On August 1, I officially became a “resident” of Ontario. This simply means that my good old Carte d’assurances maladie from Québec was no longer a valid thing, and I received a very ugly OHIP card in the mail. (Man. I look like crap on my Ontario ID. I had such a good photo on my old driver’s license and health card, but that’s a whole other story.)
In celebration of becoming une grosse tête carrée anglophone du ROC I embraced the tradition of the August Civic Holiday long weekend. We don’t have such things in Quebec. We have week long benders from June 24 to July 1 (sometimes they turn into 10 day benders) and we recover for the rest of the summer, until Labour Day. Apparently the ROC has this tradition of a Civic Holiday in August where for no apparent good reason, city slickers flee their residence for the vast country side, to take in some camping, fishing, and peeing in lakes. I decided to embrace this foreign tradition and call it my own.
We set off without much of a plan. We had vague ideas of the Bruce Peninsula, of Tobermory, of camping. Of course, so did half of Toronto that weekend.
We loaded a white utility van full of crap.
After a driving all over the peninsula, we pulled into Tobermory around dinner time. I hold a torch in my heart for Tobermory, as it is one of the best spots in the world for freshwater wreck diving. If I ever get off my lazy butt and finish my PADI Open Water course, I’m heading straight to Tobermory to explore the wrecks.
Since we had no plan, we were bitterly informed that there were no available campsites in the area (and allegedly the peninsula, but I call shenanigans on that one). We made do. We BBQ’d some pizza.
But what were 3 gals in a van to do? Sleep in the parking lot of the civic centre? Seduce the locals?
For you see, my companions were from Alberta and Manitoba, respectively. And seeing as how neither one had ever seen a lighthouse, we had a mission. We drove to Big Tub Harbour, and we were justly rewarded by this beauty:
And watched the day end, with a classy bag of wine.
Glaciers retreated during the last ice age, leaving the peninsula with its rugged good looks – cut with rivers, dimpled with lakes, rock formations standing proud. A hike in the woods revealed a small waterfall with deliciously clean water, and we scrambled down the escarpment to the cobble beaches below, where I had a staring contest with a fish in an underwater cave while I was snorkelling.
We also came face to face with the threatened Massasauga rattlesnake, Ontario’s only poisonous snake. And as amazing as it was to see this rare creature, we weren’t entirely sure what kind of snake we were staring at until we heard its distinctive rattle. Wouldn’t you know, that was about the time we decided to get the hell out of the forest and go find a camp site for the night.
We stopped at 3-4 campsites, looking for space. We found one on the side of the highway, but it was gougingly expensive and by the highway. We set off for the Lake Huron side of the peninsula, and we hit pay dirt when we stumbled upon Bob’s campground in a small inlet of the lake. This city slicker built a campfire, and set about roasting some potatoes. 4 hours later, they were ready.
Lake Huron wasn’t as pretty as the Georgian Bay.
But the sky was clear that night, and I stared at the constellations until they swirled around, making me dizzy. Living in the city, it is rare to see more then a small handful of stars, even on the clearest nights. But the night sky is a rich tapestry away from the light pollution of Toronto, and far better entertainment then I could imagine. Out of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed an elusive shooting star.
Bright and early, we set off to the Bruce Peninsula National Park. We failed in our endeavour of visiting it the day before, as we got there too late in the day and all of the permits for the day were sold out. This time, we got there before the crowds, and visited some deserted coastline early in the morning.
It was pretty relaxing, and the sun wasn’t baking us.
I kept rubbing my eyes in disbelief at the water. I’ve been to the Red sea, the Dead sea, the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Bay of Thailand, and I never saw water like this before. I’m used to the brown murk of the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario, but every time I opened my eyes, it blew my mind.
In a world where a blown oil well has been belching crude sludge into the Gulf of Mexico for months, could something so pristine still exist? I feel gifted, a chance to see something that future generations may not experience.
And with a quick slip down a crevice, this water becomes accessible, along with its protective grotto, in all its splendor.
We didn’t expect to be alone with this natural splendor all day. As the crowds grew thicker, we headed back to reality. Back to the farm, back to the office, back to responsibilities.
But not without stopping for some absolutely mouth watering, thigh thickening, artery clogging fish from the Georgian Bay.
I snagged that treat at this fantastic little joint on Highway 6.
Something tells me I’ll be back. The cool, clear waters of the Georgian Bay call to me, inviting me to come explore the shipwrecks and underwater caves.