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!

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. 

The view from the Fire Tower, Elliot Lake ©2021

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. My mother accompanied me on this trip, so 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 10-20 minutes at each one. For these roadside cemeteries, I explored them 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 about the Algo Centre Mall. On June 23rd in 2012, a section of the roof collapsed, injuring 22 people and killing 2, 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 what the mall used to look like before the collapse, online. 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. 

Site of the Algo Centre mall collapse, Elliot Lake ©2021
Site of the Algo Centre mall collapse, Elliot Lake ©2021

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.

The cemetery gates of Woodlands Cemetery, Elliot Lake ©2021
Crescent-shaped columbarium at Woodlands Cemetery, Elliot Lake ©2021

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 2 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.

“Perizzolo” Woodlands Cemetery, Elliot Lake ©2021

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 having visited 5 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.

Mini Cemetery road trip

I wrote a post last week reminiscing about cemetery road trips. It may have been a bad idea as it made me want to plan one even more! 

This year, just like last, I have been spending a lot of time with my Mom. We have been visiting different local walking trails as something to see and do while we are in lockdown due to COVID-19. This year we have started visiting provincial parks that are close by to visit their hiking trails. This gave me an idea!

Why not stop at local cemeteries that are along the way or close to our destination? And so the mini road trip was born!

My Mother is fairly used to me making pit stops on the way to our hiking trails, but this past weekend, I deliberately drove out of my way to visit 2 cemeteries. I did a bit of research and found the addresses of 2 cemeteries I have been wanting to visit for a long while now. 1 in Britt and 1 in Byng Inlet. An old co-worker of mine told me about a very old and interesting cemetery in Byng Inlet that I should visit. This was several years ago. It just happens to be across the river from Britt, and another cemetery I have wanted to visit for a while as well. 

We drove to Byng Inlet first with the plan of visiting Britt and Grundy Lake Provincial Park as we made our way back towards home. We enjoyed the drive and I was pleasantly surprised by what we found.

In Byng Inlet, we found Magnetawan Cemetery which looked to be a small family cemetery, as well as 2 very old cemeteries. Sitting right on the side of the highway sits the cemetery of Saint John the Divine (1911-1931) and beside it, the cemetery of St. Andrew’s presbyterian church (1911-1924). Both of these cemeteries are partially hidden by the wild forest that has sprouted up around them. I was only able to find one stone at the cemetery of St. Andrew’s presbyterian church. It was an obelisk-style stone, that had sadly fallen to the ground. The cemetery of Saint John the Divine had about 10 stones that I was able to find, including 1 military grave. I was very excited by this find. 

Cemetery of Saint John the Divine 1911-1931, Byng Inlet, Ontario ©2021

In Britt, we stopped at a small cemetery across from a small white church – the Britt Holy Family Church Cemetery. This small little cemetery, on the bank of a river, holds a mix of old and modern stones. The oldest stone we found was a family grave. Capt. Peter Archabel McIntosh, who drowned at the Bustard Island in 1906, and his wife Lillie Clovetier who passed away in 1905.

Britt Holy Family Church Cemetery, Britt, Ontario ©2021

After realizing that that was not the cemetery I was looking for, we traveled a bit farther and found not 1 but 2 more cemeteries; the Britt and area community cemetery and the Holy Family Roman Catholic New Cemetery. That made a total of 6 cemeteries we visited that day.

We walked among the stones for a little while, while I snapped away with my camera. Interestingly enough, there is a campground adjacent to the Holy Family Roman Catholic New Cemetery, filled with RV’s and trailers – with some of them backed up right against the cemetery. 

After our cemetery visits, we headed to Grundy lake to stop for a picnic lunch and then go for a hike through their Swan Lake trail. It’s a beautiful trail and was a great way to end our adventures that day. 

I think this trip may have started a new tradition of cemetery visits, picnic lunches, and hiking trails. I mean it’s not a bad way to spend time outside during a pandemic.

Cemetery road trips – Sault Ste Marie edition

I have been thinking about road trips a lot lately.

During a normal year, my friends and I would be discussing plans for our next one. I have been itching to research locations and plan travel routes. But alas, just like last year, it looks like it will not be happening this year.

Cemetery road trips are one of my favorite things to do in the summer months. We all would pile into one vehicle, chit-chat, and listen to music while cruising along to our cemetery spots. We usually pick a city or town and stop at all the cemeteries along the way. After visiting the cemeteries within that city’s limits we would also explore the outskirts, sometimes finding hidden cemeteries that we didn’t find in our research. These are great ways to spend time together, make memories and explore our backyard!

Bruce Mines Cemetery ©2019

The last road trip we did was in 2019. We visited Sault Ste Marie. Normally this trip would only be about a 3-hour drive, but it took us a whopping 6 hours! We made so many stops along the way and took our time exploring. We visited some very old cemeteries, full of the history of the town, as well as some newer ones. Lots of discoveries were made, including one of the largest cemeteries I have ever visited before! We visited 11 cemeteries in total that day. We didn’t beat our record, but it was a very good attempt! Our record so far is 13!

We also took some time to do some sightseeing, and visit some of the history museums there; the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre and the Ermatinger Old Stone House. We heard some interesting ghost stories from the staff at the Old Stone house and it prompted some interesting discussion and exploration while we were there. We did not find any ghosts though. It’s a beautiful house with some really interesting history. Getting in some sightseeing was a bonus for that trip.

We have also gotten into the tradition of visiting any Starbucks that we can find, and always end the day at the local Casey’s for supper. A favorite restaurant that we no longer have in our own city. It’s a great cap to the day, followed by a much quicker drive home while we debrief on the fun and experiences of the day.

So for this year, instead of grand travel plans, I will stick close to home and visit my local cemeteries. Re-visit my favorites and take more time to explore those that I have not been to for a while. There is always something new to find and photograph! 

Update: After writing this blog post I did just that! I had a mini road trip adventure this weekend. I’ll have a new post coming soon with some new photos.