MORE EM’S—MANITOULIN, MANITOU AND MANITOWANING (Manitoulin Island, Part 4)

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Continued from Part 3 - McLean and Lewis

 

Destination: Eagle’s Nest

Still determined to rent a canoe, I asked the worker in the Manitoulin Resort’s office if their rentals are dog friendly. My request surprised her too; however, she couldn’t see why dogs wouldn’t be allowed. The extremely detailed waiver I was required to sign seemed to cover the business for any problems anyway. So after scrawling my signature to what felt like the potential of giving away my first born—or my dog in this case, we were on our way.

Neither Helen nor I had canoed since our Bon Echo weekend a few years earlier and were therefore no better at it. Though I’m always responsible with someone else’s property, that waiver motivated extra diligence. My travel budget didn’t allow for replacing or fixing a dented canoe.

We managed to zigzag our way out of the small marina without crashing into the single docked boat or the shore’s rock-filled edge. The office worker had mentioned an eagle’s nest on an island straight out from the campground, so we zigzagged a bit longer before finding our stride. The existing breeze only slightly challenged our stamina.

Tessi Checks Out Lake Manitou 

The sudden shift left us counterbalancing in startled hastiness.

As Helen and I paddled through the ruffling water, Tessi occasionally moved from one side of the boat to the other to investigate whatever roused her senses. Each time, the sudden shift left us counterbalancing in startled hastiness. Little Missy’s infrequent peeks from her spot between her mom’s legs didn’t bother us at all.

The nest came into view as we approached the tiny island. Its rugged edge kept us from advancing too closely, so we proclaimed how cool the nest looked, snapped a few pictures and then turned ourselves towards shore.

While we tried to figure out which marina was ours among the few doting the heavily treed shoreline—we hadn’t thought about noting the details on the way out, we spotted the eagle itself soaring above us.

I deemed our water excursion successful when we returned safely, after being out for about an hour and a half, without dumping ourselves or ramming into anything, and the breeze had waited till the paddles were stored away before whipping into gustiness.

We stayed at the campground for the remainder of the day, continuing to soak in the pleasant weather the island had been granting us. After an afternoon siesta cozily snug in the tent with the wind rattling the nylon around us, Tessi and I hung out on the office porch so I could use the available Wi-Fi. Later, the four of us followed an unremarkable trail leading out of the campground. There was little to tantalize our human eyes; nevertheless, canine noses twitched and tails wagged with enthusiasm.

Manitowaning

We had been in and out of the nearby hilly Manitowaning several times to fetch supplies. They offer the basics—groceries, gas and, most importantly, a restaurant. The Queen Street General Store & Café serves freshly brewed coffee. I had given up on making my own when I had exhausted my car’s battery.

The morning of our last full day started us off in light foggy conditions in Heritage Park at the town’s marina. While I satisfied my caffeine addiction, I admired the S.S. Norisle, a grand old rusted ship—a cargo and passenger ferry in its former life, when the town was a major shipping port. She now enduringly lords over the small pleasure vessels that come and go.

An Artistic Wall

With java-infused wakefulness, I steered the car towards the 2 km (1.2 mi) Fossil Hill Trail. After parking, we wandered on an old service road under a clearing sky before passing through an opening in the bordering tree line. Under the dense canopy, a quiet, dark mysterious world surrounded us. An escarpment wall, several metres (yards) high, of layered, worn rock commands a lengthy part of the dirt pathway. Mounds of moss and jutting tree trunks adorn the wall’s face. Overall, I was given the impression of an artistic piece that has taken millennia to create. Though I hadn’t originally wanted to bother with any escarpment-type landscape on this trip, I was awestruck with it laid out in a way I’d never seen before.

Eventually, the route climbs over the wall and carries on unaccompanied. We left the magical feeling behind along with the escarpment; the pathway leads through a brighter, more typical forest. As we walked, we noticed more varieties of fungus than the fossils supposedly populating the route.

Where Horses May Not Trod

We left forest hikes behind to check out the open boardwalk and sand dunes in Providence Bay on Lake Huron. The boardwalk divides most of the dunes from the rest of the beach along its length. I didn’t see a peep about dog restrictions.

As we walked, we soon spotted a couple of people out by the water with a loose canine companion, so I let Tessi go when we reached a set of steps leading down to the beach. After running for a bit to blow off built up energy and sniffing through some of the vegetation, she tried to drink from a stream draining into the bay. The wet sand immediately started sucking her in. She yanked herself out and darted over to the bay itself. The two pooches had gazed inquisitively at each other from opposite sides of the stream before returning to their own separate distractions. Afterwards, I noticed a sign posted on the boardwalk stating: “No dogs allowed on the beach” on its list of restrictions. Oops. At least Tessi and her kind are in good company in their banishment—horses aren’t allowed either.

GG, Motorcycle Girl

Early the next day, we parked at the ferry dock and set out to wander and revel in the incredibly clear morning light while waiting for our ride back to the mainland.

Before leaving the parking area, we briefly stopped to chat with the guy parked ahead of us. He and his husky, GG, were crossing the country by motorcycle. She travelled in a large basket type of structure attached behind his seat.

Later, the conversation resumed when we crossed paths during the voyage. While telling us of their itinerary, he kept expressing his annoyance that dogs are limited to certain areas on the Chi Cheemaun. I tried to explain to him—unsuccessfully—how lucky we are that they are allowed with us at all. Nearly all ferries require pets to remain in their vehicles on the car deck or in a specified kennel. He, his irritation and GG soon moved on, leaving us to enjoy a peaceful ride.

The fantastic blue of the lake—almost navy—and the brilliant sky—clouded here and there—accompanied us, unlike our closed-in foggy ride over. We were able to glimpse the scattered small islands that the ship passes, including an excellent view of Cove Island and its solitary lighthouse.

As we slipped back onto the mainland, I thought about our dash across Manitoulin Island during our trip west the previous year, when its rocky, hilly terrain and panoramic views left me impressed. In being able to explore the island further, I confirmed that it is so much more—in its assorted lakes, scenic communities and varied trails featuring quartzite outcropping, alvar pavements and unique escarpment characteristics—than just the extension of the typical Niagara Escarpment I originally thought it to be.

For More Info

  • Pet policy at Manitoulin Resort states: “Pets are permitted but must be leashed when off your campsite. They may enjoy a swim at the public boat launch located next to the resort. Excessive barking, stoop/scoop policy is in effect.”
  • The office offers its campers a generous array of books to borrow. The one I read during our downtime: Manitoulin Adventures: I Was Mistaken For A Rich, Red, Ripe Tomato. The author, Bonnie Kogos, is a New Yorker who relocates to Manitoulin Island and relates her adventures of life there.
  • The basics of canoeing with dogs 
  • Manitowaning 
  • Providence Bay

© Cheryl Smyth, 2015

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