Dessert or work first?

I was married to a man who lived by the adage eat dessert first, life is uncertain. I wish I was that way because I would have kept posting this journey. But, alas, I have always believed it best to tackle the work first and then enjoy worry-free time off.

So that is the case here. I paused blogging to get some work done. In June I am creating and teaching five new two-hour workshops on one island in each of the five Great Lakes. I’ve completed Isle Royale, Beaver Island, and Manitoulin Island. This Saturday I teach Pelee Island and the following Saturday Wolfe Island. Then back here for dessert! Thanks to those of you following this blog despite my not widely promoting. Below is a sneak peak of things to come.

Islands outline the lovely Lake Superior

Manitoulin moments

It is Sunday, May 19, and I have been home a few days. I plan to finish posting this amazing trip, but it is going to take me a while. Tomorrow morning I leave for a fourth Great Lake with another ferry ride to a second island. While there I will not have Wi-Fi so I won’t be able to post again until at least Friday. Then I’ll be able get back to the stories and photos. For now, I’ll share some images from Manitoulin Island.

Because of the thin soils and hard rock below, I noticed that utility poles are often surrounded by large rocks inside a metal circle to keep them upright.

I’m always fascinated and love to photograph abandoned buildings weathering in place. I wonder about their history, who built them, who lived there, who left and why.

I found a few areas where you can drive right next to the tall layers of the Niagara escarpment, the remains of an ancient sea bed from millions of years ago that still embrace our Great Lakes like a crescent moon.

I keep thinking of Misery Bay and want to learn and share more. I’ll leave you with the beauty of the days while I was there enjoying the landscapes and people of Manitoulin Island.

Interviewing an islander during the pouring rain

It was Thursday and the rain would just not let up. Knowing it would rain, though, I had arranged to meet with Lyle at his farm at 10. In this way I would not interrupt his busy world nor my explorations on a good-weather day.

Wish I had taken more photos, but I do want to protect his privacy. As I got out of my car, I was greeted by a lovely old blind dog. Then Lyle opened the farmhouse door sporting a hair net. What?! I soon found out it was breadmaking day and he had just finished putting a huge batch of dough on top of the woodstove to rise.

He taught me that if you take the lid off slowly, it will come off clean.

We talked for over two hours and I found him to be so kind and intelligent and hilarious! I like to interview people who have lived on islands all their lives and this was Lyle’s case. He was born and raised on a farm practically across the street from this one.

I found out just how many talents and interests he has. He plays the fiddle, banjo, ukulele, mandolin, piano and sings. He plays in a band and even got a call asking them to play while I was there. He even tried to get me to sing “5 foot two, eyes are blue.” Lyle went right into the living room and started playing and I reluctantly sang the few words I know. But it was fun. Next time we meet I’m going to have the lyrics with me so I can sing with him.

Lyle is active in his church and looks over the cemetery. He told me his father and father’s brother married sisters and then shared the whole story around that. He talked many times about his lovely wife who I was able to meet as I was leaving. She even gave me a hand sanitizer to put on my key ring. Love having it with me.

Here he’s telling me a joke, one of many that even got this serious Norwegian laughing.

Much of what we discussed is for the book I’m working on, but let me just say I left as a friend. Before I left he called Mike and arranged for the three of us to meet the next day at the church across the street from where I was staying. The church Lyle attends. We were all to meet there at one to give Lyle time to dig a grave in the morning. Not kidding. Quite a wonderful human being.

Hiking the Coastal Alvar Trail-Part Two

Past the visitor center is the sign to the trails and the Coastal Alvar Trail is the red circle. The Trail was well marked and I found something interesting at nearly every step. These large local boulders were right at the start.

The steps must have been difficult to cut.

Here’s the start.

This is the underlying bedrock associated with alvar plant communities. Early in the year so I didn’t see rare alvar plants found here, Lakeside daisy and Pitcher’s thistle, not the rare Blanding’s turtle.

This shows the 1.3 kilometer-trail I hiked.

There were a tall white birch amongst the conifers.

I stopped often to capture the beauty and variety of the forest floor. Early in the year meant no insects, nice bonus.

Tiny white flowers and a typical alvar structure.

They are making this trail handicap accessible.

More forest floor. Endlessly fascinating on this walk.

The trail markers were easy to follow and junctions were clear.

I saw and heard only a few warblers and could not identify them. They were at top of trees flitting about and had stripes. I don’t think the song was captured and don’t know if you can see the warbler in this video. The bird was at the top left on the bare branches. I’m on my iPhone without Wi-Fi so difficult to tell.

More forest floor and then warning sign of leaning tree and the tree itself.

And then first glimpse of the water! Always fills me with such joy!

A lovely lookout and I signed the guest book. Wish I had added the weather information.

And here’s where I am on map and in reality.

It was lovely. High water and recent heavy rains meant sections of beach were flooded and inaccessible, but lovely as can be.

A memorial bench and confirmation of location.

Loved the pattern of branches on the sand.

Headed back and a few more of the forest floor. It was about a half-hour walk each way.

The last one is of the alvar bedrock. And here are some more.

And chunks of a bright white rock I have to look up. If you know, do tell!

Back to the beginning and there’s my solo car.

A memorable hike, so meaningful to walk on the alvar coast, one of the few on Earth, and on Manitoulin Island, the world’s largest freshwater island. Privileged.

The next day it would pour, but I’d interview a bread-baking, hilarious farmer who has lived on Manitoulin his whole life. The day after that a 9 a.m. phone interview of a retired conservation officer and then later met with a retired Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources field staff whose work included moving Canadian moose to Michigan via helicopters and crates on flat-bed trucks. I’ll fill you in when I have solid connection again. Right now I am on shores of Lake Superior near Batchwana Bay and without Wi-Fi.

Hiking the Coastal Alvar Trail-Part One

Wednesday, May 8, 2019, was a glorious day. I left by 10 for Misery Bay Provincial Park on the southern coast at the western end of Manitoulin Island. But being on island time, I first headed in the opposite direction to Providence Bay at the foot of Auberge Inn’s street.

Loveliness greeted me! Fresh air. Crisp breeze, Bright sunshine. Expansive beach. And the lapping waters of Providence Bay.

There is a marina of sorts with a building sporting provincial and national flags.

On the right was a children’s playground with one adult in sight and on the swing. I think I embarrassed him and he left before I took the photos. To the left was a boardwalk leading to a lookout and the nearby Mindemoya River. Thanks to Wikipedia , I learned the river got its name from an Ojibwe word that means “old woman.”

I walked a bit and chatted with a young hand-holding couple coming back from a morning beach walk.

I’m always attracted to boats at the water’s edge so stopped for a closer look at the row boat.

Time to leave and as I turned this huge mural caught my eye between the trees.

The drive had several large swings and took nearly an hour. Of course I stopped along the way to take photos of the farm land. I think these will be for irrigation, but let me know if for something else.

Loved the cows. A farmer I interviewed the next day said they refer to these as cows on the rock.

We were checking each other out.

Almost there

There. Interestingly, while Misery Bay is a provincial park, it’s entirely managed and staffed by volunteers.

The lure of Misery Bay is the globally rare Alvar plant communities. Alvar is only found in a few places on Earth. Unless it’s spring bloom, they can look like cracked parking lots.

It was such a perfect crisp sunny day with light breeze. As I drove in the parking lot I saw I was the only one there. Okay, then. Here I go. I knew I wanted to get to the water so looked on the map and picked the Coastal Alvar Trail.

I headed out to do the walk to the bay and back, about an hour roundtrip plus (many) stops to take photos. Here’s the building run by volunteers although too early in the year.

I’m going to load this up now because I’m at my daily high-speed limit. I’ll finish the Coastal Alvar Trail in the morning.

On the World’s Largest Freshwater Island: Manitoulin

I arrived in the city of Providence Bay on Manitoulin Island by 4 PM. On the half-hour drive from South Baymouth, where the ferry drops you off, the landscape was primarily conifers with a smattering of birch. There were also large expanses of bare pasturelands and farmland that looks fallow. I only saw a handful of resting buckskin-colored cows on the rockiest field I’ve ever seen. Much of the conifers are in wooded wetlands and it looks like they’ve seen heavy rainfall of late.

Going east on Government Road led me to Providence Bay and I had to stop and soak it all in.

Next was finding the Auberge Inn where Heidi greeted me and helped me carry things in.

More on this Inn later, but I wanted to share my afternoon experience on the Chi-Cheemaun ferry.

I got there early and was the first one in line. I had learned you could do this and then lock and leave your car until a half hour before departure.

The first boat down the bay was a bright red Canadian Coast Guard vessel. I saw these vessels frequently when I worked in Windsor and one of the scientists who worked with me was retired from the US Coast Guard. For some reason, these brightly painted vessels always make me smile.

I spent over an hour walking around town in the bright sun, buying a snack, and going to the bookstore. And yes, I did buy a book. I found one on the Georgian Bay coast with lots of information on islands. Then I closed my eyes and left :)-

I returned to my car and waited for the ferry. As you can see in this photo, the ferry when it is docked looks like a giant duck bill that’s going to swallow all the cars, campers, and trucks. It’s quite beautifully painted and on the side it reads “Travel in Good Spirits.”

I learned that Chi-Cheemaun is Ojibwa for “big canoe” and that the ferry has been running for 40 years.

The view from the stern of this large ferry while we were docked was spectacular.

The smooth ride took almost two hours. After getting chilly out on the deck, I put my feet up inside and read Doing Justice by Preet Bharara on my Kindle. A very, very good read.

Not quite two hours in we all had to go down and sit in our vehicles and wait for the ferry to dock. First off was this huge truck carrying cattle, I believe.

I did my typical thing and didn’t stop in the town but headed straight for Auberge Inn. So I’m sitting here in the common room with my feet up ready to do a little reading about Manitoulin Island.

At the Tip of the Bruce Peninsula: Tobermory

This is my second visit to Tobermory, Ontario. As I have mentioned, my first visit was for a four-day wildflower photo safari as part of a certificate in fine-art digital photography. I rented a macro lens to try out and quickly learned that laying on the ground to photograph 1/4 inch orchids was not my cup of tea. Beautiful, yes; my passion, no. So I left the fold to focus on photographing the coast, birds, the harbor and boats. One of these images was accepted in a juried all-media competition. I call it Elements: Flight. It is a panned image of a cormorant in flight, came out just as I hoped with streaks of green trees above and streaks of blue water below. This image is from when it hung at the art center. It now hangs above my couch.

This visit is more low key and relaxed. I enjoyed a lovely scrambled eggs and fresh fruit breakfast with my hosts, Jim and Karen, overlooking Eagle Harbour.

Then it was off to town to figure out where I would board the ferry. On the way I stopped at the Tobermory Airport–that seems to be on an eternal pause–to capture a few images. One sweet red plane awaits it’s time in the air.

The rest of the airport is resting.

I am so glad that I went to the ferry dock. It’s quite confusing. The streets are all one-way. There is a parking “area” where you line up in one of four rows.

You can park ahead of time and just leave (abandon?) your vehicle there until a half hour before loading. At the end of this block is a sign pointing to the ferry loading area.

Then, I learned, you have to pay at one of two tickets booths. I thought I had paid, but turns out they only put a hold on credit cards to reserve your spot and you pay right before boarding the ferry.

Then you actually drive onto the ferry, which takes two hours to reach Manitoulin Island.

I stopped at the ferry office to find all this out. It doesn’t even say the name of the company, Ontario Ferries, on the building, but reads Owen Sound Transportation Company. Good thing it’s a small town and I could figure it out.

So I poked around town, although being Monday, my first place of interest, the book store, was closed. I will head there first thing in the morning.

Here are some of the shops and restaurants in Tobermory along the harbor.

And the boats.

Here is a panorama of the harbor from this vantage point.

I noticed a large crane moving a ship off dry dock and into the water. It soon became apparent it was moving one-by-one down the dock getting these large vessels into the harbor for the 2019 season.

I videotaped the process and noticed that the name of this ship is Mamie, which is what my grandchildren call me (I wanted to be called Grammie like I called my grandmother, but when Ella was young she could only say Mamie. I really liked that because it’s what the French called their grandmothers and so it stuck).

But this Mamie looks like she is in desperate need of work!

There are various cruise ships out to Flower Pot Island and glass-bottom boats to look at shipwrecks. It’s very early in the season so only one is running right now. Here are two waiting the season to open.

And here are several more. I love the names Blue Heron for the smaller one and Great Blue Heron for the larger.

Here is one just leaving the dock for a two-hour cruise.

Here is a map of Flowerpot Island. This was the first place we took wildflower photos on the safari. We lay on the ground to capture images of exquisite dainty lady slipper and other orchids.

Here’s a satellite image with various highlights noted.

And this is the larger area where there are several shipwrecks–Sweepstakes being very close the surface in a shallow harbor–and sea caves.

Here is the schedule and prices of the only one running right now.

I stopped at Tobermory Press to pick up a large laminated map of the Bruce Peninsula for my own research and to share with students.

I noted more Niagara Escarpment rocks are acting as a border to the parking lot.

And their company car is a Subaru Crosstrek, sorely needed in this winter northern locale.

I went back to the B&B to heat up some vegetable soup for lunch and do some research. It was quite chilly sitting for a couple hours so by four I headed to the Park Canada visitor center. I talked with a staff member about the area and the islands and came away with some brochures and a huge navy-blue Parks Canada hooded sweatshirt to keep me warm. Later I heated up the rest of my whitefish dinner from last night to enjoy a second time.

I won’t be going on the boat cruise this time. I not only did it last time, but I’ll be on the two-hour ferry ride out to Manitoulin Island. Last time I also went to several Fathom Five National Park areas taking photos of wildflowers and, at dawn, the Big Tub Lighthouse. But this time in the morning I may walk out to the grotto, which I didn’t do last time, before heading to the book store and parking my car to await the ferry and the new adventures that follow.