Ontario: The Strange and Interesting. The Search Continues

Fog creeping in

As I continued on my journey to find the strange and interesting I may have found a little creepy. The picture above is Highway 11 near Cochrane. The sun setting with the promise of a beautiful day, a mist had formed over the fields. As I drove, I watched it creep along the ground reaching its fingers across the road, seemingly to reach out to touch me as I drove past. Yes I shivered a little. Lol

It’s coming!!!

I spent a wonderful night in Cochrane at the train station. I woke up to a foggy morning. Watching the train come in and leave to Moosonee on a foggy morning was a pretty cool way to start my day.

Train coming into Cochrane Train Station

Cochrane Ontario, at the top of the province is a great little town. Driving any farther north you need an ice road of which I heard does exist, or take the train. Wouldn’t that be cool and cold to take an ice road. Lol. Cochrane is also home to the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat. When you are in Cochrane you are pretty far north but not far enough to see a Polar bear. Cochrane is four hours south of James Bay which has the most Polar Bears this far south in Ontario. I stopped in for a visit to the Polar Bear Habitat and was delighted by this beautiful little gem.

Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat

Polar Bear at Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat

The Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat currently has three Polar bears. Gunuk, Henry and Inukshuk. The habitat does not breed or capture Polar bears. All the bears that come through here are hurt or broken. The care they provide is rehabilitative. Which just warms my heart. You never get a real sense of the size of these beautiful animals from a picture but seeing it in person they are huge. Averaging 1000 pounds (453 kg) they are massive animals. They are also a little comical. When I took this picture the other Polar bear was making this awful noise like he was hurt. Walking back and forth and looking at the other Polar bear I thought maybe he just wanted to be with them. After a chat with the girls it was discovered that it was in fact that he was getting watermelon and his turn could not come soon enough! Hahaha! Oh my stars. Check out their personalities on their website. I so laughed. How flippen cute!

Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat also allows you to take a walk back in time to the early 1900’s. Heritage Village brings you back in Cochrane’s history to a time of horse and carriage. A walk down main street in this replica 1900’s town is reminiscent of walking into an old western movie. I kind of expected to see John Wayne ride around the corner at any moment. Lol

Heritage Village

I also ran across some interesting. A tree that looked burned stood in a clearing. A sign tacked onto the tree explained its meaning.

A burned Pine tree

In 1916 small fires had begun to grow in the forests of Northern Ontario. When they came together and it grew with devastating effects. It was WWI and with most of the areas men off to war there was very little manpower to fight the fire. It is said hundreds of square miles of forests were burning. This Jackpine burnt tree represents that devastating time. Dating back to 1916 you would have thought, by now, it would be decayed and taken back into the earth. Interestingly it can take over 40 years for a log to decompose, and a “standing dead wood” like this one, it may take up to a 100 years. Why? Because of the resin content in the stumps or “snags” as they call them is so high. Wow that’s kind of neat.

The 49th Parallel

49th Parallel

Longitude starts at the equator and works it’s way both north and south. When I see a sign for the 49th Parallel of the longitude of the earth I think north. Usually I am in northern Ontario and I have come across it in Northern Michigan. But really if I am in southern Manitoba I could also run into it. The 49th parallel is the line for our prairie and western provinces between Canada and the United States. It reminds you that even if the road looks straight it is a little curved.

The Arctic Watershed

Arctic Watershed

Mother nature is truly the queen of strange. I have driven by this landmark many times and everytime I am reminded on how amazing nature can be. At this spot just south of Cochrane on Highway 11 mother nature divides the waters. From this spot all rivers flow to the south to the great lakes. On the otherside of the sign all rivers flow north to the Hudson Bay. It is like there is an invisible line. There actually is. It is a piece of high land that runs over 2250 km in Ontario. An invisible bump that runs a wiggly line guiding the water to where it is supposed to be. Amazing!


Heritage Silver Trail

The town of Cobalt is an old silver mining town. In 1903 Silver was discovered south of Cobalt Lake. Little did they know this tiny discovery would grow into one of the biggest silver mine producing areas in the world. At one point there would be over 100 mines in this small 13 kilometer area. Up to today over one billion ounces of silver has been produced by this community. That’s incredible!

In 2001 the Cobalt Heritage Society with the help of Ontario Ministery of Northern Development and Mines, and our local government created the Heritage Silver Trail that you can follow that takes you back in time when Silver mining was booming. Not only does it take you to old ruins of Silver mills and shows you the equipment they would have used but also take you to places like “The Glory Hole”, a lake that was used to mine silver and to see an adit. Come on along. It was fun.

The trail is a driving trail approximately 6 km long. At each spot there is a parking and a trail to explore. Each stop also had an information board so you knew what you are looking at. We will not do all the 22 sites but I will give you a few of my favorites.

An old mining building

The Glory Hole is the first site on the tour. It is 250 feet from the top to the bottom and runs into the forest for miles. Miners would only use dynamite and their hands to dig out the riches of Silver found here. Across the hole you could see thick wire cable where tin would be hung to keep the miners dry. When you stood on the platform you could feel the cold air coming up from the depths of the hole.

The Glory Hole

Beside the Glory Hole was what was left of a The Townsite Mine. It would have been an impressive building in its time. This site produced over 13,000,000 ounces of silver. A silver nugget weighing 2,614 pounds was produced by this Mine. That is one big nugget!

The Townsite Mine

When I think of ruins I think of falling down block buildings. Mckinley Darragh Mill site gave you just that. This huge set of ruins must have been an immense building in its time. I liked the fact you could go and explore within the ruins. You need to be careful though as it can be loose Stine and falling would not be a good idea. There was also a small trolly track that ran along side the ruins. This would be transporting both silver and the tailings (the remains of the rock after the silver had been extracted) from the mill site.

The McKinley Darragh Mill site

When the sign said adit this way you could not help but follow. What is an adit? It is a shaft that is dug horizontally into the side of a mountain or ridge used for mining. Walking along a beautiful path in the forest you could see the vertical shaft dug for this purpose. The ventilation shaft was located a little farther down the path. When you got close you could feel the air coming out and it was cold. Very cold and with some force as it would move your clothes. You could not stand their long as even on a hot day you would get cold pretty quickly.


Who knew you could mine under a lake? Kerr Lake was drained completely four times from 1913 to 1952. Over 600,00,000 gallons of water amd silt would be removed from the lake. A mine shaft 800 feet into the ground would be dug from the lakes bottom. In 1955 Kerr Lake was allowed to fill again and this time it would stay filled. You can still see the ruins of the old pumping station.

Remains by the lake
What is left behind

Some of the tools and devices that were used to mine silver can be found at the park in town. One of those pieces was a steel cage that the miners got into and were lowered into the ground. Oh that would be a hard no for me. Lol. It would also be used to transport dirt and Rick from the shafts as they were being built.

Cage taking the miners underground

What a great interesting place. It is an all day affair with a mining museum and also a war history museum in town. If you are driving by make this a travel destination on your itinerary. You will be glad you did.

Thanks for coming along on my Chipmunk Adventure. Check in next week as I try my hand at staying at a Wilderness Resort.

See you next week.


Feature Travel Blog: The Diefenbunker

Darcy, Myself and Ray at The Diefenbunker

I had never heard of this even being here. In my search for strange and interesting places The Diefenbunker popped up on my radar. I decided to travel to Carp Ontario to see what this actually is. I asked if any of my friends in the area wanted to take a look with me and Darcy and Ray thought it would be pretty interesting too. Come along as we walk back in time and check this out!

Diefenbunker Entrance

The year was 1959 and the cold war and rumors of a nuclear attack was in the air. Our Prime Minister at the time was John Diefenbaker. With a nuclear threat on Canada, Prime Minister Diefenbaker commissioned a bunker to be built to house government and military men and women to bring the country back from a nuclear disaster. This is an impressive structure. 100,000 Sq feet over four floors. As you walk up to the building you cannot even tell there is a structure, never mind four floors under the earth.

There is a bunker under there

Walking through the tunnel it really did feel as if you were walking through a time tunnel. I was not born in 1959 but close, and it was just like I was transported to my childhood. Some things a little different but the atmosphere was definitely a 1960’s feel with a military purpose.

The structure itself is four floors of survival. It was built to withstand a blast from a 5 megaton nuclear blast from 1.8 km away. It held enough rations to last 30 days for 535 people. Always stocked and ready to be locked down at any time. This incredible structure took less than 18 months to build and was a master of engineering. It was designed to be a communication hub, with computers, telephones, even a media studio. Also, it encompassed everyday living with a medical unit, kitchen and cafeteria gallery as well as separate sleeping quarters. Interestingly this fallout shelter, although thankfully never used for a nuclear attack, was used by military personel until it closed in 1994.

Let’s go in and explore.

A Tunnel back in Time

The first thing you would have done when you enter the facility is have two showers. The shower stalls were one after the other. After a sweep with a geiger counter to detect any radiation levels you may bring in with you, paper slippers were provided and you were off to the next step of entering the facility.

Geiger Counter and Paper Slippers

The medical and surgical units were on the first floor. When entering, the person would be checked out and made sure everything was OK before moving into the rest of the unit. I was impressed with the medical equipment they had on hand. This handy, not really, x-ray machine. At first I did not know what it was until I got right up to it and read the tag.

X-ray machine

The surgical unit was extensive. They seemed to be set up for any kind of emergency with a full operating theater. They had to plan to be isolated with no addition help or supplies from the outside world for no less than 30 days.

Operating room

There were two areas for patients. Regular rooms with beds side by side. I noticed with the beds that they were locked down to the floor. This was to keep them moving around in the event of the vibrations from a nuclear blast. The other room was a confinement area for people with serious illness or who mentally could not handle the strain of being in the fallout shelter and were a danger to others or themselves. No one was allowed to bring family members with them. Not even the Prime Minister. I could not imagine the decision to leave your loved ones behind, knowing their fate while you were safe underground.

Medical Patients Beds
Confinement Room

A full dentistry office was also available.

Dentistry Office

These steel doors were scattered throught the fallout shelter. I am not sure what was behind that door but I am thinking they were used to cut off certain portions of the facility in case of emergency. They were definitely a you are not going through here kind of doors. I did like the design of them.

Steel door

Teleprinters were used as the most secure type of communication for military and goverment communications around the world from the 1960’s to the early 1980’s. Communication with the outside world would have been critical in this time. Messages would come in coded and recieved by no less five people. They would then be handed through a slot in the wall to the next room where they would be decoded. The reverse would apply with outgoing messages. To keep these machines in good working order they had a Teleprinter Repair room. It was a very large room but back then they were very large machines. Interestingly enough that technology is still in use today with some aviation industries as well as helping the deaf to recieve phone calls through teletype messaging.

Teleprinter Repair Room

As we walked we noticed a hole in the wall. This was the escape hatch. If the main tunnel had collapse this was their way out. The hole at the top was covered with plexiglass and filled with pea gravel to stop any outside antigens from getting in. If after the nuclear attack, they deemed the air quality as not hazardous, (they did this with sniffers outside that would communicate with the inside of the air quality), they would open the hatch and the gravel would fall into a pot below creating a vacuum to break the glass allowing them to climb outside.

Escape Hatch

Along with teleprinter communication they installed an emergency radio room in 1984. Mainly they used it for communicating with the other Provincial bunkers. There were a total of 50 bunkers built throught Canada. There is one other Provincial nuclear fallout shelter available for tour to the public, CFS Debert in Nova Scotia. All others are either still in use for military operations or have been destroyed.

Emergency Radio Room

I kind of giggled with the next exhibit we came across. This area held some of the food and dishes and a bathroom. The bathroom, well let’s just say it is not for the faint of heart. A dry toilet with a curtain for a door. Right beside it rations and dishes to eat to those rations. A sign on the wall tells you to put lime in the bucket when you are done and put the lid down. Good thing the air is constantly cleaned but I am wondering how many people lost their appetite when walking in. Lol

Dry toilet and rations

I love the little pink cans. Hoping they wiped the dishes off before using them. Lol

Rations and dishes

A small Kitchenette is also on this level. This very much takes me home. The steal legged table as well as the vinyl, pattern covered chairs. Like sitting in my Mom’s kitchen. I love the fake window, because we are under ground with the frill curtains and the yellow canisters on the counter. Remember the dial phones attached to the wall? Hahaha! I can remember pulling up a chair under the phone in our kitchen, but you could not talk long as we were on a party line. Four different houses shared our line. A different ring for each house. If you were on there too long someone would pick up the phone and tell you about it! Lol!

All ready for coffee

Developing and communicating strategies to help people on the outside was the mission of this shelter. The next few rooms offer an inside view on those strategies. The first room is a two tiered platform with the decision makers chairs on the top row. There were five chairs on the second tier with telephones in front of them. The calls would come in to what was happening from the communication rooms and relayed to the Prime Minister and his delegates. A large boardroom with a white board listing the departments and duties for a mass evacuation of the area.

Where the decisions are made

Now I have to tell you, walking into this boardroom and working for a federal corporation for a good part of my working career I felt I had been here before. Long after the sixties. Lol. Except when I was in those boardrooms there were no ashtrays on the tables.


On the wall of the boardroom there was a white board with the mass evacuation plan of the Eastern townships in Quebec. It was interesting to read. Everyone would be freely given anything they need to get out of the area. Medical and transportation arrangements that were to be made and areas specified.

Mass Evacuation Plans

Communication was the key to the operation. Next we would come to the computer rooms. As I looked at the sheer size of these devices and look at the phone I am now holding it is incredible to remember where it all started. Remember the data cards you have to fill out in high school? Ohhh that shows my age eh! It all brings me back to also the sounds of the computers running. The whirring of the machinery and ticking as it thought about it. With all that equipment in one room and the heat they used to generate I wonder what it would be like?

A gallery of computers
Where they make it all make sense
File storage

On the wall just outside this room are the tools of destruction. In case the bunker was breached the tools and instructions were readily available. A couple of hammers, scissors, a screwdriver and wire cutters. That will do the job I am sure.

Tools for destruction

The media center would have been an important part of this shelter. To inform the people of what is happening. Remember that noise that used to come from your TV with an announcement of “This is a test. A test of the emergency broadcasting system.” This is where the announcement would come from.

Broadcasting booth

The rooms where the servicemen would stay would consist of bunk beds and lockers. A couple of dressers and night stands. The room was for just the basics.

Service men’s rooms

The Prime Ministers suite was also on this floor. It also was quite basic with a single bed (remember even the Prime Minister could not bring family), a chair and a small private bathroom. Only the Prime Minister and Govener General had private suites. There would not be much privacy for anyone down here as the secretary to the Prime Minister’s office was right outside his suite. I love the intercom over the bed. That would get you moving I bet. A voice from above with a whole new meaning.

Prime Minister’s suite

A large cantene where you could get food, drinks or snacks. Tables were set up for dining as well as counter seating. This is where the servicemen would get their meals and socialize. It was a large room with cafeteria style serving. I love the green checkered floor and the tables and chairs set out for dining. The room also had billiard table and darts for after hours fun.

Canteen and social room

At the counter you could get anything from antacid medicine to black jack gum. A small store that the personnel could get an array of items from.

Darcy and Ray waiting for snacks.

The canned food storage just behind the canteen held the food that would be served. I am just wondering how long a can of peas really lasts?? Lol

Food rations

The final level held the cold storage and the morgue. Yup one and the same. Your leg of lamb would beside the leg of a man! Haha! That’s kind of creepy. Since the idea was they would be locked in for at least 30 days if anyone had passed away they could store the body here until they got out and it could be buried. There was enough space to fit food for over 500 people and if need be a couple of bodies.

Cold food storage and morgue

I was eagerly awaiting this visit maybe because I had a small moment with Prime Minister Diefenbaker when I was a little girl. My parents had taken me on a trip to Ottawa. My father was a WWII veteran and very interested in politics. As we walked outside parlimemt my Dad recognized Mr. Diefenbaker walking across the lawn. My Dad stopped him and shook his hand and they chatted for about 20 minutes. My Dad asked if he could take a picture with myself and Mr. Diefenbaker and he eagerly agreed. I remember standing beside him and you could feel the strength and honour that came with this man. In the end he shook my Dad’s hand and thanked him for his service, shook my Mom’s hand and patted my shoulder and told me what a brave and heroic man I had for a father. Something I already knew.

Myself and Mr. Diefenbaker

This was such an interesting tour of a well preserved historical time. I encourage everyone to take a walk back in this amazing time machine.

Thanks for coming along on my Chipmunk Adventure. See you next time!


Ontario: The Stange and Interesting. The Search Continues

Northern Ontario

Leaving Thunder Bay with new tires and renewed confidence in my van I started back on my search for the Strange and Interesting in Ontario. Radio on, wind in my hair, tires rolling smoothly down the highway, come on along with me and discover what I have found.

Panorama Amethyst Mine

Panorama Amethyst Mine

I have traveled to Thunder Bay many times but I was usually on a schedule. There was one place I passed by and swore someday I would visit. I love Amethyst. It is purple after all. It is one of my favorite crystals. A chance to mine my own would be cool. Ready to get my hands dirty and turn on a headlamp I turned up Bass Lake Road and headed to the Panorama Amethyst Mine.

Walking in you are welcomed by a beautiful gift shop. The lady behind the counter, who I later learned was Isabelle, asked if I would like a guided tour or I could go out and wander on a self guided tour. Oh a guided tour please, I want to hear about it all. She told me it would be about 20 minutes. As I wandered around the gift shop I marveled at the beautiful amethyst jewelry and scuptures on display. I would later learn that the jewelry and scuptures are all hand crafted at the Amethyst Gift Center in Thunder Bay. Tim Luckinuk and his wife Lori are the owners. Tim tumbles and polishes the stones at their year round gift shop when he is not running the mine with his wife Lori. A lady named Hailey does most of the crafting year round while my wonderful host Isabelle creates these beautiful gifts when the mine is closed as well as when she is not in school.

Amethyst sculptures

Our tour guide, who happened to be the owner of the mine, Tim, arrived and I would be off on a fascinating journey of Amethyst mining.

Before we got to the mining he told us about how amethyst grows. Yes I said grows. Talk about strange and interesting!! The Amethyst crystal is not alive but yet it grows. It will actually attract and collect the components it needs to become the beautiful crystal it is. Once it has the components it needs, it will arrange them into a geological formation. That is amazing!!

Amethyst formation

Amethyst does not grow just anywhere. There have to be certain conditions including a fault line. Here near Thunder Bay, a fault line runs along this path. Millions of years ago this fault line shifted creating crevices and splitting the rock. This created what is called Vugs. Vugs are where the Amethyst crystal will grow and flourish. Water trickling through the broken pieces of rock carry the nutrients into the vug that the crystal needs to form. The bigger the vug, the bigger the crystal.

Amethyst Vug

How does it get those beautiful shades of purple? Now this is a little complicated so hang on. Amethyst is made of silicone and oxygen atoms. When some of the silicon atoms are replaced with iron atoms it changes the color of the crystal. Then the crystal absorbs the ultraviolet rays of the sun mixing blues, reds, greens and yellow and the result is violet. The different shades are different mixtures of those components. The colour can go from a pale reddish violet to a dark vibrant violet. It was interesting that the crystals were not always one shade of violet but could have different shades side by side.

The different shades of violet

Let’s go Mining! Remember how I talked about putting on a headlamp? No headlamp needed, much to my relief. Amethyst is not mined like minerals such as gold or silver. There is no heavy machinery, no deep dark holes, again much to my relief. It is mined from the existing crevice created by the tetonic plate shift. Then water is used to wash away the dirt surrounding the crystal and brushed and lightly chisled away from the rock. When Tim pointed us to the field where we could find Amethyst, it was just that. You take a bucket and a small scraping tool and enter a field of Amethyst. There were crystals of all shapes and sizes. Everywhere you looked, it was a field of gems.

A field of crystals

There is so much more I want to share with you about this amazing place. It really does need its own blog. Look for a feature travel blog soon for a more indepth look at the fascinating world of Amethyst mining and the amazing story of the Panorama Amethyst Mine and the million dollar truck.

St Sylvester’s Mission Church

St. Sylvester’s Mission Church, Nipigon

At the junction of Highway 17 and Highway 11 is the scenic town of Nipigon. Everything about this town has that gentle feel of the north. Nestled at the top of Nipigon Bay, Nipigon is a lovely mixture of the old and the new. The bridge you cross over the Nipigon River is a modern design added to this older northern community, that seems to blend into its surroundings. Driving towards the bridge, it is almost like you are driving towards a tall ship with it’s great masts and it’s sails fully inflated. Very cool!

Nipigon Bridge

Turning left on Highway 11, heading north I came across this little church and graveyard. I love graveyards, the older the better. They have such a wonderful feel to them. I had to stop and check it out. St. Sylvester’s Church was built in 1880 but it really all began in 1852. A Jesuit mission was established and their first gathering began in a barn owned by the Hudson Bay Company. This area was heavy on the fur trading route at a time when the first transcontinental railway was being built. Father Joeseph Hebert built the priests house in 1878 and two years later the parishioners led by Father Duranquet built the church. The graveyard has headstones and crosses from 1800’s into the 2000’s. What a beautiful mix of both old and new.

St. Sylvester’s Graveyard

And then there is the odd! I am not sure what this is representing but it sure made me take a second look. Lol.

Graveyard scarecrow??

Fun fact:

Do you know the difference between a Graveyard and a Cemetery? A Graveyard is attached to a church, a cemetery is not.

The Beardmore Snowman

Beardmore Snowman

Driving back east along Highway 11 you absolutely cannot miss this roadside attraction. Not just because you have to see this but because it is huge and really you cannot miss seeing it. Driving through the town of Beardmore is a 35 foot (10 meters) tall snowman, holding a fishing pole and wearing a top hat and sun glasses. He looks like he is ready for a day of fishing out on the lake. In the winter he changes his look to a scarf and curling club. Made of plywood, steel and gallons of white epoxy paint, this giant attraction was built in 1960 to promote the local ski hill by the combined effort of the Canadian Legion and the town of Beardmore.

Why a snowman? Beardmore is known to get a lot of snowfall. Now it is north, but according to locals they get the most in the area. Where better than Beardmore then to have the largest snowman in the world.

Beardmore Tourist Information

Over the years the snowman’s belly has held an information center, served as a snack and ice cream stand and even a temporary bedroom for some of the locals that may have had a little too much to drink at the local pub. In the late 1990’s unfortunately a fire brought the snowman down. He was rebuilt in 1998 and still stands proud promoting the excellent walleye fishing in the summer and fun snow activities in the winter.

Macleod Provincial Park

Campsite at Macleod Provincial Park

While not strange or particularly interesting Macleod Provincial Park certainly has the beauty to deserve a visit. Located on Highway 11 just east of a little town called Macleod is this northern treasure. I pulled in and was greeted by a very nice young girl at the counter. She gave me a map and circled the campsites available and off on a search of a perfect campsite. Oh what I found. Almost entirely surrounded by trees, with my own private entrance to a beautiful lake.

Lakeside camping

As you know Provincial Parks are my choice if I am going to pay for a campsite. This one did not disappoint. A wonderful shower and a beautiful night listening to the water gently wash onto the shore and the call of the loons. Morning coffee with a pair of ducks that came to wish me a wonderful day. It was hard to leave. Lol

Morning coffee with the ducks

The Dinosaur

Poof there is a dinosaur!

The absolute wonderful thing about roadtrips is coming across something that makes you go..what?? Why??? Driving along Highway 11 enjoying the beautiful scenery in an area called Mattice-Val Cรดtรฉ, looking ahead I see something on the left. Is it a statue of some sort? As I get closer I realize it is a giant T-Rex! Hahaha! What? I am litterly in the middle of nowhere. There are a few houses scattered here and there along the roadway but nothing except what looks like an old camper and an old car and a huge dinosaur. Lol. I have no idea why or what the story is behind the dinosaur statue but for me driving along the highway it gave me a giggle and a What???? I love those!

The Reesor Memorial

Reesor Memorial

Sitting quietly at the side of Highway 11 in Reesor is a memorial to the three men who were killed and eight men who were wounded in a labour dispute in 1963. It was one of the bloodiest confrontations in Canadian Labour History. In January of 1963 1500 unionized workers that cut wood for Spruce Falls Power and Paper Company in Kapuskasing were in a contract dispute over freezing wages and moving working conditions as such the workers would have to work seven days a week to meet quotas. On January 14, 1963 they walked off the job withholding their lumber. Other members of the community also supplied the company lumber. The workers began to sabotage the other suppliers woodpiles. Tensions within community grew to an extreme.

On February 10th 400 union workers arrived to disrupt a shipment of lumber and although police were present, the local woodcutters opened fire and the result was deadly. After this fatal confrontation the Provincial Ministry of Labour sent in an arbitrator and by February 17th everyone was back to work under the old contract until a full arbitration could be done. What a very sad day for all involved.

Moonbeam’s UFO

Moonbeam’s UFO

There are not many places you are guaranteed to see a UFO, but in Northern Ontario, in the little town of Moonbeam you cannot miss it. As you enter town a UFO sits in front of the information center. This is no little UFO. It stands 9 feet high and 18 feet wide. More than enough room for a few aliens. I have been by many times but the information center has never been open. It was this time, finally I could get the story of why Moonbeam has a giant UFO.

The story goes that the early pioneers of the area would see flashes of light on the sky that they would call “moonbeams” falling out of the sky. They describes these images as flat, round disks that flew with great speed and an awful noise. That is the reason they picked a UFO as their town’s symbol. In the late 1990’s this UFO was built to celebrate this beautiful little town. The information center also has a little gift shop. It is worth the stop.

Thanks for coming along on my Chipmunk Adventure. Stay tuned next week to discover what I have found travelling Ontario in my search for the Strange and Interesting.

See you next week


Ontario: The Strange and Interesting. The Search Continues

Hwy 17 Ontario

Leaving North Bay on my search, I go west along Hwy 17 and my heart starts to beat a little faster. I love this part of the Northern Ontario. Not only for the stange and interesting but also the beauty it holds. Come along as my search brings me to a couple of things I have seen before, a whole new experience and a little bump along the way.

The Big Nickel

The Big Nickel

Driving by Sudbury you have to stop at the Big Nickel. At 30 feet (9.1 meters) tall, this replica of a 1951 five cent piece stands out among the rocky terraine. Why a giant Nickel? Sudbury is well known for its nickel mining. Did you know it was a copper mining town first? In 1886, Canadian Copper, Sudbury’s first mine was open. In 1901 nickel mining began by a man by the name of Alva Edison. Through the years Sudbury has become one of the largest producers of nickel in the world.

Into a mine at Dynamic Earth

On the site of the Big Nickel is Dynamic Earth museum. Sudbury has two of the most interactive and interesting science museums in the world. Science North and Dynamic Earth take you into the world of science and geology that everyone can understand. It is very hands on and great for people of all ages to learn and enjoy. I had a chance to visit Dynamic Earth with my grandkids and was very impressed. They took you down to a mine shaft and talked about mining through the ages. A very informative tour.

I have worked in and visited Sudbury a few times. Sudbury is a great city and the largest in Northern Ontario. A few fun facts.. there are more than 5000 miles of mining tunnels running under the Sudbury region. If you put them all together you could walk all the way to Vancouver. It also home to one of the oldest and third largest meteor crash on Earth called the Sudbury Basin. If you have a chance to stop in for a visit, please do, you will be glad you did.

Elliot Lake and the Tailings

Tailing wall in Elliot Lake

I worked in Elliot Lake and frankly fell in love. It is a wonderful community filled with lakes and natural beauty as well as an interesting history. I have met some wonderful people that would continue to be my good friends even after all these years later. Anytime I pass by Elliot Lake I have to stop and visit my friends at Dunlop Lake Lodge. A rustic lodge sitting on a beautiful lake. A nice restaurant attached and deck that has the most beautiful coffee view. It a must stop everytime.

The best coffee view

Down the backroads of Elliot Lake you will see a wall of black rocks. It is obviously man made. What could it be?

Even Chipmunk looks confused

Elliot Lake started as a mining town. In the mid 1950’s the ground in Elliot Lake was found to be rich with uranium. By 1958 the town had become one of the major producers of uranium in the world. At the time the cold war was just heating up and the need by the US for uranium was urgent. Nuclear power was just being discovered. During this time Canada became the leader in the production of Uranium. By the early 60’s the need for uranium for weaponry slowed but the discovery of using it for electricity revitalized a few of the mines. By the 90’s all of Elliot Lake’s 10 mines were closed and one of the things that was left was the tailings. In fact Elliot Lake has the majority of tailings in Canada. The tailings are the rock that is left behind after the uranium is extracted. This black rock that towers above you and goes for miles still has some radioactibity in it. There are approximately 200 million tonnes of tailings in Elliot Lake. As they work to revitalize the environment left behind, you can still see the walls of tailings.

You Are Half Way There

Half Way across Canada

Along Hwy 17, just north of Sault St. Marie, in a little town called Chippawa Falls is the half way point across this vast and beautiful country. The Trans Canada Highway weaves away across Canada from the farthest point east, St. John’s, Newfoundland to the farthest west, Victoria, British Columbia. At 7,476 km (4,860 miles) long, it is the ultimate roadtrip.

It all really started in 1925 with the, what I believe would be, Canada’s first roadtrip. A man named Dr. Perry Doolittle took his Model T Ford and decided to cross Canada. There was no Trans Cananda Highway back then. In some places there was not even road. Dr. Doolittle actually attached rail car wheels to his car to be able to travel along the railways where pieces of road were missing. In an age where cars were not the norm I think this was an extraordinary feat! It took him 39 days to dip his wheels in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. He advocated for a road that would go across the country his whole life. Sadly he passed in 1933 without seeing his vision realized. It would not be until 1962 that then Prime Minister John Diefenbaker would open the Trans Canada Highway. The highway would still be under construction until 1971. Coincidentally it is this part that was one of the last pieces built. The topography of the region along with the hard granite rock made building a roadway difficult. I so hope Dr. Doolittle is looking down with pride and this road traveller thanks him for his courage and adventurism.

The Beauty of Highway 17

Aguasabon Gorge

I was so excited to travel Hwy 17. The road that travels along the top of Lake Superior is one of the most beautiful drives. From large cliffs to glorious beaches is definitely a drive to look forward to. Places like Aguasabon Gorge, Old Woman’s Bay, Batchawana Bay, and Rainbow Falls are some of the most beautiful areas I have ever seen. The natural beauty of this area is stunning. There are also a few places that have interesting stories and are little strange.

Did you know Wawa has the most photographed landmark in North America and it is a Canada Goose? The Wawa Goose stands 28 feet tall, is 22 feet wide. It’s wingspan is 20 feet. That is one big, popular goose.

Wawa Goose

White River also has a surprising story. As you pass through town you will see a statue of Winnie the Pooh. You have to ask yourself… why??? You see apparently the story of Winnie the Pooh started right here in this little town. How did a story about a little bear that originates in England start in Northern Ontario. Well it started as a rescue when a little black bear cub found itself orphaned. Harry Colebourn was off to WWI and at the train station there was a man selling a little bear cub. Harry decided that the little fella would be a great companion to keep him company on his war efforts. Off they both went to England. Eventually Harry got transfered to France and although it broke his heart he gave the bear to a zoo in London as there was no way to take him with him. It was there that this little black bear met Christopher Robin and the rest they say is history.

Winnie the Pooh, White River

A Little Bump in the Road

Fountain Tire, Thunder Bay

For a little bit of the drive my tires sounded different driving down the road. It is kind of hard to explain but they just did not have the same ring to them. There was no pull to the left or the right. I could take my hands off the steering wheel and we would glide smoothly and straight but the sound was just a little different. It was when I was in Elliot Lake that my friend Randy, who is an owner at the Dunlop Lake Lodge noticed the tire wear on my front tires. They are not old tires but the outside of the tire had extreme wear marks. OHHH that is not good. I knew nothing was broke so it had to be an alignment or with that wear pattern a camber issue. I left Elliot Lake thinking I could make it back down south and fix it. By the time I neared Thunder Bay there was now a slight vibration. This was not going to wait. Here is where my support system steps in.

I am blessed with many friends. People tell me I have good friends because I am a good friend. I tell them I am a good friend because I have good friends. My best friends Mark and Diane who live in Niagara, Mark’s brother Phil and his wife Gwen who I know and adore live in Thunder Bay. I texted Phil and asked him if he knew of a good alignment place. He tells me that his and Mark’s other brother, Fred, who I do not think I have never met and still have not, works at Fountain Tire. A few text’s later I could bring it in the next morning and they would have a look at her. Oh Yea!! Friends! ๐Ÿ’œ

Pulling in the place was already busy at opening. This would be a long day. I spoke with Randy and told him of problem. I told him there was no pull, no grind or broken noise but of the wear pattern, what I thought it could be and I would also need two new tires. He said they would get to it as quick as they could, he thought maybe early afternoon and if I needed a ride home. I laughed and told him, home is in your parking lot and I was doing research for a travel book and on tour. I told him I would just go home, to my van, until they could get me in. No problem. Within 15 minutes he was back at my van telling me they had to wait for a part so he could get me in and assessed. Awesome. It was what I thought it was. Yea! I was right but uggg it was going to be kind of expensive. Lol.

I knew I was in good hands and headed over to the Husky Truck Stop for breakfast. I had worked in Thunder Bay many times. When I rounded the corner I knew I had been in this restaurant more than a few times. With some really good people. As I sat and looked at the post office across the road I almost laughed out loud at remembering the moments of working with the staff of Thunder Bay post office and my coworkers who made a difficult and sometimes stressful job that much more enjoyable. Good times and warms thoughts. Goes great with coffee. Within 5 hours I was back on the road.

I very large thank you to Randy, Fred and staff of Fountain Tire. It was nice to know I was in good hands and running safely down the road again.

Next we are off to an Amethyst Mine, a giant snowman and see a UFO. But that is next week. Stay tuned as I search Ontario for the most Starange and Interesting places.

Thanks for coming along on my Chipmunk Adventure.

See you next week.


Ontario: The Strange and Interesting. The Search Continues

A tunnel into history

Searching Ontario for the Strange and Interesting for my new book is so exciting. I have seen so many cool places. I am so excited to share them with you. Let’s get started.

The Diefenbunker

My search takes me east to a walk back into time. It also gave me a chance to visit with a couple of friends who were also excited to see this historical time capsule.

Darcy, myself, and Ray at the Diefenbunker

In 1959 the cold war was in the news and worries of a nuclear attack was in the air. The Prime Minister at that time was John Diefenbaker. His plan was to build a nuclear fallout shelter for members of the goverment and the military that would work to rebuild the country afterwards. The Diefenbunker was created.

Looking from the roadway you would not guess there were four stories of operations that went below ground. By the time you hit the fourth level you will be 75 feet (22.86 meters) underground. As you entered a long tunnel that would transport you into a time that was, you would never guess that you truly were stepping back in time. This is so well preserved I actually felt like a little girl again.

The first thing you encountered was the Geiger counter on the wall. Everyone would have to go through two showers before stepping out to put paper slippers on.

Geiger counter and paper slippers

As you traversed down the hallways you discover it is like a small scale city. With a hospital and operating rooms, kitchens and cafeterias, high-tech (for that era) computer rooms and communication areas to keep abreast of what was happening in the outside world.

Operating room

When you walked into the kitchen area I swear I could hear my Mom. The tables and chairs, the appliances, everything reminded you of that 60’s era and brought those of us that were there, right back.

Waiting for Mom to make coffee

The computer rooms were of course large and filled with giant machinery that now fits in our hand. You could almost hear the whirring and humming that I remember a computer making as it computed the information.

Computer of yesteryear

The Prime Minister suite was just as bare as the others. There was no real privacy and the barest of essentials. It was interesting yo note that no family could come with personnel, not even the Prime Ministers wife.

Prime Ministers suite

There is so much more I want to share with you about this amazing place and how I met Mr. Deifenbaker but we have a few places to visit in this blog. Look for a feature blog on it for sure.

Chalk River and The Manhattan Project

The beginning of Nuclear Power in Canada

Driving west on Highway 17 from Ottawa I seen a small blue sign that said something about Nuclear power. I had to check this out. In 1942 during World War II Nuclear power was just starting out. I think everyone of that day heard about the Manhattan Project. Did you know Canada was part of that? I certainly did not. Along with three other cities in the United States, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Hanford, Washington, and Los Alamos, New Mexico, a small town by the name of Chalk River in Northern Ontario would be chosen to help create the atomic bomb. A Nuclear research laboratory would be built and the first Nuclear generation plant would be constructed. Canada’s role did not stop there as their contribution of raw uranium through the rich sources in the north proved invaluable. Thankfully the threat of Nuclear War is over with a treaty. There is still a Nuclear laboratory there as they continue to work this valuable resource to power our lives.

In Deep River you can find an atom statue that celebrates the great strides these communities have taken in the growth of Nuclear power.

The Atom Statue, Deep River

Brent Crater

Brent Crater

This is somewhere I had been before and just had to go back and spend the night. Brent Crater is a meteorite strike that happened over 450 million years ago. Personally I just find this fascinating. Looking at the rim of this crater and realizing that a gigantic chunk of space rock came streaking towards and hit with such a force that it created a hole 2 miles (3.2 km) wide and 1400 feet (426 meters) deep. What an impact! Check out my you tube video I made while standing at the lookout.

The rim of Brent Crator

At the very bottom of a very bumpy road there is a wonderful campsite with beautiful lake. There is also a few ruins of an old logging town that was once there. The houses that were used for the workers are still there. Some are used as cottages and some show their age.

Repurposing the old houses.
A story of what once was

Oh and I found a plaque. You know how I love those. I laughed when I saw it.

It says it all. Lol

It is a very quiet peaceful place that gives you a chance to take a breath while enjoying the best nature has to offer.

This is where you get your mind right

Dionne Quintuplets Museum

The Home of the Dionne Quintuplets

In 1934 a miracle happened. Five little baby girls were born. Quintuplets…first of their kind in Canada to survive infancy. Born to Elzire and Oliva Dionne, together they weighed just over six pounds. The largest baby only 2.5 pounds, the smallest 1 pound 8 and half ounces. They must have been so little. Born in this little house in North Bay with six siblings before them their parents worked as farmers by trade. Their lives would change forever but not in the ways you would expect.

I had heard my parents talk about the Dionne Quintuplets even 30 years after they had been born when I was a little girl. I had the chance to stop in at this beautiful museum and was honoured I got a chance to speak with Mrs. Dionne’s Grandson, born by one of her first six children, Brian Callahan who created this beautiful little piece of history. He told of a story of a miraculous birth and the heartache cause by severe goverment overreach that followed that tore a family apart.

The Dionne Quintuplets

When Yvonne, Annette, Cรฉcile, ร‰milie and Marie were born, they were so tiny they would fit into a breadbasket. They kept them warm by laying the basket on the door of the oven. Oh my stars I just could not get over that. Five little babies fitting in one basket, being warmed by an oven and they all survived. It was a miracle.

The doctor ran out and told the townsfolk and news spread like wildfire of their birth. Canada was in the midst of a depression and needed a feel good story, but at what cost? The babies were not more than six hours old when they did their first public photo shoot. They laid the babies with their exhausted mother as she almost did not make it threw the birth and the exploitation began. At four months old the sisters were taken from their parents. I was told by Brian the parents were only allowed to see there children for 20 minutes at a time and the siblings were not allowed to visit. Less then a year later the Ontario government stepped in and made them wards of the crown. As a mother I could not even imagine being separated from my children.

Staying warm in a breadbasket

The Ontario goverment then did an even more despicable act. They used the children as a tourist attraction. Millions of dollars were made as people from around the world came to see the girls. It is said that up to 3000 people per day would go through the turnstile at the museum.


Not only would people pay to see them but there was all kinds of merchandise made, such as dolls, clothes as well as being used for commercials.

Meanwhile the parents were fighting to get their daughters back. When in 1942 they finally got their children back but the damage had been done. They did not know each other. The other children led the life of farmers while the girls led a life of being in the spotlight. Years later compensation was given to the girls and an apology but really, how do pay for something you can never get back? There are two serving sisters left, Annette and Cรฉcile. It is my hope they all found some peace and some contentment in life. If you ever are in North Bay make sure you make this little house one of your stops and have a chat with Brian. You will be glad you did.

Thanks for coming along on my Chipmunk Adventure. Check in next week as my search leads me to a beautiful mine and a tire store.

See you next week.


Ontario: The Strange and Interesting. The Search Continues

Base 31, Picton

My search for strange and interesting places continues. Come along and see what I found this week traveling Ontario. You are going to love it!

Base 31

My next adventure brings me back to Picton and Base 31. History mixed with innovation for the future. I love it! Base 31 was built in 1940 as a training facility for air craft crews around the world during WWII. On 700 acres there are over 40 buildings including barracks, mess halls, a huge drill hall and even airplane hangers. As you walk down the paths and drive through the facility you almost expect to see an airman from the 40’s walk around the corner. The buildings have been kept so original it is truly a walk back in time.

Airplane Hangers

As I was marveling at the size of some of the buildings and the way they were crafted, I thought I heard a small plane. No I must just be lost in the history. Then I heard it again. Nope not my imagination. As I looked to my right, behind the airplane hangers a small plane was taking off. It was cute. It still serves as a small airport today and home to the Prince Edward Flying Club. Oh so cool.

Plane taking off at Picton Airport

As you walk through there are pictures of airmen who were stationed here and signs still on the buildings of a time gone by.

Signs of the times

Base 31 has changed hands and names a few times. An airmen training facility owned by the Canadian goverment but operated by the British Royal Navy during World War II. In 1946 it was transfered to the RCAF (Royal Canadian Airforce) to train anti-aircraft warfare and renamed Camp Picton. It changed uses and names again in 1962 when it was used as a base for the First Battalion of the Canadian Guards and was renamed CFB Picton. It was decommissioned in 1969 and sold to the Mayor of Picton who happened to be Scottish, renaming it Lock-Sloy Business Park. This is where the innovation starts. The beginning of a historical save and a blend of making it a viable business.

In 1999 it again changed hands again. The name.. Lock-Sloy Business Park and Airport. Keeping and restoring the buildings and turning them into small artesian studios and gallery’s as well as a good use for industrial companies. In 2021 it again changed hands and PEC Partners continues with the innovation. It was exciting to walk down the rows of buildings and see a yoga studio and artists galleries. The Friday before I got there David Wilcox was playing in the drill hall. There is a concert line up. It is constantly being added to. Hop over to their website and take a look! I cannot wait to see who is playing when I go back in September to get the full history tour and an update on the new ways they are creating to keep the history and keep it viable! Hats off to them and I cannot wait to meet you all in September. Look for a feature blog on this interesting destination.

Sharron Temple

Sharron Temple, Sharon

Sharron Temple popped onto my radar from scanning, you guessed it, Google Maps. What is that? The pictures looked like no other Temple I have seen before. What was the story behind this? It was open to the public, I had to go have a look.

From what I read it looked interesting and the story…a little strange. The temple was built by a Quaker Sect by the name of the “Children of Peace”. Started in 1825 and completed by 1835, it was not just a temple but a series of buildings to hold a community. The temple was made a museum in 1918. Never more than 350 members, they fought for peace, equality and social justice. Opening the first Ontaio Credit Union and developing land-sharing opportunities so people could thrive. A truly caring community they also built the first homeless shelter in Ontario. They sound like a beautiful Canadian community. I could not wait to see it.

Well, I got to see the outside and read a little history in one of the out buildings. The day I went there was a huge car show. I love car shows as well as strange and interesting places. So I thought, bonus, a two for one. Ummm ya no! Lol. The Temple itself was not open and there was no one really to talk to about its history. It was a really good car show though and there were a few friends of mine there. We hung out for a few hours and then I left but I am definitely going back.

Haliburton Wolf Center

Haliburton Wolf Pack

It was time to go north to cooler temperatures. Where better to go than to a forest. Haliburton Forest is 100,000 acres of privately owned forest. Thick with trees and with over 100 lakes it truly is a magical place.

I love a beautiful forest and have a special place in my heart for wolves. They are a beautiful majestic animal that on the one hand is fiercely independent but also belongs to a community. They hunt and live in a pack but each is still their own. I so admire that. The Haliburton Wolf Center takes you to the Wolf Pack. A 5000 square foot museum and educational center brings you through the history of the Haliburton Wolf Pack, the history of Wolves both conceived and factual and their importance to a balanced ecosystem. A large glass lookout allows you to see them up close and watch their interactions. I really could have stayed there all day and just watched them. I strolled through the museum, there was a lot to see. Wildlife exhibits as well as a cinema, a classroom and a souvenir shop. It was an interesting story about how the Wolf pack arrived. A gentlemen from Michigan had Western Timberwolves he had acquired. He started with two and nature happened. Lol. As he aged he found he could not care for them and contacted the owners of the Haliburton Forest and asked if they would take them. They did and what started out as a couple of wolves is now a pack. The complex is such that the animals live in the wild and the humans come to visit. It is a great educational facility and the staff are willing and eagar to answer any questions. The one, well one of maybe a couple, question I asked of the wonderful staff member was “What would you like people to take away after visiting your facility?”

The answer: “To know that wolves are not the big bad wolves of fairy tales but a unintrusive beautiful animal that gives balance to this unbalanced world.” Beautiful!

The Haliburton Forest offers so much more I really feel I must dedicate a blog to this place. Keep an eye out for a feature blog. Be sure to go my home page and subscribe. You will not want to miss this. Find out how wolves once saved my life.

Haliburton Sculpture Forest

Haliburton Sculpture Forest

As I was driving I noticed a sign that said Haliburton Sculpture Forest. What on earth is that??? You know I had to follow that sign. Located in Glebe Park, it is a trail through the forest with 22 sculptures done by both Canadian and International artist spread along the trail. When you first enter the grounds there are old log cabins that in the summer are open for viewing. Wonderfully restored I knew this was going to be the beginning of a wonderful walk.

Log cabin

Even these guys wished me a wonderful walk.

Deer wishing me a wonderful walk

As you walked along the trail there are sculptures set amongst the trees. Each with there own shape and meaning. Some were made of metal, some of stone. Each crafted beautifully and seemed to blend into the setting. You had to really look for some of them. This one I almost missed. Can you see the metal sculpture of the man in the trees?

Can you see the sculpture?

There were so many interesting sculptures along the trail. The sign as you walked in read Haliburton Sculpture Forest…Touched by Magic. It truly is! How and why is it here. You will have read my book! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Sculptures in the forest

The Shaw Woods

Shaw Woods, Eganville

I love a forest. The feel, the smell, the sounds of a dense forest is something that exilerates me. Shaw Woods is what they call an “old growth forest.” An easy walking trail that leads you through a forest filled with old sugar maples, beech and hemlock trees. A preserved piece of our forests that is also used for educational purposes as well as research. As I look up at the canopy of these trees that are 100’s of years old you get a sense of ahh. Through it all they have grown both in strength and size. It was a beautiful walk through history!

Walking the trail

This is where the adventure stops for this week. Come along next week as I take a walk back in time, go to someplace I have already been but just had to go again and visit a misum about 5 little girls with an interesting and somewhat tragic story . Do not forget to go to my home page and put your email in the box so you do not miss a Chipmunk Adventure!

Thanks for coming along. See you next week.


Ontario: The Strange and Interesting

The beginning of a awesome Ontario Tour

I decided it was time for a second book. From Housewife to Vanlife was published almost two years ago. Wow! Amazing eh! What to write about is probably the most difficult decision. Something I am passionate about is a must for my writing. What excites me the most? Travel! What part about travel gets me up and going in the morning? Finding strange and interesting places along the way. I love those. Those offbeat places that make you go hmmmm…or somewhere that has an interesting story. Old architecture fascinates me, as in how on earth did they build that and make it work 100 or 200 years ago without the equipment we have today.

I have traveled throughout Ontario my whole life. Both for work and for play. It is a beautiful vast province that offers a world of diversity. From big cities to vast forests the spectrum for strange and interesting is wide. The beautiful comes in each step of the way.

For the next month or until I have visited at least every place on my map, I want to bring you all along with me. A sneek peak into my new book you could say. Now some I have been to some in the past and some I have never been to, but let us not forget what I find along the way. Those are like unexpected treasures. Come along on my Stange and Interesting Ontario Tour!

The Big Apple

The Big Apple, Colborne

I started east and of course my first stop had to be The Big Apple. I have traveled along a lot of highways and the giant apple definitely stands out as strange. I remember going there as a little girl with my parents and getting apples and an apple pie. It is much more now. With a full shopping experience as well as food booths, mini golf, even a petting zoo, it is no longer just apple pies. It is a travel destination. You can even climb to the top of the apple. I did not do that! Lol! For all the juicy details of how it grew you will have to read my book. ๐Ÿ™‚

Some of the attractions

The Stone Arch Dam

The Stone Arch Dam, Elgin

Researching stange and interesting places I found this 200 year old Stone Arch Dam. Old architecture that still works. Amazing!! Made from sandstone this dam was constructed in 1831 and was the first of its kind in North America, the third largest in the world in its time. At 61 feet tall (18.6 metres) and 350 feet (106.6 metres) wide it is still holding back and divering the water from the Rideau Canal through a gorge into Whitefish Lake. It is interesting to note that nothing has been done to this structure other than adding sliceways to generate power in 1947. Incredible!

Amazing infrastructure

Jones Falls Top Lock

Jones Falls Lock, Elgin

I found this gem on my way to the Stone Arch Dam. As I walked up the hill I could see one of the employees looking like they were turning a large wheel. I realized they were working the lock with a wheel and pulley system. Wow I needed to get a closer look. These locks at Jones Falls are over 200 years old and work the same way they did back then. A wheel and pulley system opens and closes the lock doors. Filling the lock requires them to open the door just a little. As the boats move in the operator chooses how they are parked inside the lock. When I was there, there was a total of 5 boats in the lock. Three in the front and two in the back. The smaller craft in the middle. The smaller craft was to stay close to one boat but make sure there was four feet or more between him and the other boat. They would be lowered 15 feet to the turning basin and the next lock (there are a total of four). When that happened they would lose that four feet between them. What an interesting and impressive system built and created so long ago and still working!

Moving the boats in

Rockwood Insane Asylum

Rockwood Insane Asylum, Kingston

Rockwood Insane Asylum started as a country villa for John Soloman Cartwight. What started as a home away from home became a central part for the psychiatric hospital that is on the grounds today. The villa, built in 1842, was acquired by the goverment in 1856 to create a “Criminal Lunatic Asylum”. The building above was built in 1859 but not completed until 1870, but inmates started moving in by 1862. It is interesting to note that the Asylum was built by the prisoners of Kingston Penitentiary which is just down the road. Some of the inmates that would eventually arrive here were from the prison. You have to wonder of any of the builders eventually come to reside here? There are a series of buildings as it was in those days its own little community. The stables that were built for the villa would house the female inmates until 1868 when they were moved inside. It would house up to 300 inmates at a time until its close in 2000. It is a formative building. As you walk around you can almost feel the coldness of the stone and the spirits of those that walked the halls of this impressive 19th century building.

As I walked around the back of the building towards the water I noticed a boat tied to the dock that looked as abandoned as the buildings. The dock was large and looked like a type of reception area with Kingston in large white letters. I am not sure what this is but it was kind of eerie. Lol!

Is this abandoned too?

The Vic Cafe

On my way to my next destination in Picton I came across this cute little restaurant on the main street. The colourful exterior made my van turn in. I had to go in. It was time for lunch anyway. The colour and fun traveled all the way into the inside. I almost felt I was in a psychedelic 60’s diner. The Vic Cafe was the name of the restaurant and the service and the food was something I will definitely be stopping by again for.

Colourful outside
Fun, frivolity and good food on the inside

Graveyards and Gallows

Macauley Hertige Park, Picton

Now you know my love of graveyards, when you mix murder and mystery into the puzzle I am all in! The tour Graveyard and Gallows starts at the Macauley Hertige Park in Picton at the old St. Mary of Magdalene Church. Our tour guide Jess lead us on a most excellent tour of historical gravestones such as the one pictured above of a family that while canoeing was tragically drowned after a young child went after his hat and tipped the canoe. Another of a headstone that was in Ripleys Believe It or Not for a mistake that was made on the headstone back in 1860. Did someone not notice it or was it so expensive to fix that it was just not done? No one knows but the error is still there today.

Can you spot the error?

If you do let me know in the comment area of my blog or on my Facebook page. It took me a few minutes to figure it out.

Church and Graveyard

As we finished our tour of the graveyard we moved to the courthouse where Jess would tell the story of the murder of Peter Lazier who was shot in the chest in a bungled robbery attempt in 1883, the capture and subsequent hanging of those accused of his murder and the circumstantial evidence they were convicted on. At the courthouse we were shown the exercise yard, the jail cells and the gallows where the men were hung.

Exercise yard and jail cells

As the story goes there was something not right about how the killers were tracked. Following the tracks the men often lost the trail in the snow and proceeded until they found more tracks in the snow, but were they the same tracks? The conviction came on the evidence of a boot impression in the snow. It looked to be the same size when put beside it and made the same inprint when put INSIDE the footprint in the snow. Although police searched for a weapon none was ever found. Joseph Thomset and George Lowder both protested their innocence until the day they were hanged on June 10, 1884. It is said that it was not a quick death for either men as the noose was not set properly and for one of them it took 14 minutes to die. There have been rumors that they still haunt the courthouse where according to some, a grave miscarriage of justice occurred.

The shoes the conviction was based on
The gallows
Are they still haunting where they died?

An over all excellent tour and highly recommended. I would like to thank Jess for the wonderful story telling of murder and, mayhem and mystery!

This is where the blog ends but not the adventure. Find out next week what I have found on my search for strange and interesting places in Ontario.

See you next week


49th National Van Show: Oh What a Trip

Kelsey Bloom and her beautiful van
Cool chick’s with Cool Toys

After a few days at home it was once again time to climb into my 69 Econoline and drive to Ohio to the largest Custom Van gathering in North America. We (as in my van and I ๐Ÿ™‚) started out Wednesday morning on a hot and humid day that was to be a 7 hour tour but it would be a full, and I mean full 24 hours before I would arrive. I am going to mention before I start the story of my journey that my 69 Econoline had started and ran perfectly since Karl fixed that loose wire. This time though I was prepared with tools, the only thing I was missing was a jump starter but I had CAA which would cover me in the US and I would grab one while I was down there.

I planned my trip which was mostly highway driving and would cross at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo. After a 30 minute wait in line, I was sweating profusely but her temperature gauge did not rise near as much as mine did. After a few questions we were through and on our way. My first stop would be Cracker Barrel in Erie Pennsylvania. After a good meal, as always, I went to start her up and nothing. Now I am going to mention as I was going down the highway I could feel a slight hesitation every once in awhile. Not enough to overly concern me but enough to make me go hmmmm. I have owned this particular van for 12 years. I know how she sounds and feels. Something was off. I did not realize it would be the whole van that would be off. Lol. A call to CAA, who transfered me to AAA for a boost and a very helpful young man named Mike showed up. He put the booster cables on and the van started. He looked at me and said turn the key off. I then showed him the keys in my hand. Hmmmm that’s pretty weird. He called his boss who dabbled in old autos and he told him to tap the starter solenoid lightly with a screwdriver. It worked and she started right up. I had no idea how long I could run like that and I still had hours to go. I went to Walmart to pick up a jump starter and googled an O’Reilly Auto Parts to get a solenoid.

I must say this the first time I have been at an O’Reilly and the experience was wonderful. I told them my problem and they had a solenoid in stock. They put the battery on charge as it was almost out again and I decided to change the solenoid since it would take a couple of hours before it was fully charged. Did I mention it was 95 degrees outside? It was hot and now I was going to get greasy. This was not what I had in mind for a 7 hour tour to the Nat’s, as we affectionately call them.

Hot and greasy!
Let’s see if this works.

I could not get the old solenoid off the firewall as that would require removal the dog house which also requires removal of the passenger seat. I was not going to try to do that in this heat, in a parking lot. I mean I would if I had to but really not what I wanted to do. I put it all together, they brought the battery out, and nothing! Darn! I took it all apart, cleaned all the terminals on the old one with a little sandpaper, and the connections and she started right up. Great! I had about 4 hours to go. Armed with my jump starter I headed off. No stopping, straight there. The nice thing about the engine in the 69 it is mostly mechanical. Once you have it running it does not use a lot of electricity to run. I got this.

She was running great. Window open, a beautiful evening, cool wind in my hair (you sang that eh ๐Ÿ™‚), when dark skies appeared. A few flashes of lightning and a roll of thunder. Uh oh! I was just coming into Columbus Ohio on a four lane highway, as I looked ahead I could see brake lights, then hazard lights. Before I knew it I hit litterly a wall of water. There was no rain and then there was so much it created a river on the road. This style of Econoline is famous for hydro-planing. Up on top of the water she went. I now had no control. She was drifting toward the shoulder. There were two lanes of traffic between me and the shoulder. Everyone was slowing down as visibility was near zero. I took my foot off the gas, put the van in neutral and put my hazards on. All I could do was wiggle the wheel a little and try to break through the water barrier on the road. As she started to move over the traffic seemed to sense what was going on and moved out of my way or they slowed faster than I did. Which ever it was, I was grateful. Once I hit the rumble strip on the side of the road she broke through. I had control. Phewww! I pulled over when it was safe to do so and took a couple of deep breaths!

FYI…I do not like boating. I especially do not like boating when I am driving my van. Lol

The rain had let up but now I was using my lights and wipers. That battery will only last so long. As I tried to decide what to do, do I gamble my battery will last another hour or do I find somewhere to pull over? Just then the rain started to get harder. That made my decision for me. A Pilot Truck Stop was at the next exit. It was time to rest. Tomorrow was another day.

Parked just in time

The next morning the sun was shining and a beautiful day awaited. After a shower and a coffee to go I held my breath and turned the key. She started right up. Good girl. Let’s go play!!

I have arrived!

Carla Rappa was working the gate and what a wonderful surprise! I have not seen her and her husband John in three years. It was so nice to hug her. They have a sweet purple 1973 Ford Econoline. I just love them and their van! It would take me two days to find John! Lol.

John and I and our vans

To say it was packed with vans already is an understatement. There were vans as far as the eye can see. Oh Yea!!!! By Saturday a total of 817 Vans would come through the gate. The highest total for the Van Nationals in years. So many friends to see and hug that I have not seen for a long time and a few new ones I have only talked to on social media but never hugged. As you drove in there was a large wooden structure in the main area with of course a van on top. The theme was Burning Van. This should be interesting. Off to find my friends Bonnie, Jim aka Kooba, and Sandy who I was parking with.

Sandy, Bonnie, and Jim in front of the Burning Van
Love this lady! And she gave me her cup because it was sooo me! ๐Ÿ’œ๐Ÿ’œ

The fairgrounds in Old Washington Ohio was hot and hilly. Lol! I have been there a few times and parked on top of the hill. I was so happy to find Jim and Bonnie at the bottom. It has to be the only park I have ever been to that you always seem to be walking up hill. They did have a small shuttle you could ride around in but I never did seem to be able to be in the right place at the right time to catch it. Lol.

A sea of Vans!

Down to vendors row to see Bonnie and Joe from Florida. I love vendors row as you never know what they will have. From pins and patches to shirts and hats as well as artisan artists strutting their stuff. Food vendors often have a different or surprising types of foods. One of the food vendors was a donut maker but you could get milkshakes. What was adorning the straw of the milkshake, a warm soft delicious donut. Maybe those hills will come in handy. Lol.

Friday was the cruise. One of my favorite parts of the event. Unfortunately I just did not feel confident my van would work properly so I did not participate this year. As they lined up I was feeling a little sad but also in awe of some of the beautiful vans. The first picture of the blog is a perfect example. Kelsey Bloom and her beautiful Pink Panther van was just one of over 300 vans that would cruise to the beach.

A what seems like a never ending line

The Nationals is a perfect example of why you need to look at your Bible. For those that do not know, it is the listing of events within the event. When and where the bands are, Demonstration events, such as Bonnie and Sandy’s Tye-dye demonstration teaching people how to tie the material to make certain shapes, and the process that is required to create some of the beautiful tapestries and clothes that they create. If you ever need any tye-dye these are ladies you need to contact.

Beautiful ladies, beautiful creations

Friday night is also Bright and Shine. After dark the grounds light up with vans. Some of the lighting that people have created is just incredible! There is no engine running allowed so people have to pack the power. As a person that lives on minimal power I know how much power it takes to run those light. Just ingenious!

Bright and Shine

You cannot forget about the little vans

So cute

There was so many things to be entertained by, I mean not just each other. Someone did a chainsaw carving as well as these fire dancers. Something for everyone, everywhere you turned.

Dancing with fire

Some of the vans you see are so different and cute. Some of my favorites I seen!

Cool chicks with cool toys
Some sweet vans!

Ok so I have to share something with you all. I do not cook, well I try not to cook. Bonnie had this cool little egg sandwich maker and she actually got me to cook with it. What a cool little machine. It was so easy. It is definite add to my favorite camping accessory page

I am cooking! Lol!

Saturday came and I had still not seen a number of people. One person in particular I wanted to hug was Kirsten and her husband Uwe from Germany. I have chatted with her so many times on Facebook and she seemed like such a beautiful amazing woman. On Saturday we finally found each other. What an absolute joy to hug her. She was every bit as beautiful inside and out as I expected. Uwe was such a very nice man and gave great hugs!

Uwe, Kirsten and myself

Saturday night was the last night of the Nationals. The Burning Van that was in the middle of the fairgrounds was very special for a couple of reasons. Not only was it constructed by the vanners themselves but also held inside a Vanners Memorial. Remembering all those vanners that we have loved and lost. It was a very special place inside that little walkway. Where you touched a name and felt you’re heart swell, a funny story, remembering the good times and the good people that blessed our lives for a little while.

Vanners Memorial

The burning of the Van and those represented inside was preceded by a spectacular fireworks show. What a send off to those vanners and great ending to a beautiful 4 days.

The fireworks
Letting the spirits soar! ๐Ÿ’œ

What a fabulous weekend spent with fabulous friends. Hats off and hearty thanks to Vans on the Run and Truckin into Tomorrow vanclubs and The Nationals Board for a most awesome event.

On the way home I caravaned with my friend Bonnie. We drive well together. I am pretty sure that with trouble I had coming down I was not leaving without her. I am very blessed!

Bonnie, myself and our vans

All went smooth and it was a wonderful drive home!


Thanks for coming along on my Chipmunk Adventure.

Starting next week get ready for some strange and interesting places in Ontario and a sneak peek at what will be in my new book! ๐Ÿ™‚


Eastern Ontario: A Gem Around Every Corner

Long Sault Parkway

Eastern Ontario really does not get enough credit. As it winds along beside the St. Lawrence River it reveals gems every mile you go. From deep history of Kingston to the beauty of Thousands Islands and Gananoque there is something for everyone.

Wanting to do a bit of touring in Eastern Ontario and always looking for something different I found Long Sault Parkway that crosses 11 islands. That is so cool. I have crossed islands like that in Florida but not Ontario. I had to check this out.

Long Sault Parkway

It had been a busy weekend. As I was exploring the area I really want to find a nice campsite, a hot shower and some peace and quiet. To my delight there were three along the Parkway. I decided on McLaren Campground as it was at the beginning on the west side and darkness was falling. I wanted to drive the Parkway in the daylight and be refreshed to take in what I knew was going to be some beauty and what turned out to be an interesting story.

All alone in the woods

McLaren Campground had many unserviced sites along the water. It also was very busy in that area. Up towards the woods there was no one around. Perfect for a night of R & R! I must say the amenities were wonderful and so was the staff. It was a very nice stay.

In the morning I had the choice of pulling out the camp stove and making coffee or driving 15 minutes to a Tim Hortons to get coffee. I chose the latter. Lol. While there I met a gentlemen and his daughter who had a Valliant on his way to New Brunswick with a radiator leak. I put it out on Facebook looking for someone to help him out. I am so hoping he found a solution.

So cute

On to the Parkway and across the causeways. The views were beautiful. I found it hard to believe I crossed 11 islands in 10.5 Kilometers.

Sandy Beach and a beautiful day

How and why were these islands here and how were they connected? As it turns out there used to be towns along this stretch of land. Before 1954 there were no islands but several towns and villages. In 1954 with the cooperation of the Canadian and the US governments, dams were built to harness the power of the St. Lawrence rapids. In its day it was a popular tourist destination. To create these dams, three in total, towns and villages would have to be relocated, roadways and railways rerouted. The project took close to four years to complete. Relocating 7 and 1/3 villages was not an easy task. Over 525 homes were moved, and 6500 people involved in the relocation. Can you imagine being told you have to relocate but you can bring your houses with you?

Moving a house in 1954

In the move to create the Hydro dams 40 miles of railway track and 35 miles of Hwy 2 were relocated. Even a cemetary with over 5000 graves were moved inland.

The way it was.

As you drove along the Parkway over causeways there are small picnic areas as well as campgrounds dotted along on the islands. You can walk, bike or drive your way across. Which ever way you choose it is an enjoyable and relaxing ride. I am so glad I found this little gem along the rivers of the St. Lawrence in Ontario.

Just for information Upper Canada Village is just down the road. If you have never been there make it a stop on your Eastern Ontario tour. A walk through history where you can see people working and living in a time long ago. It also has a more indepth look at how Long Sault Parkway came to be.

Taking Highway 2 along the river back towards Southern Ontario I stopped at Two Creeks Forest Conservation Area for lunch. What a cute little place. A good size parking area and a walking path for an afternoon stroll. They also supplied a bathroom which is especially appreciated driving my 69 and drinking coffee. Lol My only complaint…Not one garbage can. Garbage on the ground makes me crazy. The town not supplying places for people to put their garbage makes me crazier.

Two Creeks Forest Conservation Area

My next stop on my tour was the Brockville Railway Tunnel. This is way cooler than I thought it would be. An old railway tunnel built in the 1850’s for taking cargo to the industrial areas near the waterfront. They have made it into a spectacular underground light show.

Brockville Railway Tunnel

Walking into the Tunnel you have no idea of the spectacular show you are about to enter.

The entrance to the magic

As you walk in, there is a sign telling you that you can only walk, no bike riding or roller blading and the floor will be wet due to the water dripping from the rocks. It says you will get dripped on and they were right. Lol. Actually felt pretty good as it was a hot day outside. You could feel the cool air as you entered the tunnel.

Lets look at the history of the tunnel before we get to the magic.

Constructed between 1854 -1860 this is the first railway tunnel in Canada. It always amazes me how they could build and create these amazing places so long ago without the equipment they have today. In the 1850’s dynamite had not been invented, they used gunpowder to blast away the rock. Starting in the middle, an Extraction shaft was built. There they could extract the rock that had been blown to pieces with the gun powder and lower construction workers and equipment needed for the project.