Joyful Simplicity – Part I

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).

Crossing over the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie, MI . . . .

. . . on the Sault Ste. marie International Bridge.

We soon became part of the ‘back-up” on the bridge to get through Customs into Canada.

It took about 30 minutes to get to the Customs booth and show our passports and Maddie and Bear’s Rabies Certificates.

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.

After hugs and welcomes, they helped us with luggage, and we followed them to their pontoon boat, which is the only way into their camp.

As we pulled away from the dock, we were able to get a better view of the homes in Willisville, many of which sit right on the waterfront.

Brad . . . .

. . . and Donna.

A five minute boat ride brought us around a curve of land. There is a cabin on the left side of this photo and one on the far right you can barely see. The Pruden’s camp, Twin Pine Lodge II, sits between these two . . .

. . . almost completely hidden by trees.

Twin Pine Lodge II

The climb from boat dock to camp is pretty steep and very rocky.

Although Maddie had to be kept on leash pretty much all the time (close encounters have occurred over the years with deer, porcupines, skunks, weasels, and Black Bears), Bear thoroughly enjoyed exploring his new surroundings.

Stacks of wood were everywhere (a major summer project is cleaning the property of fallen trees and limbs that have come down during the harsh winters), but with a “no burn” ordinance in affect because of dry conditions, the stacks will probably still be there next summer.

As the sun set on our first night in camp, the quietness of this remote place was amplified.  I stood on the outcrop of rocks to the west of the camp and looked down Frood Lake to the “narrows” which lead into Cranberry Lake.  Occasionally, we would hear a dog barking from another camp, but other than that there was silence. We slept with the windows open, and a cool, fresh breeze swept through our room, making sleep very, very easy. 

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.


17 thoughts on “Joyful Simplicity – Part I

  1. Simply beautiful!! What a peaceful looking place. For a number of years my husband and I took a camping trip to Ontario every year. I LOVED it! We tent camped so no TV and in those days there were no cell phones and very few radio stations where we went. So for two weeks each year we were “out of touch” with the rest of the world and it was glorious. Bree, I hope you all had a similarly wonderful Ontario time. Thanks so much for sharing your good times up north.

    • It was an awesome trip, Pam. I guess you don’t realize how much you need serenity every once in a while until you truly experience it.

  2. Brenda,

    How wonderful that must have been. When I was a teenager in Cheboygan, a group of us boys spent a night and day in a cabin on a lake near there. No other cabins or people. Went canoeing in the morning with the mist rising from the water. So peaceful. I’ve never forgotten it, so I know how you must have felt.

  3. Beautiful! Looks so peacful and relaxing! You ae such a great picture taker Bree! I love “being there” through your pictures!

  4. Love the pic of Bear with the ‘fire pit’ in the background. My brother and I and my father used to take fishing trips to Canada every summer, and now, with my Dad getting up in years, it is something that I will treasure forever!

    2 weeks from today we will arriving on the island – can’t wait!

  5. Am so glad to hear your get away is peaceful – we all need that once in a while! It sounds like a great idea to me! Enjoy your trip!

  6. What a great trip and a super place for a cabin. How do they keep the motor for the boat running during the off season? Is that a railroad tie near the water in the last picture? I’m meeting my old(middle age) college roommate for lunch on Monday.Haven’t seen him in over fifty years; due to wars wives and other inconveniences.Should be a great get together.

    • What fun, Charlie! Info on that “railroad tie” coming on Monday. I forget about the motor, but I know they drain everything and boat comes out of the water when they leave – I think . . . .

  7. Leaving Sat. for another trip to the peaceful U.P. It’s serene, quiet on the shore of Lake Michigan. I can hardly wait to get there. It’s our little quiet piece of heaven. I know it’s very much like Canada, with all the wildlife. So glad you enjoyed your trip so much, and had a good visit with your friends.

  8. Brenda, I liked reading this so much. We do so often long for simpler easier less complicated times. Feeling very peaceful and quiet right now. Thank you.

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