Introduction to our Ontario Vacation 2007

By: Lloyd Mize

This is the first of a fifteen part series on a trip from the United States into the province of Ontario, Canada. Not being fond of large cities, my wife and I opted for the small towns of eastern Ontario. We entered Ontario, Canada, in Sault Ste. Marie.

From there we traveled to Wawa, Chapleau, visited the Chapleau Crown Game Preserve, Cochrane where we visited the Polar Bear Habitat, boarded the Polar Bear Express for Moosonee, rode the Polar Princess, went to Moose Factory Island and returned to the States. You can find the titles of each article by the towns we visited.

But first we visited Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. After checking into the hotel the Soo Locks became our destination. This is where they transfer ships from the Lake Michigan side to the lower Lake Huron. Just as we arrived a barge was just coming in from Lake Huron, more specifically, from St. Mary's river that connects to Lake Huron. It was fascinating to watch as they closed the locks and opened the valve. Without pumps the water just seeks its own level taking only 15 or so minutes to raise the level 21 feet for the ship to float towards Lake Michigan. Then a 1000 foot ship from Lake Michigan came in another lock. It wasn't in there long and it was amazing to watch the ship almost disappear into the lock before departing for destinations serviced by Lake Huron. Another barge at closer range gave us an even better idea of just how high it rose as the lock was filling.

As you will be reading about our travels in more detailed articles I wanted to share with you some observations of ours.

Moose Crossings

Having seen deer signs in the states and realizing that deer are killed and vehicles damaged as they cross the road, I did not realize the same thing would happen for moose. Every so often we would see a sign with a picture of a moose jumping. A little thing I know, but hey, if you have never seen one it is different.

Snowmobiles

Many times we would see a sign with a picture of a snowmobile entering the road, much like a sign for trucks crossing the road. OK, that's natural in Canada. After we reach Chapleau and seeing more snowmobile signs our attention was drawn to them. Just crossing the main road was one thing but the snowmobile paths have their own stop signs! Yes, traffic signs for the snowmobile paths. In some locations the path paralleled the main road with their own stop signs!

Traffic Signals

Why should a traffic signal be an observation I would make? Because the green light is smaller than the red light. In the States all three lights are the same size. This obviously emphasizes the red over the green. It definitely sends a strong message which I liked.

The Polar Bear Express is the only way to travel to Moosonee unless you are flying. I didn't see or look for an airport there but you can connect with outfitters to go farther north than Moosonee. If you decide to take this ride and have small children, I suggest going on a weekend Santa Clause rides the train too. It would be exciting to experience Christmas in July on the Polar Bear Express. This has been in operation for over 40 years and is nothing like the movie!

When you arrive in Moosonee realize that it is not really a tourist town. Yes, you can arrive on the train at 2, go to Moose Island Factory and be back in time to make the return trip on the train the same day. There are shops there but they are for the towns' people mostly. The absence of any type of tourist shops was noticeable to us. Learning about a different culture is good and we enjoyed our visit. I just don't think we will be returning.

You have my permission to reprint and distribute this article as long as it is distributed in its entirety, including all links and copyright information. ? Lloyd Mize 2007

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