Cemeteries and Summer Vacation

Summers in Northern Ontario are very short, so you need to make the most of them. Before long we’ll be knee-deep in frozen snow. But let’s not think about that right now!

I just got back from a lovely two-week vacation. My fiancé and I were finally able to visit some family and friends we haven’t seen in 3 years, due to COVID-19. It felt almost like a normal vacation. We traveled a wee bit, and of course, I visited some cemeteries! 

My vacation was split into three different trips. I went camping at Algonquin Provincial Park with my 80-year-old mother. She hadn’t been camping in about 40 years. We only stayed for one night, but we had all the camping experiences; cooking on a fire, making s’mores, sleeping in a tent, and spending some time at the lake. We also took the opportunity to try finding the grave of Tom Thomson, a famous Canadian painter, who died mysteriously on Canoe Lake. You’ll be able to read more about that adventure in an upcoming blog post. 

My fiancé and I, also took some time to visit Southern Ontario and visit family and friends, that we haven’t seen since before the pandemic. We toured the city a little bit, had some great food, and spent some quality time together. We even got a chance to visit some cemeteries. My fiancé is not very interested in visiting cemeteries, but he is very supportive of my love for cemeteries. I think he may have enjoyed hunting for them as we drove back home. We stopped at a few interesting ones that were along our route. 

I also took some time to visit St. Joseph Island, the historic fort, and the bird sanctuary. My mother came along with me for that little trip as well. We toured the island and explored. We did some hiking and visited the beautiful Adcock’s Woodland Gardens. We also visited a lot of cemeteries, including a pet cemetery. That was a first for me. You’ll be able to read all about that adventure in an upcoming blog post as well. 

I made sure to plan some buffer days to just relax and recoup between heavy days of driving, where I could spend some time with my fur babies and get ready for the next adventure. I also scheduled some days just to do nothing—but those days filled up fast with spontaneous things. Overall, it was a great vacation! I managed to visit 16 cemeteries, reconnect with friends and family, and recharge my batteries. 

It was a wonderful break from work and my normal routine, but now it’s time to get back to it! I am feeling refreshed and am looking forward to writing about my vacation adventures and editing the hundreds of photos I took. I am also really excited about an upcoming special project and am currently playing around with some new ideas for the blog. I was starting to feel like my creative juices were stalling a little bit, but having a break has helped me reset and look at things with fresh eyes.

I hope you can take some time for yourself this summer if you haven’t already. Even if it’s only a long weekend. It’s so important to take the time to refresh and revitalize. To take your mind off work and just enjoy your family, friends, and nature or whatever else that makes you happy!

Thanks for reading! 

Cemetery Road Trip – Searching in Spragge

I haven’t posted a road trip story in a little bit, so today I wanted to share my adventure of finding a cemetery via railroad tracks!

It was back in 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Social bubbles were very much in place and almost everything was shut down. There was not a lot to do that summer. BUT visiting cemeteries is always a viable option! My fiancé and I, and our close friends whom we had been bubbling with (that’s an odd to say), decided to go on a little adventure to try and find two cemeteries in Spragge, Ontario. 

The little town of Spragge found its beginnings in 1882 but was originally named Cook’s Mills. It was a self-sufficient town of about 350 residents all built around the sawmill. In 1895 the whole operation was sold, and the village was renamed Spragge, after the township. When the depression hit, the mill closed in 1932. That same year, there was a devastating fire that burned almost the entire village to the ground. This caused a lot of folks to leave town, although a few remained and tried to rebuild. The mill never did re-open, and now there only sit about a dozen homes within the small village limits of Spragge.1 Two cemeteries remain, the Spragge Catholic cemetery and the Spragge Protestant cemetery.

This adventure would take us a little over an hour and a half on the road to get to Spragge. Our little group made a day trip out of it. We stopped at a diner and safely had lunch outside on the patio. We asked some of the locals about the cemetery. The stories we heard were pretty interesting. We were told that the owners of the property where the cemetery sits, do not like visitors and consider them trespassers. They talked about how this causes some tension between the townsfolk who want to visit their relatives, but are barred from doing so. The community was trying to get free access to the cemeteries. We were also told that the property owner was known to brandish a shotgun! We were a little put-off by the stories, but we were determined to take a look for ourselves.

After our slightly uncomfortable lunch, we continued on our way with directions by Google Maps. We turned off the main road onto a side road and what looked like a parking area. My fiancé was completely put-off by the stories we were told, he was also not as enthusiastic about visiting the cemeteries as we were, so he waited in the car and played look-out. 

The rest of us began tentatively walking down the dirt road. When it opened up and we could see it was a driveway leading directly to a house, we decided to turn around and try a different approach. We had crossed a set of train tracks, that ran parallel with the main highway. After consulting Google Maps, it looked like we might be able to access the cemetery at a clearing just off the train tracks. We decided to try that. We chose a hot day to walk along the train tracks, but it ended up only being a short walk. On our left, a little clearing opened up which lead into the cemetery.

We had found the Spragge Protestant cemetery! We took some time to wander the grounds and look at the beautiful stones. It was a smaller cemetery and looked to be well-maintained. Not at all what we had pictured in our minds. We had been under the impression that the cemetery was abandoned and in disrepair. Some of the stones were too worn to be read, but some others were still in great condition. Some of the common cemetery symbols we found were clasped hands, obelisks, and little lambs.

After we explored a little bit, we tried to find the Spragge Catholic cemetery. According to my friend’s research, it should have been very close to where we were. We branched out a little, exploring the oddly well-kept lawn that snaked in between clumps of trees. We were nervous about getting too close to the house or going in full view of it. After a little more wandering, with no luck, we decided to turn back and reunite with my fiancé, who was patiently waiting in the car. 

We were very happy to have at least found one of the cemeteries, and we vowed to do a little more digging and return in the future to find the elusive cemetery. It was still a fun adventure, after all exploring is half the fun.

But that’s not the end of the story!

This past winter I was busy uploading photos to Find a Grave and uploaded some of my photos from Spragge. A woman reached out to me, looking for coordinates for the Spragge Catholic cemetery, as she has family there. I passed on all I knew, and let her know we were not able to find it. She had also heard about the access issues, but since she was a relative was hoping the property owner would be understanding. She later contacted me and gave me an update. She was able to locate both cemeteries and visit her family. It turns out the town of Spragge did not want the expense of maintaining the cemeteries, and a private owner requested to take it over and purchased the property. When he is not in town, he has entrusted maintenance and upkeep to another property owner in the immediate area—who also happens to have loved ones buried in the cemeteries.

I also had another person reach out about these cemeteries. They have turned out to be pretty popular locations. This time, the person who reached out was searching for the location of the Spragge Protestant cemetery. He had visited the Spragge Catholic cemetery but did not find the other. We exchanged information. I shared everything I knew about the one I had visited. In return, he shared the exact coordinates of the Spragge Catholic cemetery and the contact information of the property owners. If we had searched closer to the water’s edge when we were there, we would have found it. So close! 

I’m still a little confused about the stories that the folks at the diner told us, about the owners brandishing shotguns. From what I heard from both people who reached out, the owners seem very kind and willing to allow visitors into the cemetery. Although one had also heard about the access issues. Were there issues at one time? A misunderstanding maybe? Or maybe it was just some locals trying to scare away visitors? That mystery still remains…

Armed with all this new information, I will have to make another trip out to Spragge to visit the elusive Catholic cemetery. I love how this little adventure turned out because it showcases how interesting cemeteries can be. Cemetery mysteries are very much a part of the fun, and the fact that the cemetery community is so willing to share information and come together to solve these little mysteries is heartwarming.

Have you ever visited the cemeteries in Spragge? Do you have a cemetery mystery you would like to share? I would love to read about it in the comments. 

Thanks for reading!


References

  1. Ontario Ghost Towns – Spragge

A Collection of Crosses

Crosses have to be the most easily recognizable and common symbol found in cemeteries and funerary art. There are so many variations of this Christian religious symbol. Since crosses are so common, you may think if you have seen one, you’ve seen them all—but I would beg to differ!

Today I wanted to take a closer look at this funerary symbol and share some of the many crosses I have photographed over the years.

First off, let’s look at the difference between a cross and a crucifix, as they are not the same thing. A crucifix shows the body of Jesus nailed to it, while a cross does not.

A Latin cross is probably the most common cross found in cemeteries. This cross has no embellishments. It is sometimes called a Protestant cross, because it can represent Jesus as risen, instead of focusing on his suffering on the cross.

A Botonee cross has a trefoil, three lobes, at each end that symbolizes the holy trinity.

A Celtic cross is easily recognizable. It usually has a Celtic knot pattern engraved on it and also includes a nimbus, a distinctive circle that represents the union of heaven and earth. These crosses are often found at the graves of those with Irish heritage.

In the example below you can also see the letters IHS in the center. This is sometimes called a Christogram. There are a couple of different theories about what the letters IHS stand for. One theory is that it is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase “in hoc signs vines” (In this sign you will conquer), another line of thought is that it’s an abbreviation of the Latin phrase “Jesus Hominum Salvator” (Jesus, Saviour of Men). According to Doug Keister’s book Stories in Stone: A field guide to cemetery symbolism and iconography, these letters are the first three letters of Jesus’ name using the Greek alphabet.

A Congé cross is a variation of the Latin cross, where the ends of the arms flare out slightly.

A Glory cross, sometimes called a Rayed cross, has rays emanating from its center that symbolize the glory of God.

Below is an example of an Eastern crucifix on a white Latin cross. The Eastern cross is easily recognizable by its two horizontal cross bars, and one slanted one. This cross is a symbol of Eastern Orthodox religions. This one would be considered a crucifix, as it has the tortured body of Jesus nailed to it.

An Agony cross has sharp points at the end of each arm. This is said to represent the suffering or agony, that Jesus endured. This cross is sometimes called a pointed cross or a cross of suffering.

A Portate cross is a cross that is angled diagonally. It’s angled the way someone would carry it over their shoulder to drag it.


References:

25 Cemeteries in the City of Greater Sudbury

A couple of weekends ago I was able to cross something off my cemetery bucket list—visiting all 25 cemeteries in the care of the City of Greater Sudbury. For today’s blog post, I thought it might be interesting to take a closer look at some of these cemeteries. 

The City of Greater Sudbury is centrally located in Northeastern Ontario. It sits on the Canadian Shield in the Great Lakes Basin and is composed of a combination of urban, suburban, rural, and wilderness environments. Greater Sudbury is 3,627 square kilometers in area, making it the largest municipality in Ontario, geographically.1 Making up this municipality are many small communities that over time, have been amalgamated into the City of Greater Sudbury. Almost all of these little communities have their own cemeteries, that now fall under the care of the city.2

Each of these cemeteries has their own charm and has been very interesting to visit. Some are newer cemeteries with very modern stones, that are still very active, like Valley East and Park Lawn cemeteries. Some of them have tombstones marking persons who are still living. Those always make me think—do the owners visit their gravestones? Other cemeteries are pioneer cemeteries, like Ruff Pioneer Cemetery. Those types of cemeteries hold a lot of history. I wrote about my visit to the Ruff Pioneer Cemetery, you can read it here

Two of the oldest of these cemeteries, I believe, are the Eyre and Anglican cemeteries. They are directly beside each other, and there is no distinct line to separate the two. The earliest grave is from 1890.3 Both of these cemeteries can tell you a lot about our city. You can find the namesakes for the Gatchell and Lockerby areas of town, as well as the grave of Frederick J. Eyre, who discovered one of the first mines for the Canadian Copper Company.3 Sudbury, at its roots is a mining and railroad town.

Some of these cemeteries were a challenge to find and can be hard to access. Ruff Pioneer Cemetery would be more easily accessible with a four-wheeler. Make sure you have plenty of water with you for that adventure in the woods. The Coniston Cemetery is a little bit more accessible now, as a cemetery trail has been created, linking it to the Jean Tellier hiking trail. The first time I visited that one, we searched for a while before deciding to ask for directions from some locals at a convenience store. They were more than happy to help and even drew me a map. They also shared some stories from their childhood, of how they would play in the cemetery and nearby woods. Coniston Cemetery is particularly interesting because there are no more headstones. There may have originally been wooden markers or fieldstones there that have since deteriorated or have been moved. It was an active cemetery from 1914 to 1926, when the parish that was taking care of the cemetery announced they could no longer do so.4 In 1997 a memorial plaque was installed honoring the deceased known to have been buried there. Another hard-to-find cemetery is the Wahnapitae Public Cemetery. This one is located on a hillside with seemingly hidden access. I tried to find it again recently, but with no luck. 

There are a few cemeteries on this list that I have visited many times, either due to their size or proximity to me. Lasalle Cemetery for instance is one of the largest cemeteries in the area. So large in fact that every time I have visited I have focused on a different section to photograph. Another large one, that just so happens to be down the street from me, is Civic Cemetery. This is an active cemetery, and I think has changed the most over time. It has a large columbarium, as well as some lovely winding paths. It’s a lovely rural cemetery. I have many friends of the family that are buried here.

I have enjoyed seeking out all these cemeteries. I feel like I can now say that I have truly explored my city. All these cemeteries hold small threads, connections, that all lead to the creation and growth of my hometown. I have learned a lot about the history of Sudbury, like the stories of some of its founders, the history behind street names, and much more. I would love to spend more time in some of them, to fully explore the grounds, look for specific graves and to see what else I can learn. 

Thanks for joining me, as I look back on this bucket list milestone. Do you have a bucket list? What’s on your list? I would love to read about it in the comments.

Thanks for reading! 


The full list of cemeteries:

  1. Anglican Cemetery
  2. Beaver Lake Cemetery
  3. Blezard Valley Cemetery
  4. Capreol Cemetery
  5. Chelmsford Protestant Cemetery
  6. Civic Memorial
  7. Coniston Cemetery
  8. Eyre Cemetery
  9. Good Shepherd Cemetery
  10. Grassy Lake Road Cemetery
  11. Lasalle Cemetery
  12. Long Lake Cemetery
  13. Maplecrest Cemetery
  14. McFarlane Cemetery
  15. Ruff Pioneer Cemetery
  16. St. Jacques Cemetery
  17. St. John’s Cemetery
  18. St. Joseph Cemetery
  19. St. Stanislaus Cemetery
  20. Valley East Cemetery
  21. Wahnapitae Catholic Cemetery
  22. Wahnapitae Public Cemetery
  23. Waters Cemetery
  24. Whitefish Catholic Cemetery
  25. Whitefish Public Cemetery

References:

  1. Greater Sudbury
  2. Greater Sudbury – Cemeteries
  3. Tales of lives lived | Sudbury.com
  4. Historical mystery: Just how many people were buried at the old Coniston cemetery? | Sudbury.com

A Collection of Books

I love books! I am a big reader and have a large book collection at home, but I love finding stone books among the tombstones while wandering a cemetery. I find them very interesting and love trying to interpret what they mean.

Books can be both decorative or a representation of something. You can sometimes find a book being used as a decorative device to display the name of the deceased along with the birth and death dates. An open book can sometimes represent the human heart, as in it’s emotions are open to the world. An open book may also symbolize a life that has been cut short, before getting to the last page. Another variation of this is an open book with a cloth draped across it. This also represents a life cut short, the veil of death having bookmarked the person’s last chapter before the book is finished being written. A closed book might represent a long life, lived to the last chapter.

Any book found in a cemetery may represent the bible. Sometimes you may even find the words “Holy Bible” engraved on the book.

In my experience, books are not as common as some other funerary symbols, like hands and lambs. I love to photograph them when I do find them. I wanted to share some of my favorites with you today.


References:

  1. Understanding Cemetery Symbols: A Field Guide for Historic Graveyards by Tui Snider
  2. Stories in Stone: The Complete Guide to Cemetery Symbolism by Douglas Keister

Planning a Cemetery road trip

Spring is right around the corner here in Canada, although you wouldn’t think so with the amount of snow that’s on the ground. The days are getting a little longer and the snow is melting, very slowly. The sun and subtle warmth are giving me hope that cemetery visits will be starting very soon!

I’ve been so excited about the prospects of visiting cemeteries again, that I have spent a lot of time researching and seeking out new cemeteries to visit. I have some fun plans for this spring and summer, involving visiting some nearby towns and cemeteries. I also found some other interesting things to visit.

I enjoy the planning as much as the road trip itself and have found some really interesting things to visit along the way. Due to the pandemic, my trips have been fairly close to home, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t lots to see. I wanted to share some insights on how I plan a cemetery road trip, and hope it may inspire you to do some local visiting where you are. You never know what you might find!

Where do you start when planning? I use Google My Maps to create my travel plans. You can add a color-coded legend to make things easy to read, and you can add notes to each location marker, like highlighting notable graves in a cemetery, or the best thing to order at a specific restaurant. You can also share these maps with your travel buddies.

Where to visit? I often pick a starting point based on something in particular that I want to see. For example this summer, I want to visit the Devil’s Rock trail head, in the Timiskaming District. It’s very close to Cobalt, Ontario, so for that map, I will focus on destinations leading up to and surrounding Cobalt.

Map created using Google My Maps. Legend: Purple – Cemetery, Yellow – Hiking, Orange – Haunted, Dark blue – Museum, Light blue – Heritage Silver Trail, Green – Food, Black – Oddity

Now comes the fun part! What is there to see and do?

I like to start by looking up every cemetery along the way to my chosen destination and in its surrounding area. I tend to focus on cemeteries that I have not visited before, unless I have an urge to visit a particular cemetery again. I also like to look up any memorials and cenotaphs that might be close. Find a Grave and Google Maps are great resources for this. You should also check any tourism websites that exist for the town you will be visiting, they often have cemetery information. Don’t forget to look up any famous, or infamous graves that may be in the area. I like to look for unique tombstones and Atlas Obscura is a great resource for this, as it lists many unique tombstones and cemeteries.

You can also use Atlas Obscura to find other interesting things to visit, like interesting natural landmarks, unique museums, outdoor art, themed restaurants, and all sorts of things that would be cool to visit. Granted there are way more listings for the U.S.A. than for Canada. But there are still some cool things to be found and visited. For example, on my list for this summer’s road trips are the Bean puzzle tombstone in Wellesley, ON, and the UFO monument in Moonbeam, ON.

I don’t know about you, but I love food, so I always look for fun local restaurants to try out too. My favorites to visit in the summer are local chip stands. There is also one chain restaurant I always look for – Casey’s Bar & Grill. We no longer have one in my town, and it was a favorite place to go for my friends and I. You can’t beat a tornado potato after a long day of visiting cemeteries.

Tornado potato from Casey’s Bar & Grill in North Bay ON, 2019

Lastly, I always look for haunted locations and ghost walks. This may seem a little odd, but if you have ever been on a ghost walk, you may understand. Hauntings are always connected with history. A ghost walk is essentially a history tour, taking you throughout a city and highlighting the darker and seedier past of a place. The stories can tell you a lot about a town’s history, and the people who built it. Cobalt, Ontario for example, is a mining town, and there are many haunted locations connected to that mining history. That’s the type of history I find fascinating. You can’t find ghost walks in every town, so I often like to make my own by compiling all the haunted locations and their stories.

The beautiful Ermatinger Old Stone House, in Sault Ste Marie, ON. Supposedly haunted by a few ghosts, although we did not experience anything while we were there. ©2019

All this planning and research can sometimes make the road trips pretty ambitious, and you won’t always be able to see and do everything that you have mapped out. I love having a variety of different things mapped out because that’s as far as my planning goes. Once I am on the road, I go with the flow and see where my map takes me. I don’t always get to visit all the cemeteries, or walk every trail, or visit every museum, but that’s ok! I save those locations that were missed for another trip and create a new map.

Researching and discovering all these interesting places has been a great pastime while waiting for the snow to melt and COVID restrictions to ease. This way I’ll be ready to road trip once the last bit of snow has melted! It also looks like restrictions are lifting and may be completely gone by spring, but that is the beauty of visiting cemeteries, they aren’t very crowded.

I hope you have found some inspiration in this post to start planning your own road trips for this summer and exploring your own backyard. Feel free to share your plans in the comments! I would also love to hear about any cool places you would recommend visiting.

Thanks for reading!

Finding the abandoned Happy Valley cemetery

In August of 2020, a friend and I set out to find an abandoned cemetery. She had been to it before, having stumbled upon it while out and about on four-wheelers. She was excited to share it with me. She and I have been on many cemetery adventures, but this one was a bit different for us. Normally we would jump in the car and head for a destination while stopping at all the cemeteries we found along the way. This one was a bit closer to home and would need to be reached on foot. So with the camera in hand, we started walking. Have you ever seen the movie Stand by me? It sort of had that feeling, except we weren’t going to see a dead body, we were off to see a cemetery. 

Happy Valley is considered a ghost town. According to Ontario Abandoned Places, it never really was considered a town at all. 

“…more of a settlement which belonged to Falconbridge. Happy Valley consisted of residents who wanted to be separate and independent from the residents of Falconbridge…The residents were mainly farmers and mill-workers who worked at the sawmills by the lake. The children would have to endure a three-mile walk every morning to the nearest school (established in 1907) located in Garson…Other than the mills and homes, there were no stores or a post office to be found. Residents had to travel to Falconbridge Township for amenities…By 1970, the town was abandoned…almost. The last resident, “Gizzy”, left the town in the late ’80s.” – Ontario Abandoned Places

For more formation on the Happy Valley ghost town, visit Ontario Abandoned Places.

Our trip began by taking us into a more industrial part of the town. There were dunes everywhere and an old abandoned railway track. Small trees and bushes were growing from in between the railway ties. Those tracks had not seen much use in a while. We walked the train tracks for a little bit, but then found a dirt trail that took us more into the surrounding wilderness. We passed old culverts and a few small lakes. It was a beautiful day for a walk! 

The way to this cemetery wasn’t a straight shot, or well marked. We had a general direction and were using landmarks to help find our way. We referenced old photos from the first time my friend had been there. We seemed to have made our way into some backcountry, where there were sandy trails and lots of sandy hills, that would be great for four-wheeling. After climbing up into a rocky area we reached a plateau where it levelled off and there was a two-lane sandy road. It was nice to not have to watch our footing anymore for fear of catching a toe on a rock.

My friend felt we were getting close. We walked on, enjoying each other’s company and chatting about life. Now and then we would stop to assess how far we had gone. We were alone in the woods, having not seen anyone else out on the trails. After a while, we started to question if we had gone too far. We checked a side trail, but no, it was going off in the wrong direction. We took a small break to rest and re-evaluate. Luckily, we still were getting cell service in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. She was able to look at satellite photos on Google and find what looked to be our cemetery. We had gone too far! We had to backtrack a little way and take a dirt road that forked to the right. Our goal should be right around that corner. 

We found it! It’s a small cemetery, having been recently surrounded by a chain-link fence. We theorized that the fence was put up to protect the cemetery from people unintentionally running through it on quads and snowmobiles. There are about a handful of headstones, some up-right and a few flat to the earth. There seem to be more pioneers buried there than there are headstones.

Having found the cemetery and being able to visit it was well worth the hike. It was super satisfying! Almost more rewarding than if we would have driven straight there. After spending some time among the tombstones, we made our way back the way we came. Through the woods, along the dirt paths, and along the train tracks, ending by having to climb back up a massive dune that we had first scaled down at the beginning of our journey. It was a great adventure! I am grateful that I have good friends who want to share these kinds of experiences with me! 

More recently, I was doing some pre-emptive cemetery road trip research, getting ready for this spring. I was going through all the cemeteries listed in my hometown, there are 25 in total. I have been to all but 3 of them, or so I thought. Based on my archived photos I had not visited Ruff Pioneer Cemetery, Chelmsford Protestant Cemetery, and St. Joseph Cemetery. As I did a bit more research into where these cemeteries are located, I got stuck on Ruff Pioneer Cemetery. It’s listed as being off of Goodwill Road, in Garson. As I searched Google Maps, it just was not making sense. I was able to zero in on its location using satellite photos. Low and behold—Ruff Pioneer Cemetery is our Abandoned Happy Valley cemetery!

Looking back at my photos, though, it all makes sense!

Goodwill road was most likely named after those pioneers buried in this cemetery.

Looking back at this cemetery adventure has me pining for summer and the opportunity to visit new cemeteries. I have a few road trips already planned and mapped out, but I may take a look for more abandoned cemeteries that are harder to find. Do you have a story about an abandoned cemetery? Share it in the comments!

Thanks for reading! 

A Collection of Handmade Stones

If you spend a lot of time in cemeteries, especially in Northern Ontario, you will start to notice the repetition of certain symbols and motifs. In Ontario and Quebec, something I have come across frequently is handmade stones.

These stones have been lovingly hand-poured in cement, adorned with crucifixes, stones, and other baubles, and usually have hand lettering. They are beautiful representations of love for those who have passed. There could be many reasons why a handmade stone was created, and each one is unique and beautiful with its own charm.

I love finding handmade stones and have photographed many over the years. I wanted to share some of them with you.

Cemetery Road Trip – Elliot Lake

In October 2021, I took some time off to enjoy the autumn weather and some Halloween activities. I also took it as an opportunity to go on some cemetery road trips. I had the idea to visit Elliot Lake during the summer, but my nephew suggested we wait till the fall, to take advantage of the fall colors. My mother and I both thought that was a great idea. I will admit, we may have gone a bit later than we should have, as we missed peak leaf-peeping colors, but it was still a beautiful drive. 

I have wanted to visit Elliot Lake and its cemetery for a while now. It seemed a perfect fit for a cemetery road trip. It’s only about 3 hours away, and I have family that is buried there. I remember visiting when I was very young for my uncle’s funeral, but that was many years ago. We made sure to visit him and his wife in the cemetery, while we were there. Since my mother accompanied me on this trip, we tried to pack as much as we could into this one day trip, visiting some cemeteries and getting in some hiking.

We stopped at couple of cemeteries along the way, spending 10 to 20 minutes at each one. Roadside cemeteries I explored myself, while my mother waited in the car eating breakfast and enjoying her coffee. She was more interested in visiting Woodlands Cemetery. 

There were two must-see locations on this trip for me, Woodlands Cemetery and the site of the former Algo Centre Mall. You may have heard of it. On June 23rd in 2012, a section of the roof collapsed, injuring 22 people and killing two, Lucie Aylwin and Doloris Perizzolo.

For more information on what happened at the Algo Centre Mall, there is a short documentary on Youtube by Fascinating Horror that tells the whole story: The Algo Centre Mall Collapse.

I familiarized myself with the location using Google Maps before we visited. You can still see online, what the mall used to look like before the collapse. From the street, the parking lot looked the same but the mall has been completely demolished. All that is left is a parking lot and empty space filled with sandy mounds. The area seems small to have held a multi-level shopping center. My mother stayed in the car, while I stepped out to survey the area. Behind where the mall had stood, stands some sandy cliffs that look like they meld into the sandy mounds of the demolished building. As I looked around, taking in the sandy scenery, I thought about how this spot used to be a space full of life. I also thought about Lucie and Doloris, and how terrifying it must have been for them. Even though it was a bright sunny day, I felt a chill run through me. 

Before visiting the mall collapse site, we had stopped at Woodlands Cemetery. Woodlands is a very large non-denominational cemetery. The first thing I noticed as I walked among the tombstones, is that there are no upright stones. All the grave markers are flat to the ground. There are also a few small columbariums for cremated remains, or cremains. One section was particularly beautiful. Surrounded by tall trees and a layer of fallen leaves lies a large crescent-shaped columbarium. It’s away from the rest of the graves, in an almost wooded area, giving it peaceful seclusion.

I found my uncle almost immediately, buried beside his girlfriend. I remember going to his funeral when I was very young but had no recollection of the cemetery. My mother did remember, and talked about how there were not as many internments at the time. It made finding my aunt, my uncle’s first wife, a bit of a challenge. We didn’t end up finding her at all. We hope to go back this summer and try again. There were two more graves I was looking for while we were there; Lucie Aylwin and Doloris Perizzolo. I found Doloris, in the upper portion of the cemetery, which looked to be a new addition. She is buried next to her husband Giuseppe, who passed in 2011. Their marker is large, with ceramic photos. In her photo, she is holding a small dog and has a bright smile. I read their names out loud. It’s something I always do when visiting a cemetery. My little way of remembering them. Unfortunately, I was not able to locate Lucie Aylwin’s grave to pay my respects.

Next, we stopped at the Miners Memorial at Horne Lake. It’s a great place to stop and stretch your legs. It has multiple life-size statues and monuments, honoring the mining history of the town. We read each one and admired the artistry of the statues. The last monument we looked at, consisted of 3 large marble pillars that listed all the names of miners who had lost their lives on the job. As we stood taking in the lake view and the monuments, my eyes landed on a name. It jumped out at me. Giuseppe Perizzolo – Doloris’s husband. He had been a miner. It felt like a very serendipitous moment. I recognized his name from having just visited the cemetery. It was nice to see that he was memorialized.

After that discovery, we took a walk on the Horne Lake trail, which circles the lake. It looked to be a long trail, so we only walked half of it. We made a mental note to visit the Miner Memorial again and walk the whole trail when we return. We had one more stop on our list—visiting the fire tower. It was not at all what I had expected. I expected a tower with many stairs to reach the top. Thankfully, that was not the case. Only a few stairs lead to the top for a magnificent view of the land. We noticed more trails while we were there. Elliot Lake has an extensive trail system that gives access to all the beautiful views it has to offer.

On our way home, we stopped at a couple more cemeteries. We ended up visiting five cemeteries that day. It did make for a long day, but it was a day full of adventure. During a pandemic, visiting places close to us has been a great way to get out of the house, and have a change of scenery. Even a few hours can make a big difference. I enjoyed my visit to Elliot lake and look forward to going back this summer.

Thanks for reading!

Winding down for Winter

The leaves have almost all fallen and the icy weather is making its cold return. Winter is almost here!

It’s been a great summer and fall season for cemetery visits. I hit my target and surpassed it—visiting over 100 cemeteries! But, I am not a fan of winter and trudging around in the snow, so I mostly hibernate in winter. I plan on taking full advantage of cozy-couch-time to catch up on my reading; the AGS Quarterly, back issues of Markers, and my ever-growing to-be-read-pile of fiction and non-fiction. Now that I have a better handle on my blogging and social media schedule, I want to take advantage of this downtime and introduce some new things on the blog.

For one, I would like to start a book review series, featuring reference material and cemetery-related books. I’ll take a look at some of my favorite past reads and reference books, as well as document what I am currently reading. I am always looking for recommendations as well, so feel free to post them in the comments!

Secondly, I also want to take this time to do some much-needed portfolio updates. I have collected a lot of new photos this year, that need sifting through and editing. I will flag these updates on my social channels when there are new photos up. I may also play with the layout of my portfolio section on the website—we’ll see!

Thirdly, I will be planning more road trips for next year! I have gotten into the habit of using Google’s My Maps to create maps for cemetery road trips. I love researching areas and discovering abandoned and hidden cemeteries, as well as roadside attractions and oddities. All this research may spawn some blog posts along the way as well.

Speaking of which, expect more posts on the blog! I have a lot of posts on the back burner right now. Many were started months ago but were put aside because I was busy with road trips or personal matters. Many posts are half-started, or just bare-bones at the moment. Some are just ideas floating around in my head. I had planned a few spookier posts for the Halloween season, but unfortunately, they never came to be. October is always super busy for me, and those posts just got away from me. I’m hoping to get those specific posts polished and ready for next Halloween season.

If you have any blog topics you would like to see me cover, please send me a note or post in the comments. I am always looking to hear feedback from readers.

Thanks for joining me on my cemetery adventures!