Recently I declared my dog Victor and I would visit a different Parks Canada National Park each month of Canada’s sesquicentennial year.
Two things: First, to celebrate my country’s 150th anniversary, 2017 park passes are free via the Parks Canada website and I got mine.
Second, I enthusiastically joined BlogPaws pet bloggers embracing the idea to create declarations – things you want to accomplish – rather than New Year Resolutions – things you want to change.
With my free 2017 Parks Canada pass in hand, I announced my declaration via social media.
Seemed like a good idea at the time.
Here’s the thing: Canada is a big place – slightly bigger than the U.S. with one-tenth the population density. National Parks are located around the country, many in the north. Driving to most with a dog requires a remarkable investment of time and dollars.
So… after some actual research, I’m amending my declaration: My dog Victor and I will travel to one pet-friendly Parks Canada conservation area or historical site within a reasonable driving distance from my home each month.
Granted, it’s not as profound. But life is full of comprises.
Our first Parks Canada historic stop is the HMCS Haida, a giant metal war ship docked permanently at Pier 9 along the Hamilton Habour Shores in Hamilton, Ontario. It’s a real war ship and you can board it.
Well, you can when it’s there.
Until the summer of 2017, the HMCS Haida is dry docked for repair. Apparently, sitting in water for more than 60 years can do some damage to your hull. According to Parks Canada, “these repairs will help stop moisture seepage and rusting, and ensure the continued structural and cultural integrity of this national treasure for generations.” It’s a massive undertaking.
Our first Parks Canada stop of the year didn’t go as planned.
Here’s what we would have learned:
This destroyer saw a lot of action in 1944. She cleared the English Channel to make way for allied forces to invade Europe and, in 1952, was stationed along Korea’s communist shores. The HMCS Haida is the last tribal class destroyer in the world, one of 27 built in 1937. She has the most advanced marine propulsion systems and weapons of her day.
In the summer, she’ll be once again be safely docked at Pier 9, propellers and torpedoes removed. Here she faces one of her most challenging roles to date: entertaining excited tourist, including kids who think torpedoes are something you fire in video games and ladders are the next best thing to monkey bars.
Yet staff members (mostly volunteers and some former service men) dutifully educate those peering into girths, impressed by the size of ammunition casings, and climbing up and down three levels on thin metal ladders.
I’ve been on the Haida years ago, but not with the dog. No word whether they’d let me take him aboard. (I doubt it.)
Today, however, is not a bust. As long as Victor can stiff and move, he’s in heaven. There a lot of room to do that along the Hamilton, Ontario waterfront.
Nearby, at both Bayfront Park and Pier 8, meandering waterfront trails make for a long dog walk. Start at Pier 8 and you’ll pass Williams Coffee Pub and outdoor roller rink in the summer and ice skating rink in the winter. You can’t take the dog on the patio, thanks to a Provincial law, but you can sit at any of the park picnic tables metres away. (I love pointing out that ludicrous law).
Walk or drive past the Hamilton yacht club and you’re at Bayfront Park, a popular spot along the harbor to walk the dog and watch the boats go by. No, not the destroyer – mostly sailboats, some with dogs.
Read about Canada’s National Parks in this National Geographic Guide Book (available from Amazon).