Field of sunflowers

Ever walk into a giant field of sunflowers? It was my first time. Well, this is pretty much what it looks like. See that sentry standing straighter and taller than the others saying, “Hey, what are you doing in our field!” My response was, “I like being here just as much as you do. How about a smile for the camera?”

Giant sunflowers

Sunflowers seem to be flowers that smile. When people see one they usually feel happy. Imagine being surrounded by them. Oh what a feeling!

I kayaked around Waupoos Island on Lake Ontario with a group of paddlers from Ottawa, Ontario. We were base camping at Sandbanks Provincial Park one summer in July.

On the way to the boat launch at the Waupoos Marina off County Road 38, there was a big field of sunflowers still fresh with morning dew. The effect was so startling and enchanting in the bright sun that I had to experience it for myself. I wandered in with my camera. I’d never been surrounded by a field so bright and dazzling before. Needless to say, Prince Edward County is very pretty!

This is the only paddle I’ve ever been on where I only took pictures of the launch site and surrounding area, and none of the paddle. How odd. And I wondered why when I sat down to write this story. I don’t write about every paddle or trip I take. Only some of them. The ones that have a story to tell.

After a quiet paddle around Waupoos Island, my paddle buddies headed off to the nearby village of Picton for a late afternoon lunch. But I wasn’t ready to leave. I stayed behind at the boat launch and wandered around taking more photos.

There were lots of flowers. It was hard not to notice. If you visit a lot of boat launches, you may understand. Usually it’s just a world of cement, gravel, metal and wood, asphalt, cars and motor boats.

Public boat launch and dock, Waupoos Marina

Finally, I walked out to end of the dock and sat down, looking across the water at Waupoos Island.

A car pulled up. Two gray-haired ladies stepped out. They wandered out to where I was sitting with my feet dangling off the end of the dock and said “Hello”. They were wondering why I was sitting there all by myself with a big 17-foot long yellow sea kayak (my beloved Boreal Baffin) strapped on top of my car. And to be honest, I was wondering the same thing! So I let them do most of the talking.

Waupoos public boat launch

They told me, “We’ve been best friends since we were eight years old. When we were in our 20s, we were teachers to the children of the families on Waupoos Island. We lived on the island too. In the winter, when the water was frozen solid, we could walk or drive across from Waupoos Island to the mainland where you’re sitting. It’s only one kilometre across.”

The ladies had lived in the area all of their lives and had come by on this warm, sunny July day to recollect on days gone by.

I told them my paddle buddies had all taken off for lunch. But, for some reason I had stayed behind, wondering why I heard the bleating of sheep coming from Waupoos Island as I paddled around it. I found it odd. I wondered if I had just imagined it.

“No!” They laughed. “There are a lot of sheep living on that island!”

There are 1400 ewes living on 900 acre Waupoos Island. They’ve been raising sheep on Waupoos Island in Prince Edward County since 1976. Waupoos Island sheep are famous for doing their part at the annual Kingston Sheep Dog Trials held in August at Grass Creek Park along the shores of Lake Ontario.

Each year, the flock of 500-600 sheep at the Kingston Sheep Dog Trials comes from Waupoos Island, which is 50 kilometers west of Kingston on Lake Ontario.

Waupoos Island sheep

No wonder I heard a little bleating coming from the island!

After our lazy afternoon chat, the two ladies wished me well and left as quietly as they had come. Their friendly manner made me think about why I often enjoy visiting small villages and towns. The people are friendlier and less hurried than we are in the big cities. They are full of stories about the regions they have lived in all of their lives.

I guess I know why I was hanging around on the dock looking out at Waupoos Island that July day. I was waiting to hear their story, and now, I’m ready to tell a few of my own.

Happy paddles and tripping!
Peggy Varner