Northern Ontario 2013 – Part 2: Manitouwadge and Pancake Bay

This is part two in the two-part miniseries of our trip to Northern Ontario in the summer of 2013. Part one is here. When we last left our heroes, they we getting ready to leave Sleeping Giant for Manitouwadge.

Aug 23

Driving Day Three, though there was far less driving on this day than most of the other driving days. In fact, Driving Day Three and Driving Day Four combined were less than either of Driving Days Two or Five. We were on the road by 9am and about three hours later, we arrived in Marathon and did the same thing we did for lunch last year in Marathon – stopped at Pizza Hut, picked up a pizza to go, and drove down to a place called Pebble Beach. We enjoyed our pizza on the top of a cliff overlooking the beach, and then went down to the beach itself. There’s a ton of driftwood on the beach – and we’re talking about 20-30 foot logs here, not just a bunch of sticks. Rolly says they regularly remove it, but there was a pile that looked like a “fort” (which must have been arranged by hand, with enough room inside that a few people could semi-comfortably sit) which looked exactly like one that was there last year. After climbing around on the rocks and logs for a while, we were back in the van for the last bit of this day’s drive.

About an hour later, we were at Rolly & Candyce’s place in Manitouwadge. Arriving at around the same time were Norma and Lloyd, Rolly’s aunt and uncle from Dawson Creek, BC, who we had never met (Rolly hadn’t seen them in over 20 years). We got to know them a little over the next few days, and they are wonderful people; it’s too bad they live four thousand kilometres away. Also arriving shortly after us were Jackie’s brother Mitch (from Tracy, California), and two of Rolly’s (grown) sons, Foster (Owen Sound) and Ethan (Mississauga). Rolly’s eldest son, Rhys, is in the Canadian Navy and is stationed in Halifax, so he was not able to make it. We set up the trailer in Rolly’s driveway, right behind John and Jackie’s trailer, and just down from Norma and Lloyd’s camper/pickup. Rolly and Candyce don’t have the biggest house but they had thirteen people staying with them; without the campers it would have been a little cramped. Rolly later referred to everyone as his “band of gypsies”.

Dinner was a big get-together at Candyce’s friend Donna’s place. They had cooked both a roast and a turkey, and there were veggies and potatoes and salads and such as well. For dessert, they had several (at least four) of those big metal lasagna pans (i.e. two feet long, a foot wide, and four inches thick) full of cheesecake and Black Forest cake. Donna even gave us a couple of them to bring back to Candyce’s place, where we gradually finished them over the next few days.

Aug 24

The punny Perrows (photo by Michel Bazinet)Wedding Day! Tradition says the groom should not see the bride on the wedding day until the wedding, so Candyce stayed at Donna’s the previous night. The morning was very leisurely – the boys watched TV for a while, and we played cards and chatted. Last summer, Rolly had helped the boys make slingshots, and even offered to keep them until our next visit. Unfortunately, he’d forgotten where he put them, so he helped Nicky make another one. Nicky spent a good chunk of the morning shooting rocks at a plastic bottle, and Ryan and I took a few shots as well.

Soon after lunch, we got dressed for the wedding. As I mentioned in the previous article, this was a Hallowe’en themed wedding, so “getting dressed for the wedding” was a little different from other weddings we’d been to. The four of us wore costumes that were linked – we were the “punny Perrows”, and each of us went as a different pun:

  • Gail had a white shirt with a yellow circle on it as well as a cape, red horns, and a pitchfork – she was a “devilled egg”.
  • I was dressed as a medieval knight, complete with sword, with a LED light attached to my belt – I was a “knight light”. (Once I turned the light off, I was the Dark Knight.) In the picture here, the light is mostly hidden by the sword. 
  • Ryan had a baseball cap with a “C” on it, a foam finger (Toronto Rock!), and a t-shirt made by Gail that said “Ceiling” – he was a “ceiling fan”.
  • Nicky was dressed in hospital scrubs with a stethoscope and a necklace with hot peppers on it – he was “Dr. Pepper”.

The wedding started around 3:00 and was held in a beautiful gazebo in Donna’s back yard. The weather was perfect and it was a lovely ceremony. Rolly was dressed as a Klingon, though he didn’t wear the headpiece with the long hair and bumpy forehead during the ceremony. Candyce didn’t wear a costume but had a beautiful orange and black dress that she had specially ordered from China – and then had a friend fix because when it arrived, it was the wrong size.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith (photo by Michel Bazinet)

There were a number of other good costumes there – an awesome Xena, two different Shrek’s and one (male) Fiona, two other knights, Fred Flintstone, and a whole family full of Angry Birds. To go along with Rolly’s Klingon, Foster went as Dr. McCoy while Ethan donned the Vulcan ears as Mr. Spock. There was even a man who donned a Nike hat and red Nike golf shirt, coloured his face, neck, and arms dark with shoe polish or something, and went as Tiger Woods. I’m still trying to decide whether that was in poor taste or kind of clever.

The wedding party went for pictures, and we went back to Rolly & Candyce’s place to hang out until the reception, which took place at a local bar called K & G’s. The hall was all decorated for Hallowe’en, including bride and groom zombies behind the head table, and bride and groom skeletons on top of the orange and black wedding cake. The food was great, the speeches were fun (and there weren’t too many of them, just enough), and the music was good. The boys were up way too late but hey, it was their first wedding, and we’re on vacation.

Aug 25

Sooooo hungover.

Oh wait, no I wasn’t. I wasn’t even drunk the night before. We had another quiet morning of cards, reading, and chatting. As much as I like to be active while on vacation (we’ve never been big on “head to the beach, sit down, stay for nine hours”), I really enjoyed these mornings of doing a whole lotta nothing.

After lunch, Rolly took the four of us to the dump. Yes, the dump. And not only did we all go willingly, we all looked forward to it. Rolly and Candyce had both told us about a bear that lives near the dump and frequently wanders in to find things to eat, so we asked Rolly if we could go to see him. He took us over and we had no trouble spotting the bear; he was right out in the open, digging through the mounds of garbage for things to eat. Candyce said he was a big fat one, but I wouldn’t know a fat bear from a lean and muscular bear – I just know this guy was big. We were able to get pretty close before he backed away, but once we backed off a little, he ignored us completely. We didn’t get out of the truck at all but got lots of pictures.

A big fat bear

After the bear sighting, a few people decided to go swimming in Manitouwadge Lake, a 5 minute walk from Rolly’s place. Rolly, Foster, Alison, Ryan and Nicky got their suits on, while Gail and I walked down as well (with no intention of swimming). The lake turned out to be very cold, and neither Rolly nor Ryan could bring themselves to go in beyond their waist. Nicky dunked his head a couple of times, but Foster and Alison were the only ones who actually swam at all. The swim didn’t last too long before everyone was frozen despite the fact that it was 30+ degrees out. For dinner, Candyce had ordered pizza from the local pizza joint. Luckily for Candyce and Rolly, the pizza from this place is very good; when I say “the local pizza joint” I mean the local pizza joint – the next closest is the Pizza Hut in Marathon, an hour away.

Aug 26

Another hot, humid, and lazy day. Nicky asked Jackie and Mitch if they wanted to play Scrabble, and playing Scrabble with them is something I’ve never had the guts to do. Jackie and Mitch are both very good, and I’m pretty sure their sister Claudette (who lives in Alberta but was in poor health so could not make the wedding) was at one point nationally ranked. Nicky did very well in a close game, finishing third but within five points of both Mitch and Jackie, though he did get a fair bit of help from Rolly.

We spent some time in the afternoon doing more shooting, and then after dinner we got ready to go on a drive to nowhere. As I mentioned, this was our third trip to Northern Ontario and we had yet to see any wildlife that we wouldn’t see at home. On this trip we had already seen a bear, so we told Rolly we wanted to see a moose. He said the best way to do that would be to drive on the highway early in the morning or after dark, so we decided to head out at night with the intention of driving south on the highway for 20-30 minutes and then driving back. Just before we left, Rolly (who’s a bit of a joker) told the boys and Alison to put their tinfoil hats on, which would increase the chances of seeing a moose. He didn’t say why this would work, just that it would. To their credit, neither Ryan nor Alison simply grabbed the hat and put it on, even after Rolly did. NIcky did, and even brought some foil to me and Gail for us to wear, but to this day I’m not 100% sure whether he immediately bought into it or was just playing along with the joke. With Nicky, that second option is highly possible. But we did get a picture with the hats:

The moose-attracting hats

We left around 9:00, and managed to get lucky. About 15 km south of the town, Rolly suddenly stopped and said “there’s one.” Sure enough, in the bushes on the left side of the road was a moose. We couldn’t see it clearly, but well enough to get a good sense of the size of this animal. Think about one of those big Clydesdale horses; this guy could have been its big brother. Attempts to take pictures met with dismal failure since it was too dark, so I have nothing to show here but we were pretty happy we’d seen both a moose and a bear on this trip. I guess the wolf will have to wait until next time.

Aug 27

Driving Day Four. We got up and after a quick breakfast, packed up the trailer and left the Wadge around 9:30. After gassing up and lunch at Subway in Wawa, we arrived at Pancake Bay Provincial Park around 1:30pm. John and Jackie had the site across the road from us, and Sandy, Alison, and Foster had a site behind J&J. By this point in the trip, we were experts at putting up the trailer and getting things ready, so we were set up in no time. Nicky and I joined Foster and Alison for a swim in the lake. Pancake Bay is right on Lake Superior, known for being the biggest and coldest of the Great Lakes, but the bay was relatively warm. Note that it wasn’t actually warm, just relatively when compared to the icy waters near Sleeping Giant and Lake Manitouwadge. After we were done swimming, we played some cribbage (which the boys are getting very good at).

After dinner, Nicky and Ryan went back to the lake with Foster until it started to get dark. By the time they got back, John had a campfire going, and they roasted marshmallows and spider dogs. Never heard of a spider dog? You take a wiener and cut the ends of it into quarters lengthwise about 1/3 of the way down. Then put it on a stick and cook it over the fire. As it cooks, the bits you cut will curl up, and by the time you’re done, they’ve curled far enough that it looks like a spider.

Aug 28

After a breakfast of pancakes (did I mention my wife is awesome?) (Wait, actually John made these ones.) (He’s pretty cool too.) we headed down to a “3.5 km” nature trail at the north end of the campground. I put the “3.5 km” in quotation marks because that’s what the signs said, but it was way longer than that. I fired up the MapMyRun app on my phone which uses the GPS to keep track of where and how far you walk/hike/run/bike. Before the phone’s battery died, we were over 6 km and weren’t finished yet. We were making pretty good time though since the mosquitoes in there were unbelievable, and every time we stopped for more than a few seconds, we were all slapping ourselves silly. Once we finished the walk we were all sweaty and covered in bug spray, so we couldn’t wait to get to the showers.

MishipeshuAfter lunch, we drove back north to Agawa Bay to see the pictographs. These are paintings on the side of a cliff, done by the Ojibwe several hundred years ago. This picture captures a few of them: there’s a canoe with people in it on the left, two snakes at the bottom, and the other thing is Mishipeshu, or the Great Lynx. Mishipeshu has the body of a big cat but has horns, spikes down its back, and is covered in scales.

At the base of the cliff is a small rock platform you can walk on to see the paintings, and then a short drop to the lake. Foster brought his swimsuit and was in the lake most of the time we were there, and the boys had fun climbing on the ropes attached to the platform to help swimmers get back out of the water. They must have done this for fifteen minutes until Ryan lost his grip and almost ended up in the water himself. He grabbed the rope again at the last second and pulled himself back up (still dry!), but then decided he’d had enough of that game.

When we were done there, we drove down a few km to the Agawa visitor’s centre, which was a combination tourist info booth plus a little museum with some very cool exhibits. I thought this was going to be a five-minute stop but we must have been there an hour before heading back to Pancake Bay.

The evening was similar to most other nights on this trip – dinner, cards, campfire, marshmallows, bed.

Aug 29

Our last day at Pancake Bay, so we decided to see as much of the bay itself as we could. We walked out to the beach just across from Sandy and Alison’s camp site, then turned right and walked along the beach to the point. The picture below shows the route we walked, though the point we walked to is shrouded in fog in the picture. I didn’t have my GPS app running so I don’t know how far it was, but it was farther than it looked. By the time we came back, it was almost lunch time.

Pancake Bay

We’d had fabulous weather on this trip. Up to this point, we’d had one night of rain and none during the day at all. But the forecast for the next day wasn’t looking so promising – it was supposed to rain all night and all day. We planned on packing up everything but the trailer in the evening, so we had less stuff to pack up wet the next day, and John and Jackie did the same. But Sandy, Alison, and Foster were in tents, so they could only pack up so much the night before, and packing up a wet tent and stuffing in the car wouldn’t have been too pleasant, so they decided to pack up and head home today instead. Sandy and Alison live in Sudbury, about 4 hours from Pancake Bay, and Foster was going to take a bus from there to Owen Sound. As it turned out, this was a good decision on their part.

After some more crib, we went over to the local trading post to fill up the gas tank, have a look around the gift shops, and pick up some ice cream treats. We then started to get ready for the trip home, packing up the clothes line and the mat outside the trailer door, taking down the dining tent, that sort of thing. By the time we were done, all that was left was to take down the trailer itself. After one last fire to get rid of the rest of our firewood, the boys went to bed, then Gail and I went back over to J&J’s trailer to play some more cards (with Jackie; John was asleep) before bed.

Aug 30

Driving Day Five, and the final day of this adventure. As I said, Sandy did make the right choice in leaving a day early, since it rained all night and was still raining when we got up (and continued raining for most of the drive home). J&J’s trailer is much bigger than ours, so we went over there for breakfast before the final packing up began. The pajamas were tossed in a bag, dirty dishes tossed in another bag to be washed when we got home, trailer taken down and hooked up to the van, garbage dumped, and goodbyes said. By about 8:30, were on the road home. We stopped in Espanola for lunch (Subway again) and some place called Grundy Lake for gas, and finally arrived home around 6:00pm. We all enjoyed this vacation and our new trailer is orders of magnitude more comfortable than tent camping, but boy, we all appreciated our beds that night.

Total number of kilometers driven: 3289.5. Not quite as many as last year (3608 km) but not bad. Pulling the trailer was a bit of a new experience. We’d done it a few times this summer, but most of southern Ontario is pretty flat so we didn’t notice much of a difference on the small hills. But driving north of Lake Superior is very hilly, so we certainly noticed the trailer then. We also used more gas, though I don’t know exactly how much more. But the comfort level vastly outweighs those extremely minor drawbacks. As I mentioned above, it was way more comfortable than sleeping in a tent, and the weather is just not an issue anymore. We’ve done our fair share of tent camping in rain, and Gail hates it. It ain’t much fun for the rest of us either. Plus the trailer has lots of storage space so packing the van is much easier. I’m even getting pretty good at backing up and having the trailer go where I want it to.

I don’t think I’ve written about the trailer at all since we got it. Earlier this year, John and Jackie gave it to us as a gift. They had it for several years (we stayed with them in it last summer in Manitouwadge and Pancake Bay) but they decided to buy a bigger one. Once they did, they asked if we wanted their old one. There was no way we were going to turn them down. We tried to buy it from them but they said no. We even gave them a “donation” that was a fraction of what the trailer is worth, but they refused to take it. In the short time we’ve had the trailer, we’ve gone on four different camping trips – three weekends in July and August and then this two week trip to northern Ontario. We have had an absolute blast, and we look forward to more camping next year too. We can’t thank John and Jackie enough for their generosity.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s