Friday, 14 September 2018

Older and Wiser? Questionable!!!




They say that we become wiser as we get older. We certainly hope that's true. It wasn't quite as bad as shown in this cartoon, but it wasn't far off!

About 15 years ago, Mark and I went out west to the Rockies, and we hired a canoe to take a short trip on one of the many beautiful lakes out there. We decided that Mark would steer from the back, and I would paddle in the front.

After about 10 minutes, my hips started to ache, and my legs were really sore. I started to complain that I was in pain and that I couldn't change the position of my legs to gain relief. After bombarding him with innumerable resounding moans and groans, Mark finally relented and we turned back. I felt as though I had let him down, but he was very understanding - (no surprises there!!).


Years later, once we had mastered the art of canoeing, we realized that we had seated ourselves at the wrong ends of the canoe and were, in fact, paddling the rear of the canoe at the front! No wonder there was no leg-room in the 'front'! Duh!!!

We've shared that story with our more enlightened friends since living up north. Some have been very gracious with their empathy. However, most have joined us in guffawing at our naivety! It has certainly given us many mirthful moments in the latter years - and we now enjoy comfortable canoe trips.

Increasing wisdom (or is it just plain, common sense??) has its benefits!!!
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Sunday, 26 August 2018

Tunnel Vision expands to much, much more...

Tunnel Vision expands to much, much more...




Last year, we saw an intriguing post on social media. Our friends, John and Dianne, had visited an old railway tunnel in Brockville, Ontario, and were raving about it. At the mention of railways, my interest was piqued, and Mark did some research and promptly placed the Brockville Railway Tunnel on our bucket list. Yesterday, we gave ourselves the tunnel experience, but - as usual - discovered much, much more when we explored the town of Brockville, itself. 

After parking near the tunnel, we started by fulfilling a basic need - the call of nature! The destination of relief was located on Blockhouse Island, just a few strides from the car. Emerging more comfortably (😊), we decided to explore the little island before heading to the main attraction. 
Marina on Blockhouse Island


View of the St. Lawrence River from the Island



Blockhouse Island, formerly known as Hospital Island, juts out into the St. Lawrence River. The waterfront in Brockville is a pleasure to see and experience. The island is a great place from which one can watch the cruise and cargo ships plying the waters of the International Seaway shipping channel. In fact, a huge tanker was just passing when we arrived. A central attraction is The Crow's Nest Bistro, an open-air restaurant right next to the quay where the 1000 Islands and Seaway Cruises embark. With the marina on one side, and the open waters of the St. Lawrence Seaway on the other, it makes for a pleasant repast, or a casual cup of coffee, while enjoying the surroundings. 






We decided to walk around the perimeter of the islet (about a 10 minute stroll) and were delighted to see so many Muskoka chairs dotted around the park, all of which had been donated to the town.


Muskoka/Adirondack Chairs - donated to the town



There are a few features that stand out - the light beacon at the end of the park, a replica of an RCAF warplane, a flower display showing an anchor, and a beautiful memorial dedicated to women who have suffered from violence. 


Light beacon at the end of the island






(The following movie clip is best viewed in FULL SCREEN)  


A short movie clip showing the Memorial dedication

We spent about half an hour just enjoying the park, and taking advantage of the Muskoka chairs, while sitting in the shade. 




We were now ready to explore the tunnel. 




This is an interesting (or as a sign indicated) - an amazing place! Canada's first railway tunnel was completed in 1860 after many controversial debates at council level. Many thought that it would be better, and more economical, to direct the railroad track around the town but, those in favour of constructing a tunnel that would go directly under the town on its way north, would win out. The town hall was erected above the tunnel shortly after it was in use. The tunnel was built to connect the growing port of Brockville and its industrial waterfront area with the outlying areas between the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers. It was in use until 1969. 


The Town Hall, under which the tunnel was built


In 2017, the tunnel, which had been restored and repaved, was opened to the public as part of the Brockville trail system

Entrance to the tunnel

The first thing we noticed was the drop in temperature - which felt like a difference of 15 degrees (C) - a welcome change from the heat outside. The tunnel is 1721' in length, and includes 13 information panels. Continual light displays of colour punctuate the experience when walking from one end to the other, and the music that permeates the length of the tunnel is proudly Canadian. (If you listen carefully, you'll hear Mark singing along with Great Big Sea in their rendering of, "When I'm Up, I can't get down"! ) 



If you listen carefully, you'll hear Mark singing!







We took a slow walk to the other end of the tunnel, taking in the different colours in the mineral deposits that had been accentuated by the running groundwater. Even without the coloured light display, the rockface on the side and above was fascinating. 


Groundwater continually drips in the tunnel


At one point, a ring of red light traveled the entire length of the tunnel, accompanied by the sound of a passing train, giving the visitor a taste of what it would have been like, back in the day. 



You can hear the train sound effect towards the end of this short video clip

The tunnel had ventilation shafts to help dissipate the clouds of steam and smoke, and there was an extraction shaft halfway along which provided access during the blasting process during construction.


Extraction Shaft, looking up from directly below

Ventilation shafts


Apparently, there are plans to extend the walking trail beyond the tunnel, through a second tunnel along the gorge at the other end. 



Gorge at the other end of the tunnel, with second tunnel used by the railway

All in all, it was an excellent, educational experience, and one that we would recommend to anyone visiting the area. 



Diagrammatic representation of the full length of the tunnel showing the town above


Attracted by the unusual spires of a couple of churches in the town (when we were parking), we resolved to explore some more before leaving. We're so glad we did, as we came upon some wonderful architecture in what would appear to be the 'legal' area surrounding the Court of Justice. 


First Presbyterian Church

First Baptist Church



Superior Court of Justice




Fronted by green space, the Courthouse stands proudly as a reminder of the past - both in its style and in its scope. It was here that I found out that Brockville was once called, Elizabethtown, and that it was renamed after Sir Isaac Brock - a Canadian hero from the War of 1812





From the simple, but impressive war memorial, to the delight of the surrounding buildings, and the display of well-kept flowerbeds, the diversion was well worth the extra hour we spent in the town before heading back to Kingston, where we are staying. 

Always open to surprises in our journey through life, we discovered the treasure of another town and were glad that our 'tunnel vision' expanded to embrace it!

................

Here's a short movie about the history of the tunnel (courtesy of YouTube):



If you are interested in the Information Panels along the tunnel, this is an excellent site, with clearer pictures and explanations:     Signs in the Tunnel 

One of the signs in the tunnel

If you are REALLY FASCINATED by this tunnel, check out the short slide show of street signs below and above the tunnel. (You may not be able to see this on a tablet, ipad, or cell phone). 











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Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Saving a Moose!

Saving a Moose!


Talk about being in the right place, at the right time!

We had just been out wild berry picking, and had arranged to drop in to see our friends, Julie and Chris, who have a trailer campsite on South Bay, Dunlop Lake, just north of town. 

We decided to sit overlooking the lake and were fussing the dogs, and shooting the breeze when, out of the blue, Mark shouted out, 'Look, there's a moose swimming by!' We estimated that it was a young calf, possibly about a year old. We couldn't believe how close to the shore it was, so we shot over to the adjacent (and vacant) camping spots to see where it was heading. 



At that point, the moose turned and headed out to the open lake. We thought it was heading for one of the small islands in the middle of the lake, but it kept changing directions. We began to be a little concerned as it was moving further away from dry land and we thought it was in danger of getting tired and drowning. 

Julie got on her bike, and cycled to the main office where she told Wayne (the owner) what was happening. He and his buddy took their motor boat out as soon as they could.



Meanwhile, the moose was heading towards one of the smaller islands. It seemed to get close to the shore, and then turned around and swam out into the open water again. Whereas we had gotten to see its shoulders as well at its head when it passed close by, we could only see its head, and we became even more concerned. It was quite the distance from us, as you can see by this photo we took. 




We watched as the boat neared the moose, and attempted to steer it towards the nearest island so that it could recover for a while. Gradually, it neared the island, and we saw it step out of the water and onto dry land... but then it dove back into the lake and began swimming again! Three others had joined us and we were all keeping our fingers crossed and holding our breath with the hope that its head would not disappear beneath the waves. 

Wayne was steering the boat to intercept the pathway the moose was taking, and to guide it to the next island. Once again, with bated breath, we watched as it approached the island, but swam right past it! 



By this time, we figured it had been swimming for at least 30 minutes and we weren't too sure if it was going to make it or not. 

However, it was now swimming with the flow of the lake and finally made it to the main land across the bay. We watched, with relief, as it climbed fully out of the water, and ran across the lawn of one of the lakeside cottages, and into the forest beyond. We couldn't believe how much energy this animal had, and what a strong swimmer it was. 

Everyone cheered and clapped, knowing that it was safe, and we gave a thumbs up to Wayne and his buddy as they passed us by.

We were all excited to have witnessed the whole incident - especially as it had a happy ending!






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Monday, 9 July 2018

Retire to Elliot Lake? Why not?

Retire to Elliot Lake? Why not?


This week, the CBC posted an article about Elliot Lake, including an overview of the recent history of the city from its early mining days to its current status as one of the Retirement Capitals in Canada. This prompted me to tell the story of how we came to be living here.



Back in the early 2000's, when traveling from my school in Aurora to our home in Barrie, I used to see billboards on HWY 400 encouraging people to check out Elliot Lake. I searched for it on Google Maps and thought - 'who, in their right mind, would want to live up there?'  Little did I know, at that time, that we would be making that very decision.

It was in February of 2013 that Mark saw and ad in the CAA magazine offering two free nights at a Hampton Inn hotel in Elliot Lake, with a tour of the city. The idea was to encourage people to 'take a look' and consider retiring to this 'Jewel of the North'. (It's now changed to one free night, and a specially-rated price for a second night).

Similar ad in the 2018 CAA magazine


With no other plans made for the March break of that year, we decided to avail ourselves of this generous offer with absolutely no consideration of ever moving home. In a mercenary way, we just saw '2 free nights' and took advantage of the offer. We'd always liked 'the north', having spent a lot of time in Algonquin Park over the years.

So, on Monday, March 11th, we set off on the 5 hour journey from Barrie, loving the scenery more and more as we got closer to our destination. The sky was overcast, and the ground was snow-covered, with banks on the side of the roads that were as high as the car. Nevertheless, we took it in our stride, though were a little disappointed that the sun did not show its face for the two nights and three days that we were there.

At the arranged time, we met Lori outside the Retirement Living offices, and she took us on a tour of the main areas of the city - the shopping plaza (upper and lower), the two main beaches in town, the Fire Tower Lookout (always a winner), the ski-hill, and the hockey arena, as well as the various amenities that would be available to us. As well, she showed us an array of single-family homes, semis, townhomes, and apartments.


Spine Beach

Spruce Beach

At one time, she asked us what we would do if we were to move up here. Without consulting one another, we both blurted out, 'Travel' - then looked at each other and grinned. Lori suggested that it might be more suitable for us to live in an apartment as we could just turn the key and go, with no worries. I was thinking that I didn't really like the idea of renting again - and, after having a garden for so long, certainly didn't like the idea of living in an apartment. However, what she was saying made some kind of sense, at some level.

Warsaw Place Apartments

The more we saw of the town and experienced its community feel, the more we felt a sense of peaceful happiness. The people we met were wonderful, down-to-earth, and very welcoming.

An interesting incident, during our stay, involved an interaction with a little French-speaking lady. We were checking out Foodland - a grocery store in town that was temporarily housed in the Collins Centre recreational facility, following the tragic collapse of the mall the previous year - when an announcement came over the speakers asking the owners of the white Yaris to come to the front desk. When we got there, this little lady explained that she had backed into our car, thinking it was a snow bank! (Our first thought was that, if this had been in Barrie, the perpetrators would have probably taken off, without confessing to the incident!!) We called to inform the police and stood chatting with her while waiting for the law officers to arrive. About 30 minutes had passed when my cell phone rang and, to my surprise, it was one of the police officers who was calling to apologize for being delayed!!  We thought we had landed in the Twilight Zone!!  When they arrived, about ten minutes later, one of the officers spent quite a while suggesting places for us to check out while we were here!

Collings Centre Recrational Facility

On the way home, Mark, who had taken early retirement two years previously, suggested that I could do the same, instead of continuing to teach until 2019, which had been our original plan. With a choice like that, it was a no-brainer! I loved my teaching job - and loved being with my students, but I could feel freedom beckoning and it was strong!

We discussed the pros and cons as the excitement built between us. The idea of renting made sense - at least for the first year to see if we liked living in the area, rather than buying a home and then having to go through the process of selling it a year later; and the idea of being in an apartment made sense with what we had planned for our retirement - to travel extensively.

We put our Barrie house up on the market and sold it within two days - at the asking price, with no conditions. We took this to be a positive sign that we were making the right decision. Retirement Living put us up in the same hotel for a further two nights so that we could finalize details and choose our living space. If we were going to live in an apartment, we wanted to be high up and have a nice view - which we got! 

Even in the winter, the view from our balcony takes our breath away
The sunsets we see from our balcony are awesome


Some of our friends were a little concerned about us (as a gay couple) moving to a mining town. We weren't too worried as we have always believed that we attract the nicest of people into our lives; and they needn't have worried because when we moved in to our apartment on May 31st, it happened to be Elliot Lake's very first Gay Pride Weekend!  Talk about rolling out the carpets to welcome us!

Us standing with our supportive mayor, Dan Marchisella

3rd year in - when I was chosen to be the 'Emperor of Algoma' for the year... lol

Mark and I carrying the banner in the Pride Parade in Elliot Lake

In the 5 years we have been here, we have made some super friends and have come to love our home and our community. It's great to go downtown and bump into people that we have come to know, stop and chat, and then carry on in our merry way. 

We have discovered many interesting trails and lakes (there are over 4000 lakes within 100 square kilometres of the town), awesome beaches on Lake Huron, just 30 minutes away, and it has put us closer to Lake Superior, which is just a couple of hours away. We are surrounded by wilderness, punctuated by small villages and townships, and the wildlife is there to be enjoyed.


Barney Bear stood at the side of the road for the longest time - just north of where we live


People have (justifiably) accused us of being blasé about our love for Elliot Lake, reminding us that we are hardly ever there. This is true, as our house/pet sitting adventures do take us away from town a lot. 

However, whenever we turn north on Hwy 108, we both have a deep feeling of excitement of being back home - even if it is for a short while.

Fountain in Horne Lake dedicated to the two women who lost their lives during the collapse of the Mall in 2012

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From mining town to retirement destination—the transformation of Elliot Lake

From mining town to retirement destination—the transformation of Elliot Lake

Elliot Lake Miners' Memorial

This week, the CBC posted an article about Elliot Lake, including an overview of the recent history of the city from its early mining days to its current status as one of the Retirement Capitals in Canada.

We moved here nearly one year after the tragic collapse of the mall - an event which traumatized this community. We've met several people who have related their experience of that terrible day and the effect it has had upon them. 

However, we have also been inspired by the resilience of the people of Elliot Lake. No matter what is thrown at them (the closure of the mines in the early 1990's was devastating to the community), they rise up and thrive again. We have been blown away by the welcome we have received, and feel that we have been embraced by the community. We have also been fortunate to make so many new and wonderful friends here, and we have witnessed that welcoming spirit over and again towards newcomers who find there way here.

This article, which also features our friends, Janice and Barb, as well as our amazing mayor, Dan, captures the spirit of the townsfolk, and the sense of community that is felt by those who live here. 

Our friends, Janice and Barb

Dan Marchisella - our amazing Mayor


Here's the link to the article: From Mining Town to Retirement Destination


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You may also be interested in these links:

Elliot Lake - A City is Born   (26 minute video)

Exploring Elliot Lake   (46 minute video)

Why We Love Elliot Lake   (Our own slideshow, taken during our first Fall in Elliot Lake)



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