Tuesday, August 14, 2007

O, Canada

My family and I just returned from our first vacation as a foursome. We were blessed by the presence of my precious mother who enjoyed our camping experience and gobbled up granddaughter time along the way. We camped together in a big roomy tent, and by all accounts both little girls fared very well, as did their parents who were able to get ample sleep.

Our intention was to go to Cheboygan, Michigan, explore Mackinac (prounouced Mackinaw) Island, then head to Tahquamenon Falls, Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes, and wrap up with a visit to Traverse City. Our plans changed, however, when in Cheboygan we were informed that wildfires had closed the parks near Tahquamenon, and our reservations would be refunded. Instead, a look at the map and my explorer husband (who, incidentally, has William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame nesteled comfortably in the upper branches of his family tree) decided instead to journey into Canada and around the Ontario side of Lake Huron.

We did enjoy a beautiful stay in Cheboygan and a day trip by ferry to Mackinac Island. I told Jake that the place reminded me of an idealized version of New England. Automobiles are forbidden on the island. The only way to get around is by bicycle, carriage-taxi, or horseback. Everything is beautiful and pristine there, and the flowers were stunning. We enjoyed a woodland picnic out on a hiking trail that consisted of delicious smoked whitefish from the lake, goat cheese and a bottle of wine. We also ran into the Governor's husband and son who were enchanted by our children.

My only previous experience in Canada was in Toronto, which I visited over ten years ago while living in Upstate New York, so my idea of Ontario was shaped by this visit and by the acquaintance of my sister-friend Laurie who is a native. Both of these contributions made me assume that the place was wonderful, but I had no idea the beauty that we would encounter. It was quite rural--the parts we saw at least. There was much driving between anything that could be called a city, and we learned the hard way to get your gasoline while it was still daylight as most of the pumps were closed at night. We stayed at a beautiful family campground on the edge of Manitoulin Island, the largest freshwater island in the world. I will say that neither the website nor our photographs do justice to the beauty of this place. We heard the howls of coyotes all through the night and the calls of loons out on the lake. There were planned activities for families, and we attended a traditional Canadian corn roast while staying there.

We had to travel off the island by ferry, so we took a one-hour and forty-five-minute voyage to Tobermory, Ontario to head toward Detroit and out of the country. Annabella loved riding the ferry, and loved hearing that our van was riding in the ship's belly.

We dropped my mother off at the airport in Detroit around 2 am on Monday to catch her return flight to SC, and we got home and in bed at 4:00. It was a beautiful trip, and following are some of our photos from the week. Enjoy!

Annabella in the crystal-clear waters of Lake Huron. The bottom of the Lake near Cheboygan had a super soft sandy bottom, and was suprisingly shallow. You could go out 300 yards and still the water was only up to your thigh.

Jake reserved a tee-pee our first night at the campground. Needless to say, Annabella was quite excited. Here's Penelope sleeping in her little basket near the camp fire. Our weather was very comfortable the whole week.

Bella was exhausted at the end of each day, but she was not too tired to eat s'mores and hear "scary stories" by the campfire.

We went fishing while still in Michigan. Even though we were out for several hours and saw a few fish that we figured to be about 12 lbs. swimming around in the seaweed, this little catch was all anyone caught. The proud little angler nagged it on her Dora the Explorer fishing pole.

For $5.00 you can purchase admission to the Butterfly House on Mackinac Island--an indoor dwelling for over five-hundred butterflies of all sizes and native habitats.

My sweet little Beauteous Mae, who, incidentally, decided to roll over for the first time while lying on the picnic table of our campsite in Canada.

Mackinac Island was beautiful--here are some shots from around the island, including gardens that inspired me to begin my own cottage garden in my newly-purchased back yard.

Nana and Penelope at sunset.

As we hiked around the car-less island, both of our little girls fell asleep. We let them nap together out in the woods during our picnic.

Chipmunk Cheeks around the campfire.

Views from around Manitou Island and our campground... and finally... our sweet ladies.