BBQ turkey for Thanksgiving? Why not? Roofed accommodations make Thanksgiving getaways a breeze

This Thanksgiving, why not take the work out of your Thanksgiving dinner and head to your favourite park for a weekend away and a BBQ turkey with all the fixings? After all, you can recycle just about everything you need to cook a turkey dinner on the BBQ so cleanup is a breeze!  (Cue collective “Yes!” from mothers everywhere).

Move over Martha Stewart, this is Thanksgiving Canadian style!

Imagine how delicious a BBQ turkey would taste, seasoned with fresh herbs and hot off the grill; dotted with cranberry sauce, prepared gravy, fresh fall vegetables and a slice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream for dessert! Add a nice hot cup of coffee, maybe a S’more or two and you’re ready for a relaxing campfire under the stars.

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The many moods of Lake Superior are beckoning: Kakabeka Falls anyone?

If you are looking for an enchanting way to ride out the rest of the summer or early fall, why not tour the coast of Lake Superior and finish your journey at Thunder Bay and Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park?  The coastline boasts several different parks that follow Lake Superior north and west.  When you reach the lakehead (Thunder Bay, Ontario’s western end of the lake), travel inland to Kakabeka Falls, home to the second largest waterfall in Ontario.

Continue reading The many moods of Lake Superior are beckoning: Kakabeka Falls anyone?

Be here in an hour: why Southern Ontario landlubbers love escaping to Rock Point

The wind and waves of Rock Point Provincial Park are a must-see, must-experience getaway this summer, especially for overheated, stressed out city dwellers that just need a break. Your getaway awaits at this jewel of a park, nestled on Lake Erie in the ancient Carolinian forest.

Rock Point is a mere hour from Hamilton and the Niagara and Fort Erie borders, an hour from Brantford and 90 minutes from Toronto. How great is that?

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Relax and unwind amidst the calm at Caliper Lake

What price is your health?  Joining a fitness club? Jogging along city sidewalks? Or perhaps something with vastly more benefits, like packing up your gear and spending time with nature?

For visitors to Caliper Lake, near Lake of the Woods in northwestern Ontario, the journey, or pilgrimage for some, is worth its weight in gold. For as experts tell us nowadays, nature is the new aspirin.

Visitors come from as far south as Minnesota, as west as Manitoba and as north as Sioux Lookout to enjoy the spectacular sunsets, the northern lights, mouth-watering fish fries of Pike, Bass and Walleye or exceptional birding and wildlife viewing.

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Are you bear wise?

Are you going to bear country this summer?  Remember we share our parks with these wonderful creatures.  Be prepared and aware!

To be prepared, let’s first understand some basics about bears.  Black bears, despite their name, aren’t always black and will range in colour and weigh 250lb to 650lbs.  Due to hibernation during winter months, finding food is very important from April to late fall.  Although portrayed as meat eaters, bears are omnivores, meaning they eat meat and plants.  Berries, nuts and other plants are the majority of their diet.  However, bears are opportunistic, meaning if they smell food they will search it out and eat it.  Once they find a food source they will keep returning.

Since bears have such a keen sense of smell, it’s your responsibility to keep your campsite clean.  If you have a vehicle, pack up all your food into containers and keep it in your trunk.  This includes anything with a smell, so pack up those toiletries and clothes you have cooked in.  Also, do not dump your dish water on your site.  Waste water should be dumped down a vault privy.


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Caliper Lake Provincial Park offers overnight camping once again!

In the fall of 2012, the province announced that 10 parks would be changing from operating to non-operating designation because of low visitation and financial losses. Last year, 4 of those 10 parks were able to remain operating thanks to partnership agreements with local municipal governments. Now, Ontario Parks is pleased to announce that we will also be partnering with the Township of Sioux Narrows – Nestor Falls to keep Caliper Lake Provincial Park operating for the summers of 2014, 2015 and 2016. The Township is an experienced park operator who has successfully managed the operation of Sioux Narrows Provincial Park for more than a decade.

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The Zen of sleeping indoors: student-built cabins offer bug-free “camping”

Tired of sleeping on the ground?  Tired of hauling all of your camping gear around?   Tired of swatting bugs all night long? 

 Although some purists may throw down their tents and solar powered espresso machines in defiance, a growing number of visitors to Ontario Parks actually prefer to sleep indoors and are asking for more roofed accommodations.

 Some visitors want the comforts of home like a bed, mattress, microwave, propane BBQ and best of all a bug-free, swat-free, covered porch with a view of the lake. Continue reading The Zen of sleeping indoors: student-built cabins offer bug-free “camping”

A Natural Fit

Connecting with nature has lots of benefits.

It keeps us healthy by lowering our blood pressure and strengthening our immune system. It reduces our stress levels and keeps us physically fit.

It’s good for our emotional wellbeing too. Children who play in natural environments are more resilient and develop skills for dealing with stress later in life.

Parks provide unparalleled natural classrooms and recreation opportunities for people of all ages.

And now there’s a new initiative – developed jointly by federal, provincial and territorial governments – that focuses on the importance nature plays in our lives. Ministers responsible for parks across the country recently met in Ontario to finalize the Connecting Canadians with Nature report, which was co-ordinated through the Canadian Parks Council.

The report builds on what Ontario Parks is already doing.

Last year Ontario Parks offered more than 1,000 nature programs for 37,000 children. In addition, provincial parks offered nature-based education programs for more than 800 school groups and 20,000 children.

And Mom and Dad aren’t left out. Ontario Parks provide adult education programs as well.

Ontario Parks offers Learn to Camp and Learn to Fish programs, which introduce city dwellers to these great outdoor activities and encourages them to become life-long park users.

 

Many parks offer recreational opportunities and facilities to meet the needs of mature park visitors and people with disabilities, such as yurts, cabins, accessible comfort stations, campsites and trails.

Also, Ontario and seven not-for-profit partners have launched the Ontario Children’s Outdoor Charter to help children across the province develop a life-long connection with nature.

So, visit a park and connect with nature!

 

How to be a happy winter camper

Guest Blogger: Matt Olsen from Paddle In

 

Friday January 31, 2014 –I joined two others, packed up some sleds, rented a beautiful canvas tent and stove, and headed off into Algonquin’s interior for five adventure-filled days.

Camping in winter?  Most definitely!! Winter brings about a wonderful change in Ontario Parks and with research and proper planning, you can be a happy winter camper!

Preparation is the most important part of any backcountry trip, even more so on a winter excursion. Gear needs to be checked and re-checked. Winter camping is not the time to skimp or forget certain pieces of gear. I recently purchased a new -30 sleeping bag and when I awoke at 3 am on Sunday morning to temperatures creeping down around -25, I was very grateful for all the preparation I had done to make sure I was nice and toasty while sleeping.

Some things to consider when prepping for an overnight winter camping trip:

 

Layers! Layers upon layers!

Layering your clothing allows you to shed outer clothing quickly when you start to heat up. Believe me -pulling a sled behind you with all your gear will warm you up very quickly. To break it down even more, this is what you’ll want to equip yourself with:

Base Layer: Synthetics or Merino wool will help wick away moisture from your skin.
Middle Layer: Insulating layer designed to retain body heat. Fleece works well here.
Outer Layer: A waterproof, windproof layer.  Gore-tex products work very well.
 

Choose your adventure

We chose the beautiful rolling hills of the Western Uplands Trail in Algonquin Provincial Park. While we were aware that this trail is not necessarily suited for a sled and snowshoe trip, we knew we were only traveling a few kilometres to set up base camp. That being said, make sure you pay attention to the time. We spent all day lugging sleds and looking at our surroundings, which meant we had to make a quick camp at the end of the day because it was getting dark. Luckily, we also happened to stop at one of the best areas for a campsite I have ever been on.

 

Snowshoes! 

Do you have snowshoes? You should!  As I found out early on in the trip while stopped for a snack, if you step off the trail…down you go.  While it was easy going on the snowshoes and along the hard-packed, frozen trail, anywhere else was way too deep to access with just boots. Snowshoes displace your weight evenly allowing you to stay “afloat” on the snow. They are also crucial in setting up camp. Stomp yourself down a nice area to set up your tent, let it freeze for a bit and voila you have a great place where you can walk around outside your tent with just your boots. Nothing like making a quick bathroom break in the middle of the night and finding yourself chest deep in snow in only your long johns…

 

A roof over your head

We used a wonderful SnowTrekker “hot tent” equipped with a stove. Now some people call this cheating. All I have to say is the extra weight to carry it in was easily made up by the fact that we could dry off all our clothes inside and warm up the tent each morning. WARMTH! We were astounded at how warm a small fire inside the stove could keep our tent. Some words of caution while hot tenting would be: never leave the stove unattended. You don’t want your tent filled with smoke while you are sleeping and you don’t want a fire on your hands! If it’s too cold to not run the stove, simply take turns/shifts and keep a small fire going while you drink a hot chocolate and read a book.  Small reflectors are provided with the stove that stops the snow around the stove from melting and may save any sleeping bags that get too close. Whatever tent you use, make sure you are familiar with it and that you’ve packed all its parts. Forgetting the poles after walking off into the bush would be a drag.
 
 
“What did you do for fun out there?”

My favorite question when we got home was this. “What did you do for fun out there?” I thought about this for awhile. You’re going winter camping for the experience- that is the “fun”. As for what we did each day it was simple:

Gather firewood
Snowshoe the trail and surrounding area
Eat!  Carbs, fat and protein! YUM YUM!
Relax
Did I mention getting firewood?  

Being winter, it is very easy to find dry standing dead firewood in the bush.

 

Our experience

Silence! Absolute silence. I wasn’t prepared for how quiet the trip was going to be. We heard the odd Chickadee and Gray Jay, saw lots and lots of snow stories (animal tracks) including moose, deer, and rabbit and were sung to sleep by a plethora of owls each night. The parks are beautiful in the winter I strongly recommend getting out here. That being said, I come to my final point.

 

Your experience 

You don’t have to camp to enjoy a winter experience. Not ready for an overnight stay on a hiking trail? That’s okay. There are loads of things to do instead. Winter camping isn’t something you should jump right into. Work your way up to it.

Once you feel comfortable enough make the gradual move to overnights. Spend two days or even spend five days enjoying yourself in the parks.

When we returned from the trip someone asked “why do you spend so much time outside?”  I thought about this for a moment and said “The real question would be why do you spend so much time inside?”

 

Learn more about winter in Ontario Parks: http://www.ontarioparks.com/winter/


5 tips for reserving an Ontario Parks campsite

Did you know that you can reserve your campsite or roofed accommodation up to five months in advance of your arrival date?

You can book online (and even see a sneak preview of your campsite) or by calling the Ontario Parks reservation line, 1-888-ONT-PARK (Canada & USA).

Check out these three tips for a smooth reservation experience:
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