A Travellerspoint blog

September 2019

Point Pelee National Park

Monarch Butterfly Migration

sunny 22 °C
View TaJ 2019 & TaJ 2019 - The Journey Home on Rooseboom-Scott's travel map.

Thursday, Sep 19

Jenny and I arrived at an RV Park in Wheatley, Ontario, about 20 km from Point Pelee National Park in the early afternoon. We get the camp set-up and head off for our first visit to the park.

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Point Pelee juts into Lake Erie near the city of Leamington. Several million Monarchs will cross Lake Erie from the tip of Point Pelee. Here is a picture of us at the southernmost point on the mainland of Canada. From here the butterflies can island hop their way across the lake to Ohio on their way south to over-wintering sites in Mexico.

The migration is that it is weather dependent. The Monarchs need a wind from the north to help propel them across the lake. When the wind blows from the south, the butterflies tend to remain inland, feasting on nectar from the abundant flowers. It also helps if there is a couple of cool nights to get them in the mood to head south.

First, a bit about Monarchs. The male has two dots on his wings...I guess that is how the girls decide who to mate with.

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They love nectar as food to fuel their travels:

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We arrive here in a warm spell, with winds from the south, about the exact opposite needs for a migration to occur. On our first visit to the point, we see exactly 4 Monarchs. We came here for a week to allow for exactly this kind of scenario. There are plenty of things to do here in Sothern Ontario to keep us occupied until the weather turns.

Friday and Saturday are going to be hot, with temperatures of 28 Celsius or better, and humidex values to the mid 30’s. For us, finally some warmth in the air. For the past 4 weeks we have been traveling through such cold and damp to that most meals have been consumed inside the trailer. On a normal summer, we eat outdoors, at the picnic table most days. Not so much this year. It has been 3 weeks since we even bothered to put the table cloth out! This will be a treat for us.

Friday, Sep 20

A beautiful morning, warm and sunny. Not a breeze in the air. Our day started with a leisurely breakfast, at the picnic table, followed by a walk through the campground. We want to do some local exploring during the day, and attend a lecture by a noted author at the National Park in the evening, and hopefully see some Monarchs at the point.

Here is a shot of TaJ at the Wheatley Campground.

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In the early afternoon we head for Kingsville, about 20 kilometers west of Leamington. It is a lovely town and we park and walk for about 90 minutes, through neighbourhoods and along the lake shore. Along the way, we came upon the statue of Jack Miner who created a migrating bird sanctuary nearby that is still in operation today.

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Once back downtown the Grove Brewery is right there in front of us, so we stop in to sample a flight of beer. A Cream Ale, a Stout and an IPA. It has been a hot afternoon for us, walking about the town and the stop is refreshing, as well as tasty.

On our way to Point Pelee we stopped for an early supper of lake perch and chips. Delicious. Our day has been filled with lots of good stuff already but we have not seen a Monarch.

The lecture at Point Pelee is very good, highlighting the relationship between the Monarch and the Milkweed plant. Monarchs lay their eggs exclusively on the Milkweed plant. By consuming Milkweed the caterpillar and its subsequent butterfly are toxic to predators. Birds have learned not to eat these butterflies as they will make them vomit. The life cycle and the migration are discussed, as well as how endangered the Monarch has become over the past 50 years.

We learn that there were two flocks of Monarchs that left the area for Pelee Island today. About 5000 flew from the Kingsville area and another 3500 flew from Holiday Beach, about 35 kilometers west of Leamington. On days when there are no winds, like today, the Monarchs feel safe in heading across the open water to Pelee Island. There are no Monarchs at the point today. ☹

Sunday, Sep 22

We move from Wheatley to an RV Park in Leamington, just 12 kilometers from the visitor centre. This will allow us to get up early and head down to the point for dawn and dusk, when the Monarchs are most active. The visitor centre is 2 ½ kilometers from the point and the shuttle only runs during the main hours of the day, so we will be getting our exercise.

Sturgeon Woods Campground is large, mostly seasonal sites. We book in for 4 nights. The washrooms are just so-so, we’d rate them a 2 out of 5. We will have much of the place to ourselves as the park has emptied out after the weekend. We can work around less than exceptional washrooms. Our site is open and it is a warm, sunny day. We get out our auxiliary fan for the first time since we left home.

The warm weather does not bode well for seeing Monarchs migrate. The word on the street here is they have moved on as they arrived. The weather so far has been beneficial to their flight south, with light winds and warm temperatures.

We talked to a couple from Leamington who were treated to an overnight stay by about 10000 Monarchs. They were sitting on their deck, near dusk, when a horde of butterflies landed in the trees just off their deck. They stayed the night and then took off at dawn. They got some very good photos.

Monday, Sep 23

The wind howled overnight. At 1:00am we had to go out and put our awning away. The wind was blowing from the south-west and we hope this will force butterflies to accumulate on the tip to await a change in the wind.

Jenny’s Kobo e-reader has died, after about 6 years and 250 books. We head into Windsor, to the Indigo book store to get a replacement, and to do a bit of looking around. There is no reason to go to Pelee until this afternoon, when the winds will begin to diminish.

In the afternoon, we walked the Marsh boardwalk which is a hot-bed of activity during the spring bird migration. Over 350 species of bird migrate through Point Pelee in the spring and fall and it is a birders paradise. Today, for us, it is a nice walk. The wind is still blowing hard on the west side, but, on the east side marsh, it is calm.

We come across this butterfly. It is called a Question Mark

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We catch the last trolley to the point from the Visitor Centre. The trolleys run until 4:00pm. After that, they open the road so you can drive most of the way to the point. We walk out to the tip to get this picture. The waves are massive and run completely over the tip at points.

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On our way back, we begin to see Monarchs once we get past the trolley stop. By the time we reach the Visitor Centre, we have seen about a dozen and gotten pictures of a few of them. At 8:00pm, park staff post on the Point’s Facebook page that 225 Monarchs have clustered in a tree near the trolley stop.

Tuesday, Sep 24

We focus on the tip area of the point today. The wind has died down, but is still blowing from the south west. We see Monarchs launching themselves into the wind and riding off to the south east, kind of banking along the wind like a sailboat does.

In the evening, we spent two hours at the tip watching the Monarchs cuddle up for the night. They cluster on two trees in particular. We get some very decent pictures. We follow Darlene, who has been counting Monarchs here for years as she does her nightly count. She is a wealth of knowledge on where they may congregate in the evenings.

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At the end of the night, she posts her count of Monarchs that cluster. Today that total is 190, and we swear we have seen every one of them. While not a huge number, it is the most we have seen on this trip. I recall an evening back in the 1970’s when there were over 200,000 Monarchs on one visit to the park.

As this bog is posted, we still have one more night here.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 06:57 Archived in Canada Tagged point-pelee_national_park monarch_butterflies Comments (0)

Chi-Cheemaun Ferry, Tobermory

Bruce Peninsula National Park, Fathom Five National Marine Park

rain 14 °C
View TaJ 2019 & TaJ 2019 - The Journey Home on Rooseboom-Scott's travel map.

September 10

We depart Chutes Provincial Park mid-morning, after a cold and rainy night. It rained so hard that TaJ was surrounded by her own little lake in the early hours of the day. Luckily, the campground is on sand and most of the water had drained by the time we started our hook-up. It only takes Jenny and I about 45 minutes from start to finish to have the trailer packed for travel and hooked-up to Sully.

Here is a photo the falls on the Aux Sables River, the site of the chutes that gave the park its name.
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We have a 3:50 reservation for the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry, from South Baymouth, on Manitoulin Island, to Tobermory, on the Bruce Peninsula. It is only about 150 kilometers from the campground at Chutes to the ferry terminal so we have lots of time. We pause in Espinola to do a bit of grocery shopping for our 3 day stay in the Tobermory area. We also stopped at the Little Current Brewery on Manitoulin Island, to stock up on some local beer.

We arrive at the ferry terminal and book in for our trip. The total cost is $184.00 for the two-hour ferry ride. It is now the off-season and rates are much reduced. The Chi-Cheemaun (indigenous for Big Canoe) arrives and we load. There are a large number of Mennonites on board this sailing. They walk on, or travel by bus. None of them that we can see have a vehicle of their own.

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Unfortunately, it is a windy day and Lake Huron is rough so there is limited time spent out on the deck. We pass the historic light-house near Tobermory and there we are, docked and on the road.

We took an RV park here because the weather was still touch and go and we decided it would be better to have full services. The Bruce Peninsula National Park campground does not have electric sites, nor does it have showers.
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We set up, in the rain, once again, and settle in for the night. The roadways in the campground are awash from 3 days of rain. We would surely appreciate a change in the weather.

September 11

After a leisurely breakfast we head back into Tobermory and walk the town. The town charges $3 an hour for parking, with a 3-hour maximum stay. We find the free parking a block or two from downtown and spend the next three hours walking the entire town. We clocked about 5 kilometers. In summer Tobermory has a population of about 3,500, which drops to less than 300 for the winter, which we are told is cold and brutally windy. Most buildings in the town are used as summer rentals. Even the National Park closes at the end of October. It is spectacularly beautiful here.

We checked out the Tobermory Brewing Company as well.
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We witness the release of a Monarch butterfly from the Visitor Center at the Fathom Five National Marine Park. Monarchs are making a comeback here in Ontario and we see a few late caterpillars working the milk weed plants. In about a week or so we will be at Point Pelee National Park, near Leamington to witness the Monarch migration across Lake Erie. Much more on that in the next to last blog entry of this trip. Please note that the butterfly has been tagged.

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We also came across a Monarch caterpillar at the campground. This guy had better hurry up and turn into a butterfly...summer is coming to an end.
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We did a fair amount of hiking here at the National Park, and some of the trails are brutally tough, especially on old guys like me. We did as well as we could though. In total, we got in about 12 kilometers of hiking.

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The beach on Georgian Bay was spectacular.

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Over the next 8 days we will be visiting some friends in Southern Ontario and will the next blog will be from Leamington, in about 10 days time.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 14:50 Archived in Canada Tagged monarch_butterfly tobermory bruce_peninsula_national_park chi-cheemaun_ferry Comments (0)

Along Lake Superior Shore

Neys Provincial Park, Pukaskwa National Park, Sault Ste. Marie, Walmart, Tires!

semi-overcast 15 °C
View TaJ 2019 & TaJ 2019 - The Journey Home on Rooseboom-Scott's travel map.

Sep 1

As we prepped to depart Trowbridge Falls Campground in Thunder Bay, we noticed that the tread on the left side tire on TaJ, our 2017 R-pod trailer, was getting dangerously thin. We would need to replace the tire very soon. In Nipigon, about 125 k into our planned trip to Neys Provincial Park we found a repair shop that did the job for us, putting our spare tire on the permanent rim and using the worn tire as our new spare. Pretty quick job, just ½ hour and we were back on the road. But, the worry about the trailer will continue.

In 2018 we had to replace the axle on TaJ when it failed on a trip to Ontario. The new axle was ordered from a manufacturer in Indiana and took about 10 days to get delivered and installed in Southern Ontario.

The new axle is lightweight, rated for about 3,200 pounds. The TaJ-ma-Haul weighs 2,800 pounds empty, so this axle severely restricts what we can load. This spring we cut back our travel gear and loaded the trailer accordingly. When we left Nova Scotia, we used a highway scale and determined our loaded weight was 3,100 pounds.

A tank of fresh water weighs almost 300 pounds, and the combined weight of full black and gray tanks is another 600 pounds. Due to our load restrictions we always empty our grey and black water tanks at each move and never carry fresh water. We wonder if our weight while we are stationery might be the cause of the axle getting weaker. While sitting in a campground, there is as much as 1000 pounds of extra weight on the axle.

We have towed TaJ for about 16,000 kilometers. We plan to replace this axle with a much stronger one, before we travel in 2020 and we hope our current axle will hold together through the remaining 4,000 kilometers of towing to get us home in October. Stay tuned to see how this turns out!

The first moose sighting of the trip today. A young male alongside the road. He was nervous about the traffic and headed back into the woods before we could capture his image with our camera. At least we saw one!

We arrived at Neys in the early afternoon and settled into our site.

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The Visitor Centre here closes today and we got in with just 45 minutes to spare. We were the last patrons to sign the guest book for 2019! The visitor centre outlines the history of the area. Neys was a German Prisoner of War camp during WW2 and was in use from 1943-45. The prisoners housed here were classed as ‘black’ in that they firmly believed that what Hitler was doing was right and just. Other prisoners were labeled either ‘gray’ or ‘white’ indicating a lesser (or no) belief that Hitler was in the right. The security here was tighter than that for those with a lesser belief in Hitler.

As we settled in for the night, the temperature dropped and the rain began to fall. Another night tucked away in the cozy confines of TaJ, reading and watching videos.

Sep 2

The rain blew away overnight and we had a clear but cold morning. After a breakfast of oatmeal, we did an hour long walk along the beach and through the tenting section of the campground. Only 7 of the 50 sites in this section were filled overnight and all but one of them were departing today.
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In our section of the campground things quickly emptied. By afternoon there was just a handful of sites occupied. This section of the campground has 93 sites and 30 are seasonal. Of the seasonal sites, while the trailers were there, the occupants were not. We expect by tomorrow there will be less than 6 sites occupied. Neys PP closes for the season on September 15.

Neys is famous as being a site used by the group of seven painters. In particular, Lawren Harris used a lookout here to paint pictures of Pic Island in various seasons. Here is a photo of the island, plus an internet copy of one of the paintings by Mr. Harris.

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After our campground walk, Jenny settled in to work on her journal and I went blueberry picking. This place has an amazing amount of blueberry: in just a half-hour I picked enough to get through a couple of days breakfasts.

In the afternoon, as the day heated up to its high of 15 degrees, Jenny and I did a 6-7-kilometre round-trip hike, from our campsite along the shores of the lake to the Point, which sits across the bay from the campground.

Here are some photos of the park:

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By 4:00pm we had both clocked 14000 steps on our GPS watches. Supper this evening will be a camper’s stew: chopped steak, carrots and potatoes, with onions and garlic in a beefy broth. Yummy!

Sep 3

We woke to a clear morning, but the forecast was for cold and rain this afternoon. We decided to get exercise out of the way before the weather turned and we did a 45-minute power walk in the campground, about 4 kilometers in total. Exercise fuels our travel endeavours and we are determined to up the pace, on this our last month on the road for 2019.

Marathon, a town of 3300, is the closest community to Neys PP. We headed there in the late morning to stock up and get some internet time at the local library. We are planning the last 27 days of this trip as we go and searching for RV parks, campgrounds, etc. requires some work on our part.

We stocked up for the next two nights at the local grocery store and used the library. The weather slowly deteriorated and by the time we got back to TaJ in the mid-afternoon the temperature had dropped to 10 degrees and the rain and wind started in earnest. Tucked away for the afternoon and evening, we read, updated our journals and had clam chowder for supper. Tomorrow promises to be a better day and we hope to get to Pukaskwa National Park for a day-trip.

Travel Tip:
Jenny is a great organizer and here is one of her best. We carry a lot of charging cords and she made up these neat tubes to hold the various cords. We keep them all in one place and can easily find the cord we need.

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Sep 3/4

Pukaskwa National Park is one of the few national parks we had not been to, at least until we arrived! In 2017 we came here, but both of us failed to remember that, yes, we did come here and hike and this is the place where I slipped on wet section of the Canadian Shield and bruised my hip! Huh, perhaps we have been on the road too long!

Our National Park Discovery Pass expired at the end of August, and it was time to renew. For $137.60 we, and up to 6 people in our vehicle, get access to every National Park or National Historic Site in Canada until the end of September, 2020. We plan some more extensive travel in 2020 and this is one item we always have with us.

We spent the rest of the morning hiking along the shore of Lake Superior and checking out the campground at the National Park in case we come this way again. The campsites are nice, have electricity and the campground has showers, so, who knows, maybe we will come here again in 2021, when we head west once again. Perhaps next time we will remember that we have been here before, twice!

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Back at Neys the weather was too delightful to just sit around. We got on the hiking boots and took off on another of the hikes at Neys. We worked through another 5 kilometres of beautiful scenery through the woods and along the shores of Lake Superior. At the end of the day we paused and took a shadow selfie on the beach.

It has been cool, bordering on cold, at night and the heater in TaJ keeps us toasty warm.

Sep 5

The tire situation on TaJ is coming to a head. We pack up and get ready to head off on our next leg, with a plan to stop for a two-night stay at Agawa Bay Provincial Park, along the eastern shore of the lake, about 60 kilometers from Sault Ste. Marie.

Here is a photo of the tire wear and the lean on of the tire on our axle:

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While on the 350 kilometre drive, we decide to forgo Agawa Bay and head on in to the Soo to get new tires on TaJ. In Wawa we stop at a Fountain Tire store to check if they have our Goodyear Endurance Trailer Tires in stock. They don’t, but their store in the Soo does and can install them if we can get there by 4:00pm.

By 5:00pm, TaJ has a new set of booties and we are about $300 lighter, but we can now get home on the existing axle on our trailer. After discussing with the tire tech, we decide to inflate the Goodyears to the maximum, about 65 pounds of pressure. Our old set was inflated to 58 pounds and the extra air seems to help the trailer sit better on the axle.

Since we are in the Soo, we decide to Walmart it for the night. Walmart parking lots all over North America are used for overnight stops and the company encourages this in most places. It helps with sales. At this lot, by 10:00pm, when the store closes, there were 7 RV’s parked for the night.

The night was quiet, but we had a significant amount of rain overnight. We woke to a grey and cloudy morning. Since scragging the two-day stay at Agawa Bay, we now have an additional day to spend at our next planned stop, Chutes Provincial Park, in Massey, Ontario.

Chutes is a lovely park, named after the 200-foot-long log chute that was built here in the early 1900’s to divert logs past the falls on the River Aux Sables. The trees were cut in the winter and piled on the river. Once the thaw came the logs traveled down the river and chute carried them on to the railhead below. There is a 5-6-kilometre hiking trail here, which we will get to on Sunday when it will be a little bit drier.

After arriving, filling our water tank, and finding a site we use the rest of the day to get our laundry done. I head in to the Massey Library for wi-fi to get into a bit more planning of the road ahead. By 5:00pm we have a plan in place to get us through to September 28, after which we will head for home.

As this blog is published there is a storm ahead. Not here, but in Nova Scotia, Hurricane Dorian is about to hit hard, with winds of up to 120 kph and as much as 20 centimeters of rain. The eye will pass near Halifax, about 100 k from our house on Saturday, September 7. We are curious to see how this will affect our home. Our property has 50+ maple trees, all still in leaf. The leaves make things worse in the wind. We hope none of the trees will fall, and if they do, we hope they don’t fall on the house, garage, woodshed, or deck.

A theme of our recent travels has been rain. Every second day for the past week or so it has rained, followed by a day of cold and sunshine. It is only one week into September and already the maple trees in this part of Ontario have started to turn colour. Fall comes early here in the north.

On Tuesday, we catch the Chi-Cheemaun, the ferry from South Baymouth, on Manitoulin Island, to Tobermory, on the Bruce Peninsula, to begin the last leg of our journey through Southern Ontario.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 08:13 Archived in Canada Tagged neys_provincial_park group_of_seven pukaskwa_national_park goodyear_endurance_tires Comments (1)

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