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This Land Is My Land

August 19, 2012

I was born and raised, (and still live) in the most densely populated region (the ‘Golden Horseshoe’) of a big-ass province (Ontario) in a big-ass country (Canada).  I always thought I had a pretty good understanding of the geography and the history of my particular ‘neck of the woods’.  I was wrong.

Let’s start with some facts (and, yes, I had to look most of this up on the Web to make sure I had it right).

  • Canada is 3,855,100 square miles (9,984,647 square km) in size; it is only slightly smaller than Russia, and just a little bigger than the United States of America, China, and Europe.
  • Canada is home to approximately 34 million people (by comparison, there are about 141 million people living in Russia, 312 million in the U.S., 1.34 billion in China, and 785 million in Europe), making it – with 9.1 people per square mile / 3.5 per square km – one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world.
  • Of the 10 provinces and 3 territories that make up the country, Ontario is the fourth largest (covering 415,598 square miles / 1,076,395 square km); this represents approximately 10% of the land mass in Canada (or about the same size as the states of Texas and New Mexico – or the majority of states on the U.S. eastern seaboard, the countries of France and Sweden, or Norway and Germany and Finland – combined).
  • Almost 38% of the country’s population resides in Ontario; almost 95% of those people (about 12 million) live in southern Ontario, and most of those (including myself and my husband, both my boys and their girlfriends, and the majority of my family members) are packed into the Golden Horseshoe region.

Ontario Population Map

Before this past week, if asked, I would have said I had personally visited a pretty good portion of southern Ontario.  In the past dozen or so years, I’ve travelled as far west as Pelee Island (the most southerly point in Canada, it’s located in the western end of Lake Erie),  north to Tobermory (at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula that divides Lake Huron from Georgian Bay), east to Ottawa (our country’s capital city), and south through Fort Erie (on the border between the U.S. and Canada between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, not far from Niagara Falls). All told, however, that’s only about 250 square miles (650 square km), or about 6% of the province (and I can’t honestly say that I investigated – or was even aware of – most of the places in between the spots mentioned above). So how is it that I feel like I’ve actually SEEN the province? I suppose it comes down to the fact that there’s just so darn much of it out there that a mere 6% is actually quite a lot!

Southern Ontario Places I've Been

What really brought home the realization that I hadn’t ‘been there, done that’ as much as I’d thought was the holiday my husband and I took last week to a lovely little area (on the eastern end of Lake Ontario) called Prince Edward County (see map above).  On the map, it doesn’t look all that far away (‘as the crow flies’, it’s only about 150 miles / 240 km from where we live).  However, the quickest way to get there means going through Canada’s largest and busiest city (Toronto) on a highway that is prone to frequent slowdowns (especially near the airport); estimated travel time was 3½ to 4 (frustrating) hours.  Alternately, we realized we could go north and then east (thus avoiding the city), and arrive 2 hours later. That’s the route we chose – and we were very glad we did.

Lake On The Mountain -PEC

Lake on the Mountain, Prince Edward County, Ontario

We passed through towns and villages I’d heard of, but never actually visited, and discovered places on the map I didn’t even know existed.  We saw some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable (and, unfortunately, the distressing sight of intensification and ‘big box’ development encroaching on towns whose charm and character will surely be negatively impacted by the changes).  We took our time, enjoyed the sights, and arrived at our destination tired but awed by what we hadn’t realized was literally ‘in our own back yard’.  Our four days in Prince Edward County passed in similar fashion – we did a lot of sightseeing, sipped some local wines, visited a couple of museums (which brought back a few important snippets of early Canadian history), and met some delightful people. It was a journey well worth taking.

Canada Pavilion - Expo67

Canada Pavilion – Expo ’67 (Montreal)

I’ve never really been much of a traveler – I travelled east to Nova Scotia by train with my older sister when I was about fourteen, and went with my family to Montreal in 1967.  In 1979, I drove the Trans Canada Highway north of Lake Superior and west into Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and through the Rocky Mountains to the west coast of British Columbia and back again. I’ve been to California three times and have spent time in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.  I’ve visited Las Vegas three times (twice with my boys when they were young), New Orleans (once, in 2000, before Katrina), Hawaii (Oahu, Maui and Kauai) and several Florida ‘hot spots’ (Miami, Tampa, the Keys got a visit each; the boys and I have been to Orlando at least ten times).  I’ve also been to Nassau, Jamaica, and Acapulco, Mexico.

Camping 1989

Camping at Pinery Provincial Park, 1989

Closer to home, I’ve visited a number of Ontario ‘vacation destinations’, and I took the boys camping every summer when they were little at one or the other of our wonderful Provincial Parks.  But when I look at a map – of the world, of Canada, of my own fabulous province – I realize just how much more there is for me to see. It’s a little bit overwhelming – but I want to see as much of it as I can, now that I’ve reached … the other side of 55!

The Traveller’s 1955 Canadian version of
Woody Guthrie’s famous folk tune: ‘This Land Is Your Land’

  1. August 20, 2012 12:11 pm

    I’ve covered a lot, but nowhere near all, of the US, but I certainly haven’t been many places at all, thinking about all I’d like to see. I hope you keep exploring–and post about where you go. 🙂

  2. August 19, 2012 6:19 pm

    I relate… so much to see… so little time…

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