Sunday, July 13, 2008

Homecoming #2

Along with unique island culture, you'll find no end of natural splendour on Pelee Island. Because of its extreme southern location and the fact that it is surrounded by the warm, shallow waters of Lake Erie's western basin, Pelee Island basks in its own "microclimate," which warms it up, on average, to a temperature higher than that of any other place in Canada.

True to form, Pelee was hot and humid during our recent visit. Here is a typical island road; most of them are gravel, which means that about two days after the last rainfall they turn to a fine dust. And when you're biking, you have to deal with the massive, tooth-gritting clouds that are kicked up by every passing car. But at least the motorists are kind enough to wave as they're about to blast you. The ubiquitous "Pelee wave," in which all motorists on the island are expected to wave at each other as they pass (don't do it and you'll immediately label yourself a tourist), is something I've never encountered anywhere else.

Amy takes a break from basking in the warm waters of Lake Erie off Fish Point, a nature reserve at the island's south end. Over her shoulder is Middle Island, which contains a pristine sample of lush Carolinian forest. It's the southernmost point of land in Canada. And as I've mentioned before, it is a little island with a very shady past. In an act of blatant self-promotion, I will tell you no more -- you'll have to read about it in Lake Erie Stories.

No trip to Pelee Island is complete without a visit to the Pelee Island Winery. Winemaking has been a mainstay of the island's tiny economy for a century, and the vintages here, because of the muggy, almost tropical climate, are unique, indeed. Behind the winery you can sample a choice of cheeses and picnic on a beautiful lawn. A warning: the chilled white wine served here goes down quickly on a steamy summer day. I recommend taking the winery's little tourist trolley to the ferry.

Photographing a sunset is always a hit-and-miss proposition. Usually when I try to do it, I end up with a big, red blur. Or the setting sun is so far away that it loses nearly all of its dazzle. But this one, taken on our last evening on the island, appears to be an exception.

Growing up in this area, I often heard people comment that it was known for having the most beautiful sunsets in all the world. I don't know if it's true, but I bet you'd be hard pressed to find a Pelee Islander who would disagree. And at the risk of sounding cliche, it's one of the many things that always keeps me coming back.


movita said...

Wait. Is this the bunnies-in-the-ditch place? Where are the bunnies? And are there fireflies? Have you seen any? More information please.

Chad said...

Yes. There are bunnies. Many bunnies. And millions of fireflies, too. The place is essentially a non-animated Disney movie. Have you ever tried to photograph fireflies? You just get a black smear with what looks like the cheapest Christmas lights ever.