What a joy to see my friend Carol’s bright face lighting up the gray Friday, October 15th morning. She had driven down from her home in Gananoque (pronounced Gan-an-AWE-qway), Ontario, and we babbled non-stop as we crossed the bridge into Canada over the St. Lawrence Seaway. Arriving at her beautiful 120 year-old brick home I got myself situated in the guestroom, visited and dined on a scrumptious shrimp dinner she prepared.
As fortune would have it, I had arrived on the eve of a weekend full of jazz and blues music by local musicians being hosted by the Town of Gananoque at a variety of local establishments. For the next two days, Carol and I took walks in the morning along the river that runs through town with Sculpture Park and the graceful resident swan and pathways lining its banks, meandered through the downtown (don’t blink) stores of antiquity, artwork and coffee/restaurant shops, and listened to wonderful blues and jazz in the mid-day and evenings at local venues.
On Sunday afternoon we were fortunate to catch a boat ride throughout the famous “1000 Islands” that swung us by hundreds of them. Most of them appear to be owned and built on by individuals, but many of them are designated as Parks. The beauty of this area, especially during Fall foliage, was stunning. The oranges, yellows and reds were vibrantly displayed against the blue backdrop of water and sky. It was Nature at it’s finest, all dressed up and showing off.
After passing many islands with the summer “cottages” (pa-lease! – these homes are more than cottages!) we came to the millionaires homes – auuggghhh! Unbelievable doesn’t describe the size and schmaltz of the rich people’s homes on the many islands in “millionaire’s row” or whatever it’s called! After passing these gargantuan resort-style homes, we came to Boldt Castle – a home built long ago for the wife of the manager of the Waldorf-Astoria – she died before he completed it. And then I learned that ‘1000 Island Dressing’ is named from a woman who made that original dressing right here in these islands! I was beginning to have too-much-information-to-remember syndrome, especially as their HD flatscreen on two decks of
this boat were showing not only our course throughout the islands with the on-going stream of narrated info, but also it was breaking in on itself to show actual underwater photos of shipwrecks on the bottom of the channel, with sonar images and radar detection…between running from top deck to mid-deck to see the sunken ship photos and learn their history to back up to top for more photos…well – I became slightly tired from it all, and Carol and I retired to the lowest level where we sat at a table and enjoyed the rest of our 3 hour boat cruise through the windows. An awesomely beautiful trip!
One night I accompanied Carol to her realtor’s home for an incredible dinner that reminded me distinctly of a traditional Thanksgiving feast here in the States. With a table spread for fine dining we feasted into the late evening, and came home so full there was danger I might pop! Another evening Carol and I listened to the great blues of a couple female singers at The Old English Pub and ended up jumping on the website of one of them: http://www.jenicarayne.com Talk about great singers and guitar players! See them if you ever get the chance!
Early in the week, Carol told me about the Owl Island, and we decided to go see it. Am I glad we did! About a 40-minute drive west, we caught a VERY small ferry to an island with a miniscule population of peeps, but a large population of owls in the winter. Normally people view them later in the season than when we were visiting, but none-the-less we actually spied two incredibly small saw-whet owls. They stand about 6 – 8 inches tall and are in a sleeping state during the day, so behave very subdued.
The trails in the eastern end of this island are all on private land, and the owners have set sitting benches with buckets of birdseed in a clearing where chickadees zoom wildly back and forth, feeding at seed troughs hanging from trees only feet from the benches. We put seeds in the palms of our hands and held them out,
and from anywhere along our walk in the woods the chickadees would pop out of nowhere and alight on our fingertips, while quickly picking a few seeds to fly off with. They are so lightweight you cannot detect them on your hand, save for their gentle claws clinging to your fingers.
Our meander through this forest was so magical in the late afternoon sun, with Fall colors creating golden and firey glows, I almost didn’t see the gigantic puffball mushrooms that we passed. The are the largest monster puffballs I have ever
seen in my life, and didn’t even know they could grow this large. One puffball could’ve created a stew that would’ve fed an army! It was quite amazing, and of course, the pictures don’t do these giants justice. On our return toward the ferry, Carol swung by many farm fields where we watched large hawks hunting ground prey. It was an afternoon to remember.
The next day was to be my last in Gananoque, so Carol and I cooked up another wonderful meal to help fuel us for our next day’s trip back down into the States and to my mother’s home in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Carol had offered to drive me down, so we planned our route south across the St. Lawrence Seaway and then across Lake Champlain. We had never traveled together for over 6 hours in close confinement, and with this journey ahead of us we were about to find out just a little bit more about each other 🙂