9.24.2018

two weeks in northern ontario: the good, the bad, and the mushrooms

Our Ontario trip was a mixed bag of ups and downs, but mostly ups. Everything is pretty good with some not-so-good mixed in.

Traveling with Diego. We loved it! It was so much fun having us with him all the time, and seeing him so happy and content.

Downside: Traveling with a dog can be a bit limiting. We had planned to leave him alone while we explored Sudbury and Thunder Bay, but when we were actually there, we weren't comfortable with it. We had very limited time in those towns anyway; had we been there for more time, we probably would have done it.

Balance: A huge 5 out of 5 leafs.







The RV. I love traveling by RV. On a road trip, it's great to be so self-contained, to not have to go out for every breakfast and dinner, to have your own kitchenette and washroom, but still be in the woods. Ever since we traveled by RV in Alaska, about a million years ago (1996), I've dreamed of owning one. That's not very practical, but I hope we can rent one again soon.

Downside: Once you're in a campsite, it's not easy to explore a town or city. The ideal would be an motorhome towing a small car, or a big car towing a trailer. That gives you the convenience of the RV and the flexibility of leaving it behind. With only the RV, it can be a bit limiting at times.

Balance: 4 out of 5 maple leafs.







Park facilities. The provincial parks were beautiful. The campsites were good, each with a firepit and picnic table, and some with electric hookups. The washrooms and showers were clean, and there was a washer/dryer available in every park.

Downside: Ontario Parks doesn't take reservations in September (with one exception: Killarney... but we were given wrong information, so we didn't know that). Without reservations, we would get in to a park, often late in the day, then have to drive around looking for a suitable campsite. This was tiring, especially after a whole day of driving. Not being able to reserve campsites was a significant drawback. I assume the absence of reservations is a cost-cutting measure. It's not good.

Park facilities were five-leaf, but the absence of reservations was a real drag.








Road-tripping through Ontario provincial parks. Ontario is insanely huge. The area we drove through is beautiful, but it's a lot of driving, even if you love road trips as much as I do. The parks have a certain sameness to them -- especially if you're not up for extremely challenging hiking or climbing. The Ontario Parks trail rating scale was very different than what we're used to. We were discouraged that a hike labeled "moderate" -- usually our speed -- was too challenging. And once you're on the trail, there's nothing you can do but tough it out.

So if you're not hiking most trails, there's not a lot of difference among the parks. They're all beautiful, but I wish I had realized that they're all pretty much the same. But would I have planned a two-week trip at only one or two parks before actually seeing any of them? Definitely not.

So there was a lot of driving, much of it very scenic, broken up by staying in very similar woodsy places. Touring several Ontario Provincial Parks: 3 of 5 leafs if you love road trips. 2.5 leafs if you don't.


What else did we do?

So besides driving and going on too-challenging hikes we: ate a lot (especially steak, potato chips, and frozen yogurt), drank wine and vodka, listened to a lot of music, had great talks, and read a lot.

Saw the Sudbury Nickel, the Wawa Goose, and Terry Fox. Saw a coyote, many deer, ducks, geese, blue jays, sandhill cranes, rabbits, a bald eagle with something in its talons (!), and many nice dogs. We saw a turtle crossing a highway, but there was no safe way to pull over and help it. I hope you made it, turtle.

We thought we'd see petroglyphs in Lake Superior Provincial Park, but they are inaccessible unless you can climb steep cliffs. Saw crazy elaborate RV campsites where retired folks have created little manors. Saw a lot of friendly people, not one of whom wanted more than a "good morning".

Saw a sky full of stars. Heard much French spoken. Saw dozens of old-fashioned roadside motels, old-fashioned diners, and almost no fast-food restaurants. Had a great breakfast in an ancient coffee shop in The Soo, the only restaurant of the trip.

I wanted to see more of Sudbury and Thunder Bay, but Allan visited bookstores in both places, and loved the one in Sudbury.

And, oh yeah, the mushrooms!

Ever since reading The Omnivore's Dilemma I have been a bit freaked out by wild mushrooms. Mushrooms found in a store or restaurant, no problem. But mushrooms that appear after a rainfall or in damp woodsy places have creeped me out.

Before reading Michael Pollan's excellent book, I didn't know that fungi's networks of (mostly invisible) mycelium can extend vast distances, or that visible mushrooms are but a small fraction of the whole fungus, or that mushrooms aren't plants! I was amazed to learn that fungi are a separate category (kingdom) of living things, neither animal nor plant. (If I learned this in grade school, I had long since forgotten it.) This is only a bit of what I learned about mushrooms from that book, and all of it gave me the creeps.

Now I can report that this trip desensitized my fungiphobia. On our hikes we saw a great variety of wild mushrooms, and we photographed every variety we saw. Now I'm more amazed than freaked out -- although they are still super creepy! I'm going to look up the varieties online; photos to follow.

7 comments:

Amy said...

Did you eat the mushrooms? Are you freaked out by the fact that they are not plants? How they look? I would never pick and eat mushrooms because I would be worried about poisoning myself, but I do love them when someone else more expert finds them and picks them.

I know what you mean about the similarity of scenery issue, but it's usually the wildlife that keeps me interested in parks more than the trees and plantlife.

Glad you had (mostly) a good time!

laura k said...

Oh my god, of course I didn't eat them!! Eating wild mushrooms that you cannot identify would be completely insane.

I didn't associate anything we saw with anything edible.

laura k said...

I like identifying trees and plants when I can, same for birds. I have very limited knowledge of those, but I do enjoy seeing what there is, learning a few more here and there. And wildlife sightings are the greatest.

But for me on a trip like this, it's really all about the scenery.

John F said...

I haven't driven through Northern Ontario in a long time, but I went quite a lot when I was a kid. Two memories -

I was privileged to see Terry Fox run on what turned out to be the last day of the Marathon of Hope. I was with my grandparents, driving back to the prairies after a summer visit to Ottawa, Toronto, and Grey County. I'd followed his progress all summer on radio and TV. It was cold and raining steadily that day. Even from a distance, I could tell he was tired.

We stayed in Thunder Bay that night. When my grandfather turned on the evening news, Terry Fox was front and centre, telling the world that he had to stop running for now.

A rather different memory, and one I hope someone else can back me up on. This would have been between 1979 and '81. I'm sure I remember a sign on the highway outside of Sault Ste. Marie placed (presumably) 200 km from Wawa. It had a large painting of the Wawa Goose over the words "Only 200 goose steps to Wawa!". Even at 9 or 10 years old, I knew there was a problem with this.

laura k said...

John, what an amazing memory, seeing Terry Fox run, and at that time.

Goose steps lol. True fact or urban legend? We may never know. :)

impudent strumpet said...

fungi's networks of (mostly invisible) mycelium can extend vast distances

Whoa, so the weird science of Star Trek: Discovery has some basis in reality! #LeastImportantThing

laura k said...

so the weird science of Star Trek: Discovery has some basis in reality!

I thought the same thing!! I tried to explain it to Allan, but... somehow could not.