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Monday, July 28, 2014

A Spin Around Musselman's Lake

July 27, 2014 was a Sunday and rain was predicted.  We also had some cleaning up to do after the visit from William & Co. on Saturday.  So we didn't want to be too ambitious, but still wanted to get out and about and stretch our legs.  We decided to ride our bikes around Musselman's Lake, a 123-acre kettle lake that adjoins our RV campground here in Stouffville, Ontario.  Kettle lakes are formed by drainage from receding glaciers, and generally have silty bottoms.

Musselman's Lake was named after Peter and Jacob Musselman, Mennonites from Pennsylvania, who first settled the area in 1807.  The lake is located on the ecologically sensitive Oak Ridges Moraine,  which gets its name from the rolling hills and river valleys extending almost 100 miles from the Niagara Escarpment to the west (see our May 20, 2014 blog entry on Rattlesnake Point and the Niagara Escarpment), to Rice Lake on the east. It was formed 12,000 years ago by advancing and retreating glaciers. The lake drains into the Lake Simcoe watershed. Pine trees dominate much of the area, with extensive farmland stretching north toward Lake Simcoe.

It is possible to circumnavigate the lake by foot or bicycle, but there is one 50-foot stretch of ground on the south side of the lake that cannot be driven.  The entire lake is settled with cottages, and a trip around the lake is like a miniature tour of Ontario's "cottage country" north of Toronto, which includes area such as Lake Simcoe, some 20 miles north of Musselman Lake.

Here is a view we saw of Musselman's Lake, looking back toward the beach of our RV campground:

A closer look shows the campground's boathouse and restaurant:

The cottages around Musselman's Lake are generally fairly unpretentious ones such as the cottage shown below, although there is significant newer development of "yuppy mansions," which is sure to drive up the cost of the traditional cottages.  This one was for sale.  It looked sound but in need of some sprucing up and de-weeding.  Nevertheless, it had a nice little lakefront that would have suited a dock and boat nicely.

After completing one circuit of the lake, we pedaled up to Aurora Road and stopped by one of Ontario's many food "trucks" - this one by the name of "Fancy Fries."  The trucks are generally more like barely portable sheds, where one can buy a variety of fast foods such as hot dogs, sandwiches, the ubiquitous poutine and other scrumptious, if unhealthy, delights.  Here, David munches his peanut butter and jelly sandwich as we wait for the chef to cook up our (VERY small) order of poutine.  The fries were fresh cut from potatoes right on the spot:

Fueled thus, we hopped back on our bikes and recircled the lake - a short ride of perhaps four miles, but very relaxing.

A Tale of Two Lake Drives

Hi Blog.  Today is Monday, July 28, 2014.  Our time in Stouffville, Ontario, Canada, is running out fast. We have one more trip scheduled tomorrow to commute to downtown Toronto to visit the family.  So, today, we decided to go a little further afield and explore the area to the north of our campground. While in the Toronto area, we heard a great deal about cottage country. We wanted to see for ourselves what all the fuss was about.

We decided the nearest big cottage country to us would be Lake Simcoe. There are a number of beaches which attract visitors from the GTA (Great Toronto Area) as Lake Simcoe has a reputation for cleaner and warmer water than the GTA's Lake Ontario beaches. We learned there was a 50 km bike trail that winds along Lake Drive adjacent to the shores of the lake. Here is Kathy at the "trailhead."

What exactly is cottage country, you might ask? Well, we learned that cottage country is a common name in Eastern Canada for areas that are popular locations for vacation properties such as cottages and summer homes. Cottage country is socially, culturally, economically, and politically distinct from the surrounding rural areas in that it is populated by a higher concentration of urban vacationers who have an affinity for the outdoors in contrast to more traditional rural populations that are largely absent of "city folk". So, cottage country is basically any place that folks want to vacation - beaches, lakes, rivers, mountains or woods.

Apparently, city folks aren't the only ones that like cottage country. We ran into a group of vacationing geese enjoying the abundant green grass before they have to head south for the winter.

We started our bike ride on Lake Drive South. We found many of the cottage to be quaint and well kept.  Here is an example. It seemed that even folks of modest means can enjoy a lakefront cottage on Lake Drive South.

As we headed further north along Lake Drive, we biked through a number of beach communities with names like Miami Beach, Pine Beach and Keswick Beach.  The further north we went, the larger the homes.

Some of the communities were founded in the early 1900's.  Here is a cute little Anglican Church dating from those times.

While most of the lakefront was developed for vacation homes, there were still a couple farms across the road.

Once we turned onto Lake Drive North, it was hard to call these palatial estates "cottages."

It was difficult to even see some of the homes as the owners surrounded them with high hedge rows and massive gates.  We thought "Moongate" was a particularly unique name for one of the cottage properties:

When we did come upon a view, it was just spectacular.

We reached our turnaround point at the Island Grove Marina. We learned there are several small islands that you can visit - Snake, Fox and Georgina. If we get back up to this area, we may decide to take our bikes over to tour one of the islands. However, we just don't have enough time today, so we headed back. The weather started to turn on us. The winds picked up and the sky turned dark.  We sought refuge at the Orchard Beach Bar and Grill for a quick pint and nosh to allow time for the squall to pass. Here is the view from the deck.

While the winds never died down, the darkest of the clouds passed by. We continued on our return trip. We stopped briefly to watch some folks cast out their lines from a public dock.

Now you don't see this everyday.  These folks just park their plane at the end of the dock.

Before long, we were back at the truck loading the bikes and heading home.  I think we expected to see more quaint little cottages with gingerbread trim and flower boxes under each window. While there were a few of those, what we found the most of were typical vacation homes like you see at the Jersey Shore.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Raspberry Rendezvous

Hi Blog.  As you know, we've been having a great time traveling into Toronto and having adventures in the big city with our grandson. Unfortunately, we can't do that every day.  Even in retirement, there are still chores to be done and errands to be run.

On Friday, July 25, 2014, after finishing our "work," we decided to reward ourselves with a little walk in the woods.  The nearest Greenbelt Walk was only a few miles away in the York Regional Forest.  Here is Kathy at the trailhead for the Oak Ridges Trail.

We actually started our walk from parking lot of the Whitchurch Conservation Area. This heavily forested conservation area consists of a wide variety of trees, as well as a number of pine plantations and a man-made pond. Here we get our first glimpse of the man-made pond.

Part of the trail circumnavigates the perimeter of the conservation tract.  Here we come along the back fence of a large farm and stables.  The horses didn't even look up as we walked by. We figure the trail must get a lot of use, especially on the weekends.

As we ventured further into the conservation area, we soon discovered we were not alone! Swarms of mosquitos descended on us.  We had applied copious amounts of bug dope at the trailhead, but felt the need to reapply because the little buggers soon found any spots that we missed. As you can see from this photo, these little pools and ponds provide the perfect mosquito breeding environment.

Needless to say, we walked very briskly though this area and soon found ourselves back to the man-made pond.  Dave was curious to see if there was a trail around the pond.

After a little snooping around, Dave discovered a faint track and headed off with Kathy trailing behind, with the GPS turned on just in case the trail didn't go all the way and they had to go back. Before too long, the intrepid explorers were at the far end of the lake. The trail became more evident and soon they found themselves back where they began.

Three and a half miles later, we reached our reward.

Here is Kathy getting ready to enjoy the fruits of her labor.

Raspberries this good are worth a few mosquito bites!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Day With William on Center Island

As we like to say, "A day without William is a day without sunshine," and so, by contrast, a day with William is full of sunshine.  We decided to spend the sunny day in Toronto by taking the ferry to Center Island.  On Tuesday, July 22, 2014, Weina, William, Weina's father Yulian (whom we call Laoye), the little dog Bubu, and Kathy and David made the trip.

We met William, Weina, Laoye and Bubu at the Ferry Terminal.  William glommed onto Kathy, who promptly rushed him up to the top deck at the front of the boat so he could experience his "Titanic" moment.  Here he is being the King of the World:

The ferry ride was short but interesting.  We hopped off and headed immediately through the amusement park toward the animal farm.  The amusement park rides were not running yet, but David stopped just to make sure whether he could ride some of them.  It seems he was too tall for this ride:

Not much further along, William spotted this colorful moose, and he wanted us to take a photo of it.  Here's your moose, Young William:

The farm animals are always fun for young kids, and William enjoyed them.  Here he is with Laoye and Weina, talking with the animals:

And what farm is complete without a tractor?  William loves tractors, and when he saw this one, he had to drive it.  We must have enjoyed a tractor ride for at least a half hour!

The only thing that could separate William from the tractor was the amusement rides.  As soon as they opened, we wandered over to them and purchased our tickets.  William wanted Kathy to take him on the ferris wheel.  We were a little worried he would be scared, but, once he got used to it, he enjoyed being higher than the trees, and looking down on little Laoye, little Mommy and little Yeye:

Next was the requisite train ride.  Weina let the rest of us ride, and David snapped this photo of Laoye, Kathy and William as they waited for the whistle to blow and the engine to start chuffing:

For her part, Weina had always wanted to ride on the Log Flume ride.  William was game, so the two of them took a crack at it.  Here, you can see that Weina had a wonderful time - although she admitted she was a little scared by the splashdown:

William, however, was NOT scared, and he insisted on going another round, so David volunteered to take him.  Here the boys are satisfied with their splashy ride:

One last ride.  This was in the classic auto.  Weina, Laoye, Kathy and William took a spin while David photographed:

Being William on an outing is hard work, and he was very hungry (so were the rest of us), so we headed over to the Carousel Cafe for lunch.  Young boys need entertaining while the order is being cooked, so William found some paper napkin rings to display on his fingers ("one-two-three-four-five" - "uno-dos-tres-quatro-cinqo" - "yi-er-san-si-wu"):

The park was very reminiscent of a park we visited with Weina and William in Nantong when we visited Weina's sister, Haini, and of a park we visited in Lijian with Laoye and Matt as well. David was inspired to ask Laoye and Weina to pose for a photo at lunch:

Lunch is good, that is true, but no lunch is complete without ice cream ("bisi").  Below, William demonstrates the proper way to eat bisi just before we returned on the ferry and walked home:

Bike Ride to Gananoque

On Wednesday, July 16, 2014, we started the first of two bike rides to complete all the segments the length of the bike trail in the Thousand Islands.  Last month, we cycled to Brockville and then to Rockport from Mallorytown, which is north of where we were now staying in Ivy Lea.  This time, we had bicycle rides south to Gananoque and north to Rockport from Ivy Lea.

The Gananoque ride was the longer of the two - a total of about 20 miles.  We started out, full of vim and vigor, from our KOA campground:

The weather was beautiful.  We had the St. Lawrence River and Thousand Islands to our left, and numerous wetlands and bays to our right.  Here is one of the many pond/lake/swamps in the area, full of health and animal life:

Halstead's Bay was dotted with cottages around its margin.  The owner of the cottage hidden in these trees had a bucolic little setting for some patio chairs on a private dock:

The plant and animal life thrived.  Everywhere we could hear peepers and bullfrogs.  Shorebirds fished in the estuaries.  These cattails danced merrily in the breeze:

Here is another view of Halstead's Bay, but looking out to the river:

This lovely old property, needing lots of tender love and care, is for sale for only $495,000.  It's right on 1000 Islands Parkway and has a grand view of the river.  I'm sure it has an interesting history, but we couldn't find anything on its background:

After about 8 miles of pedaling, here we are at the entrance sign for Gananoque, a picturesque town that bills itself as "Canadian Gateway to the Thousand Islands":

Gananoque is pronounced by the French Canadians, as you can imagine, in the French fashion:  gan-an-OAK.  The Anglos in Canada, however, pronounce it "gan-an-OAK-way," and, as we learned from one of the young rangers at the Thousand Islands National Park, all the locals of whatever descent affectionately refer to it as "Gan."

We entered Gananoque at the downstream, or eastern, end, and quickly found the Gananoque River Trail, which stretches into the uplands behind Gananoque, winds through forests and then down along the Gananoque River, pausing (at least in our case) near some picturesque restaurants and a brewery), and then continues through the town of Gananoque along the St. Lawrence River. The first part of this segment was a barely-maintained hiking trail just suitable for trail bikes. Here, Kathy is demonstrating her versatility in applying the "hiking" gear when necessary on the steeper uphills:

We worked our way up to what is called the "Overlook," but, due to the growth of trees in the area, there is nothing to see.  Still, the rocky outcropping is dramatic enough.  We paused to cool down and hydrate before biking along the woods trail back down toward the Gananoque River:

Deep in the woods, one stream crossing required the use of a long wooden bridge.  Here, David is demonstrating the "hiking" technique of crossing a bridge with a trail bike:

We paused in our bike adventure for lunch at the socialist pig, a cafe and coffeehouse right near the river, sitting, conveniently enough, next to the Gananoque Brewing Company , which is a local microbrewery.  Unfortunately, the restaurant didn't serve any of the local beer, and the brewery didn't serve food, so we made a hard decision and went with a scrumptious lunch at the pig:

From the restaurant and brewery, the bike trail winds through town down to the St. Lawrence River, and eventually follows a street back across the Gananoque River.  From the bridge, we could look up the Gananoque River toward a Catholic church and many quaint houses ---

-- and down the river toward the St. Lawrence, where the Gananoque Inn perches atop a small hill:

The church was striking from across the river, so, once we crossed the bridge, we biked up to see what the church looked like from the front.  It did not entirely disappoint:

From here, our path wound through pretty little residential neighborhoods in Gananoque.  We returned to the 1000 Islands Parkway and perambulated back along the St. Lawrence to our campground, already looking forward to the next day's ride further downstream to Rockport.