Cloudless blue skies, brilliant sunshine, and a tiny hint of a cooling breeze (which seemed to show up, rather conveniently, just when you thought it might be getting a little too warm for comfort) set the perfect September stage for Peche Island Day 2013.
Peche Island Day happens only once a year, and it’s a popular event. Since Peche Island is only accessible by boat, this is for many people their only opportunity to visit.
Not surprisingly, when we (Peter, a friend, and I) arrived at Lakeview Park Marina around 10:30 a.m. we found a long lineup of people stretched along the dock and into the parking lot, all waiting to board one of the boats ferrying visitors (for free!) to Peche Island. There was a much shorter line for the canoes; however, the three of us were of the same mindset and immediately hurried over to take our place at the end of the boat line. (Perhaps some day when I’m in much better shape I’ll brave the canoes, because it did look rather fun!)
A group of volunteers had set up a very efficient system of providing information, answering questions, and supplying visitors with brochures and free water bottles as the line inched forward. While the boats held only around 12 to 15 people, the distance to Peche Island is short, with several vessels going back and forth between the docks, so we only had to wait in line for maybe 30 to 45 minutes. It certainly wasn’t a chore, as the day was absolutely gorgeous!
Stepping off the boat and onto the island was a bit like arriving in a whole new world – with the bustle and concrete of the city back across the water, and trails, ponds, and green of every hue ahead of you, awaiting your exploration.
Anne Jarvis of The Windsor Star gives you a great taste of what you can expect from a visit to Peche Island in her article A paradise with a cracking good history. My friend had messaged me with the link to this article the previous day, and reading it made me even more eager to get going!
Having never visited the island before, the three of us had no particular destination or goal in mind other than to see and experience our surroundings – so we meandered the paths slowly, stopping often to enjoy the scenery and capture our memories in photographs.
There are a few sights to be seen along the way, including the ruins of Hiram Walker’s old summer house. The story of his house is one detail in the fascinating history of the island – which is, apparently, cursed! (If you’d like some background, Elaine Weeks has written a great article in The Times Magazine – The Curse of Peche Island – which is well worth reading.)
Another unique feature of the island is the Kentucky Coffee Tree, native to the region and rare in Canada. We did our best to spot them, and think we may have found a couple (based on some photos my friend looked up online)… but none of us being naturalists, we would have loved to have someone “in the know” confirm our discoveries.
We also learned that apparently certain exotic mussels have caused problems in the region. We wondered if we’d be able to see any, and discovered that they (or at least their shells) couldn’t possibly be missed!
After wandering the trails for a couple of hours we circled back and returned to the dock, grateful that we’d had the opportunity to visit this beautiful spot – so close to home, and yet feeling so far. All in all, I would say that it was pretty much a perfect day… the only thing I’d change for next time, perhaps, would be to bring a picnic lunch.
And there will, most definitely, be a next time!