Archive for the ‘trip ideas’ Category

Paddling Away to Hudson Bay

Every once in a while, it’s time to do some housecleaning.  Generally speaking I am NOT a clean freak and am happy to wallow in a wee bit of filth.  However the family finally got around to doing our spring cleaning (yeah I know it’s July) and along with being able to see under the beds again, all this open airy space has allowed my mind to wander to more dreamy places.

Last year I told you that there were only two places on earth that I still dreamed of visiting…the Yukon and Norway.  Well now that I’ve checked the Yukon off of my list (and YES, I swear I will get around to telling you all about it!) there’s room to slot in a new dream destination.

York Factory, 1770's by Samuel Hearne. Engraving coloured, March 1, 1797. © Hudson's Bay Co. Archives, Provincial Archives of Manitoba / Engraver: Wise / HBCA P-228 (N8317)

York Factory, 1770’s by Samuel Hearne. Engraving coloured, March 1, 1797.
© Hudson’s Bay Co. Archives, Provincial Archives of Manitoba / Engraver: Wise / HBCA P-228 (N8317)

When I attended the Wilderness Canoe Symposium in February, I saw a presentation by Katie Tanz about a canoe trip she co-lead through Keewaydin Camp, that started from Windigo Lake and finished in York Factory on the Hudson Bay.  This punishment by paddle culminated in a visit to the original Hudson Bay Company post and a camp-out in the adjoining polar bear-safe enclosure.  This presentation has lived in my subconscious for months and with room for dreams to grow, has made its way to the forefront of my mind, permeating most of my quiet moments with images of grand adventure.  I WANT this!

I consider myself blessed to have been born in such a grand and awesome country (happy belated Canada Day!) and most especially to be a native and current resident of beautiful Ontario.  Of all the corners of this earth, with all the wonders to see and experiences that they offer, I still dream in Canadian.  How could a girl get any luckier than to live in a place that after decades of exploring, still holds so many treasures yet to be discovered…

Mark my words folks, the wheels are turning…I’m putting my strongest brain cells on the task of figuring out how to get the family paddling their way to Hudson Bay.

hudson bay map

1000 Islands National Park…The Fairy Tale Trip

This is not one of my usual post-trip posts.  If you follow along on our family adventures, you’re used to hearing epic stories of family vs. nature…big bad storms and clouds of biting bugs, wading through ice-cold swollen rivers and marathon portages.  This is NOT one of those stories.  I’m not one to gush, and I always give the straight story, so believe me when I say that our trip to 1000 Islands National Park last week was perhaps the best family trip that we have ever taken.

The fairy tale trip goes something like this…Once upon a time (namely last Saturday morning) in the most charming town of Gananoque  (side note: I loved this town so much, I want to move here.  Anyway, back to the story) began the vacation of all vacations.  We checked into the gorgeous stone home of 1000 Islands Kayaking, the company that was going to be taking us on a tour of this BEAUTIFUL area of Ontario.  All the staff that we had contact with were funny and personable and helpful.  We bought a parking pass at the local marina for a whopping $6 a day, got set up with drybags for the gear we’d be bringing and headed out for a lesson on kayaking 101.  The weather was perfect…sunny and not too hot, not too cold.  It was hard to believe that we were on a trip and it wasn’t raining!  I’d also like to note that all of our trusty steeds (the boats, pfd’s and drybags) looked brand new and were in mint condition.DSC_0134

After shoving off from the dock,  Scott (owner and our guide for the day) had us play a game of ball tag in order to get the hang of controlling our boats.  It was ingenious and hilarious and it broke the ice with all of the participants.  I could go on and on, but let me just hit the highlights instead…we paddled over a sunken ship, into an outdoor chapel in Half Moon Bay that still holds services on Sunday afternoons and heard stories about whatever cottage, island, channel and bird that struck our interest.  Scott and all of the guides have an arsenal of history on the area not to be rivaled.  It was so much fun and so interesting, the time just flew by.  We parked our rides on an island and hiked around exploring while Scott put together a dreamy lunch feast of assorted meats, cheeses, fruit, veggies and juices.  A quick online form submitted before the trip allows the guide to tailor the menu to accommodate any dietary restrictions.  Total class act.  After lunch we hit some bigger water and it was like a roller coaster ride complete with squealing and face-cramping grins.  It was all over far too soon.  We were escorted over to McDonald Island where we were staying for the next couple of nights and waved goodbye to the rest of the crew.  The boats however, stayed with us.  1000 Island Kayaking not only offers tours, courses, certifications and camps, but also just plain up rentals for those lone wolves that like to explore solo.  I’ve got to say though, the tour should not be missed.  To top it all off, when we got home, we got an email with a link to pictures that Scott took throughout the day, which meant that I was actually in one of our trip pictures!

photo courtesy of 1000 Islands Kayaking!

photo courtesy of 1000 Islands Kayaking!

Next?  How about we didn’t have to set up camp!  Our castle awaited us in the form of an oTENTik tent/cabin.  It was getting muggy outside but there are tons of windows that can be used with just screens and the breeze off the water kept us perfectly comfortable.  This is no B&B and is quite a rustic structure, but beds with mattresses and a table and chairs inside are camp luxuries.  A small solar panel also powers up a battery inside that runs a light when necessary.  This park without doubt and without exception, has the cleanest bathrooms of any park we have ever visited.  Not fancy…no running water, no showers, no flush toilets, but clean composting toilets and a hand sanitizer dispensor in each and every one.   There is a lovely covered outdoor eating area, adirondak chairs, fire pit and wood fuel bbq for cooking up tasty meals.  The most impressive feature though, is the setting amongst the trees, no neighbours in sight and the water laid out in front just tempting one more dip and one more paddle.1000 Islands National Park

We didn’t complete the quest to find the castle, but rest assured there is one on one of the thousand islands.  It’s just an excuse to go back and go back we will.  We have found a place that we not only want to visit again, but maybe one that we’d like to make a more permanent situation.  Dreamy? yes.  A fairy tale?  Happily ever after remains to be seen, but it’s looking pretty good to this princess.1000 Islands oTENTik

First Family Canoe Trips : Where to go in Southern Ontario

So you want to take junior on their first canoe trip…good for you!  I often get asked for suggestions on where to take the kiddies for their first outing in Ontario.  For a first canoe trip with younger children, I suggest lakes that have paddle in sites to warm up to the paddling experience, or try one short portage into a second lake.  You can get a sense for how your little one is going to “take” to the boat without the risk of pushing it too far.  You can always take a longer trip next time.

The following lakes don’t see super big water like some larger ones and if needed, can have you back to your car in an hour or less.  May I also suggest sticking to the summer months so the water and air are warm and inviting?  If circumstances require that your first trip happens in the spring or fall, remember that it can be really cold and you MUST dress and gear-up for the elements.  Stay warm out there!

all together in one boat

all together in one boat

Algonquin Provincial Park

From the west side of the park near Kearney, enter at Rain Lake (really pretty) and stay at a paddle in site or do a short portage into Sawyer Lake.

Enter at Magnetawan Lake (also on the west side) and portage into Hambone Lake or push on into Ralph  Bice.

Off of the Hwy 60 corridor, you can check out Cannisbay.  It doesn’t feel very backcountry, but it’ll get the family into a canoe and into a tent.

Use the Achray Campground access on Grand Lake and stay, or pull a very short portage (30m) into Stratton Lake where there are numerous sites and you can visit beautiful High Falls, a swimming area with a naturally formed water slide.

Killarney Provincial Park

This park requires a bit more portaging, but you can still go to Bell Lake.  Use the Bell Lake access point and stay, or paddle through into Three Mile Lake.

Two words…George Lake.

Frontenac Provincial Park

Stay on Big Salmon Lake.  The lake has paddle in sites and no portages.

If you have any suggestions of your own for getting out on a canoe trip for the first time, be sure to let me know!  For all those families who are getting out for the first time this year, good luck and have fun!

Lead Me To An Outdoor Adventure and I Will Follow

This past Saturday I grabbed the kids and headed over to the Outdoor Adventure Show here in Toronto.  What an inspiring day!

Our first stop was to watch a presentation by Lyn Elliott on the Top Ten Adventures in Ontario’s National Parks. Loved it!  While I proudly thought to myself, “done that, done that”, there were a number of things that have been added to my “must do” list…namely visiting the St. Lawrence Islands National Park. The kids took one look at the new oTENTik accommodations that are being offered and their eyes lit up.  If you haven’t seen one, picture a soft sided rustic cabin.  Truth be told, after our amazing trip to Georgian Bay Islands last year and the cozy cabin we stayed in there, it wasn’t a hard sell to get me to agree that we must go and try an oTENTik…and soon!

oTENTik accommodation available in St. Lawrence Islandsphoto: Parks Canada

oTENTik accommodation available in St. Lawrence Islands
photo: Parks Canada

As we made our way up and down the aisles of the show, I picked up maps and planners for all sorts of dreamy places, the kind of places that I’ve pictured exploring since I was a kid.  Gros Morne National Park out in Newfoundland looks absolutely gorgeous and I guarantee we’ll make it there some day. But the most intriguing and bucket list worthy destinations (because of distance and exotic local) are the National Parks in Northern Canada. Wild, breathtaking and untouched, the Yukon, NWT and Nunavut seem so out of reach to the average “southern Canadian”.  Getting there is possible though if we put our minds to it.  With some planning, saving and training, Fraser and I have every intention of making it there with the kids.

In the meanwhile, there are oodles of fabulous places in my beloved Ontario that are calling out to me.  I walked away with an Ontario Parks Guide and a pamphlet listing the National Parks Historic Sites and Marine Conservation Areas here. Now I’ve got a couple more maps for the house and we can start checking off all of the places that we’ve visited.

The show was a great way to spend a day and inspiration for how to spend a lifetime.  And to that woman who looked skeptical that I was going to run out and buy that yogurt after she gave me a sample…I did.  It was good yogurt.  Reeeally good.  Thanks for another great show!

Up To Our Same Old Tricks

It feels like forever since we’ve been on a proper trip.  After the start of the school year and after a very busy summer, our adventures slow down to a trickle. We absolutely play hooky to go exploring, but after skipping a chunk of the first week of school and then hitting the wet and really cold but not quite cold enough weather here in southern Ontario, we’ve been twiddling our tripping thumbs.

Fast forward to today. I spent the afternoon juggling schedules and trying to make reservations…looking for availability and dodging meetings and commitments like a pro. Nothing is finalized yet, but it looks like we are finally breaking the drought and hitting the hills. I want to go cross-country skiing!  When I told the kids they were thrilled.  “Please, please, please make it happen” they pleaded with clenched hands, eyes shut tight and on bent knees.  Believe me guys…I’m trying!

We're going on a trip? Woohoo!

We’re going on a trip? Woohoo!

We are beginning to plan our whole 2013 schedule and it is looking GOOD. A hike here, a paddle there and a crazy idea is finally going to come to life. Whether this ski trip happens or not (don’t worry, another one will take its place if this falls through), it feels good to be out of our self-imposed rut and up to our same old tricks.

Do You Know What I’d Like to Do?

Oh that familiar line of questioning that inevitably lands us smack dab in the middle of our most ambitious adventures.

Just last night I heard those magic words and so a new adventure begins.  Our big hike in Pukaskwa  last spring lit a fire in our tripping bellies.  Our newest plan, hatched by my hubby, will see us clambering over the peaks of the La Cloche Silhouette Trail in Killarney Provincial Park.  Too late in the season to attempt it this year, we plan on tackling it next spring.

Our hike in May of this year has taught us that spring hiking is where it’s at.  While we were plagued by black flies and rain, the temperature was ideal for lugging heavy packs and scaling steep slopes.  While we have visited Killarney many many times, it has always been by canoe.  We did get a small taste of La Cloche when we climbed silver peak in 2011.  It was much harder than we anticipated, but with Pukaskwa under our belts, we’re not concerned whether the boys can do it or not.  We KNOW they can!
We are looking at a 7-10 day route covering 100km and I can’t imagine that we can get our packs any lighter than last time (I’m looking at you Thermarest Neoair XLite, the love of my tripping life), but the boys will be that much bigger and stronger (I picked up a 55 litre pack for Luke!) so Fraser and I will get a little bit of a break on this hike…phew!  We can’t wait and now that I’ve officially agreed to another serious hike after vowing that Pukaskwa was my last (don’t worry, I always swear off tripping after a tough one…lol!) I’ve been told that there are no take-backs.

And the boys, how do they feel about lacing up the hikers again?  Zach says he only wishes that it could be harder.  He wants to set another record.  That’s my boy.

The Unabashed Tourist

In less than two weeks our family is headed out on another BIG trip.  Almost as much as the trip itself, I love the looong drive to our destination.  Some people hate it and I suppose that if you simply jump in your vehicle and go from point A to point B, it would be pretty awful.

I however love to play the tourist.  I eat fast food and drink gallons of roadside coffee.  There is always a camera in hand and a pocketful of coin just waiting to be spent on the tackiest souvenirs that I can find.  My family teases me about my t-shirt collection, but I love every loud and obnoxious one of them.

I also have a fondness for diners.  They always seem to know how to make the best all-day breakfasts.  This was never more true than our stop at the Continental Motel and Dining Lounge in White River.  We were on our way back from Pukaskwa National Park and couldn’t wait to dive into some bacon and eggs.  Sure enough they served up the BEST diner breakfast we had ever eaten.  We ate every scrap including the orange garnishes and the little packets of peanut butter and jam.  Only as we were pulling away from the restaurant did Fraser mention that he had seen trucker hats for sale with the diners logo on them!  Nooooo!  That’s one souvenir that got away.

The key to enjoying a road trip is knowing that you will likely never see anyone that you meet again.  Not only do you get to see new things and visit new places, you get to check your ego at the car door and find your fun-loving side.  No need to play tough or cool like you do at home if you live in a gritty city.

Here is my road-tripping advice; be silly, have fun and take pictures… lots and lots of pictures.  May I also suggest buying souvenirs and participating in all of the local goofy traditions whether they were designed for the tourist trade or are actually authentic to the region?  I mean, who cares if eating a giant pickle from the barrel at Young’s General Store in Wawa, Ontario is something that a local would never do?  It’s fun and kinda gross, it made the kids and I laugh and of course I bought a t-shirt to commemorate the occasion!

I’ve goosed the Big Goose in Wawa and admired the Big Nickel in Sudbury.  I’ve  visited all kinds of “biggest” and “first” attractions.  I’ve sampled jams and pies and pickles and world-famous summer sausage.  It’s all added to the charm of tripping.  And we get our chance again in just over a week. I’m packing an extra camera battery and saving my pennies…it’s road tripping time!

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