Canadian Odyssey – Part Twelve

Sunrise on the beach near East Park Campground.

Sunrise on the beach near East Park Campground.

Like the rest of Canada, the economy has taken its toll on Pelee Island. All the more reason to go there.

I recently read that the island’s population has dropped from 2,000 to 200. Actually, the year-round population is less than that — 171 according to a 2012 headcount. No surprise there. During my three-day visit I saw plenty of empty houses and even an abandoned marina. For sale signs were everywhere and the asking  prices were surprisingly low.

There’s a reason for that; living there is costly. And it’s difficult for those used to creature comforts such as grocery stores, fast-food restaurants and electricity. However, there is a winery and a nice little bar on the north end of the island. What more could a person need?

A great little watering hole with the best perch dinners on the island and a laid-back atmosphere.

Scudder Beach — a  great little watering hole with the best perch dinners on the island and a laid-back atmosphere.

The Canadian Lake Erie Islands are also to be admired for keeping Americans supplied with booze and beer during the Prohibition era. God, I love the Canadians (except for Tar Sands and Molson Brewery selling out to Coors).

Pelee Island boasts an abundance of what I call default nature reserves. These are properties that owners let revert to nature — possibly out of the goodness of their hearts, but probably to cut their losses. Some actually have trails and signs.

The best one is Fish Point Nature Reserve on the south end of the island. It features woodland and wetland habitats and a great beach for strolling and annoying the gulls.

A heron works the surf on the beach at Fish Point Nature Reserve.

A heron waits for breakfast in the surf at Fish Point Nature Reserve.

I didn’t know what to expect when I set out for the island from mainland Canada. I stocked up on provisions in Kingsville, ready-to-eat foods and a four-liter jug of water. In recent years Lake Erie’s West Basin has been plagued with blue-green algae that tends to get worse as the summer wears on, so I wasn’t taking chances.

I had no idea where I’d sleep. I’d imagined that, if there were campgrounds, they would be pricey.

That wasn’t the case. After getting off the ferry, I headed straight for East Park Campground on the other side of the island. It cost only $20 a night Canadian. I gave the woman at the camp office an American $50 bill for two nights and she gave me about $700 Canadian in change — such was the exchange rate.

I pitched my tent, dove in and took a nap just to see whether I was dreaming.

When I awakened and discovered I hadn’t been dreaming, I took a walk around and surveyed my surroundings. A short walk from my tent was a public beach. The shower house was a short walk in the other direction.

It turned out that I didn’t need my provisions. On the north end of the island was a tavern with great fish dinners, a good selection of beers and a welcoming atmosphere. The food and drink were reasonably priced.

Great little place for breakfast. I had a hard time finding my way in — the door was out back with no signage. When I walked through the door I didn’t know whether they’d serve me breakfast or hand me an apron.

Great little place for breakfast. I had a hard time finding my way inside. The restaurant entrance was at the back with no signage. When I walked through the door I didn’t know whether they’d serve me breakfast or hand me an apron.

For breakfast, there was a little restaurant inside a Canadian Legion hall — their equivalent of our VFW or American Legion halls. It also had decent food, nonstop coffee, attentive friendly help and a pleasant atmosphere. Among the breakfast patrons was a Canadian customs agent. He kind of reminded me of Mr. Rogers — a stark contrast to America’s border guards. They tend to look more like skinhead versions of Rambo.

With three days to kill and recharged camera batteries, I was able to take a lot of photos on Pelee Island. Here are but a few:

An abandoned house on the south end of the island, one of many empty houses on the island.

An abandoned house on the south end of the island, one of many on Pelee.

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A heron looks for fish at what remains of an abandoned marina.

A heron looks for fish among the ruins of an abandoned marina.

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Every man’s dream — finding a naked woman lying on the beach. Sandy, I hated to leave you.

Every man’s dream — finding a naked woman lying on the beach. Sandy, darling, I hated to leave you.

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The best of both worlds. Beautiful sunrises and sunsets are a short drive — or a long walk — away.

The best of both worlds. Beautiful sunrises and sunsets are a short drive — or a long walk — away.

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A Pelee Island landmark, the shoe tree(s) on the northwest corner of the island. One blogger, remarked that his girlfriend needed shoes to fun a half-marathon and found a pair in her size.

A Pelee Island landmark, the shoe tree on the northwest corner of the island. One blogger remarked that his girlfriend needed shoes to fun a half-marathon and found a pair in her size. He didn’t mention how high she had to climb to get them.

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Shoes for every occasion. There were even a few pairs of skates hanging from the tree.

Shoes for every occasion. There were even a few pairs of skates.

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Yes, they even had them in children’s sizes.

They even had a children’s department.

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There were plenty of monarch butterflies on the island.

There were plenty of monarch butterflies on the island.

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This butterfly was at the Stone Road Alvar Reserve, an oak savannah habitat.

This butterfly was at the Stone Road Alvar Reserve. This was an oak savannah habitat where I nearly got lost. I wasn’t particularly worried whether I ever got out of there.

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Stone man — part of an art installation on the west side of the island. There was also a makeshift memorial to cancer victims there — and several bras strung from trees.

Stone man — part of an art installation on the west side of the island. There was also a makeshift memorial to cancer victims there and several bras draped on tree branches.

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This monument was erected near the airfield in the middle of the island. It’s self-explanatory.

This monument was erected near the airfield in the middle of the island. It’s self-explanatory.

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Detail from the Flight 163 memorial. You’ve gotta respect people who hold their dogs in high esteem.

Detail from the Flight 126 memorial. You’ve gotta respect people who hold their dogs in high esteem.

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Pelee Island in a nutshell. It was McKee who drained the island's wetlands, opening it up to settlement. The water was sloughed off into canals, which remain and keep the island well-supplied with mosquitoes.

Pelee Island in a nutshell. It was McKee who drained the island’s wetlands, opening it up to settlement. The water was sloughed off into canals, which remain and keep the island well-supplied with mosquitoes.

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The Purple Gang — responsible for keeping Americans in booze during prohibition. They worked out of Middle Island, Canada’s southernmost island.

The Purple Gang — responsible for keeping Americans in booze during Prohibition. They worked out of Middle Island, Canada’s southernmost island.

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The lighthouse at Lighthouse Point Provincial Nature Reserve, probably the island's most recognizable landmark. Besides the Scuttle Beach tavern.

The lighthouse at Lighthouse Point Provincial Nature Reserve, perhaps the island’s most recognizable landmark. Besides the Scudder Beach tavern.

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An interior view of the lighthouse — taken through a window on the door.

Next: Epilogue

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4 thoughts on “Canadian Odyssey – Part Twelve

  1. Pingback: Canadian Odyssey – Epilogue | IRV OSLIN

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