Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Trip Log: Canisbay Lake - Algonquin Provincial Park July 2-4 2012 and review of Canisbay Campground

Back in the winter, we snow shoed along the main road through Canisbay Lake Campground. (click here to read about that trip)   With three feet of snow on the ground and no leaves on the trees it was pretty hard to guess what the campground would be like, but honestly I was a little worried.  We booked this trip about a week before we did the snowshoe trip, and we'd agonized over which site to choose, which campground to stay at etc, for weeks before booking.

I think Canisbay might be my favourite campground at Algonquon (that I've stayed in so far) We were in the non-electrical section, but not the radio free/dog free area.  The sites were well spaced, with lots of underbrush to give you privacy.  They were pretty much all a good size as well, though there were a few that were on a bit of a slant, so finding a good spot for your tent might be challenging.  Also, the vault toilets were clean and not smelly enough to make you want to hold your breath even though we were arriving on the monday of Canada Day Weekend, and so they probably saw a lot of use over the previous three days.
Our site before we added all the tarps

Chris and I drove through the radio free/dog free area and the sites were much smaller and not as nice.  They were still woodland type, but some of them were so small you wouldn't fit a car and a tent bigger than a 3 or 4 person.  They would be fine for a couple but if you had kids you wouldn't have room for them to run around and play at all.  There were also some walk in sites here.  They were interspersed with the regular sites, and from the road, you would simply see a small spot to park a car, then a trail leading away from it.  It was hard to judge their size and quality, so if anyone has used one and would like to share their opinion, I'd love to hear it.

The electrical section, I've been told by the kids, is much the same as the area we were in, spaced, nice sized lots and fairly private.

The first thing we did when we got to the site was set up mum and dad's new screen tent.  Mum had bought it at a yard sale and it was one of those ones that goes up in about a minute.  It took about half an hadn't been set up properly before and it took us a while to figure out what was wrong with it....of course if dad hadn't burned the instruction paper....

View from the sandy beach at one of the paddle in sites we explored
*cough* anyway.  We took the kids for a swim then had lunch (just quick sandwiches) then chris and I took the kids for a canoe trip around Canisbay Lake to check out the paddle in sites.  Up until now they were very against the idea of a paddle in site because of the bathroom set up (both agreed a thunder box must be gross) and they had also never liked being in the canoe.  For some reason, they both decided they now loved canoeing (yay!) and they got into a fight over who got to use the thunder box first when we stopped to check out an empty site.  Kids are weird.  After exploring a few sites, Chris and I sat in the middle and let the kids paddle.  They LOVED that even though the paddles were way too big for them.  Next camping gear purchase will be to get them paddles their size.

Of course it took a lot longer to get anywhere, and when they got tired, Chris and I had to paddle from the middle of the boat which is a fair bit more awkward.

When we got back to the campsite, we made dinner (tacos) then dad got a fire going and we made banana boats.  After cleaning up and bear proofing the site, we headed to bed.  The kids slept in mum and dad's big tent and Chris and I had our old, four person tent, and the dogs slept with us.  It actually worked out quite well.  We put down the old blue foam sleeping pads for the dogs and they slept peacefully most of the night (mostly...Kenobi was panting like crazy for a while, and the second night he kept having those dreams dogs have where their legs twitch.)

During the night, I heard a woman running down one of the roads behind us, panicking and yelling that she'd just seen a bear.  When we got to the park, they warned us that a bear had been seen the day before.  They even warned us to lock any clothes we'd worn while cooking in the car because they'd have food odours on them, and to lock our stove and BBQ up.  We'd brought a full size BBQ with us, so I spent the first night worried and jumping at every sound.

The next day, after a quick breakfast of bacon and eggs, mum and dad took the kids to the Visitor's Center to do that day's kids program. It was a game called Blackflies, Brainworms and Bloodsuckers...apparently it was fun.  While they were gone, Chris and I took the dogs for a hike on the Peck Lake Trail.  The dogs are 12, so I picked a fairly short one, that I didn't think would be too hilly.  I almost died!  You'd think 2 dogs at that age would be slow going on a hike but no.  They dragged us around the entire trail and what the guide says should be a 1 1/2 hour hike took us about 25 minutes.  By the end, Dixie's back legs were shaking and I was exhausted.

Once everyone was back at the site we had lunch - Weenies and Beanies - ultimate traditional camp food.  The weather report said we were going to get a storm that afternoon, so Dad and I put up a bunch of tarps so that all the tents were covered.  We only ended up getting a sprinkle of rain, but you can bet if we hadn't put the tarps up, we would have gotten a down pour.

I think in total there were 155 steps...way more than you can see in the picture
Despite the storm warnings, Chris and I headed out to do another hike, without the dogs this time.  This time, we did the Booth's Rock Trail.  I've done this one before, sort of.  Last summer when we were camping at Rock Lake, the kids and I headed down the trail backwards.  This time we went the recommended direction and while it was still a difficult hike with lots of climbing, it was nowhere near as hard as climbing all those steps!  Its way easier on the knees to go down them then up.

Chris at the top of Booth's Rock
Booth's Rock Trail is a really nice way to spend a few hours.  The lookout is amazing.  You can see far into the distance, there are nice places to sit and have a snack, and on the way back to the parking lot, there are several spots where you can head off the trail and cool your feet in Rock Lake.

When we got back to camp, everyone pitched in to help mum make Dutch Oven Lasagna.  It's a super easy camp meal, and though it takes a while to cook, it's not something that requires constant supervision.  You put it together, put the charcoal on and then halfway through, add another batch of briquets. The only difficult part was the shuffle of ingredients since it took four people to hold all the things and hand them to mum as she worked through the layers.  I'll post the recipe soon.

The Fruit crisp...we were too impatient to take pictures before we dug in
We don't often make dessert when camping, but that's something that I've been working on changing.  On our trip to Presquile, I made fruit crisp in our little BBQ and it turned out well so I thought I'd make some for this trip as well.  (go here for recipe) I highly recommend this's so forgiving.  Since we had a normal sized BBQ this time, I put the crisp on one side and only turned on the burner for the other side.  I completely lost track of how long it cooked for...and then I intended to turn it off and let it sit for a bit while chris and I went for a swim...I totally forgot to turn the BBQ off and when we got back a half hour later, I was worried it would be burnt but it was fine.  Tasted great.

The second night was much quieter after dark.  Nobody ran past screaming about bears, but the next morning, one of the families that had arrived the day before were up early playing what sounded like beach ball volleyball...and shouting while having fun with their kids.  I'm all for having fun while camping, and making it fun for the kids so they grow up to love camp trips...but do you really have to talk so loudly it carries across the entire campground at six in the morning?  I always figure, there are somethings you just have to expect...dogs barking, babies crying and people who have had a bit to much to drink to realize they are being loud.  But parents who encourage their children to be loud early in the morning?  Or people who just can't be bothered to try to respect other campers?  That just bugs me.  Teaching your kids to be quiet while camping or hiking isn't just about not pissing off your neighbours either.  You want your kids to see wildlife, to feel the thrill of going around a corner on a trail and seeing a deer or a moose, or to have a chickadee land on their hand to take some seeds.  That won't happen if they never learn to keep quiet and still.  Those are the kinds of moments that will be the most memorable for them, and you, when they are grown up and think back to camping with mommy and daddy.

Anyway, breakfast...mum, Chris and I tried something new, and it's something I'll be experimenting with further.  Basically, it was breakfast in a cup, a muffin cup to be exact.  You tear the crust off your bread, and line muffin tins with it, then put in some partially cooked bacon and crack an egg on top...then stick it in the BBQ on indirect heat for about 20 minutes.  It worked out alright but regular muffin tins weren't quite big enough so I'll be looking to get a jumbo muffin pan in the near future.  I'll be looking into trying other ingredients too, already cooked bacon, sausage, cheese, and pancake batter in the bottom rather than bread.  They were pretty yummy though, but one per person was definitely not enough.

We packed up fairly quickly after breakfast since Chris had to work that night.  This trip ended up being a great one, good food, hardly any bugs (except for the daddy-long-legs which were everywhere) and we managed to do a lot of exploring.  The weather was perfect, not too hot or cool and only a sprinkle of rain.

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