Prince Edward County Revisited
August 19, 2013
At the age of five I climbed to the top of a huge sand dune on the edge of Lake Ontario and then attempted to run down it. As I recall I spent the remainder of the trip to the Picton Sandbanks trying to flush sand out of my eyes, nose and ears.
Some years later on August 20, 1972, my bride and I drove from Kingston to the Sandbanks on a one-day honeymoon before we returned to our summer jobs in Ottawa. Students, eh?
It seemed fitting this year that we attempt to recreate that journey. Bet admitted that she remembered very little of our brief honeymoon. I was sure that we drove our red VW Beetle, found the Picton beach, if not the sand banks, and made it back to Ottawa in time for work on Monday.
I wished I had that Beetle to drive on a road trip one more time, but our gray Lexus would have to do for now. Bet insisted upon taking our spaniel along for the ride.
My bride of 41 years had prepared a fine picnic lunch the day before, so we drained the dog and loaded up the Lexus on a glorious August day. Our son Charlie knew not what he asked when he borrowed my portable navigation system to aid his drive from Seattle to Victoria for a wedding on the weekend. At Bet’s insistence I asked my computer for directions to the Sandbanks. Google Maps commented: “Go to Trenton and turn left.” I tried for a more sophisticated itinerary, but when it offered a path that cut through Battersea and Inverary I decided to rely upon my own (unused of late) navigation skills.
We found the park after a spectacular drive across the island from Deseronto. Things went pretty well until we had finished a delicious picnic lunch well away from the beach. Dogs are not permitted on the sand or in the water. But lunch went well, once we found a picnic table without discarded rib bones on the ground below. Taffy’s quite the scrounger.
By the way, the beach looks to be flat-out beautiful. I peeked over the hill for a few photos, then headed off in search of wine country.
Near the park exit I cornered a woman on a recumbent bike and asked her whether I should turn right or left to find a winery. She rose to the challenge and actually produced a cycling map combined with a blizzard of instructions, so off we went, driving the charming back roads in the vicinity of the Sandbanks Provincial Park. Somehow we doubled back. Twice. Fine. I recognized our mistake. Off we went again, this time branching off into farming country.
We happened upon a number of vineyards. To my surprise they seemed to be situated on some of the less arable farmland in the area. Much of the vegetation we saw I didn’t recognize. Oh yes, goldenrod and sumacs were everywhere, but I didn’t see any dreaded wild parsnip or buckhorn, and Bet commented that she only saw purple loosestrife as we drew near to Belleville. One very common stunted evergreen is a mystery to me, though it grows in profusion on poor soil to the west of Kingston. I couldn’t identify the tree under which we ate lunch. Some kind of ash? Ash crossed with Manitoba Maple? The trees are different there.
To judge from the height and girth of some well-established lawn specimens, black walnuts do well in this area. They’re heavy stems with straight, muscular branches, like the ones on our property in Forfar, not the spindly trunks and willowy branches which surprised me in the wine country south of Lake Erie.
My purpose in visiting the wine district was to get an idea of growing conditions in the area. I suspected from the placement of the vineyards near the lake that they depend upon the unfrozen lake’s moderating influence throughout the winter.
At one well-financed vineyard we saw a pair of huge propellers erected on towers above the vines, no doubt to help fend off the frost on chilly spring nights.
The vineyards show conspicuous effort and investment on the part of their growers and we must have driven past a dozen separate operations in the area south of Belleville.
But I wanted ice cream and we were in the middle of nowhere. Driven my sweet tooth I tried to find our way out to civilization – Belleville and the 401 in this case.
My navigation instincts had completely broken down from sugar deprivation by the time we tried to make our way through Belleville. Without my trusty Tom Tom I found myself lost more than I liked. Finally I sidled the car up to a stopped pickup truck and two embarrassed guys sent us back two miles to a Tim Horton’s to make the turn to the 401.
Not having the Tom Tom cost us at least an additional hour of driving and disturbed those guys talking in that Chevy pickup. When we stopped at a popular takeout in Barriefield for Greek food for supper, we discovered it had been replaced by a pet food vendor. More backtracking. But I guess we can’t blame the Tom Tom for a restaurant closing.
In all (counting getting lost in wine country as a positive), it was a pleasant drive. I commented to Bet: “If you want to sell a couple a Lexus, give them the keys and send them to tour Prince Edward County. The car is made for days like this.”