“What are we doing this weekend?”
A question posed to me by my three year old daughter on a cold and blustery January afternoon. It’s a simple enough question but at the time, for the life of me, I had no answer. I don’t quite remember what I ended up answering her but I believe it was along the lines of, “we’ll see.” That question stuck with me and I promised myself that for the rest of the year I’d have an answer for her. So as 2013 progressed, it became a year full of preparing, learning and most importantly, a year full of camping under the stars in some of Ontario’s most beautiful provincial parks.
And while I could spends days and days talking about what we did, I’d like to cover some of the highlights of the trips, as we traveled through Ontario, a truck loaded down with a canoe, dogs and kids.
My daughter’s first canoe ride in Selkirk Provincial Park, where we learned that finding the proper fitting PFD for a young child makes a huge difference in how they enjoy the trip.
Watching the snapping turtles laying eggs on the sandy shores of Lake Erie at Long Point Provincial Park, where we learned that regardless of how flashy a TV show is nothing beats sitting and watching nature work.
We learned about kite boarding at Rondeau Bay in Rondeau Provincial Park -something my wife is adamant we’ll be trying next season.
Paddling the Ausauble Channel in The Pinery Provincial Park was a nice way to relax after a day learning about conservation during the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.
We learned the value of bringing a deck of cards and a chess board when weather turned bad at MacGregor Point Provincial Park where we spent one of our more memorable nights playing games as the rain came down around our tent.
Explaining to my children that looking and not taking from nature would ensure many more years of these weekends as we spent hours walking the shores of Craigleith Provincial Park looking for fossils.
Watching friends catch their first lake trout and having my daughter identify owls by their calls in Algonquin Provincial Park.
My daughter explained to me at Silent Lake Provincial Park that going to bed early while camping is fun because it allows you to get up early before the sun has even woken up and watch as it slowly makes an appearance.
Learning some great Canadian history at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park and watching my own father, as three generations of us fished, get soaked up to his chest is something I won’t forget and I definitely won’t let him forget.
How a simple tarp and good tent can save a weekend from disaster as the rain poured down on us on Porcupine Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park.
Taking two minutes out of our day to help others along the portage at The Massasauga Provincial Park -not only good for the soul but it brings out a camaraderie that can only be found by lugging a canoe on your head.
The biggest lesson that I personally learned was, camping with young children can be a chore but the pros outweigh the cons. I’ve always loved camping and paddling but this year my whole family has fallen in love with the outdoors.
We spent weekend after weekend, driving to Bass Lake, Oastler Lake, Mara, Kawartha Highlands, Turkey Point, Awenda, and the list goes on. But each weekend brought with it a new set of firsts and a great time. And while we have driven over six hours to get to certain campgrounds, the majority of our trips are no longer than an hour or two in the car. We’re lucky to live in Ontario with such a strong parks system which has a variety of activities and events going on at any one time.
The months are getting colder and we have traded in our canoe paddles for snow shoes and toboggans, but we can’t stop now. We heard there is pretty cool ice trail in Arrowhead, we are yet to sleep in a yurt, Killarney is calling our name for a some winter camping, and I also promised my kids we’d go hunting for “snow stories” (tracks left in the snow) on trails in Algonquin.
It has become the norm to load up our weekend supplies and head off into Ontario’s wilderness and we can’t wait to start all over in 2014. Trips to Quetico, Frontenac and Bon Echo are a few we are very excited for.
So in closing I believe there is only one question I can pose to you: what are you doing this weekend?