When Glenn Cameron and his partner Judy Hammond (whose Twitter handle is @boomergirl50) take to the road around Canada, they bring with them endless curiosity, the artist’s photographic eye, and the writer’s penchant for making me want to visit anyplace they write about. On a recent road tour, they captured the glorious fall colours we westerners see only in small patches.
I’m thrilled they were willing to post a part of their travels on Crossroads. Their drive from Toronto through the foothills of the Laurentian mountains and three of Ontario’s leafy parks took me back to my years in Upstate New York, where autumn was always fiery. My thanks to them for sharing the glories of an eastern fall.
As I write this, the fall colours in eastern Ontario are in the last throes of their annual spectacle before retiring for the winter. It was a yellow and orange season. We didn’t get all the flaming reds that burn up the maples in the best years.
We headed east out of Toronto by car, on our way to Québec and the foothills of the Laurentian mountains, and decided to abandon the boring highway 401 at Kingston, to take to the smaller roads – the grey ones on the map. We visited three Ontario Parks on our way through this wedge of the province, which is sandwiched between the Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers – Québec to the north and New York state south of the border.
The southern edge of the Canadian Shield is a rolling jumble of farmland, rocky-shored lakes and mixed woodland. Through towns like Harrowsmith, Sydenham and Verona we made our way to Frontenac Provincial Park. Here we have 5,214 hectares of finger lakes, wetlands, brilliant views and lots of wildlife. We were informed by some locals that the wife of a very prominent Canadian politician recently spent a weekend camping in the park and hiking on some of the 170 km of trails. Makes sense, given the proximity to our nation’s capital.
Powered vehicles are prohibited in this park. No motorboats, no ATVs – they frighten the osprey and the kingfisher. Even mountain bikes are banned. This is the domain of hikers and canoeists. Frontenac Park is open all year. Winter activities are popular and park staff are famous for their ongoing Wilderness Skills Training Programs
Up the road we passed through the Village of Westport on the Rideau Canal. It’s a well-preserved, 19th century kinda place with nice bakeries and gift stores – a great spot for lunch and to pick up some goodies for the road. We took a short detour to check out the Newboro blockhouse and then passed the lock at Rideau Narrows.
In the Rideau Lakes area, north-east of Westport, Murphys Point Provincial Park was our next stop. There are at least four abandoned mine sites in this park as well as restored pioneer homesteads. But mainly it’s a place for boat-access camping, hiking and paddling of all sorts. Or you can do what we did – shake out the floor mats from the car, stretch your legs, and enjoy the scenery for an hour or so. Canoes can be rented at the main entrance. But call first, the superintendent is often out tending to the park.
North-west again through Smiths Falls, Kilmarnock, Merrickville and Burritts Rapids finds us at Rideau River Provincial Park. At this point it’s getting a little hairy in the car. My partner and I have been travelling together for years. We are inspired by Canada’s landscape and her people. We’ve enjoyed lobster in Shediac and froze our butts off in the mountains around Banff, but once in a while in life, a person just needs a little space! So she takes the camera and toodles off into the bush, while I kick at the nettles in the ditch for a while. And darn if she doesn’t come back with better pictures than mine. I hate it when that happens.