Updated: Dec 16, 2021
We continue to chronicle our Cross Canada Journey during a very historical time in our country; during a Global Pandemic with a Federal Election looming. Welcome back friends....
Jaime Lee here:
We left my uncle Paul and aunt Jodi’s after filling up with a nutritious smoothy and loving hugs. Our next destination was Manitoulin Island via highway 17 West through Renfrew County Ontario. We were anticipating a 5 hour drive.
Barely after leaving the boundary of Ottawa, the city suburbs melted away leaving way for farms, barns, and brick century homes. This is when we came across a large sign standing in a farm field reading: “No More Lockdowns – Just Say No!”. Something inside me responded with a shiver of resonance.
We continued westward, seeing familiar sights as Renfrew County was Jim’s home for almost the entirety of his career and I, an Ottawa Valley girl was whisked around these rural parts by my adventurous mother. I was feeling the familiar warmth of my roots as we passed through Arnprior, Renfrew and Cobden Ontario.
At the junction of Base Petawawa and Hwy 17 traffic came to a complete stop. We could not see far beyond the 4-way intersection where we sat with our fellow travellers.
“Jim writing” :
We were sitting still on Hwy 17 at Petawawa for over 30 minutes. My frustration was growing, the line of traffic was past the traffic lights. The off ramp for Petawawa was getting closer, letting in one vehicle at a time. “Not today” I said, as we turned right toward Petawawa and as we passed my old unit, 2CER, The second combat engineer Regiment).I yelled “CHIMO” at the top of my lungs as we passed it.
Petawawa looked different and yet it felt the same. Always traffic and construction going on. The only course of action to take was to detour through Algonquin Park. It is a about an hour away from Petawawa. Backtracking down to Pembroke and then cutting across Highway 58 and then cutting down Simpsons Pitt Road which connected us to Highway 60. Once on Highway 60 through the mighty Algonquin Park, little towns, villages and hamlets dot this road. Going through Wilno, Barry’s Bay, and then right before the Park Whitney Ontario. Algonquin was a great drive, yet the traffic kept a steady pace and the Google Car was stuck behind us. So, when we get back to civilization we would check to see if our Truck and Truck camper made it on to Google maps. We took a few highways that seemed like old backroads, but they hooked us up with trans Canada outside of Parry Sound. Home of Bobby Orr.
The roads cut through the Canadian shield and brings you north Heading towards Sudbury. The Mighty Manatoulin Island was west, and we headed that direction.
We noticed as soon as we made it into Espanola that there were signs warning you of that you were in an area prone to Human Trafficking. Large billboards read: “Are you safe? Need Freedom?” and “If you buy sex, you may say goodbye to your freedom”. This was new to us, not having seen a sign like that in Nova Scotia New Brunswick, and Quebec. Yet in Northern Ontario these signs stood and declared a crisis and these signs continued for kilometers. We both are aware of Human Trafficking happening in our Country, but it was sad to see and acknowledge that this is still happening in our country.
Once in Espanola we knew we had to go south on Highway 6 south to take the bridge over to Manatoulin Island. The town of Espanola had a massive Pulp and Paper plant as you drive into town. One of the major industries since after the second world. We did some shopping at the Superstore and got back on the road driving south on Highway 6. The Highway was a winding roads and views of Georgian Bay on both sides of the road.
Marijuana was legal the last time we visited Ontario but never saw a store. Northern Ontario is the beginning of the signs of the “Green Nature”. There were Indigenous Cannabis retail stores dotted along the Trans Canada, with stores having clever and punny names like “Hi and Buy Dispensary", “The Hotbox Dispensary” and “Manitou Herbs and Dispensary”. We are not even halfway through Ontario. Living in this province for most of my life I didn’t realize how big and Beautiful this province was
Little Current and Sheguiandah were the communities that we drove through to get to our destination for the night. We arrived at the camp and walked around to explore the campground. We were staying on the World’s Largest Freshwater Island. And out campsite was on Lake Manitou. The camp was filled with both seasonal trailers and small camping plots. We pulled the truck-house into its spot for the night set up camp and started to relax. At 20:47hrs we realized we were sandwiched between duelling campsites with music. One site was blaring older music from the 1980’s 90’s and the other site was playing modern Rap and dance music. There was a moment when the music from both sites mashed up. A 1990s blue rodeo song mashed with a current dance song. It put a smile on my face.
Let us finish up this chapter with a quote by Florida Scott Maxwell:
"Daily, hourly we must keep crystal clear that the colours may assume their order. I pray to fulfil my task, don't elude me now for my soul's sake. I must live so that clarity produces the order of diversity. Nothing less than bearing it all will do, for it is the creation of a change of consciousness"
[Images left to right: Mazinaw Lake by James C E Lightle; Saskatchewan River by James C E Lightle; Redden Camp Fire Pit by James C E Lightle; Red River Overflow by James C E Lightle; Lil Pond Saskatchewan by Jame C E Lightle]