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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


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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Saturday, 7 July 2018

A Hero in the Making

A Hero in the Making!

Like so many countries in Northern Europe, Ontario is going through a heat wave - with some areas under outside fire bans and water restrictions.

We love our west-facing apartment, but we don't have air conditioning. So, there are some afternoons and evenings we feel we are living in a greenhouse!

This last week, we decided to drive into Sudbury to watch a movie, figuring that we'd have a nice, cool car ride and be able to sit in an air-conditioned theatre for a couple of hours.

On the way into Sudbury, just before hitting Massey, we passed a young man on a bicycle wearing a bright yellow T-shirt. Mark noticed the message on the back of his shirt which said, “Cycling Canada for Mental Health”. You can just see him in the distance in this photo, when enlarged...

Intrigued, we googled it and found out that the young man's name was Ryan Martin, from Guelph, Ontario. He was cycling across Canada to raise funds and awareness for mental health. An article posted in Guelph Today (an information hub for local news and events in the area) stated: "In May, the 23-year-old Centennial High School and Wilfrid Laurier University student will fly to British Columbia where he will dip his bicycle in the Pacific Ocean before embarking on a three month, 8,000 kilometre ride across Canada to raise awareness and inspire others." (Click the picture below to read the full article).

Ryan has been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and bi-polar disorder. On his website, he explains...

'It has been about a six-year process to identify what was going on in my head, seek help, and get on the right track to set myself up for success moving forward.' 

He left Tofino, B.C. at the end of May, and is planning to get to St. John’s, NFLD, in September.

We decided to double back to give him a shout out and a thumbs up for encouragement. His face lit up when we lowered the window and called out to him by name. After doing a U-turn, we passed him again, and shouted out more encouragement to him.

So inspired by what he was doing, we decided that more needed to done to support this young man. Parking the car in Massey, we waited for him to catch us up and pass us by, thinking that we would take a movie of him as he approached so that we could spread his story on social media and encourage people to donate to his cause.

We were thrilled when he actually stopped and spoke with us. During the short conversation, he told us that he had been feeling a bit down that afternoon, having a bit of a cold and cycling in the heat and humidity. Apparently, our shout out to him had raised his spirits, and he had wondered how we had known his name, thinking that we may had been friends of his from Southern Ontario! We explained what we had done as we continued rolling the movie. (We got his permission to post the video we took of him).

We shook his hand, and wished him luck as he continued his journey.

As we got back into the coolness of our car to resume our own journey, we were comparing how comfortable we were with how sweaty and hot he was... we both felt uplifted and we knew, in our hearts, we had just met a real live hero.

We made the decision to get behind Ryan and support him in the best way we knew how - through social media.

We posted the movie and the links to his website, together with other information we were able to gather. We have been absolutely gobsmacked with the results and, within 24 hours, the movie had already been viewed over 1000 times on Facebook alone, and is currently showing at 1655 views. (The version you are seeing in this blog was uploaded to YouTube for that purpose).

If you feel inspired to donate to his cause, please visit his website which tells his story and provides that opportunity for you to help him reach his goal of $100,000.

Here’s his story:

Follow Ryan on Instagram:
For more information, check out The Canadian Mental Health Association

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Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Early on Saturday morning, two local lads were caught red-handed in an attempt to kidnap a duck-tolling retriever and two pussycats.

The couple were apprehended just outside the town of Manotick, with the three pets in the back seat of their car, apparently lured there by copious treats.

Alan Steed, 66, and Mark Napper, 61, of Warsaw Place, Elliot Lake, were remanded in custody and taken to Sudbury Correctional Centre where they will remain until the trial later on this week. Steed admitted to a previous felony in the same area of Manotick, Ontario, where he stole a loaf a bread from the local market, just eighteen months ago. Napper, who has no previous convictions, admitted that he had, on several occasions, thought of kidnapping these three pets. Both of the men confessed that they had been masquerading as house/pet sitters for the last three years.

The owners could not be reached for comment as they are currently traveling.

Speaking on behalf of herself and the two pussycats, Jazzy said, 'We don't mind the boyz... they give us our food and treats, and they take me out for walks. However, they can never replace our mom and dad, so we're glad they have been caught."

The three furballs will be looked after by the S.P.C.A until the owners can be notified.

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Saturday, 6 January 2018

Making the Most of Winter in Northern Ontario

Making the Most of Winter in Northern Ontario

It's been a while since we shared a blogpost so, at the beginning of the New Year, we felt it was time to rectify this. 

In Northern Ontario, we greeted 2018 with temperatures that plummeted to -42 degrees celsius (with the windchill factor) - making this one of the colder starts to a New Year for a while. 

I remember, when I first came to Canada, someone told me that we have a choice regarding our attitude to winter - we could either complain about it, or get out and enjoy it. We have always chosen the latter option. Over the last few days, we've ventured out, suitably attired, to make the most of the Winter Wonderland that our area becomes at this time of year. 

Dressed to Chill!

The route we took

On New Year's Day, we decided to go in search for deer (being Mark's favourite wild animal). Normally, we see a plethora of them at Iron Bridge; but, for some reason, they are more scarce so far this year. We did espy one on the lawn of one of the residents who feeds them, and managed to capture him before he bounded off into the surrounding forest. 

Just caught this fella as he headed to the safety of the forest

Heading north of Iron Bridge, we set off for the road which winds alongside the Mississagi River. 

Very interesting road, with great rock formations on either side

The road follows the winding Mississagi River for quite a few kilometres

So much of the river is completely frozen over, though the water is running furiously underneath the ice, as can be discerned from the speed at which it is flowing where there is still open water. It always fascinates us to watch the ice floes as they quietly float by. 

There were also some huge cracks in the ice and many of the separate chunks had pushed themselves upwards - like white tectonic plates after an earthquake. 

Large cracks in the ice

The ice-fishing season is well on its way as evidenced by the presence of ice huts on Cummings Lake. 

Ice huts on Cummings Lake, north of Iron Bridge

 We love the contrast of the lakes/rivers/rocks/trees with the openness of the tracts of farm land in between Iron Bridge and where the road meets the Mississagi River, further north. We have often seen a herd of Elk on the edge of the forest, though one of the locals told us that, a couple of years ago, the farmers erected a fence where the forest meets the fields in order to protect crops. Hence, we haven't seen them lately. 

These cows were just as interested in us as we were in them!

A lone shack - reminiscent of Pioneer Times

On the way back from Sault Ste. Marie, on January 3rd,  we noticed that some of the locals were taking advantage of the snow to enjoy some tobogganing. 

We also stopped at Bell's Falls. 

The coldest day so far was January 4th but, since this was the first day I was free of the catheter (after nearly 4 months), we decided to wrap up extra warm and take a hike out to Cupcake Rock - one of our favourite places to visit. 

Stanrock Road is smoother to travel on during the winter - all potholes are nicely filled in!

Cupcake Rock, with Quirke Lake in the background

The snowmobile tracks made it easier for us to negotiate our way through the thick snow

You can see how cold it was on that day by the way that the condensation on Mark's glasses were frozen over - that was a thin film of ice on the lenses, which he couldn't remove until we got back into the car!!!

Today, the ski hill was in operation here, in Elliot Lake. We parked the car and watched the brave folk for a while. 

Chairlifts at Mount Dufour, Elliot Lake

This guy looked very accomplished and confident:

Lastly, we visited our two local swimming beaches, Spruce Beach and Spine Beach, where ice huts are beginning to appear on frozen Elliot Lake. 

Spruce Beach

Spine Beach

No matter where we go, or how far we travel, it always feels good to see the welcome sign of home. 

We are always grateful to be living in such a wonderful area of Ontario which never fails to thrill us, no matter what the season!

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