The 42nd


Mainland Canada’s southernmost tip is parallel to Rome and although there are no ancient monuments, the ecosystem is as old as the last ice age when glaciers slid into Lake Erie 11,000 years ago. Point Pelee National Park (pelΓ©e being a French word that means “bald”) is on the 42nd parallel and it pokes into the shallowest of the Great Lakes like Pinocchio’s nose. Varieties of plants, animals, insects and birds found within its bounds are unique in the country. It’s a complex ecosystem.


Walking through the Carolinian forest of Point Pelee

To reach the Point you drive to a little town called Leamington, Ontario. Leamington is known as the tomato capital of Canada and the tourist office on the main street is housed in an enormous tomato replica – undoubtedly a beefsteak. It comfortably holds two people who peer out of its window and greet you, offer advice on what to see, where to go and how to get there.


Sandy path to the tip

The two women who staffed the Big Tomato were seniors and proud, long-time residents. Don’t scold me about identifying them as “senior” please. I’m married to an older man and by some retail outlets’ reckoning I too fall in that category. I think my age is pretty obvious and just so you know, I’m good with my age.


Can someone point me to the Point?

Anyhoo. I’m standing at the Big Tomato’s oraface and the woman doing most of the talking is looking me over, and then my husband, and finally our daughter who is eighteen – and Chinese. I sign the guestbook and tell her we’d like to visit Pelee Island. She says “Oh, that’s a lovely trip. It’s an hour and a half crossing and your dad would love it.”


We’re used to causing confusion among strangers with our outside-the-box family constellation. Although, since the kids reached adulthood (at least numerically) people generally leave us alone and don’t ask intrusive questions like “Are they yours?” and I don’t have to control my viper’s tongue and restrain from saying “Piss off”. But I digress.


Follow me, Dad.

My husband gallantly blinked away the comment. Later he said “I must look a lot worse than I thought”, but what could he say that wouldn’t lead to a longer conversation that was completely pointless and none of anyone’s business.

We speculated the Big Tomato lady thought this: Grandpa, daughter, granddaughter. Missing in action: the Asian dad.


A few more steps

Off we crotchety, decrepit old people went with our young daughter to Point Pelee to explore. We felt right at home roaming the ancient and complex ecosystem, hiking through the vegetation and trees of the old Carolinian forest – the last of its kind in Canada.

Eventually we made our way to the bald point and stared myopically into the murky sky.

There (1)

Made it!







38 thoughts on “The 42nd

    • We did go to Pelee Island! We rented bikes and cycled the lovely quiet roads from the ferry dock to Lighthouse Point and back. Although it was another blazing hot day, there was a constant breeze from the lake and we never felt flattened by the heat. I’d love to go back in the fall or, if I win the writing lottery, go to Margaret Atwood’s writing retreat. Something to dream about, eh?

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  1. So, yes, I went straight to a world map because this statement of comparable latitude completely flummoxed my admittedly weak sense of place. How extraordinary. And how evocative that last photo is. The giant tomato, of course, reminds me of the Gaffney water tower painted like a South Carolina peach, which means it looks like big butt cheeks. Travel is so educational. πŸ™‚

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  2. As always, Susanne, a delightful read, and full of the weird, whimsical turns of human interaction πŸ™‚ I was counterpoint to your Pt Pelee excursion, on the north side of Ontario, when I whisked a dubious husband, two small kids, and my serendipitous parents 11 hrs north to experience Tobermory, at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, some years ago. Now I have this southernmost geological wonder on my bucket list! Thank you for great commentary and a stellar capture!!

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  3. What a wonderful trip – I want to visit Point Pelee!!
    Please tell your husband I have dealt with the age confusion for 18 years now. Just last weekend Pretty and I were at a pool party and two guys we didn’t know sat down with us to eat barbecue. I introduced myself but before I could introduce Pretty, one of the guys said oh, is this your daughter?
    No, I replied, my wife. End of story. Universal problem…but relatively small on the grand scale of things.
    Thanks for the great trip!

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  4. I was in Point Pelee once a great many years ago (which almost qualifies me for a senior discount!). Lovely place that feels almost tropical to us Canucks. Some amazing birds as I recall. Thanks for taking us on your trip!

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    • It is a really rich agricultural area and feels so abundant. We were there in the heat of the afternoon and while the birds were quite chatty they were well hidden in the trees. I’d love to go back in the spring or fall with binoculars and an expert guide.


  5. I have a good idea how your husband feels! A couple of people have asked me lately if my sister, who is all on 10 months and three weeks younger than I, is my daughter! What?! And I’m the one who stayed out of the sun while she tanned herself to leather! It’s so not fair. Your trip and walk looks fascinating!

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    • Oh Kerry, that is really annoying! Its not fair how the genes line up in a family, eh? I’ve noticed that people think I’m a lot older since I let my hair go grey.


  6. This happened to someone else I know not too long ago. My friend, all of 35 and not lookin haggard, was assumed to be the bride’s father. The bride? Older than my friend. :/
    Anyway, it looks like it was a splendid outing and I thank you for the photos.

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    • I’d like to go again in the spring or fall, too. Late July is not a great time for bird watching. We heard many songs but didn’t sight anything unusual other than a white ibis which was pretty cool.

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  7. Ha-ha! You feisty almost senior! The place sounds beautiful and quite exotic despite the tomato hut and the assumptive woman trying to make sense of your exotic family mix. ‘Don’t make assumptions’ is one of the four agreements of Miguel Ruiz. She should read it. I was going to ask if that was a quote at the end – but my question has been answered.

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    • Funny about the quote. Its been there for a couple of years! Yeah, I’ve learned that don’t make assumptions lesson after many foot in mouth episodes. some people take longer than others.


  8. I love your approach to travel writing. As someone once said, “No more lengthy descriptions of the window treatments at the B&B, please!” I had never heard of this spot until today when I read your post and, again, when I read a FB post from someone in Oberlin who is also visiting! Small world, eh?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Point Pelee is probably closer to Oberlin than Ottawa. We took the drive in stages to and from otherwise it would have been a solid 8 hour drive. I always thought travel writing was about discovering yourself as much as other places. Yes, sometimes the curtains are worth a mention but only if you didn’t kill your spouse after a day of misdirection because there were no strings. Whoever invented those grommet curtains probably saved a few lives.


  9. Oh Point Pelee!! Several years ago I started flying regularly between Detroit and Washington DC. I’d see this point down below, jutting out into Lake Erie, it looked man-made to me, the shoreline so straight. I eventually looked it up and then I just had to visit it. My husband and I drove there maybe 5 years ago. I remember the tomato building in town, I don’t remember it being open when we were wandering by. I also remember the tomato farms, and the big buildings that at first I thought were growing pot! πŸ™‚ Then I figured out the tomato thing when I saw the tomato processing plant.

    We rode a tram out to someplace near the end of the Point. No one at the nature center said anything about flies. But they were horrible! We RAN out to the point, our clothes covered in flies, swatting them away from our face. We took our obligatory picture out at the end and ran back to the parking lot to wait for the shuttle. We didn’t do much else because we were so miserable and covered in bites. Though I do remember climbing to the top of an observation tower looking out over a grass filled wet area.

    Now when I fly over the Point I imagine people running away from biting flies down there.

    As for the parallel…I cross the 45th parallel when I go up north…I should go figure out where that is in Europe.


    • The greenhouses are amazing in that part of the country. I’ve never seen so many – acres and acres of them.

      What time of year did you visit the Point? We didn’t encounter a single fly or mosquito although there were quite a few butterflies.

      Hope you’re feeling better, Dawn.


  10. I quite often remark to European friends that I live on the same parallel as Madrid. It never ceases to flummox which, I suppose, is the point.

    The well-meaning are among the most irritating of creatures …. and they certainly exist everywhere, not just in perfectly preserved unique eco-systems nor in enormous faux tomatoes.

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    • Flummoxing can be fun and sometimes we like to flummox with our family. For instance, on this same trip we visited middle daughter in her new abode and I went to her ballroom dancing lessons with her. The instructor looked quite flummoxed when I was introduced as the mom and she said “You don’t look at all alike.” and I said “No, we don’t.”

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  11. Nice to see the point was actually there and walkable! Last time I was there (Canada Day 2017) it was completely submerged under high lake waters. Love the quote at the end – one of my favourite books of all time: The Diviners.


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