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Northern Ontario hands-on

In May of this year, I “visited” northern Ontario by taking The Canadian on Via Rail. Now it’s time to leave the climate-controlled rail cars for the real thing!

We start our trip boarding the (climate-controlled) Budd Rail Diesel Car (RDC) in Sudbury, for Via Rail’s service towards White River. You know it’s gonna be a lit trip when it begins with trains!

The interior has been renovated and power outlets are available in abundance. Even though cell service is nonexistent outside of Sudbury and Chapleau, it’s great for keeping things charged for the next few days off-grid.

You can request to be dropped off or picked up at seemingly arbitrary points along the route. And that’s what we had done, getting dropped off near our camp.

Technology is not the same here as in the big cities: lightning is by gas lamps, heating by wood ovens, and water is pumped from the lake (non-potable) or well (potable). In a way, it’s like camping but fancier. For starters, you can simply place a stack of cracker-marshmallow-chocolate atop the oven. Doing so eliminates the risk of marshmallow falling off of a stick and into the fire.

Time passes slowly at the camp. The lake was a bit on the colder side for extended swimming, but perfect for wading and splashing around. Excellent way to spend an afternoon reading a book and twiddling in the water. Reading, swimming, and fishing were the most popular activities.

We had a gorgeous day out fishing bass. A makeshift production bench was created to increase processing throughput. Getting everybody fed quickly is important.

The bass fillets are deep fried. Bass carcasses are then used as bait for crayfish. There is not much meat in a crayfish, but the juices go well with Pasta. Rusty Crayfish are actually an invasive species in Ontario, which makes them even more delicious. It’s easy to get a bucket-load of them (qty 50+) within a very short time.

Boating around the lake, I finally came across the views I’d only seen in Tom Thomson paintings. Ontario might not have mountains or canyons, but it’s got lakes. And lots of them. Maybe this is what Ontario is really about.

Trees on a rock in a lake, a.k.a Ontario

Sleeping under the galaxy and stars is a luxury that sheltered city people (myself) can only enjoy occasionally. The night is quiet here. Occasionally, a freight train comes roaring through carrying the lifeblood of our economy. A comforting reminder for me that civilization is never far away.