– Blind River, Ontario to London, Ontario –
Oh, how I’ve missed Tim Hortons. I’m not sure what it so special about it, but it really makes my day. We started out this morning at 5am, and we drove quite a ways over to the spot where we thought we might run. It turned out to be a terrible location. It was dark and poorly kept, since it is usually used in winter for snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing. I guess people must use it during the summer, too, but they mustn’t use it in the mornings, because we couldn’t see anything.
We ended up running on a track at the local middle school. When I was growing up, I went to a tiny high school in Texas. Our track was made of this red gravel stuff that felt like kitty litter, because at the time, the school couldn’t afford a better one. It wasn’t great to run on, and if you fell, you embedded bright red kitty litter in whatever body part you managed to slam into the ground. I always felt the worst for the hurdlers.
Anyway, this track was like that, only gray. Ripley and I ran 4 miles and walked a quarter mile for each a warm up and cool down. I don’t think Mark likes running on tracks with us. We lapped him 3 times. Ripley hates being behind him, so every time we’d get even a little close, she’d start tugging on the leash, trying to pass him. It’s hilarious that our dog is that competitive. Silly creature.
Obviously, we stopped at the local Tim Hortons, as is mandatory when I am taken into Canada. It was still pretty early, just before 8am. We were not the only ones at Tim Hortons, is what I’m saying. Still, our drive was only two hours, and our ferry didn’t leave until 1:30, so we had plenty of time to get there without any trouble.
We made it to the island just after 10am, and we had nothing to do until at least noon, so we decided to stop at an island visitor center and find out what to do. The woman working at the counter gave us several suggestions: a popular trail, a white sand beach, and a waterfall. We ended up picking the trail and the beach, since we knew we didn’t have time for all 3. The island is pretty big, as you might’ve guessed since it’s the largest freshwater lake island in the world.
The trail is called Cup and Saucer Trail, and it seemed pretty popular. The parking lot was full of cars, and we ran into several other groups of hikers. From what I can tell, it’s only about 12km, which isn’t a lot. It does have an “adventure” section, as well, but we weren’t prepared for that at all. We wandered up the gentler bits of the trail for perhaps a half hour. It’s a very pretty place. Most of the trail is shady and quiet, which is nice, and it borders a rock quarry, which makes for interesting views at times.
Ripley had a lot of fun scrambling over the rockier sections of the trail. John really likes to hike, so he disappeared ahead of the rest of us, which tested Ripley’s competitive spirit. Of course, when he was closer, she kept trying to trip him in her hurry to get in front of him, so that didn’t work out too well. John is somewhat well known for injuring himself while hiking, so he certainly didn’t need Ripley’s help.
Eventually,after the first 30 minutes, we needed to turn around, but we stopped briefly at a rocky outcropping that looked out over the quarry for John to gather interesting rocks. Like father, like son I suppose. At least Mark’s dirt samples are a little smaller than the rocks.
We also took some time on the way back down to pop Ripley up onto a giant boulder, where she looked suitably impressive and adventurous. She wasn’t too interested in our impromptu photoshoot, so in most of the best pictures, she’s looking away from us. Doesn’t she know she’s the star of a blog and her viewers want to see her pretty face? She’s a bit of a diva, I guess. Photoshoots have to be on her terms.
The white sand beach didn’t turn out to be particularly interesting. I wished we’d gone to see the waterfall, instead. Mark wanted some sand, though, so the beach worked out for him, at any rate. His new sand is from Lake Huron, which he hadn’t collected before. The water was really clear, though, which is fun. All of the lakes I grew up visiting have muddy, red water. I guess that’s what I get for living next to the Red River. It’s name is apt.
It was a beautiful day, too. The weather for the hike was pleasant, and Vicki wore her jacket, so she obviously thought it was almost cool. I find myself wondering what the water temperature of the lake is like, but I’m not brave enough to try. I suspect that they are all too cold for my blood. I only believe in warm, sunny beaches with bathwater-temperature water. That basically limits me to the Gulf of Mexico and southern lakes so far, I guess. I’m sure someday I will visit a warmer body of water.
We made it to South Baymouth, where the ferry makes port, right around noon. We were totally surprised to find that the lines for the ferry were already packed practically to capacity, even though the boat wouldn’t leave for another 1.5 hours. We were at the very end of the line we were instructed to park in. It’s a really good thing we’d made reservations. I have a feeling that we might have been turned away if we hadn’t. The ferry will hold up to 143 vehicles, according to their website. A whole batch of motorcycles that rode up behind us were turned away. They had to book for the later ferry, at 5:50.
Once we’d parked our car in the line, we had an hour and a half to kill in South Baymouth, with all of our fellow passengers. We ended up wandering over to a pizza place and grabbing some lunch. The restaurant was quite popular, in spite of the fact that it was just a window, and all of the seating was outside. Obviously that worked out pretty well for us, since Ripley needed someplace to hang out while we ate. We ended up snagging a picnic table with an umbrella, and while we ate, Ripley stared at seagulls, dreaming of murder.
With our tummies full, we decided to wander around the port area. We didn’t go far, but Vicki visited a few gift shops and Mark and I checked out the ferry’s visitor center. Mostly, we entertained Ripley. A lot of dogs were hanging around the docks, and they all ended up on the boat with us later on. It turns out that this ferry is quite dog-friendly, which was nice. We met several dogs that Ripley wanted to play with, although that can be pretty hard when both dogs are on the leash.
It’s interesting to see so many cars parked in a series of lines with all of the people scattered around outside them. You weren’t supposed to leave the vehicles idling, so everyone was outside, hanging out in the shade or at the nearby shops and restaurants. Lots of people had ice cream. I think all of those restaurants by the water must make a killing selling stuff to bored ferry-goers. Remember, almost everyone else had been there for some time before we arrived. We were at the end of the line!
Just before we got back into our car at 1:10 for boarding, we bought some sodas for the trip. John and Vicki got Diet Pepsi, and Mark had a moment of craziness and decided to buy a Pepsi Ginger, which is apparently a thing in Canada. He got me one too, but I couldn’t drink it. You might think it was just a Pepsi-branded ginger ale, but no. It was a flavored cola. It was really nasty. I don’t like soda though, so I’m not the best judge. When I was younger, I was a Diet Coke addict, but when I broke my leg, the orthopedist told me that caffeine can impede healing, and I quit cold turkey. Now I only drink ginger beer every great once in a while, and soda is just nasty. I can’t believe I ever drank it.
Now that you’ve learned something totally uninteresting about me, we can move on with our day. So, boarding was supposed to start at 1:10, we thought, but it turns out that’s just when you are supposed to get back to your car. The ferry arrived from it’s trip back from the other side just a few minutes after we got back in the car. Man does that thing unload fast. It was unloaded and we were on the ferry by 1:30, even though the whole process seemed agonizingly slow. It really wasn’t.
Mark was driving, and John commented as we were getting on the ferry that he was glad that he didn’t have to do it. It was narrow and steep. So, we ended up on one of the sides, and we had to drive up a practically vertical slope to park. Our car was at an uncomfortable angle, and the cars in front of us kept inching forward, so Mark had to jam on the gas to make our van creep up the slope behind them. It was awful and scary. When they finally told us to stop, we were flabbergasted, having assumed we’d make it onto the flat part with the other cars. Instead, we were parked on the ramp. Mark pushed the parking brake.
Suddenly, the car started to move up, and we all panicked a little. It turns out that the ramp was a lift, and we were slowly raised until the car was level, and then the next row of cars started parking beneath us. It was wild. I guess we should’ve expected it, but this one was the biggest ferry any of us had ever been on, so we had no idea. Moments later, a voice came over the loudspeakers and told us to vacate our cars, because the car decks were locked during the entire passage across the lake.
We quickly gathered up all of our stuff, including the puppy, and made our way up to the open decks on the sides of the ships. We had to ask where dogs were allowed, since it wasn’t clear. It turns out, there’s a specific level where dogs are allowed, so we sat down on the shady side of that level with little Ripley and a bunch of other canines. At this point, we weren’t actually sure how long the ferry ride even was, and we couldn’t google it, since we don’t have cell service in Canada.
Many of the other travelers were much more informed than we were. A couple of the dog owners had floor mats and blankets, and they sat up in two corners of the decks with their pooches. They were obviously seasoned travelers. We got underway not long after we arrived on the deck, and Ripley took her seat on the bench beside me.
I was really glad to have her along. She kept me warm. I hadn’t even considered I might need a sweater, but I could’ve probably used it. Instead, Ripley slept on my lap during our voyage, and Mark hugged up to my shoulder, so I didn’t freeze. John and Mark took a tour around the boat when we first took off, and then they came back and Vicki and John went inside to look around.
The ferry had a kid’s play area, a cafeteria, a top deck, an inside deck, an art gallery, a gift shop, and more. It was impressive. Mark and I took a tour around again a little later. Someone had to stay outside with Ripley, since she was only allowed in some of the areas.
Would you believe we were on the boat for about 1 hour and 45 minutes, and I didn’t get sick at all? I don’t know if it was the cold air, or the smooth water, or the size of the ship (which was massive), but I didn’t even have a twinge of sea sickness. I had fun. On a boat. I could barely believe it. I’ve had that experience with planes, too. Big planes are fine, but little planes make me sick. I didn’t take any medication or wear a patch, either. It was like magic.
Towards the end, we walked Ripley to the back of the boat, out of the wind. It was hotter there, and it felt like the boat was moving more. I feel like if we’d stayed there, I might’ve gotten sick, but we didn’t. We went past a lighthouse and Fathom Five National Marine Park, both of which were beautiful from the boat. Even Ripley got to stick her head off the side and look around. Her photo below doesn’t really give a good perspective of how high off of the water we were. She wasn’t fazed, though. Ripley just thought it was neat.
Our boat unloaded at about 3:30 or so, and we drove off of the boat with some relief, despite the fact that we’d enjoyed our voyage. It turns out that she ship has dinner cruises and stargazing tours sometimes, which might be neat if we ever visit again. As it stands, Canada has two national parks in the area, which was interesting enough for us. I don’t know that I can say we visited Fathom Five, but we definitely saw it. On the mainland, there’s also Bruce Peninsula National Park, which we visited as soon as we were back on dry ground.
We didn’t get to see a lot of it, but we did climb up a massive tower to look around at the landscape. We even managed to spot our ferry, once again full of cars and returning to South Baymouth. John and Vicki took a little walk around while Mark, Ripley, and I climbed the tower. The stairs were made of metal grating, and Ripley panicked about halfway up when the gates started getting uncomfortable under her toes. Mark had to carry her the rest of the way. Luckily, it was wood on top, so she got to look around once we made it up.
It was after 4 when we left, and we still had almost 4 hours to drive. With the ferry lasting so long, it ended up being quite a long day. We stopped at Pita Pit for dinner in Hanover. All of the Phillips clan enjoys a good pita, so we were pretty satisfied with out choice, even though we’d assumed that we would get to have something other than a sandwich in London tonight, since it’s a big city. We got in too late for that, however.
We didn’t make it in until after 9pm. Out hotel is one of the fancier Canadian Motel 6’s. They’re so different up here from the way they are at home.
Tomorrow we will get up and go for a run and then make our way back into the US. I’ll be getting my last Tim Hortons fix until at least next year, I’m afraid. Woe is me.
– Trip Total : 2,656 miles –