… my grade 8 graduation night at Holy Family Elementary School, Hamilton. Right after that, my dad loaded my brother, cousin and me, along with the fishing equipment, and my 2 other uncles, into the 1960 Chevy Impala wagon, and we were off on an all night drive to Barry’s Bay. After much motion sickness on our (the kids’) part, we arrived and began to bush-wack our way to the hidden, secret Bear Lake, only to be eaten alive by mosquitoes and black flies.
And that was my first introduction to the Madawaska Valley. Later that morning, we visited another uncle’s parents in the town of Barry’s Bay. Mrs. Benish treated us to the best and only pineapple-rhubarb pie I’ve ever had. I can still taste that pie. That, along with the yummy homemade bread, was baked in a wood-burning stove. Actually, I’m not even sure they had electricity in their home yet. Mr. Benish then took us on the correct route to the hidden lake, and all was fine.
After that, for many years thereafter, my family spent camping vacations at Carson Lake Provincial Park, which is now closed.
Recently, I read an article about the history and changes that this area is going through, and so we decided to spend a weekend there and do a little exploring. Of course, I, the amateur historian, brought a camera. The weather was not good, but we had an interesting ride through the old Opeongo Line, which was first used by Irish refugees from the potato famine, then later by Polish immigrants. This area is the first Polish settlement in Canada, and remains a very rugged and unforgiving land.
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