canada.

VACATION.

The three syllable word that everyone knows and has come to love so dearly. My past experiences with the word vacation has included many places including the beach, remote islands, mountains, and of course, Canada. The land is full of clean air, the grass is as green as could be, and I still haven’t found any litter on the ground and I must note this was my second time visiting. I loved it that much to make a re-visit and I’m still not finished with it.

We took 10 days, good friends, a lot of food, plenty of alcohol, and big mouths yelling “CAN-AH-DAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!”, through 12 hours of gruesome driving across the border that lays between the U.S.A. and the vast Canadian skies.

And here’s the results…

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Caroline was packed and ready as we hit the road at 5pm on a Friday. She was excited to see her relatives and stay a week in West Virginia as we weren’t able to have her tag along this time. As we kissed her sweet face goodbye, we hit the road the next morning and finally arrived at the Borders around 5pm the next day, Saturday.

We bought some booze for cheap at Duty Free and they allowed us entry into Canada. About 15 minutes into the country, we turned onto a dirt road and headed up for about 2-miles into a cove tucked away at Charleston Lake. WE MADE IT.

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Immediately, I felt the air on my skin and it was a wonderful 70-degrees Fahrenheit, just like a perfect fall day back in North Carolina. We pulled into the driveway of the lake house and were immediately greeted with some friends that had beaten us there.

Vacation mode = ENGAGED.

We enjoyed some hot dogs, a homemade caramel pie, whiskey, wine, and a sunset on the lake that swept me away almost immediately.

In knowing people, we are lucky to be close friends with a girl, Leah, from Canada. Her parents own the house. Her family was all in town for this first night with a bunch of other family that still reside in Canada. They were so friendly, warm, and social. A nice greeting to end the day after a long drive.

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The next morning we awoke to a beautiful day. We headed to the local grocery store and LCBO (alcohol store!) in the small quaint town of Lansdowne, ON (about 10 minutes up the road). A small grocery, and not cheap by any means, but we loaded up on some goods for the week. Since we had driven up, we had brought a ton of things with us including meat being the bulk of it. We had brats, chicken, steak, ground beef, and more. So we didn’t need too many things from the store.

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We headed back to the lake house and immediately ventured out onto the water to enjoy some fishing. This was a daily exercise, sometimes twice a day. The lake was so clear you could see all the way down to the bottom. It was like looking at a piece of glass when it was completely calm.

Throughout the week, we caught probably a total of 5 fish. It’s sad, I know. But with the weather and amount of rain the town had endured, no one was catching fish…so it wasn’t just us being bad at it. We had to obtain a Canadian fishing license from the local bait shop called “The Outlet”. It cost about $30-ish dollars and it’s valid for like 3 years or so.

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Our whole week revolved mainly around the lake. We bathed in it, swam in it, attempted to fish in it. On Sunday night a storm came through that kept me awake most of the night. It was a beautiful sound to hear as the thunder rolled through the rocks around the lake. The echo and boom was so loud that it shook the entire house. The next morning we found that the dock had been flooded with about 8 inches of water. The dirt road leading out, flooded. And like the curious little people we are, we went to check it out.

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Stranded! As the local people were bringing in loads of dirt and gravel repairing the road, we were in for a fun rain day inside the cabin as the rain continued to pour down.

We played Monopoly, watched some movies, ate a ton of snacks and junk food, drank, and peered out the window with sad eyes. Luckily, this only lasted for a day.

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As the weather returned to normal, so did we, and we continued on with our fishing and swimming. I set up my hammock on an island while the boys fished one day, enjoying a nice nap, and gathering wildflowers. I assume that the wildflowers are so abundant in Canada because of the constant cold and snow they receive for most of the year. In August, the flowers and grass are absolutely perfect. The flower lily’s are everywhere and I couldn’t even keep count with the amount of Blue Heron’s I saw. The Loon’s sing and the frogs and crickets make songs that are so peaceful.

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At night it gets even better. Yes we had a lake house, but we kept the windows open at all times and enjoyed the feeling of -almost- being one with nature. We climbed up onto the roof a few nights and enjoyed stars you could see for days. Nothing like the stars you see in the states. We could see the milky way in it’s entirety, and we lost count of the shooting stars. My best memory of the whole trip is laying here, on the rooftop, laughing, watching the night sky, and hearing the sounds of the animals surrounding us.

Each night, we enjoyed a fire outside and the only thing that interrupted this was the BUGS. They are horrible. 100% deet spray is the cure, but it’s not available in the stores around Canada…BRING YOUR OWN or have it shipped, whatever you have to do, just get it.

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One day we ventured into the town of Brockville, ON, about 30 minutes away from us. The reason we headed here is simple: Canadian Poutine and Fish -N- Chips. A little hole in the wall called Don’s Fish & Chips is the spot, and it’s the best I’ve ever had.

Website: http://donsfishandchips.com/.

Poutine is considered a Canadian dish, but I’ve had it here in Winston Salem too. Everyone has their “twist” on it, and I urge you to try it, but understand the REAL version is found in Canada. Three ingredients make it up, it doesn’t sound good, so you’ll have to trust me that it is…

  1. fries
  2. gravy
  3. mozzarella cheese curds

Maybe it’s the word “curd” that throws people off…but you should definitely try it sometime. At Don’s when you walk in there’s barely enough room to stand, you will observe a bathtub full of fries soaking in water, and a line of fryers ready to double cook your fish in which you can order Haddock or Cod. I chose the cod, and I’m drooling just thinking about it.

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We walked around the town for a bit before heading back and peeked at some tents that were open in the city market. It was a small town, but plenty of places to check out, and the water was near so we enjoyed our lunch by it.

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Each evening we made a routine of cooking a family dinner and we all sat down at the table to eat at 10pm. It’s just how it happened. We enjoyed our food hot off the grill, and held conversations full of belly laughs and chewing cheeks.

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I’ve never been so full in my life. The best part was not caring, eating whatever I wanted, not worrying about working out, and just cutting lose with people that I don’t have to impress or be any certain way when I’m around them. After about 3 days of being here, vacation mode fully set in and I honestly never wanted to leave.

The lake house sits on a rock hill looking over Charleston Lake. The lake has a “State Park” attached to it and it was founded in 1976. With over 100 miles and islands, and over 800 residences, the natural lands of this lake offer people with many activities that revolve around boating, fishing, hiking, and camping. Located near Athens, Ontario, Charleston Lake resides in the township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands. The species and wildlife here co-exist together as you have some from Northern climates and some from Southern climates. It makes for a beautiful place to observe wildlife.

Website: https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/charlestonlake.

The home’s front entrance is considered the back, and the back deck is considered the front porch for a reason. The deck overlooks the lake and provides a view that I could sit and stare at for hours. The house has a long row of stairs leading down onto the dock where you can also sit and observe, or jump in for a swim.

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We flew our flags and represented where we were from, but every home flies the Canadian flag with complete pride. They are proud to live here, proud to call Canada home.

As the week began to end, and it was almost time to make that drive home — we enjoyed a few more nights of amazing sunsets, dinners, and drinks with each other. The picture I’ve painted here may be bleak and I’m sure I’ve left out a few things, but the seven of us know the story. And each one of us has a different version, a different picture, and a different experience. So this was mine.

Enjoy. 🙂

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