2015 Trip 3: shad flies and geese...everywhere.

McLarens Campsite, St Lawrence Parks - May 2015

Off to McLarens this weekend, a destination that is close to home and a nice little getaway. McLarens is one of the campgrounds in the St Lawrence Parks system along the Long Sault Parkway, which is a series of eleven islands that arc through the St. Lawrence River.

Bridges and causeways connect these islands, which are actually the high points from a group of villages that were expropriated and flooded as part of a power project in 1958.
Signs of these villages, streets, Hwy #2, and some early canal locks, are still visible beneath the water's surface.  A very popular spot for paddlers and divers. Here is a link to an interesting article by a local Ottawa photographer on the area.   http://www.glebereport.ca/2013/03/in-search-of-the-“lost-villages”-of-the-st-lawrence-river/

We are staying on the eastern side of the campground this trip, on a site that offers a nice view of the river.

lakers will pass by to the left of that island
We also have a glimpse of the main channel, where the lakers travel, so we hope to see some pass by on their journeys.   Nice site, backing in places one side of the Alto facing the water, providing a nice view of the seaway.  Weather is good, although a bit windy, which is quite handy though, as it is helping keep at bay the gazillions of shad flies that are swarming everything. Any area out of the wind is soon covered in these things. They don't seem to bite, but their sheer numbers make them a little annoying. There is also a batch of young ones, at least I think they are related. Between the two versions, these guys are everywhere. Apparently though, these guys are only around for a short period in the spring, so it seems we have picked their weekend.

Got all set up then moved inside to get away from the hordes of shad flies. I brought our little HD antenna with us, as there are a couple of game 7 of the conference finals hockey matches this weekend, which would be nice to try and pull in on the TV. This antenna is a Wingard Razor, a flexible flat plastic square antenna, with a built-in signal amplifier. We've had this a couple of years, but given that we only use it on rare occasions, usually where there is no signal to be found anyways, it's hard to say just how good it performs. Got it hooked to the TV, and started the search for channels. The TV performs a scan for channels, and shows you the results as it goes. We soon had 8 channels to choose from. My hopes were high that 1 or 2 of them would be CBC or CTV. Well, those thoughts were soon dashed, as they were all American based. Not surprising, as the signals are coming from right across the river. Nice strong HD digital signals, great picture, but definitely nothing that would be carrying anything related to hockey. Given that we are only a short distance from Ottawa, very close to Cornwall, at minimum, I expected a CBC signal. Moving around the antenna made no difference, still no signal. Even switching the TV to analogue, hoping for some sort of signal, did not help.

So here we are, in Canada, not really doing what one would call "wilderness camping", and we cannot get a Canadian TV signal. Why?
CBC is a government funded channel, purportedly with the mandate to provide quality content to Canadians, all tax payer funded I might add, just to be clear on that point, yet, no broadcast signal. Makes no sense to me. I would have thought that they should provide at least a reasonable amount of signal coverage across the nation. We are pretty much on the Trans Canada highway, a corridor that traverses sea to sea. Why no signal? If I can bring in a PBS station from Plattsburg NY, sharp and clear on digital on a puny little antenna, why can I not get Canada's tax payer funded national broadcaster??? And this lack of reception also applies to the CBC radio signals. When we camp in Ontario we can get lots of radio stations from the States, a few privately run Ontario radio stations, but CBC, at best, will be barely audible. Makes absolutely no sense to me. Pretty good content, but too bad one cannot get reception. Only goes to show that if you have your head so deep in the government funding trough, you are not getting any signals either.

Real windy this morning, not unexpected, as they are calling for storms this afternoon. We headed out biking a little earlier than we normally would to take advantage of the sun while it is still here. Nice and warm out, but the wind will make for a challenging ride. We are going to head towards the bird sanctuary, via the bike paths, just a little west of us.

Quite a nice little ride, following the rivers edge, then across some causeways, which look suspiciously like abandoned railway lines.

We stopped at the Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary, which has miles of hiking opportunities through wetlands and forested areas, and a great interpretive centre. Established in 1961, it is 9000 hectares of a variety of wildlife habitats. Definitely a great destination for bird watchers and naturalists.

As we were biking along the little causeway, we heard a lot of big splashing in the water. We stopped to have a look, and soon spotted several areas where this was going on. Turned out to be a number of groups of fish, my guess would be carp, from the size and shape. They appeared to be either fighting each other, or perhaps they were using their fast rolling movements to dig spots into the lakebed, where they could lay their eggs. We watched these groups for a while, then continued on.

part of the bird sanctuary, just not sure what...
birders could log their sightings here
We headed back from here, stopping in Ingleside to explore a bit and pick up a few supplies.

Lots of Canada geese around, as well as new crops of little goslings, fuzzy and super cute following around their parents, learning the ropes of foraging and survival.

one grows into the other...
Back to the site around 11:00, and although windy, it is a nice warm day. I decided to get a head start on waxing the Alto, something I do every spring, so I spent an hour doing the sides and the back, leaving the top for when I have a stepladder handy. The wind is certainly picking up, easily blowing over chairs and tossing stuff off the picnic table. What it is also doing is hurling whirlygigs from the maple trees, so fast they feel like shrapnel as they slam into the side of your face. A bizarre experience.

A big laker went by this afternoon, no doubt with a load of something on board. You can hear them coming before they come into sight...there is this low level rumbling of their engines, nothing at all like a big speedboat racing around. This is much different, more the sound of pure power, pushing tons of weight through the water.

Towards the later afternoon, the wind picked up even more, and on the west horizon, there is a band of black and ugly clouds. We were hanging out by the shore when a park ranger rolled by, telling us campers that there were warnings of hail and tornados for the area. He suggested that if got real bad, that everyone move to the comfort washroom stations for shelter. We gathered up any gear we had out and stored it well away. It was getting pretty windy and black outside, so we prepped the Alto to be lowered if we needed to. The back was facing the wind, so the lower profile would help. The rain started to really pound down, and with the wind it was looking pretty scary out, so we lowered the roof. It made a huge difference, and we felt quite protected. Kept a close eye on the weather, but after about 20 minutes, it seemed to let up a bit. The worst had past. Up went the roof again, and soon after, the sun actually came out a bit. One side effect of lowering the roof, a lot of our winged little friends, once outside, were now inside the Alto. Lots of them. On went the fan on high, turned on the light for an attraction, and soon many were easily disposed of, literally glued to the screen. Off and on drizzle all evening so we just relaxed inside and threw on a movie.

It got considerably colder overnight, dropping into the mid 40's F. Got up in the night to pull out the electric oscillating heater to take some of the chill off. Very overcast this morning, with spots of rain. Much cooler today, with a forecast high in the low 50's. Campers are up and about, mostly starting to pack gear away to head home, as the day is looking to be cool and dismal. We soon were doing the same, albeit somewhat slowly, as we are still quite comfortable in our cozy cocoon, no need to rush things.

So although not the best of weather, we did have a good Saturday bike ride, and it is always nice to get away for the weekend.


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