Miles Meets Ontario (Part Four)

From his viewpoint on our dash, Miles, our ever faithful moose mascot, confirmed our next destination point.  It was Canada Day and we knew we wanted to be in a bigger city as opposed to a small town but which one?  We were fairly close to several but we settled on Barrie…the main reason being that it is situated on Lake Simcoe so we were pretty sure the fireworks would be over the bay.

Canada Day in Barrie is actually the kick-off for the town’s Promanade Days so there were plenty of activities happening.  Unfortunately, the weather had decided to be less than cooperative for the day.  A cool rainy drizzle caused problems for many of the outdoor vendors that lined four or five streets  blocked to traffic other than pedestrians. But the restaurants on those streets saw a booming business as people needed to get inside to warm up and dry out!  We had fully expected to be out and about all day but we were cold and wet so we headed back to our van, which was parked for the night in the Walmart parking lot, to play a few games of cards and dry off.  By evening, we were ready to venture downtown again…due to parking restrictions in the centre of the city, the day pass we had purchased for the city transit had definitely worked out to our advantage!  As 10:00 pm approached, the skies began to clear and we joined the throngs of people lining the stone wall around the harbour in anticipation of the fireworks.  As expected, the fireworks display was amazing over Kempenfelt Bay.  Following that, the evening warmed up and we enjoyed wandering around watching people and listening to music spilling from various bars for the next little while…the last bus got us back to our van for the night.  Canada’s 149th birthday had been fun, not withstanding the weather.

We were on the road early the next morning heading north to go around Lake Simcoe. By the time we had passed Orillia and rounded the north end of the lake we were entering the Kawartha Lakes region.  This is a huge area of lakes and rivers that can be travelled a full 386 km through the Trent Severin Waterway from the Bay of Quinte on Lake Ontario to Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay.  Back in the mid 1800’s it would have been the main mode of transportation for steamers getting lumber, supplies and people to and from Toronto.  Today it is used mainly by pleasure craft and is protected by Parks Canada, whose staff operate all the locks throughout the waterways.

We had seen a small locking process last week in Port Colbourne but what we witnessed here in the Kawartha’s was far more interesting!  We stopped first in Lindsay, which in itself was a very pretty town with huge churches, a farmer’s market and a patio that sold cold beer!  The lock was operated manually, meaning that the lock operators opened the gates using a turnpike system.  Upon speaking to the lock master there, he suggested we also go visit locks at Fenelon Falls and Bobcageon, so off we went.  Fenelon Falls transport boats 50 feet up or down, depending on the direction they are travelling.  Bobcageon, just a few kilometres further up the waterway was the original lock built back in 1833 and is built of timber. It has a swing bridge to stop traffic crossing the river when the boats are locking whereas most locks have lift bridges. The little town by the lock is so pretty and offered an ice cream place with many flavors to choose from!

From here we travelled on to Peterborough…an absolutely beautiful small city with a peaceful riverside walk, a beautiful garden planted in honour of all children who had passed away and streets lined with red brick two story homes with white verandas. As evening was approaching, we decided to walk along the river.  We could hear music playing in the distance and we eventually ended up at the marina and beside the marina we could see that something was happening in Del Crary Park.  Apparently, throughout the summer, the city has a Music Fest and offers free music in the park every Wednesday and Saturday night.  We were fortunate to stumble upon the park on the night that I Mother Earth was playing.  Although we weren’t completely familiar with their music, we knew it had been played in our house when our kids were in high school!  Amazing that a city offers so many free concerts…they are huge supporters of the arts, even displaying a Walk of Fame along the edge of the Marina as a tribute to journalists, writers, musicians, songwriters, etc who have made significant contributions to the Arts in the city over the years.

Peterborough is also known for the hydraulic lift lock in the middle of downtown.  It is the highest lift lock in the world, built in 1904 and still operates today.  We took a cruise in a steam boat to experience the locking system firsthand.  The lock lifted us something like 88 feet and deposited us in the next lake.  It was amazing how quickly the whole operation took.  We passed through a second lock, where we turned around and came back the same way, this time we were lowered 88 feet.  Quite amazing!

Following the Loyalist Highway through large cornfields, wineries and orchards, massive solar panels,  and past many “Turtle Crossing” signs, we arrived at a beautiful campsite at Sandbanks Provincial Park in Prince Edward County.  As the name suggests, there is plenty of sand…long beaches lining the north shore of Lake Ontario.  A  day at Dune’s Beach was just what we needed!  The water was clear and warm and the day was hot!  I was beginning to understand what “humidex” means!

Then we were on the road again, through a beautiful little town called Bloomfield, established in 1799 and then Picton, where Sir John A. MacDonald grew up.  We stopped to see the Lake on the Mountain where a very pretty lake seems to maintain a constant level even though it falls continuously into the Bay of Quinte.  It is a mystery as to how the lake remains constant but it is believed that there must be underground streams feeding it yet none have been found.  Legends offer much more interesting theories!

The Glenora Ferry carried us further along the Loyalist Highway past many more historic sites like the launching spot of the Frontenac at Bath and the Fairfield House at Amhustville.  This was interesting because instead of showing the Loyalist farmhouse as it would have been when it was built in 1793, it showed the changes it had gone through over five generations of the Fairfield family until it was offered as a historic site by the last member of the family.  The original limestone and timber construction is evident as well as the changes made to accomodate for a growing family, electricity and running water.

The Loyalist Highway brought us to Kingston, a city founded in 1673 by Count Frontenac of  New France where he set up a trading post.  It was later conquered by the British and established as a  colony of Britain.  It is located at the point where the Saint Lawrence River, the Cataraqui River and Lake Ontario meet.  Because of it’s position at this point, Fort Henry was built during the War of 1812 to guard against the threat of American invasion.  The fort never saw battle and the cannons have only been fired for ceremonial purposes but it is an imposing structure and it’s very presence may be the reason it never saw action.

Sir John A. MacDonald was the first mayor of the city and later went on to be the first Prime Minister of Canada.  While in office, he was instrumental in the building of the Rideau Canal as a means of transporting supplies from Kingston to Ottawa and on to Montreal without having to use the St. Lawrence River, which was always under threat of attack.  Kingston was originally to be the capitol city of Upper Canada but after the city built a huge and ornate City Hall in 1843 with money lent to them by Queen Victoria, the government of the day changed their mind and moved the Capitol to Ottawa as it would be less likely to suffer attack from the Americans.

While in Kingston, the Buskers Festival was happening so the historic downtown area was packed with people and fun.  We took a Paddlewheeler cruise into the 1000 Islands where we saw beautiful homes situated on tiny islands and learned about the history of the area.  Later that day, we took a trolley tour around town and through Queens University.

The next morning we were touring Kingston Penitentiary, the longest continuously running prison in Canada. It closed down in 2013 but over its time in operation it saw 3 major riots…1932, 1954 and most recently in 1971 when inmates were protesting overcrowding as preparation was being made to move some of them to Millhaven.

By afternoon we were ready for some downtime again.  Heading north through Smith’s Falls, which is the half way point of the Rideau Canal, we arrived at Rideau River Provincial Park.  Expecting some beach time and relaxing, we were disappointed to get rain, rain and more rain!


So much heavy pounding rain, in fact, that we ended up with a leak in our roof, possibly from the seal around our vent.  There we were at midnight trying to position a tarp across the roof of the van to keep the water from dripping through!  Soaked to the bone and giddy with fatigue, all we could do was laugh!  But the highlight of the stop was a visit in the little town nearby with old friends from our days in Edmonton.  Karen and Tom, who now live in Florida, were visiting family in Ottawa so it was easy to meet up with them for lunch.

Packing the next morning was not fun…tarp, tablecloth, stove, towels…everything was soaking wet!  Time to get out of Ontario and head for Quebec!  Family near Montreal was expecting us.  Join us again next week to hear more!