I had the best week ever! I got to play with Chloe & Courtney for five whole days. And then this weekend I did the same with Beatrice & Ursula.
First things first: The trip home was riddled with some of the worst traffic we had ever experienced on the other side of Toronto. We left Stittsville with the outlook of a five and a half hour journey home that we knew was going to take a bit longer as I wanted to sidetrack to Sharbot Lake to visit the Cardinal Cafe at the suggestion of my friend Jim who we were staying with in Stittsville.
But, after that jaunt we started making our way down the backroads to the 401. Twice the maps on my iPhone rerouted us to avoid traffic. By the time we connected to the 401 at Napanee, we were knee deep in traffic that was stop and go, bumper-to-bumper on a highway that usually sees cars zipping by at one hundred and thirty clicks. That spirit-crushing backlog of cars was our reality for the next four hours that it took us to get from Napanee to Ajax on the edge of Toronto—a distance that normally takes us an hour & a half to two hours.
To say this was our best outing yet in Wolfie would be the understatement of the year. And keep in mind that a good portion of the first four days we were in pretty steady rain. But, having the Jornitz family (that we met last year at Sandbanks) there with us and a pair of girls always wanting to play with Emelia was a dream. And it didn’t hurt that we got along very well with their parents. We spent probably more time on their site and at their fire pit than we did on our own in those first five days.
Bon Echo park is absolutely stunning. The Mazinaw Rock was the backdrop to what I know are going to be memories for our family for quite some time. But the company we kept and seeing Emelia shed her usual shy skin and become this outgoing and bubbly little girl holding court both the girls close to her age as well as their parents is going to be the piece that stays with me forever. It as truly a delight to see Emelia find her sweet spot.
The park itself had amazing programs every single day in the morning as well as the evening geared to families. We took in both every single day that we were there. They also had a forty-five minute pontoon boat tour of Mazinaw Lake and Rock that we did. Despite the wet weather our first five days with the Jornitz family was packed with all sorts of fun! Even the mosquitos that ate us alive couldn’t quash our fun.
On Canada Day the Jornitz family went home and we set to enjoying our last three days at Bon Echo as a three piece. Ironically that day the weather turned beautiful too. The highlight for us was a four-hour canoe trip we took in Mazinaw Lake where we got explore the pictographs up close and take the hour-long hike to the top of Mazinaw Rock, a hundred metres above where we docked the canoe.
All of a sudden we were at Friday, packing up for the second part of our amazing trip which was bringing our trailer down the road to Stittsville to visit our good friend (and his family) Jim Bryson. By early afternoon we had Wolfie gussied up to Jim’s beautiful home studio: Fixed Hinge. And in very short order (read: three minutes flat), Emelia and Jim’s daughters were thick as thieves filling water balloons and testing their aerial abilities on the girl’s backyard trampoline.
It was also nice to finally meet Jim’s lovely wife Lisa who has jokingly referred to Jim and I as internet boyfriends since Jim & I have been friends for some years and Lisa and I had never yet crossed paths. She is an amazing wife, fantastic mother and one incredible cook. We’ve seen Jim many times in our neck of the woods—it was finally time we returned the favour. Their home, his family and their friendship was a truly wonderful way to close out our first big vacation of the year.
Jim and I have an alarming amount of similar tastes—I ended up picking up (unknowingly) the exact same brand, colour and style of eyeglasses as he has for example. But, as our two families hit it off so well, and knowing that there was another family (The Jornitz’s) who just so happen to live minutes away from Jim, as Danielle and I talked on the way home – as we often do – we decided that if Apple ever needed me to move, Ottawa and it’s two stores, is high up on the list, if not in first place. Stittsville is a wonderful town, we have friends there, and there would be Bon Echo park for Wolfie to frequent, two hours down the road.
It’s nice to have all those things together along with a daughter who before she even met Jim’s family, said she was okay if we had to move to Stittsville. As we prepped to leave today Jim’s daughter and Emelia were already mapping out their next visit together. I can’t think of a more ringing endorsement of a vacation than that! And the first week of August we return to that very same piece of Ontario as we have our second week-long run at Bon Echo.
This week was heavenly and I am so sad that it is over. Even with weather that was miserable and the bugs that were eating us alive none of that stopped us from having the best camping trip we have had to date.
The weather was constant rain, on and off rain for the first 4 days, it was much lower than seasonal temperatures and this meant a breeding ground for mosquitos. Poor Emelia was the target, she is still recovering from what seems like hundreds of bites all over her body. We have been in heavy rotation of allergy meds from reactions and anti-itch cream by the gallon. Even with that she was the happiest on a camping trip as I have ever seen her and honestly barely complained considering.
The programs at Bon Echo were incredible, they had a children’s program every morning and a family program every evening. I have to say my favourite one hands down was the Group of Seven program where Emelia got to learn all about the famous group of artists and finish the program by painting on the same beach they may have painted on seventy plus years ago. And her painting turned out incredibly—we plan on having it custom framed and hung in the house.
But the true highlight of the week for me other than spending time with incredible friends was the canoe ride we took that allowed us to get up close and personal with the rock (or mountain and ocean as Emelia referred to them), to see the pictographs up close and then climbing up the Mazinaw rock to the peak to get some of the most stunning views of the lake imaginable. Thought next time, we’ll pack proper hiking shoes, a picnic lunch and some toilet paper for the pit toilet at the top that was short on TP.
Hands down for provincial parks to date this is easily our favourite. It is compact enough that you can easily explore together on your (amazing folding) bikes (you find for a steal on Kijiji) but large enough that you do not run out of things to do over a week of staying there. The scenery around us was breathtaking and we could not get enough of the views of the rock which was a short five minute walk from our campsite. Especially in the morning and in the evening when the loons would serenade us!
Although were were sad to say good-bye on Friday to the park we were very excited to move on to our next stage of the family vacation. This time spending time with our friends Lisa, Jim and their girls Beatrice and Ursula. I could not get over how instantly the girls clicked. They were off playing within seconds of arriving and the two year age gap between Emelia and Beatrice did not stop them from finding a ton in common. The girls were attached at the hip for the entire weekend.
In fact Emelia spent much of the time on our very long drive home writing lyrics and album art for their band so they can practice next time they see each other. They’ve already got one song recorded, and Emelia has already got a good chunk of the album art done!
So needless to say this was the family vacation we needed, we got to spend a ton of time together, lots of time with amazing friends and hours and hours in nature. All of our favourite things all in one week!