Hiking the Attikamek Trail

Iā€™m co-hosting the Wellness Wednesday November 13th link up with my blogger friend, Leslie. The optional prompt is Healthy Holidays so in this post I’m sharing a hike that my family and I did during our mini-vacation in Sault Ste. Marie, a city on the shore of the St Marys River connecting Lake Huron and Lake Superior.

Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario (green marker)

About the Attikamek Trail

The Attikamek Trail is located at the Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site of Canada, easily reached from the city centre. It’s 2.2 km long (1.4 miles) on flat terrain. Attikamek means white fish.

Hiking the Attikamek Trail

We started from the Sault Ste. Marie Canal gate, crossed the lock, and followed an accessible pathway onto south St. Marys Island. The weather was overcast, cool, and calm without any wind so it felt quite comfortable for an outdoor hike.

Looking towards the International Bridge
The Attikamek trail is on the left in this photo.

We soon entered the packed gravel trail path, surrounded by autumn foliage, from green to various shades of yellow and red. Part of the trail let us walk under the International Bridge, built in 1962.

Attikamek Trail

The Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge spans the St. Marys River between the United States and Canada, connecting the twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

International Bridge in Sault Ste. Marie

We stopped by St. Marys Rapids to listen to the sounds of the water and watched a few dedicated fishermen patiently waiting for a good catch. The packed gravel and leaf-laden trail then turned into a wide wooden boardwalk with lovely views on both sides.

Boardwalk

A flock of small birds happily greeted us at the boardwalk. They had light yellow and some black feathers. I think they’re warblers. Can you see a bird blended in with the berries in the centre of the photo below?

We enjoyed the calm reflection of autumn foliage, woods, and wetlands in the river. A family of ducks lazily swam along while other ducks were just watching us.

Autumn reflections
Ducks

Further along the trail, we found a few beaver dams but no beaver in sight since they usually work at night. What looks like a heap of branches is protection against their predators and gives them access to food during winter.

A beaver dam
A beaver dam

At the end of the Attikamek trail we reached the Sault Ste. Marie lock and walked around to examine how it works. The lock operation to raise or lower vessels that go from Lake Huron to Lake Superior is fascinating and deserves a separate blog post.

Looking towards the Locks
The lock is behind the white bridge at the end of the photo.

It was a nice short hike on a calm afternoon in Sault Ste. Marie. Altogether we walked about 3 km (1.8 miles) and experienced the wonder of quiet woods and wetlands. Happy trails!

Click here to join the Wellness Wednesday link-up and share your health goal updates or healthy holiday ideas.

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A Whale of A Time in Victoria

I mentioned in my September Wrap-Up post that I traveled to Vancouver Island. My itinerary included Victoria, Parksville, and Tofino. All three stops are in the Province of British Columbia, on the West Coast of Canada.

From Toronto to Victoria, the flight time is about five hours. I had been to Victoria before so on this trip, sightseeing-wise I intentionally chose to do things that I cannot do in Toronto and skipped a few things that first time visitors to Victoria might do.

Be close to the sea

I strolled the Causeway circling Victoria’s Inner Harbour, to the docks at Fisherman’s Wharf, and walked James Bay Unity Wall and Breakwater. The sea air was refreshing, the views were wonderful, and there was always something in the surroundings to engage my senses. When I arrived at Fisherman’s Wharf early in the morning, most of the shops were still closed, the water was so calm, it mirrored everything.

Fisherman's Wharf in Victoria
Fisherman’s Wharf, Victoria, BC, Canada

Snap pictures of totem poles

I loved the totem poles at Thunderbird Park. I had seen them on my first visit to Victoria years ago and wanted to see them again. I was unsure why my obsession with the totem poles. I just took a lot of pictures. I think they are expressive, visually captivating, and unique artworks.

Walk the history

I attended the 30-minute guided tour of the British Columbia Legislature. It was time well spent to learn about the history of the building, and to see the beautiful building interiors, including the stained glass windows that celebrate Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee (1837-1897) and Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee (1952-2002).

British Columbia Legislature
Legislature building, Victoria, BC, Canada

I also followed the seven Signs of Lekwungen to learn more about Victoria’s history. The site markers are bronze castings of original cedar carvings, conceptualized and carved by Coast Salish artist, Butch Dick. The markers depict spindle whorls that were traditionally used by Coast Salish women to spin wool. The spindle whorl was considered the foundation of a Coast Salish family.

Signs of Lekwungen by Victoria's City Hall

Visit the “superlatives”

I walked through Victoria’s beautiful Beacon Hill Park to see the Spirit of Lekwammen, the world’s tallest totem pole at about 38.89 meters (127 feet 7 inches). I also walked the narrowest street in Canada named Fan Tan Alley, and had a yummy snack in Victoria’s Chinatown, which is the oldest Chinatown in Canada and a National Historic Site.

Meet someone famous

I “met” Our Emily, a bronze statue created by sculptor Barbara Paterson. The statue honours the renowned Canadian artist and Victoria’s famous citizen, Emily Carr. The sculpture features Emily Carr seated outdoors with her sketchpad. Her Javanese monkey, Woo, perches on her shoulder and her dog, Billie, stands nearby. The building behind the statue is the also famous Empress Hotel.

Our Emily sculpture by Barbara Paterson
Our Emily sculpture by Barbara Paterson

Go whale watching

The weather was beautiful as I boarded the boat for my whale watching tour. It took about 40 minutes of travelling South to come across our first sighting. It was two humpback whales whose large blows were visible in the distance.

The pairing looked like a mother and calf. Initially they were a little spaced out from each other but eventually the mother soon caught up with her calf. The two flicked both of their tails up in the air in a synchronized dive. What an unforgettable sight!

Humpback whales

We continued watching this pair until we spotted another couple of humpback whales further away. These two were making large blows, swimming leisurely, and then captured our hearts with a few tail flukes.

See the seals and sea lions

The whale watching tour included a visit to the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve where we saw the Harbour seals and California and Steller sea lions hauled out on the rocks. Some were sleeping in the sun while others were engaging in power struggles for the top of the rock. The Harbour seals blended very well with the rock colours.

Seals and sea lions

Conclusion

I had a whale of a time in Victoria šŸ™‚ All of the activities mentioned were free, except the whale watching tour. I’d love to see whales in the ocean again. This trip was also the first time I took all my photos with my phone. They turned out better than I expected.

Have you been to Victoria? Have you ever watched whales in the ocean? What were your impressions?

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Postcard from Kingston

In August, my family and I took a train trip to visit Kingston and stayed at Queen’s University campus for a few days. Kingston is a historic city. It was named the first capital of the United Province of Canada on February 10, 1841. It’s located midway between Toronto and Montreal.

Map of Toronto-Kingston rail route
Toronto to Kingston by train

We have visited Kingston a couple of times and have been on the Thousand Islands cruise which departs from downtown Kingston. During this stay, we explored a bit of history, nature, and arts. Below are the highlights.

National historic sites

We visited three national historic sites: Kingston’s City Hall built in 1844, the Shoal Tower built in 1847, and the Murney Tower built in 1846. Shoal and Murney Towers are part of the Kingston Fortifications. In 2007, the Rideau Canal and Kingston Fortifications were recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Kingston City Hall
Kingston City Hall
Shoal Tower in Kingston
Shoal Tower in Kingston
Murney Tower in Kingston
Murney Tower in Kingston

Nature

Kingston’s waterfront pathway spans over 8 km along the Lake Ontario shoreline. We enjoyed strolling along the waterfront and saw many kayaks and sailboats on the lake and many windmills in the distance. The Breakwater Park is one block from where we stayed on Queen’s University campus so it was very convenient to get my morning walks done.

Kingston's waterfront
Kingston’s waterfront
Kingston's waterfront pathway
Waterfront pathway by Breakwater Park in Kingston

Visual Arts

We visited the Agnes Queen’s Art Gallery on Queen’s University campus. Admission was free. There were various types of artworks on display, some are more contemporary than the others. I liked one of Sarah Robertson’s paintings and Claude Tousignant’s bold geometric style.

October, Ottawa Valley painting by Sarah Robertson
October, Ottawa Valley by Sarah Robertson
Horizontal Ultra Orange by Claude Tousignant
Horizontal Ultra Orange by Claude Tousignant

Queen’s University also has many beautiful limestone buildings worth browsing. Kingston’s nicknames are The Limestone City, or K-Town, or YGK. Aside from the above sightseeing, we met with our friends in Kingston to catch up. It was a nice and fun trip that was part of our wonderful summer 2019.

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Postcard from Regina

In July, my family went on a trip to Regina, the capital city of the Province of Saskatchewan, located about 3 to 3.5 hours by plane west of Toronto. During our stay, I took a day out to explore some of the sights located in the heart of Regina.

The Saskatchewan Legislative Building

Known as the marble palace, the Saskatchewan Legislative Building is one of the largest legislative buildings in Canada. It was erected between 1908-1911. Walter Scott, first premier of Saskatchewan, envisioned the Legislative Building in a park-like setting with grounds that would reflect the grandeur of the building.

Saskatchewan Legislative Building and Walter Scott statue
Saskatchewan Legislative Building and Walter Scott statue

Tours of the Saskatchewan Legislative Building are available seven days a week (except Good Friday, Christmas Day, and New Years Day) and are conducted on the hour. I took a guided tour to learn more about the architecture and history of the building. I highly recommend it. Why?

During the free, fun, and interesting guided tour that lasted about thirty minutes, I got to:

  • Visit the same building Their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited on May 25, 1939.
  • Stand in the same spot in the rotunda where Queen Elizabeth II stood to view the Northern Traditions and Transitions murals.
  • Touch the beautiful green marble columns and look up to see the dome of the building.
  • Enter the legislative chamber and the library, where the Confederation table is kept. This table was used during the meeting of the Fathers of Confederation in Quebec City in 1864.
  • View numerous sculpture and artworks, including fifteen Portraits of Indian Leaders, all pastel on paper, completed by Edmund Harris during 1910 and 1911.
Saskatchewan Legislative Building rotunda
Saskatchewan Legislative Building rotunda

Queen Elizabeth II Gardens

Located in front of the Saskatchewan Legislative Building, Queen Elizabeth II Gardens was dedicated by Her Majesty the Queen on May 18, 2005 on the occasion of the Centennial of the Province of Saskatchewan 1905-2005. A statue of the monarch on her favourite Saskatchewan-born horse, Burmese, was designed by Susan Velder and unveiled by Her Majesty in 2005.

Queen Elizabeth II Gardens
Sculpture of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on her favoutire horse, Burmese

The Saskatchewan Legislative Building and its grounds were designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2005. After the indoor guided tour, I picked up a booklet at the information desk and completed a self-guided outdoor tour that takes me through approximately 1.6 kilometres (1 mile) of the beautiful legislative grounds.

Trafalgar Fountain
Trafalgar Fountain looking towards Wascana Lake

Wascana Centre

Wascana Centre features a 930-hectare urban park built around a 120-hectare lake. The trails around the lake are accessible for walking, cycling, and rollerblading. It was a sunny and warm day so I appreciated the shades provided by the trees, the water fountains in and around Wascana Centre, and the light breeze from Wascana Lake.

Wascana Lake and Wascana Park
Wascana Lake
Fountain at Wascana Centre
Fountain in Wascana Centre
Tree-lined sidewalk
Tree-lined sidewalk

MacKenzie Art Gallery

From Wascana Centre, I walked further south to explore the MacKenzie Art Gallery’s Outdoor Sculpture Garden. Some of the artworks that are on display on the grounds around the Gallery caught my attention. Joe Fafard’s bronze cow statues reminded me of his work, The Pasture, in Toronto.

The Bull (Potter), the Calf (Teevo) and the Cow (Valadon)
Joe Fafard – The Bull (Potter), the Calf (Teevo) and the Cow (Valadon)
Ancestors Rising sculpture
Mary Longman – Ancestors Rising
Mother and Child II sculpture
Jacques Lipchitz – Mother and Child II

It was a wonderful and educational outing on a gorgeous summer day. I walked about 8 kilometres (5 miles) outdoors, learned a bit of history in Regina, and saw some beautiful architecture and artworks.

I’d love to hear your comments.

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