Year by year the complexities of this world grow more bewildering, and so each year we need all the more to seek peace and comfort in joyful simplicities. Anonymous.
In 1986, when I was a single mom, and Jason and Blake were 14 and 10 respectively, my daddy retired at age 65 from the banking industry. That summer Mama, Daddy, and the boys and I left on a month-long tour of the United States, with a 3-day detour into Canada about two weeks into the trip. We toured Calgary, Banff, and Lake Louise in Alberta in the middle of July. Snow still capped the mountains there, and we even experienced a short snow flurry during our stay (being from south Georgia, those snow flakes really made an impression). The area was awesomely beautiful, and we shared that beauty with many . . . . . many . . . . . tourists.
While spending his summers in the Les Cheneaux Islands in the U.P. of Michigan, Ted and his mom’s family once boated into the harbor at Manitoulin Island at Little Current – also in Ontario – again, a tourist spot with plenty of visitors in the summer.
Twenty-six years later for me – and more than that for Ted – an invitation from Georgia friends with family ties in Ontario allowed us to experience Canada once again. This time we found beauty of a different nature and enjoyed it all the more because where we stayed was very remote, and tourists were few and far between. It was probably the most peaceful three days and nights I’ve enjoyed for many years – something I needed more than I even realized.
Joe and Kay McInvale have been our neighbors at the lake in Georgia for many, many years. Their oldest daughter Donna, and her husband Brad, stopped by to visit us for two nights last summer on their way to their cabin in Canada. Brad’s grandparents had owned a “camp” near Willisville, Ontario since 1941, and Brad grew up spending parts of his summers there from the time he was three – in 1950. Brad and Donna married in 1969, and have spent summers there (sometimes days, sometimes weeks) every year since then – except for two, when job schedules prevented the trip north.
The camp was originally a log cabin, built sometime in the 20′s. There was no indoor plumbing, and trips to the “out-house” were part of the shared, hilarious stories told during our stay. A New Year’s Eve trip to the cabin in 1976 ended sadly, when Brad and Donna returned home early (with their 3-year-old daughter) from a neighbor’s party to find the cabin engulfed in flames. The only thing saved from the fire were large stones - which now make up the camp’s fireplace. Faulty electrical wiring was determined to be the cause of the fire.
In the spring of 1977, Brad’s mom and dad moved into a neighbor’s cabin and began the construction of what is now Twin Pine Lodge II. It took them a year to complete the new cabin, and the family returned to move in the winter of ’78. The camp is now owned jointly by Brad and his two sisters, Lori and Lynn (more on them later).
Once inside Ontario, we drove about 170 miles east, then turned into the La Cloche Mountain village of Willisville. The La Cloche Mountains are 3.5 billion years old, one of the oldest mountain ranges on Earth. Before glacial erosion, the mountains stood as high as the Himalayas, and are made up of white quartzite. According to legend, the hills were warning bells, or tocsins, used by local First Nations for signaling. These “Bell Rocks” could be heard for a considerable distance when struck, and accordingly, when voyagers explored the area, they named it with the French word for “bell” — La Cloche.
The little village of Willisville was once a small mining community owned by the International Nickel Company (INCO). The homes there were built by INCO to house workers in the early 1940′s, and there was even a village school. INCO sold the homes (and everything else in the village), and in the 80′s the residences became part of a very unique condo community, with residents owning their homes and sharing the common grounds.
We pulled to the side of the road in Willisville and parked to find Brad and Donna waiting for us by the road.
On Monday – a family retreat built by hand by the Pruden family, and we go exploring the lakes, camps, and mountains of the La Cloche range.