The bad news: Angela and I had to turn down our first-ever invitation to a "destination wedding." It was on Feb. 3 in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, and if you've ever been to that part of the world, or have ever been to Toronto in February, you understand our disappointment.
The good news: Soon after our painful decision to decline -- Damn you pathetic freelance income! Damn you to hell! -- we were invited to another, less financially-challenging destination wedding.
The weird-seeming news: It was in Owen Sound.
I doubt there has ever been an Owen Sound booth at the Toronto Bridal Show, but now I know there should be. Despite the Great Coffee Cup Collapse, the snowy Saturday evening at the Cobble Beach Golf Resort was a blast.
The good times came as no surprise. What was a surprise to this Owen Sound neophyte was just how much the aptly-nicknamed Scenic City has to offer. There was the indoor-outdoor Farmer's Market, where we picked up a handmade gift card for the happy couple; the sprawling, 40-member Artists' Co-op boutique (pictured below), where we picked up a handmade ceramic serving tray for the happy couple; and the Tom Thomson Art Gallery, where we picked up the iconic local painter's "The Pine Country” (pictured above) for slightly less than its $2-million appraised value.
OK, I lied about the wee canvas. But we did pick up a new appreciation for one of Canada's most fascinatingly enigmatic artists (if not people). Thomson’s paintings of the Canadian wilderness (pictured variously below) are notable not just for their beauty, but also for the choices their creator made. An overhanging branch colours a lake-filled landscape. A modest, easily-overlooked island displays its fall colours. Subtlety and drama all at once.
I also appreciated how director and chief curator Virginia Eichhorn seemed to embrace the suspicions of foul play that surround Thomson’s untimely death in Algonquin Park’s Canoe Lake during the summer of 1917.
If nothing else, admiring Thomson’s work inspired us to get outdoors. Luckily, Owen Sound is home to one of Canada’s finest urban green spaces: Harrison Park. Opened in 1912, the 40-plus-hectare haven spreads out from the Sydenham River and provides an appealing conclusion to one of the region’s most popular hiking and snowshoe trails. Starting at Inglis Falls Conservation Area’s namesake cascade, we tackled a 3-kilometre route that skirted the frozen 18-metre drop (pictured below) and meandered through the rocky, densely forested Niagara Escarpment before reconnecting with the icy river and proceeding to the park.