ISLAND OF NATURE (Manitoulin Island, Part 1)

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Surprising Discovery

As we dashed across Manitoulin Island, the need for a pit stop after not bothering on the two hour ferry ride pressured me. We ended up at High Falls, which features a small, narrow cascading waterfall and offers a picnic area and vault toilets. When the door’s latch on the latter jammed, our dash almost turned into a lengthy stay. It was not a pleasant occurrence for this claustrophobe on a trip that had barely begun. Fortunately, wrestling the latch a bit freed us and we were on our way.

That happened during our trip to Alberta, when Tessi and I detoured across Manitoulin’s east end to avoid the long haul around Georgian Bay. The island sits in the northern part of Lake Huron where it joins the bay. I’ve never bothered to make a point of visiting Manitoulin, as I’d understood it possesses the same natural characteristics as the 725 km (450 mi) Niagara Escarpment that stretches from the Niagara region to the Bruce Peninsula, parts of which we’ve seen plenty of times. As we travelled the highway, however, I noticed Manitoulin Island offers more in its rocky, hilly terrain with little interruption of urban settlements. I would eventually realize the towns are small, unobtrusive and seem to exist congruously in the countryside.

I couldn’t resist taking in the panoramic beauty.

We stopped again; this time I couldn’t resist taking in the panoramic beauty beneath the clear, blue sky at Ten Mile Point Lookout. The terrain, covered in rich vegetation, drops down to the North Channel’s azure water with verdant islets strewn along its length.

By then, I had already decided the island merited further exploration. But it would have to be another time. We continued on our western journey.

Getting There

From southern Ontario, the easiest way to reach Manitoulin Island is via the Chi Cheemaun ferry. A little over a year later, Helen, Missy, Tessi and I arrived in Tobermory in the Bruce Peninsula to catch the ferry for a week of camping and hiking.

As we left the dock behind and started passing the assorted islands scattered along the route, fog threaded its way across, past and around them until it totally took over and obliterated everything in sight and swept in a chill when it drowned out the warm sun. A blast from the ship’s horn left Missy shaking. The recurrent noise led her, in search for solace, to roam back and forth between Helen and me. During my turn to snuggle, I could feel her little heart beating hard against me. Meanwhile, an unconcerned, sleepy Tessi tried in vain to keep her droopy eyes open.

Note: Dogs are allowed to accompany you on deck during the two hour journey


Once on land, I steered the car towards Batman's Cottages and Campground, near Sheguiandah. As with most campgrounds, leashed and well-behaved dogs are allowed. Specifically stated on their website: “Constantly barking dogs are not permitted.”

Damp, bumpy ground lined our campsite, making it difficult to find comfortable spots for our tents. Beside us, in a lot housing a big family, a medium-sized canine mix barked at our girls whenever she saw them. Fortunately, the back side of their tent blocked most of her view.

Once we had set up camp, we sat out to enjoy the evening. Suddenly, the neighbour dog came crazily barreling across our site. Just as my brain grasped this invasion and started to distress at the thought of this loose dog around our girls, I noticed a lawn chair sporadically bouncing about at the other end of her tether. Her owner ran over, managed to grab her and took her back, then returned to apologize. He had quickly learned that a lawn chair isn’t a secure object to tie a dog to.

The next morning, we experienced another animal encounter. While dropping off our garbage at the communal dump, two pairs of eyes stared at me from the almost empty bin. The raccoons’ steely glares told me I’d better not mess with them or their treasures. Because of broken glass littered around the bin, I had kept Tessi away. I was saved the aggravation of dealing with her hunter’s instinct kicking in. We left the creatures to their treasure hunt. Scenic treasures awaited us.

Strawberry Channel Lookout

We stopped to admire the nearby Strawberry Channel from a wooden platform while I drank my morning coffee—Helen has, since our

 last trip, given up the caffeine kick. While we gazed at the panorama before us, where trees and bushes accent fields gradually sloping down to the channel—far off enough to look like a plain strip of water near the horizon, Tessi crouched down at the edge of the lookout’s deck to sniff whatever intrigued her from a nearby tree. This lookout didn’t compare to Ten Mile Point Lookout, especially as the slightly overcast sky washed out the amazing blue I suspected exists here, as well, when the sun is shining, but there was a peacefulness I always enjoy in the vast outdoors. The only sounds interrupting it were cricket songs riding on the slight breeze and the intermittent roar of cars speeding by on the highway behind us.

Coffee finished, we loaded back into the car and headed west to visit another, apparently more popular waterfall, though we would find its surrounding vegetation features an unpopular plant. I was also interested in seeing the alvar rock that I had read about.

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© Cheryl Smyth, 2015

Story continued in Part 2 - A Bridal Veil and a Bit of Misery


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