Back in August of 2020, I woke up one morning and decided I was up for an adventure.
I had just spent the night in Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park, where I had been working for the past couple months for a summer job. My shift on this particular day started at 1:15 p.m., so I had some time to kill on my hands. I thought about hiking one of the park’s many hiking trails, but the trails I still had left to do were either too short, or too long. Seeing as I didn’t really feel like waiting around for half a day before work, or showing up hours late, I decided to steer my gaze elsewhere.
See, except for Whitney, Ontario, which lies just outside Algonquin’s borders, I had never really ventured past the Park’s East Gate. And so, I set my initial sights on Barry’s Bay, and hit the road just after 7:30 a.m. When I got there, I filled up on gas, and grabbed a coffee. With still so much time left before work, I checked Google Maps to see where else I could go.
This is when I noticed my relative proximity to the Province of Québec. From Barry’s Bay, it was only a 1-hour, 93 km drive. I checked the clock and calculated that I would have just enough time to get there, turn around, make the 2-hour return drive, and get back to Algonquin just before work started. I only had a small window of time to get moving, and so without hesitating, I got in my car and headed towards the border.
Now, if you’ve ever been to this portion of Ontario, you’ll know the struggle that is the radio. My only two choices were CBC talk radio, or the local country station. I chose the country station as the lesser of two evils. I could have listened to my own playlists, but I was in one of those weird phases where you skip every song that comes on.
Thankfully, the radio wasn’t that important as the scenery was just absolutely stunning. The topography ranged from lakes, rocks, and forests, to large rolling hills, to open fields of farmland, and then back to forests again. The best way to describe it would be if the length of southern Ontario from Windsor to Sudbury was compressed into a 1-hour drive.
Naturally, due to the time crunch, I didn’t stop to take many pictures on the way there. It was only when I got to the Ontario-Québec border that I decided I should make an attempt to document the trip, and that is where the following photo’s pick up.
When I got across the bridge, and onto the Isle-aux-Allumettes, my only real plan was to find somewhere to pull off the road and see the Ottawa River. I ended up turning down a series of random roads that I figured led towards the water. After about 10 minutes of searching, I found a boat launch, parked my car, and got out to take a look.
I took a bunch of pictures, and sent them to my family group chat and a few friends with the message: “Bienvenue au Québec”. I kept waiting for them to be surprised that I had somehow magically appeared in another province on the same day that I was supposed to be working, but those messages never came. When I asked about why nobody responded to me a few days later, I was told that nobody actually clued in to the fact that I was actually in Québec. They figured that I had just sent them some random pictures from the internet, or that I was just trying practice my French. I had to show them my phone’s camera roll before anyone finally believed me!
By the time I got to the end of the Pier, it was time to turn around and head back to Algonquin Provincial Park for work. I drove 2 and a half hours straight back, bobbing my head along to the sounds of my new found forced-love of country music. It was close, but I managed to arrive about 10 minutes before the start of my shift.
In hindsight, this impulse trip was quite possibly the dumbest thing I could have chosen to do that day. I could have easily been late for work, and my legs were absolutely dead from all the driving; not exactly helpful when you’re job requires you to be on your feet for 8-hours straight.
However, at the same time it was the best thing I could have done because when I think back to 2020, this trip to Québec was one of the more memorable parts of the summer. In a year when there wasn’t much travelling going on, this was a welcomed change of pace and a brief return to some sense of normalcy.
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