not brought a mattress and had to quickly make an improvised 'pad', using various pieces of clothing and my life jacket.

Restoule Provincial Park, Ontario, September 2011

On September 16, 2011, we were up before 7:00 am, quickly packed up the tent and in less than one hour were back on highway 400, heading north. We passed plenty of lakes and admired the morning mist rising off the water. Once we reached the town of Parry Town, we had breakfast at Tim Horton's, then I went to a Canadian Tire store, bought a mattress (which proved to be defective and kept loosing most of its air every night—I returned it after our trip). Before noon we arrived at Restoule Provincial Park.

Restoule Provincial Park, Ontario, September 2011

The park's campsites are quite good, yet the privacy level, so to say, is so-so, usually you can see several other campsites and there is not that much vegetation between the campsites. Of course, in September the park was nearly empty, so we were enjoying total privacy and did not see any other campers around. On the campgrounds without electricity (where we stayed) perhaps only 10 campsites were occupied and all of them were near the water, far away from us; the electrical campsites did have quite a few campers, mainly living in trailers. We spent an hour driving on the park's roads, checking out campsites; eventually we decided to choose campsite number 214. It was a good camping site and there were not even distant neighbours during our stay. We were surrounded by beautiful autumn colours, the whole place was covered by fallen leaves which created a 'leaf carpet'. We pitched our tents, spread the tarp over the park bench (just in case of rain) and started a fire. It was a chilly night, so we were sitting close to the fire, enjoying beer, red wine and grilling steaks.

Restoule Provincial Park, Ontario, September 2011

The next day, September 17, 2011 (72nd anniversary of the Soviet Union's invasion of Poland) was sunny, so after breakfast we drove to Restoule Lake, put the canoe on the water, unpacked our fishing rods and paddled all over the lake, stopping from time to time to cast. The lake was quite big and there were plenty of houses on its shores; from time to time a motor boat passed by. After five hours we turned back to the dock, without catching one lousy fish! I went for a 20 minute swim—the water was very cold, but I did not mind and after a few minutes I hardly noticed how cold it was; in fact, I felt very refreshed! While driving to the campsite, we were listening to the CBC news and found out that there was a plane crash in Reno, Nevada, resulting in numerous casualties. Again, we had a nice fire and had delicious grilled steaks.

Restoule Provincial Park, Ontario, September 2011

On September 18 and 20, 2011, we canoed on the other lake, located north of the park—Stormy Lake. It was much nicer than Lake Restoule, there were very few cottages and once we departed from the dock, we saw a huge rocky escarpment with a fire tower located on its top. In the old days fire towers were a common sight all over Ontario; a guard would sit there and observe the area—in case of fire, he notified local firefighters. Now planes or helicopters are performing such duties and fire towers have become tourist attractions. We also found out that Restoule Park had a number of interior campsites, accessible only by water. It was a pity we were not aware of them—we could have stayed on an interior campsite! When we were leaving the park dock, a motor boat, driven by a lone woman and laden with camping equipment just docked. Apparently, she just returned from an interior camping trip; she told me she had stayed on crown land, where everyone could camp for free, but she also mentioned the park's interior campsites. Indeed, about 15 minutes from the dock and nearby the rocky escarpment, we found an interior camping site; about 50 meters behind that site was Hazel Lake. Since an angler told us it was a good lake to catch a pike, we decided to try our luck there. There used to be a short channel connecting Hazel Lake to Stormy Lake years ago, but now a big beaver dam was erected between the two lakes. Chris bravely carried the canoe to Hazel Lake. It was a small, yet very picturesque lake! There were a lot of beaver lodges all over the lake and soon we spotted a few beavers swimming in the water. We paddled to the end of the lake and back, casting and trolling all the time, yet did not catch anything. Chris again portaged the canoe to Stormy Lake and we tried our fishing luck on that lake again—to no avail! Then we paddled to the north and reached Clear Lake. It was probably in that area that we could camp on crown land, as we did not see any cottages and it did not belong to the park either. We met one fellow who had a motorboat and from the number of fishing equipment we could infer he took his fishing hobby very seriously! He said he had been fishing in this area for 40 years and also complained about poor fishing (i.e., he did not catch anything either—he said fish had disappeared since August). He told us a story about coming across a wreck of a military plane that had crashed in the dense wood in the 1950s. We also spoke to other fishermen—most of them had motor boats, sophisticated fish finders and about 20 fishing rods—and they had not caught anything either. So, at least we were in a good company!

Restoule Provincial Park, Ontario, September 2011

Once day, when the weather appeared to be uncertainly, we drove to the town of Powassan and had lunch in “The Hawk & Fox Restaurant”. It was a typical local restaurant, where everyone knew everyone and most customers were regulars. I noticed a photo of a young girl displayed inside—her name was Amber Lynn Booth, she used to work in the restaurant not long ago (as well as she had worked in Restoule Park). On June 5, 2011, she died in a car accident shortly after getting her driving licence, she was only 20 years old. Another tragedy that happens every day... After lunch we drove around town—in 2000 we had gone to a nice coffee shop called, if my memory serves me well, “Cobbler's Corner” and talked to its owner, but now the restaurant was gone. We also drove on many back roads between Powassan and Restoule Park. We passed a very impressive Catholic Church in Alsace, located almost in the middle on nowhere (more about this church: http://www.toeppner.ca/Alsace_Cemetery_Project/history.html). We also drove on “Rousseau-Nipissing Colonization Road”, built in 1866—one of many colonization roads that the Canadian government built to encourage pioneers to settle in the north. We stopped at the old store, “Commanda Store”, a beautiful Victorian building from 1855, strategically located near the colonization road. For many decades it was an important trading place for passing travellers. Its owner, James Arthurs, was a Member of Parliament and Senator for almost 30 years, representing in Ottawa the local constituency.

Restoule Provincial Park, Ontario, September 2011

The town of Restoule has changed since our last visit. There are more stores and it was even possible to buy beer and alcoholic beverages there (previously we had to drive to Powassan). We also went to the local landfill to see bears, but we did not see any, yet we saw bear poop everywhere. We visited an apiary and then went to a farmer on the other side of the road to get campfire wood. He talked about the town of Restoule, when it was so isolated, and the hardships faced by the early pioneers. He pointed to an old gentleman sitting nearby, who was about 80 years old, and said he still remembered the original pioneers. I asked him about farming in the area, as I had seen several farms here and there (Restoule is located on the Canadian Shield, where the soil is very poor and rocks are scattered all over). He said farmers had it very hard, some tried to cultivate wheat and cereals but they could not even break even. He mentioned that often you could see, in the middle of the forest, remains of abandoned farm buildings—in fact, I have also run into such remnants. In the nineteen century, many immigrants, encouraged by the government promise of free farmland (and by the colonization roads, which were supposed to take them there), kept coming and settling in the area, along the colonization roads. Of course, they realized that there were rocks everywhere, but they also saw huge, hundred years old trees that were growing on those rocks, so they figured out that if this thin layer of soil could support such dense forest, it would certainly be suitable for farming and agriculture. Unfortunately, they were wrong! At the beginning, where there was a thriving logging industry, it was possible for them to supplement income by trading with loggers and selling their modest agricultural products to them as well as obtain some logging work. Once the land was cleared of trees, erosion set in and very quickly the already poor soil was being washed away and became unsuitable for any crops. Soon, all the trees were cut down and loggers moved out of the area, causing the farmers to lose an important source of income and many customers. Transporting their products to towns on terrible, rugged and often impassable roads was totally uneconomical. Thus, most of the settlers simply abandoned their farms and moved on to better lands and only those stayed who were lucky to get a farm with a thicker layer of soil that could sustain some agriculture and cow & pig farming. Abandoned houses, some over 100 years old, have been almost completely absorbed by the forest, but often one can see a mound of stones in the middle of a forest—a sign that someone had tried to fight with the forest, tried to farm there and cleared the land of rocks, often with his bare hands—yet lost his battle, leaving such ghostly signs of his brief presence.

Restoule Provincial Park, Ontario, September 2011

On September 22, 2011 we packed up and again drove to Powassan to the “Hawk & Fox Restaurant” where we had breakfast and several hours later reached Toronto.

Blog in Polish/Blog po polsku: http://ontario-nature-polish.blogspot.com/2011/09/restoule-provincial-park-on.html
More photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jack_1962/sets/72157628606261077

Emily Provincial Park and Kawathra Lakes, Ontario, September 2011

More photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jack_1962/sets/72157628471174703/

Blog in Polish/po polsku: http://ontario-nature-polish.blogspot.com/2011/09/emily-provincial-park-on.html

Emily Provincial Park is located in the Kawathra Lakes, an area of hundreds of beautiful lakes in the south-central part of Ontario. The name is derived from an Indian word „Ka-wa-tae-gum-maug”, coined in 1895 by aboriginal Martha Whetung of the Curve lake First Nations. We used the park as our camping base and it made a perfect launching pad for our canoeing trips on nearby lakes.

Emily Park, Ontario, Canada

On our way from Toronto to the park, we stopped in a small private zoo south of Peterborough, “The Jungle Cat World Wildlife Park” (www.junglecatworld.com ), where we could see lions, tigers, goats, monkeys, birds, otters, lamas and many other interesting animals—as well as play with some of them (what a wonderful treat for kids!). Our timing was perfect—it was the feeding time and the zoo staff was on hand, providing information on the animals and answering visitors’ questions. Nearby there was a large animal (pet) cemetery—judging upon the number of grave tombs, it must have been very popular. Many inscriptions were extremely poignant, extolling virtues of the buried animals and the irreparable loss caused by their passing. You rarely see such heartbreaking inscriptions at ‘human’ cemeteries—and the ones at the pet cemetery were entirely coming from their owners’ heart—not because of an obligation or tradition, as it often happens after people die... When I read long obituaries in newspapers, almost each and every recently deceased individual appears to have been such a wonderful, generous, kind and fantastic person that I am always sorry I did not meet him while he was alive!
Because I spotted a Canadian and German flags at the zoo’s main building, I inferred that the owner must be from Germany. “I’m curious if he is from East or West Germany”, I joked. Several minutes later I had an opportunity to meet him—the first thing I noticed was a small pin he was wearing—it was the flag of East Germany! Indeed, he did come from East Germany; after immigrating to Canada, he founded this zoo and has been running it since then. Later we met his wife and son and I promised to mail them a very good movie about East Germany, “Good Bye, Lenin” as I was sure he would enjoy watching it.

Emily Park, Ontario, Canada

Emily Provincial Park is, in my opinion, an average park. However, since we arrived on September 05, 2011, on Monday (it was the Labour Day weekend, which traditionally is the last long weekend of the summer and the next day school starts), the park was almost vacant. Even though the site we were staying on (# 38) was quite exposed and adjacent to many other campsites, we had plenty of privacy as nobody else was camping around. That is why we try to visit more remote areas or parks in July and August, at the peak season—they are hardly ever full and no reservations are required; before and after those months we visit all the other parks, which are very popular and crowded in the summer, but in other months are quiet and mostly empty.

Emily Park, Ontario, Canada

We were regularly visited by chipmunks, they loved peanuts and were very eager to get as many of them as possible. Soon, however, they had a rival--a rather brave Blue Jay (a popular bird with very characteristic blue feathers). It sat on a nearby tree while the chipmunk was stuffing his pouches with the peanuts and once they became full, it also grabbed a peanut or two in his mouth and was heading to his burrow. Then the Blue Jay commenced his attack, trying to snatch the peanut from the chipmunk! Besides, a squirrel with an impressive, bushy tail, would visit the campsite a few times, but it was much more timid than the usually very friendly and persistent chipmunk. At night we saw raccoons and one skunk; in fact, I am more afraid of skunks than of bears, yet I know that skunks never attack (by releasing their foul smelling liquid) unprovoked, so we were observing it for some time until it vanished in the darkness.

Emily Park, Ontario, September 2011

Emily Park, Ontario, September 2011

Emily Park, Ontario, September 2011

During our stay at the park we went canoeing on three lakes: Pigeon Lake, Lovesick Lake and Clear Lake, as well as we paddled to Wolf Island. The island is part of Wolf Lake Provincial Park and we saw several vacant campsites with recently-used fire pits. Later we found out that camping was not allowed at this park—what a pity! The island, with adjoining headland, makes a natural ‘dam’ between Lovesick Lake and Lower Buckhorn Lake. Because the famous Trent-Severn Waterway (that runs between Georgian Bay and Lake Ontario) criss-crosses these lakes, there are a few dams and locks between those lakes—well, the whole waterway is dotted with locks!

Emily Park, Ontario, Canada

The three lakes were quite sizable and we had to watch the waves. Plenty of cottages were built along their shores, yet there were not any rocks—the Canadian Shield starts just a few kilometres to the north of the lakes—in comparison to the ‘northern’ lakes, the difference was striking! Of course, I much prefer the northern lakes, dotted with rocks, rocky island, inlets, channels and shores!

Emily Park, Ontario, Canada

In addition to canoeing, we also drove a lot in the area, visiting a few very picturesque towns—Lakefield, Bobcaygeon, Burleight Falls, young’s Point, Buckhorn, Omemee.

Whetung Ojibwa Crafts and Art Gallery, Curve Lake, Ontario

Yet the most memorable was the stop at the Curve Lake Indian Reserve. We visited an amazing store/gallery “Whetung Ojibwa Crafts and Art Gallery” (http://www.whetung.com ) and spent at least 2 hours there (and that was why we did not have the time to go canoeing that day).

Whetung Ojibwa Crafts and Art Gallery, Curve Lake, Ontario

It had incredibly original Indian craft—paintings, carvings, masks, photographs, china, necklaces, jewellery and many other very unique works of art. I bought over 10 postcards with native motives, but I wish I had bought a few paintings that I liked very much! Well, maybe next time!

Emily Park, Ontario, Canada

One day we visited a very charming and remarkable town of Lakefield. In the 1830s two sisters, Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill along with their husbands arrived from England in the Lakefield area and in the middle of dense forest, on the shores of Katchewanooka Lake, began their pioneer settlement (of course, the town of Lakefield did not exist at that time—it was their brother, Samuel Strickland, who was founded Lakefield and who also had a farm in that area). Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill were exceptional women, who even before coming to Canada had written several books back in England (their sister, Agnes Strickland, who resided in England, was also a writer). They were very intelligent, perceptive, observant and were able to accurately describe their new pioneer life which was full of hardships and totally unlike the one they led in England. Their books—among others, “The Backwoods of Canada” and “Roughing it in the Bush”—to this day are Canadian classics and constitute an important source of information on pioneer life in Canada. There is a commemorative plaque at the site of Susanna Moodie’s farm (which was so beautifully described in her books), one can see a house in which Catherine Parr Traill lived later in her life as well as their brother Samuel’s imposing mansion still remains. In the 1970s Margaret Laurence, a very well-known Canadian author moved to Lakefield and it was in her house in Lakefield where he committed suicide in 1987. The house still stands and there is a plaque dedicated to her. Lakefield is also the home of the renowned private school, “Lakefield College School”, on the shores of Katchewanooka Lake—Prince Andrew, son of Queen Elizabeth II attended it in 1977. Many years ago Lakefield could be reached from Peterborough by train; nowadays the tracks are gone, but fortunately the train station survives, turned into a quaint second-hand bookshop.

Emily Park, Ontario, Canada

Before leaving for Toronto, we drove to a small town of Omemee, close to Emily Park, where we got a delicious pizza, walked to the river and had a picnic near the Pigeon River near the dam (in the native language “Omemee” means “Pigeon”; the name of one of Toronto’s district, Mimico, is also derived from the same word and means “plentiful in pigeons’). Overall, it was a very nice trip, as we were able to paddle on new lakes.


Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jack_1962/sets/72157628471174703/

Blog in Polish
: http://ontario-nature-polish.blogspot.com/2011/09/emily-provincial-park-on.html