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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