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.

Arrived in Tobermory

I left Ann Arbor quite late at 11:30 a.m. I never seem to be able to get out early no matter what work I do ahead of time. But it was a blue sky day and the drive, while long, was pleasant.

Going from the US to Canada on the Blue Water Bridge was the fastest I’ve ever experienced. I have a Nexus card–requires a security check and $50 for five-year card–that should get me through faster, but today there were four or five in the Nexus lane and no line at all in the regular lanes. The agent was nice and interested in my island to work.

I stopped at the Exchange House and got $258.50 Canadian for my $200 U.S. I worked in Windsor for five years and I’m always fascinated by the fluctuation in exchange. Obviously it’s really advantageous to Americans to be traveling in Canada right now.

If you’re not familiar with Ontario, this part along eastern Lake Huron is flat as a pancake, scraped clean by the glaciers. The landscape is that of rather large active farms that are now dwarfed by wind turbines. I stopped in one town, Kingbridge, that had more wind turbines all in one area than I had seen on the entire drive.

Another characteristic of Ontario are yellow brick homes, churches, and buildings.

I was giddy to find baby segments of the Frontenac Arc. More on this later when I get to Manitoulin Island on Tuesday.

I got to Jim and Karen’s Eagle Wing Airbnb almost exactly at 7 PM. They both came to greet me and had given me the larger space because I’m the only one right now. The three of us carried up my various briefcases, suitcases, and totes mostly filled with books, notebooks, computer and iPad, and chargers. It’s so lovely here and they couldn’t be nicer.

I headed to town to have a light dinner at the Princess Dining Room.

I ordered my favorite: whitefish with just a little lemon and served with rice and veggies. I brought half back to Eagle’s Wing and will enjoy tomorrow along with the vegetable soup.

The sun what setting and I couldn’t help but stop and take photos of the ferry I’ll be riding on Tuesday out to Manitoulin Island. There is a small island just east of the ferry dock. I’ll see if I can find out more about it tomorrow.

i’m getting better about stopping along the way. I’m really focusing on that this trip. The rewards are often small and touching like this rose that caught my eye. I hurried back to try to catch some of the glow on Eagle Harbor and it did not disappoint.

A small angel lighted my way.

Heading to Canada

I have a lot to catch up on here, but I wanted to let folks know that I’m heading to Canada tomorrow, May 5. I’m planning a 10-day trip starting with Tobermory at the very tip of the Bruce Peninsula. I’ve been there before on a four-day wildflower photo safari. Think flower-pot islands, shipwrecks, sea caves, orchids, water birds, sailboats, and (unfortunately) blackflies. I am hoping I don’t run into blackflies this trip because I get a big goose eggs that lasts eight weeks. Just in case I’m packing the head net I bought there during the photo safari. Regardless, it’s a fantastic area and I can’t wait to get there and start this Plan B journey.