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Hiking the GART

11 Feb

gart4By Diva Shari Parsons

AUBURN – My hubby and I love hiking on the many lovely nature trails that Huron County has to offer. The spring-like weather recently was the perfect time to check out the section of the GART (Goderich to Auburn Rail Trail) that we are taking responsibility for this year as Trail Rangers for the Maitland Trail Association.

The GART follows the old CPR rail line from the historic CPR Station in Goderich (now the Beach Street Station restaurant) to the remnants of the former bridge over the Maitland River just west of the village of Auburn. The trail is a little over 13 km long with the vast majority of it being an easy walk over flat ground on a fairly wide and well cleared trail. For the most part, the trail base is made up of finely crushed rock with flat grassland and hard-packed soil in other sections. Large sections, especially at the beginning of the trail, are wheelchair and stroller accessible (not in Winter). The entire trail is great for riding bikes (not in Winter). Part of the GART is also used as a snowmobile trail in winter.

gart7This weekend we hiked the section between Sharpes Creek Line and Heron Line, a distance of approximately 4 km return. Depending on the season, there is a little space for parking one or two cars on either side of the road edge on Sharpes Creek Line. The trail entrance is well marked.

As we walked along we enjoyed the wind whispering through the tops of the Scots pine that line each side of the trail. The pines give way to scenes of rolling farm fields and tree studded hilltops. Towards the far end, there is a small bridge that spans a burbling stream.

gart8The trail is popular with walkers, joggers and their faithful four-legged companions. It is also a veritable highway for the local wildlife. A thin layer of snow made the perfect medium for leaving tracks of all shapes and sizes. We saw squirrel, rabbit, hare, and fox tracks along with the snake-like trail of a field mouse in the snow. We also got to enjoy the sound of chickadees “chick-chick-chicking” us and the sight of a beautiful hawk soaring in the sky. I even found an old rusty rail spike lying on a mound beside the trail giving evidence of the trail’s former glory as an active rail line.

gart5If you are looking for an easy stroll filled with peace, tranquility and pleasing scenery, give a section of the GART a try. There are eight or nine different access points for the trail so you can walk just one section at a time if you wish. My only complaint/comment about the trail is that there aren’t any benches to sit on for most of the trail.

A free hiking guide with maps for the GART and other area trails can be found at You can also purchase a Maitland Trail Guide from the Maitland Trail Association

Happy trails!



What’s your interpretation of the museum’s artifacts?

8 Feb

museumBy Diva Claire Carter

GODERICH – Do you have an interest in local history?  Are you curious about what treasures live in storage at the Huron County Museum?  Is there an artifact that holds a special place in your heart?

The Huron County Museum wants to hear from you!

Five individuals from across the County were appointed honorary Community Curators and given a full tour of the Huron County Museum.  They got a behind-the-scenes view of the facility, and were asked to choose an artifact that was special to them.  The Curators then wrote about why they chose these items.

That’s where the magic is.

The five Curators selected very different objects for very unique reasons.  Each artifact tells a story about a time in the person’s life.  The stories range from childhood memories to family histories.  They paint beautiful pictures of days gone by.  Participants brought in personal photos that compliment the stories they’ve shared.

When you look into the display case located on the Museum’s Upper Mezzanine, you see more than a train or sewing machine; you feel the story of why some items come alive as a special memory.  Tell us that story.

If you’re interested in becoming a Community Curator, email Will (

Visit the Huron County Museum by donation during Goderich Makers Market Hours (9 a.m. – 1 p.m. on the first Saturday of the Month until April).

The Museum is open Tuesday – Friday from 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and until 8 p.m. on Thursday evenings, and from 1 p.m. – 4:30 pm on Saturdays until May 1, when summer hours resume.


Enjoy the harvest of your local farmers’ market

25 Sep



By Diva Caroline Thuss

GODERICH – I have always enjoyed heading to the farmers’ market to enjoy the bounty that is available every week. This past weekend I ventured to the Goderich Farmers’ Market with a few recipes in mind from some Canadian chefs to make and enjoy.

farmersmarket5The first stop for me is always the Red Cat Farm Bakery to get some beautiful breads and some yummy treats that keep my younger companions happy while I continue
my way around The Square in Goderich. As you can see, the size of their baked goods are enough to satisfy even the hungriest market-goer.

farmersmarket4Next stop is the Maitland Market and Supply to visit with Erika. There is such a beautiful array of colours as you look at the local veggies and fruit that are available. The windy weather did not hold us back from purchasing a bag full of produce that my son chose. I had to limit him as we only have so much room to store all these beautiful veggies and fruit. I was happy to see that she had some raspberries available. These were put together with rhubarb from my backyard to make a beautiful pie.

As we continued along the square we picked up some lovely pork sausage (that ended up on the barbecue and in my chili), some beautiful sweet potatoes (for my favourite Fall comfort dish: sweet potato soup) and more veggies that made it into a variety of delicious meals. As you can see, I was
very successful and my total cost was just under $60. I spent most of the day Sunday preparing meals with this haul from the market.

There are a variety of Farmers’ Markets all over Huron County for you to enjoy. Most run until October. Check out your local market while the harvest is plentiful and enjoy the bounty that Huron County produces.




Clinton and Central Huron Farmers’ Market 2pm-6pm, Grand Bend Farmers’ Market 8am-1pm, Wingham Farmers’ Market 3:30pm-7pm


Exeter Farmers’ Market 3pm-7pm


Bayfield Farmers’ Market 3pm-7pm, Brussels Farmers’ Market 2pm-6pm


Dungannon Farmers’ Market 9am-11:30am, Howick Farmers’ Market 9am-noon, Goderich Farmers’ Market 8am-1pm, Old 86 Farmers’ Market 9am-6pm



Chef Michael Smith’s Sweet Potato Soup


2 Tbsp olive oil

2 onions, peeled and chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 large sweet potato, or 2 small, peeled and cut into small chunks

2-3 cups chicken broth

1 Tbsp cinnamon

Sprinkled sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Place a saucepan or soup pot over medium heat and add the oil. When it begins to get hot, add the onions, carrots and celery and sauté until softened and fully aromatized.
  2. Add the sweet potatoes and enough broth to completely cover all the vegetables. Season with cinnamon, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.
  3. Cook until potatoes are very soft and then puree with a hand blender, food processor or countertop blender until smooth. You may also serve the soup ‘as is. Taste and add more seasoning if need be.




St. Joseph Park: Breakfast and a local history lesson

18 Aug

mainBy Diva Shari Parsons

ST. JOSEPH – Golden sunshine, golden pancakes and golden maple syrup – what more could a person ask for? All of these and more were available at the Breakfast in the Park in the small community of St. Joseph Just north of Grand Bend on Highway 21.

This summer event is organized by the St. Joseph & Area Historical Society and takes place in the shady St. Joseph Memorial Park on the corner of Bluewater Highway and Hensall/Zurich Road. All proceeds from the breakfast go towards the maintenance of the park.

16-month-old Brinley from Zurich enjoys breakfast with her grandmother.

16-month-old Brinley from Zurich enjoys breakfast with her grandmother.

The breakfast menu featured ruby red strawberries and juicy, freshly sliced cantaloupe, hot scrambled eggs, thick sausages fresh off the “barbie”, and golden pancakes that could be drizzled (or drowned) in sweet, golden maple syrup. To quench your thirst, there was hot coffee and cold juice. All of this was served with smiles and friendly banter. The cost was a “Free Will Offering”, which I thought was a great idea and easy on the pocket book.

You could take your heaping plate and sit at one of the many tables and chairs that had been set up under canopies or make use of one of the park’s picnic tables. It was nice to look around and see singles, couples, families, young and not so young enjoying one another’s company in these pleasant surroundings.

As its name suggests, the park is a memorial to St. Joseph, who is the patron saint of Canada. The park features a statue of St. Joseph holding Baby Jesus. The exact spot for the location of the statue was chosen by Brother Andre (now known as St. Andre of Montreal) in 1917, however, the memorial did not get built until 1972.

The park also features a memorial to Brother Andre of St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal. He was famous for his good works among French Canadians and was credited with thousands of reportedly miraculous healings.

IMG_2341The park is also dedicated to the memory of the French Canadians who left Quebec in the early part of the 19th century and settled in the area now called St. Joseph, the only French settlement between Windsor and Midland. A Heritage Walkway contains the names of many of those original families, names such as Masse, LaPorte, and Cantin, with perhaps the settlement’s most famous citizen being Narcisse Cantin, aka “The Father of the St. Lawrence Seaway”. There are also a number of plaques situated along the walkway, which provide some very interesting local historical facts and pictures.

The St. Joseph & Area Historical Society works hard to collect and preserve the local history and has created a wonderful website.

Its Breakfast in the Park is a nice outing for the family where you can fill your tummies with yummy food and your heads with some interesting local history.

History comes alive Behind the Bars

16 Jul

barshallBy Diva Karen Stewart 

I detested static history lessons with a passion. Thankfully we have many ways to learn about the people and places that shaped our world, including interactive experiences like the Huron County Museum and Historic Gaol’s Behind the Bars program. This event had been reviewed for the Ontario Travel Divas before (Aug.15/2014 Review), so on this evening I took a different approach and chatted with one dedicated volunteer about her participation.

Colleen Maguire, in character as Mrs. Dixon.

Colleen Maguire, in character as Mrs. Dickson.

About five years ago, Colleen Maguire, semi-retired from her job as a medical radiation technologist at the local hospital, was looking to volunteer in a meaningful way at the Huron County Museum. Having participated in historical reenactments many years earlier, she enjoyed interpreting history through the costumes.   She particularly finds “ah ha!” moments expressed by members of the audience as most rewarding … like when children realize that everyone bathed just once a week, and that they all shared the same bathwater, or like when women recognize postpartum depression in a young “lunatic”.

The Behind the Bars program has taken place each Tuesday and Thursday, all summer long, for approximately 12 years, and Colleen has been involved for five. This year, as for the past two, she plays the role of Mrs. Dickson. It’s 1890 and she’s been the gaol matron for the full 14 years her husband has been the Gaoler. Mr. & Mrs. Dickson were also referred to as the Governor and Governess. 24/7, they lived on the property in the tiny room Colleen performs in on the second floor of the goal and in a detached cottage on the property.

Mr. Dickson was the Turnkey when the prior Governor died of a typhoid at 42. Mrs. Dickson, who had married Mr. Dickson, widower and father of four small boys, automatically became the Governess as it was inappropriate for a male at that time to spend so much time with anyone other than his wife. Her role included caring for the female inmates, sharing skills like cooking and sewing, tending to the ill and infirm, and preparing food for the inmates and for her family. And, together she had another five children with Mr. Dickson – three daughters and two sons.

Tragedy struck the family twice – once when 21-year-old (step)son James, editor of the Huron Signal Star, died in a sailing mishap off Port Albert. The boat came ashore quickly, but it took approximately six weeks for the bodies to drift in. He was said to have had the biggest funeral ever in Goderich at that time (1878). Then, in 1884, another 22-year-old-son died of typhoid. He was a pharmacy student in Toronto.

The Dicksons’ other children were well educated and successful in their careers – youngest son Alex became a lawyer/judge; one son became a doctor; another son was a hugely successful merchant in St. Marys and one daughter married William Proudfoot – a barrister who also became a member of the senate.

Mrs. Dickson was a woman of deep empathy and caring. She was a Social Worker of her time. She championed for a proper House of Refuge to be built, and although she knew the facility was being erected, sadly she died of a stroke at the age of 72, just weeks before it opened. Her husband continued as the Goaler, with his eldest daughter as Goal Matron, for approximately two years more, until he was no longer able.

Find out more about the Huron County Museum and Historic Gaol events here.

When you arrive for this event a gaol staff member will greet you. She invites guests to take photos, to ask the inmates questions and to enjoy the self-guided tour at their own speed.   She cautions, “just remember our inmates are stuck in time and may not have all the answers to the questions.” You’ll see by the photos below, the inmates were terrific in their roles and gave us a brief glimpse of times past through their stories.   Behind the Bars is appropriate and affordable for children and adults of all ages.



Behind the Bars

Where: Huron County Historic Gaol, 181 Victoria Street North, Goderich, ON N7A 2S9

When: Tuesday & Thursdays till Aug. 27, 7-9 p.m.

Cost: Adults, $10; Children, $5; Families, $25

Contact: 519-524-2686


Goderich’s shoreline the perfect stage for air show

28 Jun
The Snowbirds fly in diamond formation over the shoreline of Lake Huron, much to the delight of a crowd gathered on the beach in Goderich.

The Snowbirds fly in diamond formation over the shoreline of Lake Huron, much to the delight of a crowd gathered on the beach in Goderich.

By Diva Christine Harris

GODERICH – We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day for the Goderich and Region Air Show.  It was warm and sunny, and the spectators were lined up all the way down the entire beachfront; some on benches, some on their lawn chairs, and even a few in the water!

The SkyHawks, with their trademark Canadian flag parachutes, make their way to a landing at Goderich's beach.

The SkyHawks, with their trademark Canadian flag parachutes, make their way to a landing at Goderich’s beach.

First up were the Canadian Armed Forces SkyHawks.  They are Canada’s only military parachute demonstration team.  The SkyHawks have represented Canada for over 40 years with their signature Canadian flag parachutes.  It was amazing to see how they got so close to each other and then hooked themselves together to make formations.  They flew the Canadian and Ontario flags behind them and also used smoke during their descent.

Next up we saw the Canadian Forces Snowbirds.  This is a name that most Canadians can recognize and they are a treat to see!  Flying the Canadair CT-114 Tutor, the pilots of these jets top out at speeds of 750km/hr.  During shows, they range in speed from 185-590 km/hr and get as close as 1.2 metres (4 feet) when flying together and 10 metres when doing a solo cross.  We got to see some of their signature formations like the Big Diamond, Arrowhead, and Big Arrow.  What was especially enjoyable for the kids was how low these jets got to the ground when they came around, and the beach was the perfect spot with its slope for them to hug the ground a bit more

The Snowbirds fly in tight formation over Lake Huron's shoreline.

The Snowbirds fly in tight formation over Lake Huron’s shoreline.

when they passed by while coming out or going into a manoeuvre.  We also learned that there was a pilot who had flown over his hometown while he was here.  Captain Bart Postma is originally from Clinton and flies Aircraft Number Three in the inner left-wing position.

Unfortunately I was unable to stay to see the RCAF CF-18 Hornet demonstration.  It was piloted by Captain Denis Cheech Beaulieu and tops out at Mach 1.8, which is 1,800km/hr.  As I was leaving Goderich I could hear it all the way out to Highway 8 and see some of the locals looking and pointing to the sky.  The CF-18 is known for its sheer power and its loud jet engine.  It can accelerate vertically after take-off and the interesting part is that you won’t actually hear the jet until it’s past you because of the speeds it travels.  After seeing this demonstration at another air show, I’m sure it didn’t disappoint the crowd.

The air show has been called an “Overwhelming Success” by the 532 Maitland Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron, which organized the event.  Perhaps this will be an annual event!

For more information on events along Ontario’s West Coast, click here.

Clusters of people lined the beach and the bluffs at Goderich, getting good seats from which to watch the air show.

Clusters of people lined the beach and the bluffs at Goderich, getting good seats from which to watch the air show.

Bayfield’s Pioneer Park is the picture of tranquility

11 Jun

Pioneer Park from Heather Boa on Vimeo.

By Diva Rachel Lynn

BAYFIELD – Pioneer Park is located on a beautiful bluff in the village of Bayfield. On the morning I arrived, there was a couple
pioneer park bike racksitting on the south end looking out to the water and another couple on the north end reading books. I could hear sailboatsthe birds chirping and the sweet smell of summer was in there air.

According to the park’s website, in 1945, Lucy Woods Diehl, a long-time resident of Bayfield asked friends of the community to preserve the last piece of undeveloped lakefront property overlooking the Bayfield River and Lake Huron. In the end, Lucy gathered eight friends along with herself to purchase the park land. Lucy thought the land should be owned and operated by an association, not by individuals contracted out.
Activities take place at the park to help raise money, including the rummage sale (originating in 1948). In the first 30 years, there were also film nights, outdoor plays and puppet shows. Today, Saturday night steps down to beach pioneer parkentertainment and weddings are among the activities that take place.

The 68th annual rummage sale takes place on the second Friday in July at the Bayfield Arena and Fairgrounds. Admission is free.


About the Park

Location: on the bluff overlooking Lake Huron bordered by Bayfield Terrace to the north, Tuyll St to the east, and Colina St on the South.

Driving distance: One hour north of Sarnia or Port Huron, Michigan

For more information: