Route of the Voyageurs

Welcome to our first Postcard Project post. Watch those mailboxes for those who signed up to receive one.

It is already a month since we moved back into the van. And what a month it has been. We saw lots of friends and family, fought nasty colds and coughs, said an abrupt farewell to our best dog, Duff, and made our way almost as far as Wawa, Ontario. This trip isn’t going as we had hoped. Things started going sideways after visiting our family doctor back in Toronto on June 8th. When our doctor said, ‘this isn’t maybe the best year for travelling. Last year would have been better,’ it took some of the wind out of our sails. Let’s just say there have been a lot of blood and other tests since then in various places. In fact, we returned to Sault St. Marie on June 30th for more. We are currently in a holding pattern here until July 4th or 5th. We hope we’ll find out as soon as possible if we can continue westward or if we have to return to Toronto. We’re really hoping, of course, for the former. If we have to return to Toronto, you can bet we’ll take a different route and make the most of the journey. We could use all of your good wishes and thoughts right now!

Also, you’ll notice that the postcards are signed, ‘Love, Julie, Christian + MacDuff.’ We had the backs printed before leaving Toronto and fully expected Duff to travel with us! And in a way, he is. We think of him everywhere we go and imagine him enjoying many of the places we have already visited.

Duff on the Folksblogen Map of North America
While packing up the apartment during our last week in Amherstburg, we took a photo of this map we created for our artist residency at Spark Box Studio in 2016. It illustrates our journey in the VW from June 2014 until September 2016. You can see there are still a lot of places we need to visit. Duff decided to lie down on the map as we were trying to photograph it. He appears to be visualizing some of the spots he hoped we would visit this time.

Duff from the back porch
This photo was taken the night we moved out of the apartment. We camped at a local park (see below). It was hot, and we were all pretty exhausted, but Duff was in his happy place. The king of the hill, well, van. He is watching intently for possible squirrel invaders. Living mostly outside suited him just fine.

Borrowman’s Grove
This park started out as Borrowman’s Grove. Later it was called Jellystone Park, ie. Yogi and Boo Boo. When we started out in the VW in 2014, it was called Willowood. It is now owned by a big American Company called Sun Retreats Amherstburg. It was the first place we parked our home on wheels after moving out of the apartment on May 31st.
A couple of weeks before that, our friends from Wisconsin came to visit. This photo showcases our Hymer and their 1962 Shasta, which Jeanne’s parents bought brand-spanking new in ’62. Jay has since restored it to better than ever!

The forest after the rain
When you travel somewhere for a week or two, the weather forecast seems crucial for the ultimate enjoyment of your holiday. When you travel indefinitely in a van the way we are, we embrace all kinds of weather. Rain, hail, snow, frost, oppressive heat, crazy winds. And when the rain stops and the sun shines through the trees, it’s magic.

Strongman Christian holding a hefty branch while channelling Richie Tenenbaum from the Royal Tenenbaums
If a tree falls in the forest, does anybody hear? It was only a branch, but it sounded like a whole tree! Luckily the campers arrived an hour later because not only would they have heard it, but they would have most definitely felt it.

Julie and Christian finally hit the open road
After all the packing, moving, goodbyes, doctor’s appointments, visits, nursing of coughs and colds and grieving the loss of our beloved MacDuff, we finally hit the road, and boy did it feel good. Well, mostly. We are, after all, travelling as two instead of three, and it feels weird.

Inspired by Alex Colville’s To Prince Edward Island
When we finally, really, hit the road, we wanted our first stop to be Killbear Provincial Park. This is where MacDuff experienced camping for the first time in 2010.

It is also where we discovered his love of water. Each year after that, we camped as a family in Ontario parks. We know he would have loved it still this many years later.

Christian and the humble man
We’re always up for juxtaposing and posing in general. On our way to Killbear, we stopped in Parry Sound. We had lunch overlooking the lake outside the Charles W. Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts. It is here that we encountered this sculpture by David Robinson. After lunch, we wandered around the town, explored the marina and the trestle bridge, washed the van and had a coffee at Twigg’s.

Open 24 Hours
We decided we would stop in Parry Sound on our way to Killbear and asked Siri to find us a car wash. This was it. The best thing about this car wash was its proximity to a Caribbean restaurant. The chef was cooking up something that smelled mighty delicious. We may have spent more time washing the van than was necessary because of the intoxicating aroma next door. If it hadn’t been 11am, we might have pulled up chairs next to his BBQ. The van was dirty. And then it was clean. It was for approximately two hours.

The Windswept Muskoka Group of Seven Pine
This is the image that comes to mind when we think of Muskoka. Possibly because we illustrated such trees so many times for Muskoka wedding invitations. We took this photo at Killbear while scrambling around on the rocks that emerge from Georgian Bay. Scrambling around on rocks is one of our favourite pastimes, and Killbear is one of our favourite Ontario parks. We’ve been sticking close to the Group of Seven Touring Route around Lakes Huron and Superior.

Inspired by Picasso’s Les Pains de Picasso, Vallauris 1952
Our second stop on Georgian Bay was at Killarney Provincial Park, a place we’ve wanted to explore for a long time. The weather was perfect, the bugs were ample, and the fish and chips were extraordinarily delicious. Those components sparked a creative urge to recreate a Northern Ontario version of this Picasso photo. Plus, Christian just happened to buy a striped shirt when we were in Toronto.

Inspired by a photo of Picasso holding a parasol for Françoise Gilot
Our second stop on Georgian Bay was at Killarney Provincial Park, a place we’ve wanted to explore for a long time. The weather was perfect, the bugs were ample, and the fish and chips were extraordinarily delicious. Those components sparked a creative urge to recreate a Northern Ontario forest version of this Picasso photo. Instead of a parasol, we found a sappy pine branch in the forest behind our campsite. There was one wardrobe change for one of the models.

Up with the birds
Our visit to Killarney coincided with a presentation by the Astronomer in Residence. We learned about the birth and death of stars from Alexis from Schitt’s Creek; well, her look and act alike! She could have been talking about anything, and we would have been entertained. Fortunately, she also really knew her stuff! At the end of her talk, she told us we would be able to view the planets in alignment 50 minutes before sunrise the following morning. So… we set our alarm for 4:40am and walked down to George Lake to view the planets in alignment. We could identify several of them while listening to the chorus of birds surrounding us. Did you rise and shine the morning of June 24th too?

The Jalopy
So this is where we parked the car a year ago?!
There are some lovely hikes at Killarney. Aside from eating fish and chips and staging artistic recreations of famous photos, we hiked. We saw this once drivable vehicle (maybe?) a little way up a mountain. It left us wondering how it ended up there.

Big Nickel in Sudbury
Sometimes we just have to stop. Even if it is a 30-minute detour. Who knows when or if we’ll be back this way again! We looked way up, gazed upon the big shiny nickel, and then went for a coffee at Beards Coffee Bar. Their signage says NO HIPSTERS, but interestingly, it is a vegan cafe and bakery in a formerly Eastern European neighbourhood quickly becoming gentrified by hipsters.

We weren’t at the park long before tragedy struck. We had just walked down to the beach at the waterfall’s base. On our way back up, we met and chatted with two friendly young men and the aunt of one before we continued up the river trail. We could see the young men entering the water by the time we made it to the first outlook. By the time we reached the second outlook, we could hear sirens. At first, we thought there was a car accident on the nearby Trans Canada Highway, but instinct told us it had something to do with the young men we had just met. By the time we got back to the base of the trail, we could see all of the emergency vehicles and the distraught aunt wailing. Our worst fears were confirmed. One of the young men was presumed to have drowned. We were restricted from visiting the river and falls while a search took place. Corey’s body was found the following day. Most, if not all, provincial parks do not have lifeguards. There is always signage which reads, ‘No Lifeguards. Water safety is YOUR responsibility.’ Perhaps the language on the signage needs to be stronger?!
We had initially thought we would stay at the park another day but were too terribly sad after the events of the day and concerned for the welfare of Corey’s friend, Jonathan and his aunt.

Northern Ontario Chic
Vision isn’t 100%, but we’ve already received offers to purchase. We’re considering a business where we walk through wooded areas in the north with dozens of these beauties dangling from our clothing, ready to sell to the sufferers. The cool weather of late has helped ward them off a little.

Route of the Voyageurs
Highway 17 between Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay is part of the Lake Superior Circle and the Group of Seven Route. If you haven’t driven this route, it is one we highly recommend. Rolling hills and stunning vistas await as the highway winds through big rock cutouts while hugging Lake Superior. There are picnic areas, beaches, lookouts, waterfalls, petroglyphs and incredible camping at Pancake Bay and Lake Superior Provincial Parks. Aside from mosquitoes, there are plenty of warnings about what to do to discourage interactions with bears, and the wise follow those instructions closely. They make some pretty good beer up here too.

If you’d like to receive a postcard in our next round, just send us your mailing address at Feel free to share with your friends. Please subscribe if you’d like to know when we have a new post! Until then, be well and enjoy your summer.