Presqu'isle Provincial Park day stay area. On a Saturday, even.  Nobody here :-)

Lake Ontario’s North Shore

lakesideWe’re on our around-the-lake trip circumnavigating Lake Ontario, which is the easternmost and therefore most built-up of the Great Lakes. Despite all the development, there are still plenty of hidden gems along the shore that we have found as we completed the trip around the eastern end, and back into Canada for the trip westward along the top of the lake.

Wellesley Island State Park, our rainy day refuge.

Wellesley Island State Park, our rainy day refuge.

After noodling along the south shore of the lake as far as Watertown, we saw a couple of days of rain coming and ducked into Wellesley Island State Park, where for $20 a day we could read, watch TV, and play on the Internet while looking across the St. Lawrence Seaway at the Canadian shore. It’s a park-like setting of maple, hickory, and oak trees on the riverfront, with vast lawns of beautiful green grass and many squirrels, chipmunks, and deer, all of which kept Fiona the Fearless Kitty entertained.

The rain was off and on both days, and there wasn’t enough sun to keep us supplied with enough electricity to keep the electronics going nonstop, but we could just idle the engine for 20 minutes or so and we’d have another four or five hours worth of electricity, thanks to our nifty engine generator. Every time I don’t have to pay for hookups, I like that thing more and more.  Since the park was only about  five percent occupied, we had no close neighbors, so the idling van motor never even got noticed, regardless of the time of day or night.

We saw a break in the weather coming Friday, so we pulled up stakes, crossed the I-81 bridge into Canada, and ran right into the friendly neighborhood border patrol guys, who detained us for an hour or more while they ransacked through our belongings, looking for foreign contraband. Good thing I ran out of grits – I’d hate to have to explain grits to these fellows. Fiona didn’t like all the traffic noise and being out of her Roadtrek that long, but we navigated through the bureaucratic obstacles, got all of our stuff packed up again, and got on the Thousand Island Parkway headed west by early afternoon, and the weather was indeed improving.

Our pull-out overnight spot near Gananoque, east of Kingston, Ontario.

Our pull-out spot near Gananoque, east of Kingston, Ontario.

The 401 is the quick and dirty way to travel the way we are headed, but we like the slow meander of following the lakeshore as closely as possible, and that’s exactly what the Thousand Islands Parkway does. After a few miles, we saw a perfect pull-out which as luck would have it looked across the water at last night’s campsite – Wellesley Island – on the US side.  Well, with a few islands in the way – the thousand islands name isn’t too far off. Rivers through sedimentary rock areas are pretty boring (except for the canyons) – here, the St. Lawrence River is cutting through the Frontenac Arch, a formation connecting the main, Canadian part of the Canadian Shield with the US part, which we call the Adirondacks. It’s pre-Cambrian gneiss and shist – really tough metamorphic stuff, and at least a billion years old, literally. You can see the stratigraphic flow of the Frontenac Arch in the shapes of the islands themselves. They’re all solid rock, with a thin layer of topsoil enough to hold a tree or two, and almost every little island has a house perched on it, tiny autonomous kingdoms of rest and relaxation for the lucky owners.

Eager to make a delayed lunch to enhance our appreciation of this geological marvel, we put the satellite dishes up, made salmon sandwiches (Fiona always votes for salmon), and whiled the afternoon away, enjoying the sunshine after the days of rain. The locals use this pull-out for river access, so nice little old ladies carrying their folding chairs down to the riverbank came by and chatted, Fiona tried her luck with the local wildlife to no avail, and we had a very pleasant stay.

There's even a free ferry ride on the coastal highway, named the Loyalist Parkway after those scurrilous cowards/heroic men of principle who left the US during the Revolutionary War out of loyalty to England.  From all the flags here, you'd think you were in Britain, not Canada.

There’s even a free ferry ride on the coastal highway, named the Loyalist Parkway after those scurrilous cowards/heroic men of principle who left the US during the Revolutionary War out of loyalty to England. From all the flags here, you’d think you were in Britain, not Canada.

But, where to spend the night? There was a Wal-mart in nearby Kingston, but we liked it better down on the riverbank. It’s darker, quieter, and generally more conducive to restful sleep. Why not? A quick check of the www.overnightRVparking.com website revealed that, sure enough, parking in pullouts in Ontario was allowed for up to ten hours in all places not otherwise posted, so we moved down a bit to reset the ten hour clock and spent the night listening to the waves lap against the shore. The full moon and night critters kept Sharon and Fiona entertained while I slept the night away.   I mean, I’m grateful to find a Wal-mart to sleep in when I’m traversing the urban jungle, but out here there are so many more attractive alternatives.

This was a nice find - a canal near Carrying Place, which was named by the voyageurs. It's a portage across an isthmus to save a lot of paddling. By the time steamships came around, every isthmus seemed to need a canal, which still serves the sailboats. That's a horizontally pivoting railroad bridge in the background.

This was a nice find – a canal near Carrying Place, which was named by the voyageurs. It’s a portage across an isthmus to save a lot of paddling. By the time steamships came around, every isthmus seemed to need a canal, which still serves the sailboats. That’s a horizontally pivoting railroad bridge in the background.

Working our way west the next morning along the shore, we ran into what I call “lake cottage land” – an endless row of cottages with no trespassing signs, and no public access to the water. Oh well, no problem, we said, and kept driving until we got to Presqu’ile Provincial Park near Trenton, plunked down our $11 for a day stay pass, and – perfection.

Presqu'isle Provincial Park day stay area. On a Saturday, even.  Nobody here :-)

Presqu’ile Provincial Park day stay area. On a Saturday, even. Nobody here :-)

The wind following the rain had a lengthy reach and was piling up some impressive one- to two-foot waves on the shore, the sun was out, the squirrels were skittering, and we were lakefront with the satellite dishes up, the back doors open to the wind off the water, and in perfect surroundings for a nice afternoon of reading and dozing. Tomorrow we’ll slog on west past the Toronto mess and say goodbye to Lake Ontario until our next visit.

 


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