Thursday, September 19, 2019

Adventures in Ontario

My family always looks forward to our summer vacation. My younger daughter helped to choose this year’s destination, Canada, and she also wanted to see polar bears. In cruising the internet, my husband stumbled upon the Detroit Zoo as having a cool polar bear exhibit, and it made sense to combine it all into one trip. My older daughter, always eager to travel, especially when it involves a stamp in her passport, was also on board with this plan. I researched places to visit. Ontario covers a lot of land, so I was excited to see two national parks that looked not only interesting but also feasible to visit on the same trip.

We couldn’t leave as early as I would have liked, since the place where our dogs were staying didn’t open until ten o’clock on Sundays, so we didn’t hit the road until eleven o’clock. Oh, well, no big deal, right? Wrong. We intended to stop at Lake Michigan on the way, but by the time we finally got through traffic and made it to the Indiana Dunes, it was extremely crowded. Settling for a quick drive along the shoreline, we got back on I-94, only to be stuck in traffic in Michigan as well. As we edged closer to Detroit, we were excited about crossing into Canada. I hadn’t been there since I was a child—long before passports were required. We maneuvered through downtown Detroit without issue and found the tunnel entrance easily--thanks to GPS’s help. I’m not a fan of underwater tunnels, so I was thankful the line into Canada was moving along steadily, while the line to get into the U.S. was bumper to bumper. We topped off the long day with dinner in Little Italy in Windsor. Finding a parking place on the main drag, we were disappointed to see a parking meter, for which we had no Canadian coins. Fortunately, a lady from above yelled out her window at us in Italian, (It felt like we were in Italy!) and we figured out that parking was free on Sundays. We found a place that was open and was fabulous—great food, service, prices, and plenty of locals eating there too.

The next day we went back through the tunnel, traffic moving along quickly, since we’d timed our outing to miss rush hour. At the zoo we toured the exhibits, with the polar bear residing at the farthest point away. It was hot, and we were all starting to feel a little drained. We perked up as we neared the polar bear habitat, and my daughter was excited to see the backside of the bear outdoors. We assumed we would have even better views from the tunnel aquarium. Wrong! We enjoyed watching the seals but were disappointed we didn’t see the polar bear swimming. We cooled off and regrouped. Deciding to make another attempt, we scanned the outer area for the bear but didn’t have any luck. We figured the bear had grown tired of the hot weather and gone inside for a swim. Apparently, that was not the bear’s plan. Fortunately, my daughter wasn’t too disappointed, and we did get to see several other cool critters.

Lake Erie and Southern Tip of Canada at Point Pelee National Park
Itching to travel to Canada’s countryside, we packed up and headed to Point Pelee National Park, a tiny peninsula at the southern most tip of Canada that extends into Lake Erie. After taking in the amazing lake views, we walked along the marshland boardwalk at the north end of the park. Feeling refreshed after some beautiful lake scenery, we started northward. The drive to the hotel seemed to take forever, as we wound along well-maintained country roads, trying to follow the 50-mph speed limit. (only 60-mph on four-lanes—what a shame, since the roads were excellent, much nicer than Illinoisans are used to!) Once we reached the highway that hugged Lake Huron we made better time.

Marsh Boardwalk at Point Pelee National Park

We left Owen Sound and trekked farther northward where we planned to visit Bruce Peninsula National Park. I could hardly wait, but at the park’s entrance the ranger told us we needed reservations to hike and directed us to the visitor’s center. Used to working with people turned away without reservations on a fully-booked day, the ranger gave us several ideas for hiking to see sites all along the peninsula’s bayside. The sites we saw of Lake Huron, rock formations, and other neat places were just as beautiful as those in the park, and probably less crowded. We definitely want to return to the area to visit the places we missed.
Devil's Monument - Bruce Peninsula

Lake Huron at Devil's Monument Trail
Lake Huron at Fathom Five National Marine Park

The next day we started for home, once again taking the highway along Lake Huron. We crossed into the U.S. at Port Huron, the process taking over an hour from start to finish. It was a rude awakening to enter the U.S., where we could see the drought taking its toll, poorer roads, and more traffic. Finally reaching Kalamazoo, we were looking forward to crashing at our hotel after going out for dinner. Long story short, we ended up at a different hotel and ate delivered pizza.

We eventually made it home, after a couple more traffic delays. Despite a few things that didn’t go as planned, it was a beautiful trip, even if crossing back and forth into Canada a couple of times didn’t earn us a stamp in our passports.

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