Anticipated with Excitement; Remembered with Nostalgia.

It’s been three and a half (3.5) months on the water.  As I type it, it doesn’t even seem plausible.  Summer came and went.  Fall happened.  And in the blink of an eye, our time in the Great Lakes is officially over.  I’m blogging today from the Illinois River – 83 miles south of Chicago – and in the spirit of reflecting on the first quarter of our journey, Tom put together the below video chronicling our adventure and i’ve broken down our “most memorable’s” to date.

Best View:  Hike @ Killarney Provincial Park.    Just steps away from the dock at the Killarney Mountain Lodge is what can only be considered as one of the most tranquil places i’ve ever been.  The hike is conducive for people of all levels of experience and offers breathtaking views and…did I mention the tranquility?  We spent hours sitting on the shoreline watching the pristine water rush by and came back the next day for a more intense workout session.

Best Flavor:  Olive & Gourmando (Montreal)- Two.words. Almond Croissant. TO DIE FOR!  Seriously, it melts in your mouth with goodness.  Tom’s pick is Cibo Wine Bar (Toronto).  Boasting a lively atmosphere and easily the best Sunday brunch we’ve ever had. If you find yourself in Toronto, this is a must!

Best Dive: As we excitedly made our way back into U.S. waters,  Drummond Island, MI took us by surprise in more ways than one. The water was some of the prettiest we’ve seen on the trip – but the shining start of this port was the vivacious Mexican restaurant know as Esther’s.   While they don’t serve margaritas (or any alcohol for that matter), the food more than made up for it!  (Skip the guac – but the mains are delicious – the best Mexican on the Great Loop to date!)   Its worth mentioning that Esther herself is in the kitchen, with a smile, making each and every dish with spice and heart.

A Must Do:  The Benjamin Islands (North Channel).   This group of islands is simply serene.  The anchorage has picturesque pink granite and sapphire blue water.  On shore, you’ll find great hiking, ideal camp fire sites, and perfect sunbathing rocks.  While I suspect during peak summer months the islands can get a little busy/touristy, we happened to have the islands all to ourselves as we arrived in September.  It was a “Where else would you rather be?” moment.

Take A Pass: Lake Topaz.  Just the name sounds dreamy, right?  It turns out that Lake Topaz is pretty far off the beaten path – with very little water depth – and isn’t as idealistically “topaz” as we had hoped.

Wished We Could Have (but next time!):  We missed out on our opportunity to cruise down the Chicago River.  Baywash needed some routine maintenance which ultimately routed us down the Calumet instead. (woof)  The Calumet was smelly and unforgivably polluted and unsightly.

♦Beauty Break: (Take two!) As anyone who reads regularly knows, beauty maintenance is a r.e.a.l. struggle aboard Baywash.  The trustworthiness of anyone who is about to come into contact with your skin, hair, nails, etc. is a nerve-racking thing.  Chicago was the mecca of all things beauty!  A hydrafacial (w/Christal) and a painless Botox touchup (w/Amber) at the Med Spa at Northwestern Plastics left me feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.  I also have to mention that AJ Palace at Thomas West Salon is a hair goddess.  If you’re a blonde in the Chicago area – this is your girl! AJ is a fellow blondie and as she put it, “it takes one to know one.”

The Essentials: I am such(!) a sucker for a *good* grocery store; I love to gather fresh ingredients to snack on while we’re underway.  On our way up the Trent-Severn Waterway, I stumbled upon a small, but well stocked, gourmet market just around the corner from the Lakefield Marina (Lakefield, Ontario – between locks 26 & 27).  The Market (yes, that’s its proper name) was abundantly stocked with organic produce, grass fed meats, aged cheese, raw nuts and even some healthy sweets! A gem of a grocery store!

Working Up A Sweat:  While docked at Mackinac Island, we strolled the fudge filled streets in dire need of some sweat-worthy exercise. We noticed a bounty of bike rental displays – but each inquiry about mountain biking left us with blank stares and pushy salesmen who just wanted us to hop on their beach cruisers…not exactly what Tom had in mind.  We were ultimately pointed in the direction of Mackinac Wheels – a true bike shop with knowledgable staff and some intense mountain bikes!  Unbeknownst to many of the other bike renters, there are over 70 miles of bonafide mountain biking trails throughout the island.  Paths include paved and off roading and offer something for every skill level – and there being absolutely no cars on the island – its truly a pedaler’s dream!

The Tans Will Fade but the Memories Will Last Forever

HAPPY SUNDAY!  We are officially back on U.S. soil and I have to admit, it’s bittersweet.  I’ve been longing for a few of my staple USA items! *Dunkin’ Donuts coffffeeee* 🙈 ☕️ But we LOVED Canada AND as it turns out, we saved the best for last!

The North Channel is, without a doubt, the front runner for our favorite part of the Great Loop thus far.  It encompasses everything we love about being on the water.  The scenery is breathtaking; hiking trails are plentiful; the gunk holes allow for easy anchoring; and there are even some luxurious resort marinas along the way (Killarney Mountain Lodge)- which as you may have noticed is something I get pretty excited about.

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We drifted from Killarney (above) to Topaz Lake at Baie Fine (below).

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From there, we overnighted in Little Current – which turned out to be cute and quaint and all things “small town”.  (The local grocery store even offered to drive me back to the dock when they overheard I was visiting by boat.) 👸🏼   I picked apples while Tom did some boat maintenance (engine oil change) and then we were off to the Benjamin Islands!

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If you’re planning to do the Great Loop…or just happen to have the luxury of visiting the North Channel, put the Benjamin Islands on your “Must Do” list!  The islands are simply serene and allow for an absurd amount of fun with easy dinghy access, perfect hiking conditions and ideal campfire sites.

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DCIM100MEDIADJI_0155.JPGWe are blogging today from Drummond Island (🇺🇸 ) and charting our course for the coming week as we make our way to Chicago. I’m practically wiggling in my chair just thinking about getting to Chicago!  We’re planning to stay for a week or two and I.Cannot.Wait. to explore another new city!

Post Script:  It’s chilly here today – we’re in sweatshirts – and it makes me nostalgic for summer already! 😭

What’s Your P.S.R.?

Primitive. Survival. Rating. 

Wait. I guess my first update should be that we made it through the l.a.s.t. lock!  Phew! TWYF1884

Now that we can finally stop talking about locks…Have you ever watched Naked & Afraid?  Its on the Discovery Channel and its one of our favs!  Two people are dropped into the wilderness completely naked and expected to survive for 21 days using their “primitive survival skills”.

I’d have to say the Georgian Bay has been sort of like that!  (I know, I know…now you have an interesting mental picture, but just bear with me here.)

We kept hearing that the Georgian Bay would be the crown jewel of our trip. Supposedly picturesque beyond belief.  It certainly didn’t disappoint on that forefront but, where it really shines is in its remoteness.   Island after island with no one to interrupt whatever your day has in store.  MIIC7853

We anchored at Spider Bay and then the Bustard Islands.  Fully stocked with grilling options and red wine, we decided to relish in the uniqueness of not only the beauty but the surreal opportunity of being completely alone.  UWJB0330

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The week consisted of a homemade bow drill…and the hours that go along with attempting to make fire without matches, a subsequent campfire (a la matches) 😉, hiking, cliff jumping, sun bathing, fishing, skinny dipping and even two(!) encounters with black bears. ONZP8262bustards collageIMG_3668Its been a refreshing experience, one I’ll never forget.  I’m blogging today from Killarney – the gateway to the North Channel.  Its still picturesque and remote, but with a little bit of luxury on the side…quaint dining options, a spa, and LOTS of vacationers!  More details on our time here next week! ✌🏼