1 ̶ BLUE MOUNTAIN
Just the other day, I reached Collingwood by traveling on a paved road all the way from Greenstone. Collingwood is a community of 19,500 on the shore of Georgian Bay, Lake Huron. Then I took a paved road to The Big Stink, also spelled T-O-R-O-N-T-O.
One hundred forty-six years ago, Colonel Garnet Wolseley left Toronto to quell the Métis Resistance in Red River, North-West Territories. He and 1,200 armed men travelled by rail to Collingwood to embark on steamers bound for Prince Arthur’s Landing on the west shore of Lake Superior. They wanted to arrest one man, or hang him, whichever came first.
My sister, Grace, lives in Collingwood.
She has retired there. She doesn’t remember Col. Wolsely, but she has never forgotten the magnificent ski runs that attracted her to Collingwood many decades ago. The historical record shows that Wolseley was not interested in the skiing.
I, on the other hand, have long been interested in Col. Wolseley. And when I saw those ski runs, well . . . wow. But, a country boy like me is easily impressed.
Going to and from T.O. (The Big Stink), I spent a few hours in the Georgian Triangle, not to be confused with the Bermuda Triangle. In the G.T., people mysteriously disappear for just a few hours. Because. There is just so much to see and do. Bear with me as I roam through orchards of country, culture, and history.
By the way, the G.T. offers orchards for over 30 different species of apple, including its signature Honeycrisp. And I never got to taste one. So much to see and do.
When I arrived on Sunday, September 18, Grace whisked me away to The Spit (more on that later), the interminable shoreline of Georgian Bay, and the Wasaga Blues Festival (more on that later).
Monday morning, she introduced me to Blue Mountain. The mountain, as it happens, is green, not blue. It is a section of the Niagara Escarpment, probably the predominant geological feature of all of Eastern Ontario, let alone of the Collingwood country. The Escarpment begins in the east in New York State, allows five of the six Great Lakes to cascade over its lip at Niagara Falls, and extends westward to the Illinois-Wisconsin border. And there it sat on Monday morning, smiling greenly on the city, and gazing out fondly over the great inland sea.
When we zipped along the foot of the mountain, I fairly gasped. Mile after mile of ski runs. Great green swaths of lawn tumbling down the slopes, intercut with great green swaths of forest. She pulled up at Blue Mountain Resort, perhaps the area’s premier recreation facility. It could accommodate every soul in Greenstone, and still have room for several other villages. Innumerable multi-storey edifices, a conglomeration of hotels and condos and apartments and shops and pubs and restaurants, with rental paddle boats and a golf course and a conference centre in the mix. The heart of the resort is called Blue Mountain Village, such a quaint and inappropriate label for a mini metropolis.
We strolled around the village, meeting a lot of
strollers. Most activity seemed to focus on the ski lift, for gondolas were shuttling mountain bikes and their riders to the top of the hill. Some would scatter along the trail network on the summit; others would scoot down invisible trails in the forested strips to do it all over again.
We headed back to the parking lot via a path around The Mill Pond, an artificial lake bounded by wetland vegetation and boisterous birds.
Grace took a paved road to the summit, past the Ghost Bike (a memorial to a rider killed in a marathon recently). We had no time to explore the Scenic Caves, or do a little zip-lining and treetop walking. Hikers and cyclists scuttled about. We paused for the spectacular view across the green plain shrouded in haze. Only the towers of Collingwood Terminals stood out. In the distant swirls of cloudy air we imagined the frolickers on the sands of Wasaga Beach.
Over the summit to Beaver Valley. We were hunting for a specific vineyard and winery; Grace had coupons for wine tasting.
When we walked into the winery of Georgian Hills, we waited a bit for some connoisseurs to expend their coupons. Another sommelier appeared and gave us her full attention. She insisted we try everything but we exercised due prudence. Grace was driving, and I still had T.O. (T.B.S.) to face.
It wasn’t our plan to buy anything, but I still walked out with a boxful of vintages.
Next stop, Ravenna Country Store. It stood at a crossroads along with a church
and little else. Grace said that Ravenna Country
Store was a destination for thousands of tourists every year. The tiny Ravenna Country Store was real, well . . . country, offering just about anything you craved. We ordered Montreal smoked meat sandwiches. Ravenna Country Store is now on my bucket list.
Back we went over the summit of Blue Mountain and down into the plain. If I had divined the ordeals I would face in T.O. (T.B.S.) over the next few days, I might have continued on the paved road to Greenstone.
(Continued in Chapter 2)