Thursday, August 7, 2014

CANOEING IN CHARLESTON LAKE PROVINCIAL PARK AND CAMPING IN IVY LEA PARK, SEPTEMBER, 2013

Driving from Toronto to Charleston Provincial Park, Ivy Lea Park and back home
Despite having visited Charleston Lake Provincial Park twice before, I had never done any interior canoeing—and Catherine had never visited the park at all. So, both of us were looking forward to experiencing something new!

Arriving at the campsite-and it's vacant!

We knew that early fall would be a good time to visit the remote sites as we did not have to make reservations and we knew school groups would not be in full force, using interior campsites for their environmental programs. Besides, mosquitos are in retreat and there is no need to use insect repellents.

After a leisurely drive we arrived at Charleston Lake Park, registered at the main office and paddled to the best interior campsites in the park—Hidden Cove (#506). It was not occupied (although its previous occupants must have left the same day, as their permit indicated). The site had two wooden tent platforms; we decided to set up the tent on the farther one, near the imposing rock and used the other platform for our equipment and daily stretching exercises. The first night was quite cool, the temperature dropped at night to +5C—what a difference from just a week ago, when the temperature was at least 10C higher! Well, we realized that the fall was upon us… For some reasons, the Labour Day often does mean the end of summer. The night was cold, but our 3 sleeping bags kept us warm.
Our campsite at Charleston Lake. Very private, near a huge
boulder and sheltered from the wind


Friday was a beautiful, sunny day and we hiked a little. There was a hiking trail (Tallow Rock Bay East Trail) just on the ridge above our campsite. We headed over to the bridge between Charleston Lake and Slim Bay (the bridge was closed in 2014, hopefully temporarily), passing very interesting rock formations and old growth forest. It was a mystical place. We crossed the bridge and Catherine went on in search of Bob’s Cove campsite, but upon seeing some campers, she did not want to invade their privacy, so she retreated and we headed back to our campsite.

GPS track of our paddling on Charleston Lake
At night we were entertained/serenaded by the transcendent call of the loon. This experience alone is worth staying on an interior campsite.

The next day (Saturday) we paddled to the car (as there was a 60% chance of rain) and drove around the campsites in the park, rating their differences. Of course, we also visited the famous rock shelters.

Rock Shelters in Charleston Lake Provincial Lake
The natural shelter, formed by the overhand of one large rock, rises about 50 feet above the water level and is inland approximately one hundred yards. The rock itself is not homogeneous but is composed of boulders of up to 10 inches in diameter set in a type of limestone formation. Over the years, pieces of the overhanging rock have broken off and fallen, with the result that much of the floor is covered with debris, especially as one moves toward the south-west end of the site. Protected as it is from the elements, the site would have provided an excellent shelter for those travelling in the area.

Rock Shelters
One of the most interesting features found on the site was a large pit. It measured about one and one-half feet by three feet by about one foot deep. The pit contained no artifactual material but instead was filled with stones about five inches in diameter and very dark sand. It was beside a large fire area and one possible explanation of its use may be that at one time it was lined with some waterproof substance, possibly birch bark and pitch, and used to heat water by immersion of fire-heated rocks.

Sandstone Island Trail passes a prehistoric rock shelter
Excavations during the last week of May of 1967, produced evidence of at least two short periods of occupation. During the first period the rock shelters were used as a short-term camp by travellers in the area during the Late Middle Woodland period (about 500 A.D.); pottery and bone tools remains were left by them. The second group left musket balls, flints and a buckle and must have arrived sometime after the contact period. Neither group could have stayed long since the cultural accumulation was slight, but both were there long enough to leave evidence of their stay. [Source: L. Gordon, “The Charleston Lake Rock Shelter”, Accepted in 1969, published in “Ontario Archeology No. 14]

The forest around the shelters was just magical, with all the fallen trees, rocks and amazing mushrooms, ferns and mosses. We tried to imagine the people who used those shelters over 1,500 years ago…
Lyndurst and its famous picturesque stone bridge

Later we visited the nearby town—Lyndhurst, with its old, beautiful stone bridge, where we had the excellent ice cream at “Groceteria” and spent some time at a second-hand/antique shop. It was a trip down the memory lane for Catherine. There was a chip truck near Lyndhurst called “Petras” (whose owner was German) and it sold excellent beefsteak tomatoes.

Another day we drove to the town of Delta. There was an old stone mill, which I had visited in 2004. At that time I was told there were plans to restore it and even bake bread for tourists, but since it was closed, I had no idea if it was operational in any capacity. There was also a gathering of “Old Bastards Vintage Motorcycle Club”—they hold their annual motorcycle rally on the weekend after Labour Day in Delta. The LCBO store was the busiest place in town and across the parking lot McEwan’s gas bar and grocery store/supermarket came in as a close second. We admired old buildings (plenty with ‘for rent’ signs) and old bridge. Sadly, the town seemed to be in decline.
Delat and its old stone mill from 1810

Next town we drove to was Athens. It had very interesting murals. Coincidentally, I had visited Athens in 2004 exactly during the Summer Olympic Games in… Athens! This visit gave me legitimate bragging rights to boast that I was in Athens during the 2004 Olympiad!

We drove back to the park, got into the canoe and paddled to our campsite. Crossing the lake was quite challenging due to the strong wind and we had to make sure the canoe was always positioned towards the waves—even though, some water did get inside.

Paddling on Charleston Lake. Recently part of this rock must have fallen off; the roots are still
visible. Hopefully, no canoe was nearby when this happened!
We paddled on Charleston Lake a few times, to check out the other interior campsites. We saw a campsite with two clusters—but it was too dark. The campsite closest to ours (Bob’s Cove), made up of 3 clusters, was quite OK. The campsite closest to the park (2 clusters) was not very nice, required plenty of climbing up and carrying camping equipment.

Paddling on Charleston Lake at Sunset is awesome!
One day a park warden came to our campsite (by boat) and we had a very interesting conversation with him about the park, general work and zebra mussels (which were ubiquitous in the lakes). He left 2 bags of wood, just in case we needed them (we did not, as the wood we had bought in the park sufficed).

We spotted plenty of poison ivy in the park, as well as hickory nuts, which are edible, but it is very difficult to get the edible part out of the shell. From time to time we saw majestic blue herons and of course, plenty of loon, whose calls are simply unforgettable! The weather remained quite good—yet one night we had a rather strong thunderstorm, accompanied by heavy rain.

We left the park on September 11, 2013 and commenced the second part of our trip.

Our great campsite at Ivy Lea Park, just near the One Thousand Islands International Bridge
We headed towards the Thousand Islands International Bridge over the Saint Lawrence River, which was opened in 1937 and the following year dedication ceremonies took place. On August 18, 1938, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Mackenzie King officially opened the bridges (as the bridge comprises of 5 bridges). The bridge cost over 3 million dollars and today annual crossings exceeded 2 million vehicles. Since we did not have passports with us, we only drove to Hill Island (which is still in Canada) and went to a unique tourist place which had various mounted and stuffed animal heads from the 1950s era. Then we drove to Ivy Lea St. Lawrence Waterway Park, where we were planning to spend at least one night. It was almost +30C, very hot, and we were trying to quickly find a good site. There were several nice sites available along the water and the Saint Lawrence river was so calm and inviting and we were really looking forward to camping in this park. Eventually we picked campsite no. 103, from which we could see the Thousand Island Bridge and passing ships, some full of tourists. We quickly drove to town to buy food supplies and then rushed back to the park to launch the canoe. We paddled westward (against the current) on the St. Lawrence River towards Gananoque. There were plenty of currents and whirlpools, yet they did not seem to pose any problems for the canoe as we kept close to the shore. We spotted a beautiful sail boat, the Mist of Avalon (which incidentally comes with its own website, www.mistofavalon.ca); later I found a YouTube video featuring this magnificent boat. There were also many islands on the river; on one of them, there was a statue of the Holy Virgin and the island was appropriately called Virgin Island.
The impressive and beautiful "Lady of Avalon" on
St. Lawrence River

Bad weather was in the forecast and indeed, the sky did look ominous. We paddled back to the park dock and decided to leave our canoe chained to the dock in a small bay. We went to the campsite, set up the tent and soon we were sitting around a campfire, watching the lit bridge and the trucks crossing it. They made plenty of rattling noise.

The bay where we left the canoe was called Smugglers Cover. Its name conjured up a very fascinating period of history of the River: When the USA initiated the Prohibition Era in 1920 and Ontario voted away its own dry laws, the stage was set for smuggling alcoholic beverages across this segment of the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. With its hundreds of miles of unguarded boundary, numerous inlets, coves and islands, the 1000 Islands region became a haven for smugglers. Many residents, using their excellent knowledge of the River, turned out to excel at this business.

Tadeusz Pasek
Let me here reminisce a little about one of my past trip. In June and July, 2001 my friend Tadeusz Pasek and I had driven from Toronto to the Catskills Mountains, then to Milford, Connecticut and even visited New York City (yes, we were on the roof of the World Trade Center Tower that would be destroyed in less than 3 months!), then drove via Saratoga, Lake Placid and the Thousand Island Bridge to Canada. Before we crossed back to Canada, we had been planning to stay at Wellesley Island State Park in the US—we drove there and were told there should be a few tent campsites available. It turned out that the park was 99.9% full, packed with huge RVs, trailers, campers and similar vehicles which were crammed like sardines. The only campsite (or just a tiny spot) we managed to find in this modern ghetto to pitch our tent was squeezed between two huge RVs… Yes, zero privacy and fun! That was why we immediately decided to proceed to Canada. We spent a few nights in Ivy Lea Park on campsite no. 121, almost under the bridge—to this day I remember the noise caused by trucks driving on the bridge as well as boisterous July 4th, 2001 celebrations taking place on the other side of the border (i.e., in the RV park in the United States).
Tadeusz Pasek

By the way, Prof. Tadeusz Pasek was a well-known precursor of yoga in his native Poland—after a year-long stay in India in the 1960s, where he had practised yoga and plumbed into the mysteries of this ancient discipline under experienced Hindu yoga gurus, he returned to Poland and began popularizing mental, physical and spiritual practices and benefits of yoga, as well as wrote a book and numerous articles on this subject. Mr. Pasek passed away in 2011 in Toronto at the age of 85.

There was a terrible thunderstorm that night, which lasted till 10:00 am o’clock. When we got up, we decided to stay another night at the park. After breakfast we drove eastward via Brockville. The historical sites were everywhere and we were enchanted with the architecture of the towns we passed and we vowed to return to investigate all the historical sites, particularly those related to the war of 1812 (between Canada and the USA). We stopped at Mallorytown Landing where we had lunch at a restaurant (Mallorytown’s Landing Restaurant Trattatoria ) and spoke to Dale, its friendly owner—he had previously worked at the casino and the Constellation Hotel in Toronto. We drove on the Long Sault Parkway, on a causeway over several islands. Each island is a part of St. Lawrence Park System. We did not stop to check out any of the campsites, as the clouds in the sky were threatening and we even thought that a tornado might develop. On our way back we experience some showers but by the time we reached the campsite, we realized there had been no rain at all at Ivy Lea Park. So, we had a campfire and grilled pork steaks.
Near the One Thousand Islands International
Bridge, on St. Lawrence River

The next day (September 13, 2013) we got up in the morning, packed up, put the canoe on the roof of the van and headed to Toronto.

We drove through Kingston, a very historical town: there was a fur trading post established in 1673 (then Fort Frontenac), in 1841 it was the first capital of the Province of Canada. It was indeed a beautiful town, with old buildings, renowned university (Queen’s University), military college (Royal Military College of Canada) and a military base (CFB Kingston). As we left Kingston, we saw the entrance to the Millhaven Penitentiary, one of the toughest maximum prison in Canada, where some most infamous and notorious convicts were being held—and despite faded warning signs, Catherine decided to drive there. From afar we saw double or triple fences and prison buildings. We stopped in a parking lot and struck up a conversation with a young prison guard who was just walking to his car. He told us that we were not supposed to be there and we were subject to search & vehicle (and canoe too, I presume) seizure if we did not leave immediately. He added that if we wanted to see the prison, we would need a special authorization form the prison authorities… or commit a major criminal offense (although he did not suggest the latter). So, we heeded his advice and quickly drove to the main road.

Canoeing on the St. Lawrence River, near Ivy Lea Park
We headed toward Prince Edward County (located on a headland, although local people said it was an island). It was named after Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent (the son of King George III). After the American Revolution, the Crown made land grants to some of the earliest United Empire Loyalists to encourage their settlements in Ontario and provide compensation for property lost in the Thirteen Colonies. At one point the road, the Loyalist Parkway, ended and we had to take Glenora Ferry. It is free, fast (the passage took no more than 10 minutes) and frequent. Soon, we reached the town of Picton. We parked the van and wandered along the main street, visiting a few shops and a marine museum. I was astounded at the hundreds of marine books in its collection—one could probably do a very extensive academic research on this subject without even leaving the building!

Fruits, vegetables and flowers directly from farmers!
We also visited Sandbanks Provincial Park and drove around its campsites; we had stayed at this park back in 2008 and Catherine loved the park, yet due to the unstable weather, we decided against spending even one night at the park. We also checked out a cottage in the park-it was owned by the park and it was possible to rent it.

After leaving the park we stopped at a fruit/vegetable stand. The owner and his son had just come back from the fields with fresh picked corn. He was a chatty Dutch man. There was a horse and a pony in a fenced field nearby that belonged to the Dutch farmer—he said he kept them as pets. He gave us a few corn cobs and the animals ran towards us and eagerly started eating the corn husk and all from our hand. We also bought excellent tomatoes, onions, garlic and two giant pumpkins, perfect as Halloween decoration.
Farmer's horse and pony, they loved fresh corn!

As I was buying garlic, I mentioned that nine years ago I had met a very interesting fellow who had been growing garlic and attended plenty of garlic festivals (I had even run across photographs of him in tourist brochures). His name was Ted Maczka, he was called ‘the king of garlic’ and ‘the garlic man’ and was residing in the area. Well, they knew him and one of the locals said that he had recently seen Mr. Maczka in a local supermarket! When I had met Mr. Maczka in 2004 in the city of Perth in Ontario, during a garlic festival, I found out he was Polish, born in Tarnow, and we continued our conversation in Polish. He walked with a noticeable limp—he said that during the Second World War his family had been deported by the Soviets and he had spent some time in a Soviet labour camp, he had broken his hip and it had never been properly healed. He arrived to Canada via Persia, Jerusalem and London.
Ted Maczka, 'Garlic Man'. Picture taken in the city of Perth in Ontario, in 2004,
during a garlic festival
Well, hundreds of thousands of Polish people had suffered similar fate on the ‘inhuman land’.
According to historians, the number of Poles deported to the Soviet labour camps after the Soviet invasion of Poland on September 17, 1939 (just over 2 weeks following the German invasion) ranges from 566,000 verified victims and a total estimate of 934,000 victims—and at least 10% of them perished of deprivation, hunger, disease, exposure, public executions, forced death marches and during transit.

Ted Maczka, 'Garlic Man'. Picture taken in the city of Perth in Ontario, in 2004,
during a garlic festival
Mr. Maczka used to run an ‘experimental garlic farm’, was always willing to provide advice on growing garlic and its health benefits and was also selling garlic, mostly to those who wanted to plant ‘his’ garlic in their gardens. He incessantly extoled the benefits of garlic (for example, he said that it was placed on wounds during the war as no other medicines were available—and most likely he knew it from his own terrible experience!) and was adamantly against imported Chinese garlic (‘why should you buy this shit’, he told me, ‘when you can buy healthy Ontario garlic?’). At his stand at the garlic festival there were plenty of newspaper clippings on display in which he had been featured—yes, he was quite well-known in the ‘garlic circles’. I will never forget one of the articles published in “The Brantford Expositor” on September 1, 1990, “Learning from garlic man”. The journalist and editor, K. J. Strachan, happened to meet and listen to two individuals that day: David Peterson, premier of Ontario and Ted Maczka, ‘Fish Lake Garlic Man’ (the title that appeared on the business card). The latter regaled him with a plethora of garlic-related stories and his often unconventional wisdom. At the end of his article, Mr. Strachan wrote the following:

“Tuesday was a terrific day. I came home knowing more than I had when I went to work, which is one of the joys of working for a newspaper. I had enjoyed the unexpected pleasure of listening to the premier of Ontario, and to Fish Lake Garlic Lake. And I had learned something of value—from one of them.”

Methinks the author did not mean the premier of Ontario! Sadly, Ted Maczka passed away in January, 2014, at the age of 85 (or 87).

After a while we got on the freeway no. 401 and arrived in Toronto past midnight, exhausted, yet full of amazing memories!


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