Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Things to Do and Places to Visit in Renfrew County

Watching the Hummingbirds on Marnell's porch!

View of Bonnechere River 

Being a lifetime resident of the rather populace area of Southern Ontario I have taken several trips to the great north of my home province throughout my life but after a somewhat disastrous camping trip about twenty years ago I had avoided the whole outdoor campy type thing and cottage country for many years.  I decided to finally take the trip to visit a terrific friend and childhood neighbour who had made Renfrew County her home and has a beautiful little spot near Golden Lake. She generously opens her home to many Southern friends and family throughout the summer and she made my visit to this area a wonderful experience. Marnell spent several days chauffeuring and guiding us to some beautiful gems in her area of the western part of Renfrew.

The County of Renfrew reaches from the Ottawa valley, along the shores of the Ottawa River to the northern tip of Algonquin Park. Renfrew County is the largest County in Ontario boasting over 900 pristine lakes. The western part of the County has a small town feel with numerous small urban areas that hold on to the heritage of the founding members whether they be Polish, Irish, German or Scottish.  This tendency towards cultural pride means visitors can get a taste of not only beautiful and stunning scenery but interesting historical narratives kept alive by the descendants of the original settlers of the areas. With Marnell as our guide we were able to visit some of these interesting areas in and around the area of Wilno.

Bonnechere Caves
Bonnechere Caves – An interesting and informative spelunking activity off the beaten track in Eganville! The tour starts with an interesting interactive lecture from the guide about the fossils in the area and is followed by a tour of the caves themselves. Although not as large or grandiose as caves I’ve visited in other parts of the world the guide made it very interesting by retelling the story of the discovery of the caves. The site is appealing not only because of its history but also because the caves are naturally filled with water each year to provide the natural hibernation habitat of the resident brown bat population!

Wilno Tavern – A wonderful restaurant/bar in the centre of the town of Wilno, which we visited for dinner after a trip to the Emergency in Barrie’s Bay. I had the buffet boasting a variety of Polish delicacies including Pirogies and sausage! Apparently the tavern is a hotspot for late night get-togethers featuring local bands and talent.

Polish Kashub Heritage Museum & Skansen – located in the centre of Wilno this is a unique and informative display highlighting life for the Polish settlers of this area. An interesting and beautiful display for the history aficionado.
Polish Museum, Wilno

Madonna House Museum
Madonna House Apostolate – located in Combermere this community advertises itself as a family of Christian lay men, women, and priests, striving to incarnate the teachings of Jesus Christ by forming a community of love.  There are several buildings including a museum and store, which is filled with many unique items including crafts, art, and donated items. Apparently, people come from all over the world to join this community for varying lengths of time many of whom donate all their worldly goods to the commune.  The community was founded by a Russian immigrant, Catherine Doherty, in the forties.

Szare Szeregi Monument – This monument was erected in memory of 10.000 polish scouts who were killed during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 and were murdered in concentration camps in occupied Poland from 1939-1945. It sits on the top of a hill in a lonely field on Old Barry’s Bay Road and is a very sad reminder of a tragic event.

Szare Szeregi Monument

Crooked Slide Park – This park is located near Combermere and is a reconstruction of an original log chute used by loggers in the early 1900s. These chutes or flumes were used to bypass rapids and bends in the waterway which would damage the lumber.  It is a beautiful spot for a hike, a picnic, great photography, and on a warm day, a swim. When we visited, there were many people enjoying the refreshing water of Byers Creek and the rocky rapids.

Byers Creek, Crooked Slide Park

Chute at Crooked Slide Park

Boating and Fishing – Since Marnell’s place is located on a tributary between Golden Lake and Round Lake it is a terrific area for boating and fishing.  Anything from a motorboat, a canoe, a paddleboat, an inner tube, or even a pool noodle will do. The river and lake are pristine and a cruise around provides great views of properties, old farmhouses, and wildlife. Not wanting to exert myself unduly, I avoided the more strenuous boating choices and opted to let Marnell chauffeur me about in her motorboat or serenely float on a pool noodle!  Fishing, although not my forte, is also a very popular activity.  The fish are so plentiful that my niece waved a worm over the water at the end of the deck and used a scoop net to haul in her catch – a very humane sort of fishing!

Boating with Marnell

Swimming – We took many relaxing and cooling dips in the Bonnechere River, right outside Marnell’s back steps.  The rocks were a bit slimy and since I had forgotten my handy little water shoes I had to kind of jump in with a noodle and keep my feet up.  Floating around as the sun sets and sipping (or chugging) an ice cold Coors Light can’t be beat! We also went for a nice swim at The Sands on Golden Lake one afternoon.  The white sand and beautiful clear water was gorgeous. The entire area in and around Golden Lake has a multitude of terrific beaches and cottages for rent to suit all tastes. 

Sands on Golden Lake

Relaxing on the beach at Golden Lake

My trip up north this past summer has renewed my faith in the allure of Cottage Country so much that my past disastrous experiences are almost eradicated! 

Lily Pads, Bonnechere River

Kashubian Art

Pioneer buildings
Tree Face

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