Some languages have limited vowels. So did my trip. I managed to touch Lakes Huron and Erie, started and ended my trip at Lake Michigan, but I never made it to Lake Ontario, although I caught a glimpse of it near Burlington Ontario from a bridge. I was compensated for not touching the waters of Ontario by touching my family, so in that sense I was home and I am satisfied with only touching HME.
I touched Lake Huron in two places, at Port Huron on the American side and then further east on the Canadian side. Port Huron reminded me a lot of Kenosha, although for a city less than half the size, Port Huron has a bustling downtown. It does not suffer as Kenosha does from being in between two major metropolitan areas and it is the center of industry and commerce for a wide region. However, I did speak to a few residents of Port Huron and it, as so much of the state of Michigan, has high unemployment and is economically depressed. The parts of the city I saw did not show this, but like home, I am sure if I had gone a short distance away from the waterfront I would have seen it. It does look like the city is trying to build up the waterfront as I noticed new buildings, including the YMCA and office parks.
I drove north along St. Clair River to where it enters Lake Huron, making several stops along the way. Like my city, that neighborhood has some beautiful homes, at least south of the bridge to Canada. On the north side, where I drove to see the lighthouse (I go out of my way for a lighthouse), the houses were smaller, older and reminded me very much of the north side of Kenosha and Racine. I stopped at the Huron Lightship Museum and the Thomas Edison Depot Museum, where I learned that Edison spent several years as a child in this border city. The museum also highlights Port Huron’s importance in Great Lakes shipping, as well as a center for immigration and its role in the Underground Railroad. Actually, Port Huron has a lot of history.
I crossed the Blue Water Bridge into Sarnia Ontario and drove along the lake shore to Pinery Provincial Park about 40 km north east of the bridge. At the park entrance, the hefty $15 fee to enter almost deterred me from going, but I was so glad the frugal side of me lost that afternoon, as the Pinery is a beautiful park. As soon as I started the drive down the main road, I felt the outside world disappear. The canopy of dense trees and the smell of pines instantly brought back wonderful memories of camping trips and I wondered why it has been so long since we’ve pitched a tent in the woods.
I drove the 12 km road through the park, stopping at one of the many beaches to touch the lake. I went several kilometers off the main route to get to another area of the shore just because it was called Burley Beach (you may remember my dog’s name is Burlee). When I got there, I was disappointed to learn that dogs are not allowed on Burley Beach – but there is one section of beach in the park where they are allowed. It’s the one shown to the right.
I walked on a small section of a trail called the Carolinian Trail. Although much of the northern part of the United States, especially along the Great Lakes is Carolinian Forest, made up of deciduous trees like maple, beech and oak, this type of forest only exists in Canada in the southern part of Ontario. I was reminded that although Canada is my mother’s birthplace and home to a slew of my relatives, it is a foreign country and a huge one at that. It is different in many ways from the United States and the predominant forest type is only one of those ways.
I left the park, drove to my cousin’s house which is half way between London and Stratford, near the Thames River, and spent the night. The next morning, as I left for Toronto, my cousin gave me a route taking back roads to Highway 401. I drove several kilometers through farm country. As I drove, I wondered if I was in Iowa or southern Illinois. The land was flat and fertile.
As I got on the 401, at Kitchener, I noticed a sign that said, You are now entering the Niagara Escarpment and at that point the terrain changed dramatically, becoming rocky and covered with trees. The escarpment is a huge ridge extending through the United States and Canada, the most famous portion being Niagara Falls. I was amazed. I have driven this route dozens, if not hundreds of times. Had I never noticed this before?
I had the same reaction on my way home, when I left the outskirts of Hamilton on Highway 403. A sign told me I was leaving the escarpment. As a kid, we just called this part of Hamilton, The Mountain. Who knew it was a significant geological formation that defines an entire region? Live and learn.
I spent four days in Toronto visiting family. On the way home, I took the southern route, crossing at Windsor, so that I could make a stop somewhere to touch Lake Erie. I will tell you more about where I did that tomorrow.