Strolling on the Avenue -- it sounds like a song from an old musical, doesn't it? But, no, it's the Avenue in Silver Islet, a former mining village 20 miles outside Thunder Bay, Ontario. Strolling is what you do there because there's never any need to rush.
So, take your time; admire the old cottages and Lake Superior. Think about lunch at the general store, knowing you can stroll off the calories later. Enjoy the quiet and also the freedom to be noisy, knowing kids can run wild without anybody being bothered by their noise. Silver Islet hasn't bustled in more than 100 years, since the mine closed. Now the village is a pleasant retreat for summer residents and tourists.
The peninsula that pokes out into Lake Superior contains in its length the village of Silver Islet, a public park and campground, and the natural rock formation known as the Sleeping Giant.
The village beach is good for walking, but Lake Superior is considered too cold for swimming for most of the summer. People usually go to Lake Mary Louise, an inland lake, to swim.
Most visitors stay in the campground for at least a week, hiking and climbing and enjoying the landscape. From there, it's less than a mile to the village, where lifelong resident Tommy Dyke may be willing to take you on a tour and tell you old stories of the village.
Many of the people who spend summers in Silver Islet are second- and third-generation residents, and if you catch them at the right time, they'll invite you in for tea and a look at their mementoes.
Bill MacDonald's been there every summer since he was 2 months old. He made the first trip in his mother's arms by boat, because the highway is a modern addition to this piece of land that clings so comfortably to the past. MacDonald says his 65 summers in Silver Islet have a continuity he enjoys, and he's one of those who resists innovations such as electricity. He prefers the glow of an oil lamp on a summer evening, when he can picture the village as it was long before he was born. He's fascinated with the history of the place, and keeps on writing "just one more book" about it.
He's a big fan of one innovation, though: the tearoom in the old general store. "Homemade brown bread for sandwiches, pies made of whatever fruit is in season, homemade soups and baking -- it's the biggest decision most people make in a day here, just choosing their dessert." The store's owners make a point of maintaining it as it would have looked 60 or 70 years ago, with heavy wooden counters and glass display cases for candy and baked goods.
MacDonald is typical in his helpfulness. He likes being able to tell visitors where the blueberries grow thickest and where the best hikes are in the public park. Catch him when he has time and he'll explain how you can judge the age of the village homes: The earliest are made of squared white pine logs and date back to 1868, before a portable mill was brought in to make planks for the later buildings.
-- Linda Turk is a freelance writer based in Kakabeka, Ontario.