Sunday, October 20, 2013

Trip Log: Presquile Provincial Park - May 21-23, 2012

I was adding more links to the Trip Log's page this morning when I realized I hadn't actually posted a trip log for our trip to Presquile last year.  I wrote a review of the park, but no trip log.  As this is the trip we still hold up as the standard to which all other trips get compared to (well, up until we went to Achray, now its our unanimous favourite), I should probably write up what I can remember.

From what I recall, it didn't start well.  The drive wasn't long, maybe an hour and a half, but the kids complained most of the way.  That might have had something to do with the fact the dogs were in the back of the car, huffing bad breath and drooling over their shoulders.  I can't really blame them for not enjoying the trip to the park.

The beach at our campsite
We got our permit and went to our site.  Before we did anything else, we headed to the water and the kids went nuts about the smooth stones.  While Chris and I set up the trailer and got the dog's ropes tied up, they explored along the shore.  We had a quick lunch of sandwiches and lemonade, then went to check out the Visitor's Centre.  Since we'd arrived on the monday of the Victoria Day weekend, we were hoping it would still be open.  It wasn't, so we spent some time exploring the lighthouse and the little paths in the area, then headed back to camp.

I can't remember what we had for dinner that night, just that I made bumbleberry crisp on the BBQ.   I remember the kids spent most of their time looking for fossils in the rocks on shore and when dinner was ready, I kept calling them but they couldn't hear over the sound of the waves and wind coming off Lake Ontario.  They found quite a few, and this became the main source of fun for the whole trip.  Chris got them into their swimsuits at one point and they waded into the water.  Dixie went along for the little walk.  She didn't like Chris being out of her sight, and whined when he's not around.  We went for a short walk along the bike bath then had a quick campfire so the kids could roast some marshmallows.
Our site at Presqui'le

The next morning the kids went right back to searching for fossils and wading in the water.  I don't remember what Chris and I had for breakfast, probably eggs and bacon, but the kids had cold cereal (as usual)  Pretty much the whole trip was spent on the shore of our site.  At one point Chris tried out his new "footie" shoes and ran to the lighthouse and back.  We also did the boardwalk before dinner our second day.  It started to rumble while on the hike, but I don't think we got more than a sprinkle of rain.  While the kids and Chris were playing in the water, I went for a walk and saw a family of swans in a little pond.  We also had to make a run in to Trenton to the Walmart for more propane.

Dinner our second night was awesome.  It was only spaghetti, but we dragged the picnic table out onto the rocks on shore.  The sky was crazy dark, and it looked like it was going to storm.  It sprinkled a bit in the night, and we ended up putting a tarp up over the picnic table so we could eat breakfast.  I think we had pancakes (kids had cold cereal again) then headed out.

Looking back I don't know why this held top spot on our list of favourite camping trips.  We didn't do anything super memorable, but I guess it's not about that (otherwise we'd go to Wonderland several times a summer.)  What made this trip so good was the good weather, the lack of bugs, and the fact the kids never had an "I'm bored" moment.  

Approaching storm over lake ontario
One thing we always talk about from this trip is the lasso golf game we got.  Chris and I had spent ages trying to get one on sale.  Every time we went to get one, they'd be sold out, then finally we got one at TSC.  The kids were so excited.  Chris set it up the first night, probably while I made dinner, and on the third throw, one of the plastic connectors broke and the ladder fell apart.  Chris fixed it up, and two minutes later another one broke.  It got to the point where after every throw, the whole ladder would fall apart.  We were so disappointed!  After so long trying to get one, it ended up being a piece of garbage that lasted about 10 minutes before it was completely unusable. (we're still on the lookout for a set made of sturdier wood)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Day Trip: Frost Centre - Herb Lake

With such beautiful weather, I couldn't help myself.  I kept the kids home from school so we could go out in the canoe.  In my defence, now that school has started up, we don't get to do much as a family.  Chris works weekends and most evenings, so it limits our chances to do things like this.

Anyway, originally we thought about going to Algonquin, but since this was also our first canoe trip with Biscuit, we didn't want to drive all that way only to have him go nuts and end up with a 5 minute ride.  (He did fine, by the way.  We nearly tipped several times because he was leaning over the side biting the water like it was his greatest enemy, but he settled down after a while.)

To get to Herb Lake, go north on Highway 35, past the Frost Centre and past the entrance to Dorset, then turn right onto Kawagama Lake Road (it's number 8...not sure if that's county road 8 or what, but there's a number 8 on the sign.)  You'll need to stay to the right twice as the straight path puts you onto other roads...keep an eye out for Herb Lake Landing (it's just past Herb Lake Road or Drive...something like that.  We went down it and it wasn't the right place)  You'll see a portage sign that all the words have been worn off of, and that will tell you it's the right road.  Follow that right down to the lake if you want, unload, then back up to one of the little parking areas.  There's a map and sign down by the water.

Herb Lake was really pretty, and it's pretty small.  There are only a few cottages on it, just near the access.   We took a picnic and ate at one of the designated camp sites.  I did take pictures, but unfortunately, they disappeared off my camera.  Not sure how that happened.  The site we stopped at had only a small tent pad, and has a limit of 4 people, but it was very pretty.

We didn't stay too long, Biscuit's unpredictable canoe behaviour left us a little leery of exploring more, and we didn't want to push our luck, so we paddled back and headed home.  Herb Lake makes a good quick trip for a weekend where you want to do minimal work and just enjoy the peach and quiet.  We will definitely be going here again, for a night of camping at the very least.

Don't forget to check out the waterfall on the way out.  There's a small parking area, but no signs.  You'll see it when you drive in, so watch for it on the way back out.  The climb is pretty intense.  Good foot wear is a must, and the drop off into the river below is pretty far, so keep kids and animals close and under control.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Trip Log: Algonquin Park, Rock Lake, October 11-14, 2013

I finally achieved my dream of having Thanksgiving while camping!  We arrived at our site mid afternoon and set up Mum and Dad's tent trailer.  The site wasn't the most private, but we had a view of the lake (with the odd tent in the way) and it was pretty close to the bathroom for late night treks.

Supper was bean and vegetable soup I'd made up ahead of time.  I took a loaf of french bread and made a loaf of gluten free bread for Mum...weirdest bread I've ever made.  It was like scraping a bowl of mashed potatoes into the loaf pan. Dad and I took Biscuit with us to take out the garbage and made the mistake of leaving him in the truck while we dumped our bags and cans.  Mum had left a box of Timbits on the front seat, and when Dad got back in, Biscuit was eating them all.  We managed to save 2 for the other dog.

It got pretty chilly the first night.  We had the trailer's heater going, but when it cut out, it didn't take long for our noses to get cold.  Mum and Dad taught the kids how to play cribbage (maybe the kids will teach me how to play...I can play it on a computer but totally suck at it in the real world.)

The next morning it was very foggy.  and pretty darn cold.  I got up fairly early to take Biscuit for his morning bathroom break, hoping to get back into the sleeping bag for some more shut eye, but Mum got up with their dog, Lucky, and we ended up walking them around a bit.  By the time we got back, it was time to start the coffee and make breakfast.

A while back, I picked up a 1kg frozen wad of peameal bacon ends, not really knowing what to do with it.  We ended up chopping up half of it and frying it up with some canned potatoes and serving it with eggs.

After breakfast, we did the Hemlock Bluff hiking trail (or as the kids call it, Ham Hock Buff...don't ask...) and tired the dogs out so they'd be a bit more mellow the rest of the day.  We made the monumental mistake of going to the Visitor's Centre for lunch...there were 9 tour buses there!  We found out the next day that one of the ladies who works in the cafe there didn't show up that day, so there was one lady serving a huge line up of people.  It was such a beautiful day too, and the place was packed.  I guess the tour buses have a set agenda of things to see and do but it was too nice to be inside for very long.

We headed back to camp and relaxed for a while.  Dinner that night was supposed to be chicken stew with dumplings made in the dutch oven, but we forgot to stop and pick up more charcoal.  The firewood was a bit damp and would have taken forever to get any decent coals, so we just made it on the camp stove in a regular pot. It was pretty tasty, though the kids didn't really like the dumplings.

That night while we were sitting around the fire, Dad and Squatch fought over the box of halloween candy. They kept trying to hide their favourites so the other couldn't get them.  Both nights a group of campers a few sites over were talking loudly until well after midnight.  It wasn't as cold the second night though, but I lost my snuggle buddy.  Biscuit abandoned me for the kids' bed.

rainbow and sunrise over Rock Lake
Sunday started out fairly nice.  We got up and were pleasantly surprised to see a beautiful sunrise that included a rainbow!  It was even warm enough I wasn't shivering while taking the dog for his morning walk.  Unfortunately, the saying about a red sky in morning thing is started to rain soon after, and though the temperature went up, it felt colder.  The wind also picked up.

To make matter's worse, there was no water in the park.  No tap or toilet (or shower) was working, so Mum, Bubbie and I headed to the Visitor's Centre after breakfast (gluten free 8-grain hot cereal) and used the bathroom.  A lot of people didn't concern themselves with the fact the toilets weren't working and used them anyway.  I sure wouldn't have wanted to be the guy who had to unclog them all.  Chris was heading up to join us, and since he was just entering the park when we left the Visitor's Centre, we decided to meet him at the Two River's us a chance to buy some snacks and check out the camping gear.

We got back to camp and got Chris's gear unpacked.  It had stopped raining but was still cold.  Thankfully, Chris had brought himself two hoodies and I stole one.  I'd neglected to bring coats for any of us.  While the kids could hide in the trailer and play cards, I was out with the dog or cooking most of the day so it was nice to at least be comfortable.

Around 3, we started the fire and the charcoal for the turkey (actually it was only a turkey breast and two turkey legs.  With only six of us, we didn't need a whole bird.  Potatoes and turnip were cooked on the stove, as well as the corn.  We did carrots and brussels sprouts in foil packets.  Instant gravy and Stove top stuffing were super easy, and we added some coleslaw as well (as per family tradition.)  Dessert was pumpkin dump cake made with a gluten free cake mix.  It was tasty but had a strange gritty texture that may have been due to the change in cake mix...not sure.  Will have to try it with regular cake mix and see how it goes.  We also had Thanksgiving crackers, you know the paper tubes filled with paper crowns and silly toys?  Biscuit ended up swallowing one of the little pinecone decorations that went on them (and puked it up at 4:30 am on Tuesday) The wood had gotten rained on a bit, so the fire smoked like crazy while we were cooking.  The wind blew the smoke directly into the trailer, and all of us reeked pretty bad.  Bubbie had to wash her hair three times to get the smell out when we got home.

The weather wasn't very good for sitting around the fire, so we retreated into the trailer after doing up the dishes and taking the garbage out to the MOLOKS.  All of us were full and sleepy, but the rest of the camp ground was bustling with activity.  We did spend some time trying to find Squatch's toys from his crackers since they'd fallen out of his pocket while he ran with the dog near the beach.  We found one right away, but gave up on the other after searching Monday morning. Then Bubbie found it without even looking when we were getting packed up.

Breakfast on Monday was a different take on our normal Spam hash, using up the rest of the pea meal bacon.  After we got packed up, Mum and Dad took the kids to their house and Chris, Biscuit and I hiked the Track and Tower trail.  Chris has wanted to do this trail since our first trip to the park, so we were determined not to put it off again.  This is a wonderful trail, though not easy.  There's lots of hills to climb, lots of roots and rocks to pick your way over, and several muddy patches to navigate but it's worth it.  Not only is the view from the lookout spectacular, there's lots of little water falls and scenic forest to view.  I think the best parts were the area where the log chute used to be, and the little water fall where the rock looks like bear claws.

Biscuit was pretty tired after such a long hike, though he never stopped trying to gnaw on every tree.  He almost walked right off the edge of the lookout (thank goodness he had his harness on and not just the leash.)  As we drove back to get the kids, we stopped at Henrietta's Bakery, in Dwight but they were just hanging their "sold out" sign.

I'm so glad we finally got to do Thanksgiving while camping.  It was a little more extravagant than I imagined, but it was wonderful.  With some preplanning, it wasn't even that difficult to pull off.  Since we didn't have a whole turkey it didn't take long to bake, the turnip was pre cut at home, and instant stuffing and gravy saved us a lot of time as well.  It was also cool to be able to say we were at Rock Lake for the opening weekend this year, and the last weekend the campground was open.  We've got our sites all picked out for next year's opening weekend...and we're hoping to drag some family along with us this time.