Tuesday marked the beginning of my solo trek through some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. After dropping Hannah at the airport, my plan was to head towards Toronto and find some where to camp for the night. I drove a few hours and ended up stopping at the Ivy Lea campground, a random spot at the foot of the Thousand Island Bridge that connects Canada to New York State over Wellesley Island. It turned out to be incredibly beautiful.
***Our first night of camping — getting Canada camping started RIGHT***
***So proud of this tent set up***
Stella and I slept well and had a slow morning the next morning doing laundry and roughly planning out the rest of our adventure. I figured I needed to reserve our campsites for the weekends at least and we could figure it out in between times. Adventure!
I reserved us a site outside of Winnipeg for the Friday and Saturday night, which was a little ambitious since it was already Wednesday and it was about 25 hours of driving to get to our weekend campsite.
***C’mon mom! Let’s get going already!***
Wednesday afternoon we drove as far as we could through lots of small towns and countryside. Just as the sun was setting we pulled in to Killbear Provincial Park. I couldn’t believe our luck. They had a whole off leash dog area and there was a camping spot right next to it! Stella was ready to get out of the car and into the water.
***The most beautiful***
I couldn’t believe our luck until around 1am when the train woke us up… I learned the next morning that there are train tracks that run right next to the campground. Folks who have been going there forever don’t even hear it anymore, but I have no idea how that’s possible. Sometime in the middle of the night I realized if I wanted to get any sleep, it wouldn’t be in my tent, so I dragged myself, my mattress and Stella into the back of my car where we finally got some rest.
The next morning we went for a gorgeous swim and stopped by the ranger station for advice about where to stop north of Lake Superior. We had a long drive ahead of us, but I wanted to see some scenery!
***Canada! Dum dum dum!***
Some things I learned while driving through Ontario:
- Canadians are PROUD. Canadian flags like the one above were regularly placed along the highway — unclear if it’s by the government or private citizens but I appreciated the reminder of where I was.
- Canadians appreciate random nature art. There were beautiful piles of rocks stacked at regular intervals along the highway.
- Canadians are feminists! You know how in the US park rangers and highway construction workers are usually men? Not in Canada! At least half if not more of the government workers I ran into in the parks and on the highway were women. Very cool.
- Chip trucks are a regular (and much appreciated) occurrence along Canadian highways. They sell hamburgers and fries with all kinds of toppings. The specialty is Poutine, a Canadian dish that is french fries covered in cheese curds and gravy. It was very salty and delicious.
Driving north of Lake Superior meant driving across the Canadian Shield (aka “cabin country”), a huge area of Canada where major development is impossible because of the bedrock laying so close to the surface. The land is incredibly untouched and beautiful, which made for some sweet driving but also meant that animals basically run the situation, and I had to keep my eyes peeled for adventurous moose…
Per the ranger’s suggestion, we made it a point to take a detour and stop at Pancake Bay, a beautiful spot where dogs and humans can swim off leash.
***Drowning dogs this way?***
***Canadian rock art***
We still had a long drive ahead of us after Pancake Bay, but we were feeling relaxed and happy so we took a small detour to a nearby town for dinner. I had a delicious fish sandwich and beer while I read the hilarious counter decorations.
It was starting to get on towards evening at the point, and we needed to put some serious miles behind us if we were going to get to White Lake Provincial Park before dark (still 170 miles from where we were along narrow twisty coastal roads).
Little did we know how dramatic the rest of our evening would be. I pulled off the road into a random spot with a trail head and public bathroom to pee, and I started chatting with a woman there. She was doing the same long haul as me (Lake Superior to Winnipeg) and began telling me about how she always sleeps in her car and it’s great. She was someone’s grandma and clearly a tough lady all around. Life goals.
As I started back along the highway, darkness began falling in earnest and, even more exciting than that, I heard storm rumbles in the distance. I was determined to make it to our campground. so I put it out of my mind and pushed forward.
As I drove along, however, and the storm gained power and the night got darker, my mind kept wandering back to the signs I had seen at regular intervals along the highway all day:
I had no cell service and terrible visions of collisions with moose dancing in my head and, around 10pm I thought about my conversation with the hardcore granny and I decided that I would stay at the campground or just sleep in my car at the first good pull off, whichever came first. I knew I was close to the campground, but I wasn’t sure at that point if I had already passed it and I was tired of looking. In any case, I found a good pull off spot and decided that had to do for the night.
By this time the rain had let up, which made it easier to set up my car for sleeping. But the warm weather plus the post-rain humidity meant MOSQUITOS. Ughhhh. So many of them got into my car just while we were setting up that Stella and I spent 10 mins killing them all (for real, she helped, it was great) before we could settle down. It was warm, but not too hot. I was a liiiitle nervous we might have another night like that beach in Louisiana (worst) since I couldn’t roll the windows down because of the mosquitos, but Stella wasn’t panting at that point so I hoped for the best.
And then here’s what happened…
I fall asleep and woke up soon after to the entire car shaking because of Stella’s panting. F***! It’s raining again which cools us off a little, but not enough for Stella. I know that if I’m going to get any sleep I have to get her cool enough to stop panting. So I get the idea to put a wet towel under her to lower her body temp. While I’m maneuvering to moisten this towel in our cramped space I manage to spill water all over my sleeping bag. Ahh!! So now I have a wet, sandy sleeping bag (in my haste to get away from the mosquitos, I did a crappy job cleaning off my feet), Stella is still panting and shaking the entire car, and there is ONE F***ING MOSQUITO buzzing around my head that I cannot find.
I try wetting some of my clothes and put them on top of Stella (moist doggy sandwich). I try plugging my ears with ear plugs, I lay there and feel sorry for myself for awhile. I listen to some animal nosing around Stella’s empty food bowl that I stupidly left outside of the car and I wonder if I’m going to get eaten by a bear.
After awhile I notice that I’m actually getting cold. And Stella’s panting is subsiding halleluuuu! My wet sleeping bag doesn’t help with the cold, but I put on a sweatshirt and cover myself with my jacket and finally fall asleep around 3am.
I wake up as the sun starts peeking over the trees. It’s pretty early and I feel a little wacked out from the night before, but not too terrible, all things considered. And I realize the place I camped is beautiful. It’s surrounded my wild flowers and the morning feels fresh from the rain the night before and I’m in the middle of the Canadian wilderness and all in all things are not so bad.
***Found this spine outside my car in the morning. Didn’t help my bear fear, I’ll tell you that***
***Replenished my traveling vase***
After some morning coffee brewed on my tiny camp stove, it was time to hit the road again for Winnipeg! Which was about 13 hours away…
***Thanks for the good times, Ontario. We’re outta here!***
Next time: A much needed rest from driving on the shores of Lake Manitoba.