EDITOR’S NOTE: This marks the first installment in the Manitoulin Staycation adventure series that helps to fulfill Manitoulin Islanders’ never-before experienced Island dreams as we navigate this age of COVID-19 and stick closer to home this summer.
PRAIRIE POINT – Saturday’s hot weather and blue skies marked a perfect day for a cruise in north Georgian Bay and that’s exactly what the Cook and Gordon families had in mind when they hoped for a cruise courtesy of Wiky Bay Tours, part of the GordiesBeach.com brand of businesses owned and operated by the indomitable Gordie Odjig of Wiikwemkoong.
Don and Bonnie Cook of Little Current were quick to reach out to The Expositor when this newspaper and Explore Manitoulin launched the Manitoulin Staycation experience, urging Islanders to share their ‘guilty secret’ about the quintessential Island places and things they have not done. Ms. Cook said she had always wanted to take a tour with Mr. Odjig, so The Expositor set to work to make it happen, thanks to the generosity of Mr. Odjig.
The Cooks, Ms. Cook’s sister Sherry Gordon from Elliot Lake and their parents Bruce and Helen Gordon (also from Little Current) made their way to Prairie Point, Wiikwemkoong’s northernmost point on Saturday morning to meet Mr. Odjig and his first mate Joey Wemigwans. It was the family’s first time to the scenic point of land.
“Gordie started off by giving us a warm welcome—we bumped elbows to shake hands—and showing us a map of our tour,” Ms. Cook said following her adventure. “We felt very well taken care of,” she added, noting that Mr. Odjig had taken COVID-19 precautions aboard his pontoon boat.
“It was very well organized, which I appreciate!” Ms. Cook laughed.
“It took all day and we heard different stories for everywhere we visited—it was really neat,” she continued.
The tour took the family past the cottage of a famous hockey player with Wiikwemkoong roots, to Killarney for famous Hebert Fishery fish and chips and a view of the new and improved Killarney Mountain Lodge, a visit to the Our Lady of Lourdes monument, the Indian Head rock, many secret hideaways and coves, a tour past the, some say, haunted Lansdowne Lodge, a hike to Devil’s Lake and so much more. All the stops and visits come with a fascinating backstory told by Mr. Odjig.
“All the stories and nooks and crannies was a treat,” Ms. Cook continued. “It also brought all kinds of memories back for my dad who worked for Ontario Hydro putting power into many of the places we visited. He had some stories to share with Gordie, too. There’s so much to see; so much history. I highly recommend this tour.” Ms. Cook also noted the ease of getting on and off the pontoon boat, which made the excursions even better.
Ms. Cook was touched by Mr. Odjig offering her family a strawberry blessing during one of the stops in a picturesque cove. “It was so nice!” so enthused.
“Devil’s Lake was beautiful!” Ms. Cook exclaimed. “And unless you knew it was there, you’d never see it, even though it was just a short hike from the beach. That was a special place, too.”
Mr. Odjig offers a plethora of services through his business GordiesBeach.com, like cottage rentals, bed and breakfast accommodations, family camping, ‘Indian guide’ services, medicine walks and of course his Wiky Bay Tours. The Killarney trip is just one of his offerings. Mr. Odjig also offers a Wiky Bay tour which has clients take a tour of Cape Smith and also take part in a family picnic with a stop at Gordie’s waterside cottage for a swim. Another tour sees a visit to the Lansdowne Channel and Hole in the Wall and features a family picnic.
“They were really, really excited and learned a lot,” Mr. Odjig said of the Cook/Gordon family.
Mr. Odjig, who many people know as the man behind the camera at any and all Wiikwemkoong events, began WikyTV5 in 1989 and he continues to act as a videographer for the cable TV-turned multi-media organization and this is his first love (besides his children and wife Leanne, of course). Guiding is his second love and, like everything he does, he pours his heart and soul into it. Mr. Odjig has been a member of the Wikwemikong Drum Committee for over 50 years and has a passion for sharing the traditions and cultures of his community with the world. Offering tours allows him to do just that.
Ms. Cook thanked Mr. Odjig for the special day and The Expositor for helping to arrange it. “What a great idea to promote our own backyard. I don’t think you appreciate the history and beauty until you get out and see it. No wonder people come here from all over the world, it really is beautiful.”
Ms. Cook said she’s already looking forward to her next tour with Mr. Odjig and Wiky Bay Tours.
To book a tour with Mr. Odjig or for more information, please contact him at 705-507-2694 or 705-859-2955 or send him a message on Facebook by searching for ‘Gordie Odjig.’