The little metal posts at the side of the road counted down the kilometers until we left Algonquin Park. From the back seat there was a chorus of "But we don't want to go!" I didn't want to go either, but there were only two days available for the yurt, besides it wasn't really all that sad we were headed to Bracebridge for an early morning start at Santa's Village. I told them this, but my words rang a little hollow because I was just putting on my brave Mom face ... I didn't want to leave either.
To our left was the looming great building with the oversized flag, the building was the West Gate of Algonquin Provincial Park, and it signaled the end of our Algonquin adventure. It stung a little, it was so final. We drove out of the park. On either side of the highway were little stores and places boasting to be "Algonquin Outfitters". There were canoes and kayaks for sale and rent. There were cottages available for rent and little gift stores lining the highway. We had driven for ten minutes or so when we came upon an oasis among the cottage kitsch. There it was the place of my dreams .... Henrietta's Pine Bakery.
Henrietta's isn't just a delicious bakery, it is a precious memory from my childhood. When we were in our teens (by we, I mean my sister and myself) our family took a trip to Arrowhead Provincial Park near Huntsville. We drove through Algonquin Park, and found ourselves at Henrietta's. I remember that the baking tasted extra delicious, as they often do in treasured memories. Henrietta's became cemented into my brain as a beautiful place on that day. Years later Christopher and I visited Henrietta's on our honeymoon (well really it wasn't much of a honeymoon, but that's another story). The baking tasted just as delicious as I remember it. Sometimes in cherished memory, we alter the facts. Something what may have been mediocre in reality, becomes thrust into greatness because of the specialness that surrounds it. That was not the case with Henrietta's. Any trip that took us through the park, was celebrated with a visit to our favourite bakery in the woods.
Five years ago or so we took a family trip to North Bay. It was in April. We drove through Algonquin, but everything was closed up tight. The visitors centre had a big sign on the door indicating that they were only open on week-ends. We drove further, right through the park. There it was standing like an alpine dream, a dream beckoning me forward to it's greatness. "I think it's closed." Christopher announced. I wanted to karate chop him in the back of the head! "Let's just look" I said, barely keeping the hostility out of my voice. On the door was a little sign, a dream killing sign "Closed for Winter. Open in May. HA HA TRISTAN!". O.K. it didn't say that exactly, that was more kind of the gist of it. It was a BIG disappointment, to say the least.
For Grace there was no indecision. She knew exactly what she wanted before she even left the car. "One moose hoof please." Riley and Rowan took a little longer to decide, but eventually they both decided on eclairs, they were not disappointed in their decisions. Elly is going through an extremely indecisive phase right now, oh I pray to God that it is a phase. She just stood there looking into the glass case. We made a number of suggestions, all were met with an aggressive shake of her little Hitler like head. Finally her eyes traveled to the other glass case, as if she had no idea it was even there. There it was... bellowing to her, a moose cookie. A moose with chocolate feet and antlers. She was happy and we were relieved to discover that there would not be one of Elly's famous scenes. I chose a snow ball, but once it was already packed into that white box I began to doubt myself. Christopher settled upon a cheese croissant (there might be something wrong with him).
Once we entered the crammed privacy of our own van, we attacked that pristine white box with the perfectly tied white string like a pack of ravenous wolves. I looked in the back and the children looked like they had had a fight with a chocolate monster and had lost badly. I pulled out the canister of wipes and began to distribute them with a giggle. My biggest laugh came when I gave Christopher a taste of my snowball. The snowball, how would I describe that? It was like a round eclair topped with powdered sugar. In the middle it was crammed with whipped cream and the big surprise? There was a jam centre... oh so good. Christopher was driving and I gave him a bite of my snowball. I wasn't really paying attention to what I was doing, I was watching the road to make sure that Christopher was paying attention to the road (me a control freak... how dare you). I looked over at Christopher's face. He looked like a young Santa, if young Santa's beard and mustache were made of whip cream and jam. I laughed and laughed and laughed until I was literally gasping for breath.
If you find yourself near Algonquin you really need to do yourself a favour and visit Henrietta's Pine Bakery. There is so much beautiful baking that it is near impossible to pick just on thing. They also have a whole room filled just with different types of bread. Even if you are not in the Algonquin area it is so worth a drive just to visit Henrietta's.