I have always wanted to tour a cranberry bog. Call me strange but the notion has been tapping me on the shoulder for quite a number of years now. So when we knew we were moving back to Canada, I was bound and determined this would be one of our home school adventure trips of a lifetime. While no one else in the house gives it quite that title, everyone thoroughly enjoyed our family day trip to the bog last Saturday.
I followed the weather all week long, checking the Weather Network for rain percentiles and wind gusts. We knew the hurricane along the east coast may change our plans since wind was to increase and possible rain due this way. But further north it was still showing sunshine (at least for four hours of the day) some cloud but no rain.
We went with that, leaving very skeptical Saturday morning after a round up of huge branches and sticks from the walnut tree out front, not to mention the carpet of cedar boughs blanketing the driveway, and the inability to hear each other well in the high winds. What are we thinking? is all I could mouth to my hubby getting into the van. (Really, it wasn’t that bad, but you get what I mean.)
But living with one risk it kind of husband, I relaxed and thought, its true, what else is there to do on a dull, cold, it-looks-like-rain kind of Saturday?
We arrived late morning in Bala, Ontario’s cranberry capital. This is the place to go if you’re into festivals and craft shows in autumn. Bala holds a Cranberry festival each year around the middle of October. Harvesting the cranberries begins two weeks before Canadian Thanksgiving and ends the last weekend in October, though they’re slightly behind schedule this particular year because of how lovely the weather has been. The climate hasn’t been quite right for the harvest yet, but they said despite warm weather they can harvest some of the white berries to make wine with. Did you know white berries are just as ripe as the red? They have all the same nutrients and pigments inside them as the red berries. They can be dry picked as opposed to flooding which gives the cold weather the opportunity to redden up the berries. It has become a popular feature now to choose the Bog to Bottle tour they offer.
There was one bog flooded (the one we toured via wagon ride) for us to see but, alas, isn’t it the photo that didn’t turn out for me? There was a corner of the bog with the floating cranberries for us to see from the wagon, though at such a distance had my camera not been a cellphone, I may have captured a decent shot. Sorry, this is the best I could do.
You did know cranberries don’t grow in water, right? They are only harvested in water to get the berries off the plant. Bogs can also be flooded in order to protect the cranberries from frost.
Our tour guide, Bob, was quite the character. Alongside all the wealth of information to learn about a cranberry bog, he made sure he had fun with the wagon ticket holders, particularly a couple from Ohio who made the mistake of sitting up close to the front.
I wanted to snap a photo of Bob, but somehow I felt leaning into the bumpy wagon aisle would certainly draw attention, and Bob wasn’t one you wanted to notice you. But I’ve a pic of two of my dear ones and also a fun one of a tour group enjoying some exercise dance steps to the YMCA song before their wagon ride with Bob.
Following our wagon tour, we finished off inside the store which of course means cha-ching, cha-ching. I came home with a yummy smelling candle, three jars of the most delicious cranberry jam (which by the way is still being made in the kitchen of the 80+ year old owner of the farm, along with some of her friends), and a bag of white chocolate cranberries (a must have!)
And though I’m sure the local workers picking the cranberries on the line and bagging them at the end of the line weren’t too amused by us newbies to the whole process, madly clicking our cameras at them behind glass, they nonetheless humoured us, and allowed us to spectate as they worked.
We then headed into the small town of Bala to have a wee looks-y around. We discovered the Bala Falls in the process.
I’m always so impressed with the rock up north, part of the Canadian Shield. It’s so picturesque, and so unique to Canada. I get excited by rock photography and this is when I have my deepest longings for a great camera. Despite all that, I snapped away with my cellphone so I hope you don’t get too tired and leave off here with my on the rock photos.
After our stop in Bala we just knew we couldn’t go home yet. We pulled out the map to see where the next closest town was to tour, and so chose Gravenhurst. What a pretty town indeed! We parked down by the harbourfront and walked the boardwalk.
They have a fall colours steamship ride that runs daily from June-October 8:30-4:30. I believe it was around 4pm when we arrived to see it coming back into the harbour. I’ve duly got this noted for another trip north some time. I am totally in love with this place!
To end our day, we ate at the Boston Pizza on the harbourfront. And thanks to our eldest for making us try a new pizza flavour: Mediterranean. Absolutely the best flavours I’ve had yet on a pizza!
So for all you obsessive festival goers, this is the place to be this coming October 16-17, at the annual Bala Cranberry Festival. And make sure you get to Gravenhurst on time for your Muskoka Steamship fall colours ride. But bundle up! It’s sure to keep getting colder and colder this time of year in the great white north.