I got to spend the week wth my camp friends Chloe and Courtney. We had so much fun together!
This week away camping in Wolfie wasn’t terribly far away from our last as friends and co-workers that had noticed, made sure I was fully aware of our fourtune leading up to our get-away to our favourite campground in Ontario, Bon Echo Provincial Park. There was four weeks from the last week out, but then again I also didn’t expect to have three trips out in Wolfie for a more than a weekend each considering we also were on a Disney Cruise in May. It’s been a truly great year for family time together.
But, back to this trip… The weather we had forecasted called for absolutely no rain all week, heat and all kinds of sun. It was a perfect prognosis save for one detail: with the intensely dry summer it meant that a good portion of Ontario – and the provincial campgrounds that pepper the forested landscape – was under a fire ban. The only fires allowed were in controlled appliances like BBQ’s and stoves that were fuelled by propane and only for the purpose of cooking. Lucky for us the Jornitz’s came prepared with a propane fire pit that they double-checked with the park staff that it was okay so that we could still do S’Moreos!
Monday morning while the two families went down to the morning program put on by the wonderful camp staff I used the moment to sneak down to the lake and catch my first, real glimpse of Mazinaw Rock. Being that it was relatively early I had this vantage point to myself and was immediately stuck with thoughts of our friend Gabi – whom we lost to cancer a couple years ago – as the reason we found this park was because of her telling us about their trips to it and how much they loved the setting. We certainly do miss her but I won’t lie to you for a few moments there I felt like we were connected again through this place we mutually loved and as odd as it sounds felt her presence there with us.
Easily our favourite thing about Ontario Parks is the effort and thought they put into the programming for families. They teach you about conservation, animals, history and nature in a way that makes it fun and meaningful for kids and parents alike. Emelia always comes away from the week with information that makes her Poppa gleam with pride I am sure. Some of the parks do a better job than others, but Bon Echo is easily and consistently one of the best. They also have the most amount of it having scheduled programs in the morning at 10:00am and in the evening at 7:00pm almost every single day. The only bummer on this trip was that they didn’t have the Paint Like the Group of Seven one that Emelia fell in love with last year.
The weather was the hottest, driest we have ever had camping which made trips to the lake a necessity each and every day we were there. So-much-so, that there wasn’t a day we spent at least two hours in the lake—some days we even managed a morning swim and afternoon or early evening dip to boot! The temperature of the lake combined with the heat we were experiencing even got Danielle who normally can’t be convinced, into the water each day, the entire time we were in. And this year we committed to Emelia’s long term memory scenes of me picking her up and launching her as far and as high as I could in the air to splash down in the water, as every kid who has camped or cottaged with their family, should.
With the morning & evening programs and swimming part of our daily routine, the consistent event for the evenings was after we had dinner at our campsite, we packed up a few adult beverages and headed over to the Jornitz site on our bikes for an evening (air quotes) camp fire to roast marshmallows for S’Moreos. While the kids played, the grownups relaxed around the (air quotes) camp fire to the tune of a couple drinks and chatter. Listening to your kid happily play away with friends she made camping, and getting to have the same kind of fun with the same kind of friends you made was truly the perfect way to put to bed each day. A little later than maybe we should, each night we would say our goodnights and bike back over to our campsite (in the dark) to put our little girl to bed with ahead full of memories that I am sure will carry her into adulthood like ours did us.
Wednesday afternoon, in lieu of the morning program they skipped, there was 1:00pm special program featuring Speaking of Wildlife – an amazing animal outreach group that we had the pleasure of seeing last month during our stay at Presqu’ile. Thankfully we got to see new animals this time around including a turkey vulture, great horned owl, and a fox snake. But, easily Emelia’s favourite was Chanel a de-skunked, skunk. She even got to pet her and pretend she was a skunk as she volunteered to go up in front of the group.
This daily routine carried us through till Wednesday evening when you could tell in the way each of the girls seemed a little melancholy, as the Jornitz’s were only booked until Thursday morning and would be heading back to civilization – and more importantly, air conditioning. (their site was non hydro one so they were unable to use their AC unit in their trailer or 35 fans like we were in ours) As Wednesday wore on the sadness in the girls became more and more evident. We’re so fortunate to have made such great friends so happenstance a couple years back that we all look forward to the trips together each summer and try to maximize opportunities to camp together. As Thursday morning’s morning program came to an end, it was time to walk back over with the Jornitz’s to their campsite to say our goodbyes. It was heart-wrenching to watch the three girls hug and not want to let go, but I know none of us would trade these memories for anything. We waved goodbye and off they went.
The next two days were ours to explore. We spent Thursday renting a canoe to explore the lake and to take us across to the other side where we could hike the Mazinaw Rock trail that is about two and a half kilometres, full loop and goes up to the top of the 100 metre high rock wall. We’ve done it now every year we’ve been and it’s one of the things we look forward to it every trip. After doing the hike and spending another hour on top of that exploring the lake it was of course time to cool down again in the lake with a swim. We also made it out to The Maz an ice cream shop just outside the gates of the park for ice cream cones.
Our last full day, Friday was the day the forecast looked like we were going to need to spend it inside as there was an 80% chance of rain and several instances of severe thunderstorms all day long. However aside from a little greyness to the morning the day looked much like the previous four. So we kept with the same activities though Emelia opted to skip the morning program in lieu of going for a bike ride. We were able to spend a considerable portion of the day swimming and then made our last trip to the gift shop so that Emelia could pick out her memento from her Helping Mummy money she has earned this summer – she chose a stuffie version of a skunk that she named Chanel after the one she met in the wildlife program.
Saturday was all about packing up and heading home. And the best part of that was all rain forecasted for the day before was there for us in the morning as we tried to pack up Wolfie. We put a lot of things away wetter than we wanted to, but we had no choice. Despite the weather’s attempt to slow us down, we were still loaded, showered and out of the park right on the time we had anticipated leaving. We made the trip back and before we knew it we were home. As much as you never want a vacation to end, this one, did at just the right spot. We all went to bed, in the comfort of the our home ice beds and slept, deep meaningful sleeps.
This trip may go down in the books as one for the ages as it was just so great. There wasn’t one damper we could put on the entire time away and pretty much every memory I have has us all grinning ear-to-ear filled with happiness and laughter. Oddly enough, with it being so close to the last one it would be hard to think that I was really needing the time away with my two girls, but I found with every wonderful moment that I was beyond thankful for this trip in ways that I know it will live with me for years to come. And for Danielle and Emelia too. It truly was, an amazing week!
This week was pure heaven. The weather was absolute perfection, the best combo of heat but not unbearable, sunshine and cooler nights.
Bon Echo has quickly become our favourite camping destination, the scenery is out of this world and the programming on site is the best we have ever seen. I could go on and on about the amazing programs for kids and their parents but John has covered it perfectly. The staff they attract at Bon Echo are incredible, they clearly all love what they do because the staff comes back summer after summer. And even though we loved the programs the two previous trips I have to say this year it was even better. The staff is incredibly informative but they make it so much fun for everyone. Emelia adores them and for a once shy little girl she happily volunteers to be part of the program when they look for volunteers.
The week was just amazing, it was the perfect amount of things to do and just the right amount of doing nothing other than relaxing, swimming, visiting with friends, having a few grown up drinks and spending every moment we could with Emelia. I know she cherishes these weeks as a family as much as we do and I know that she is building her foundation of those amazing childhood memories that will carry her through her life. These are the moments she will share with her own children one day.
The entire week was filled with those memories that will carry throughout our lives. We spent hours playing games in the water (yes I swam), we went on hikes, bike rides, canoe rides, more swimming, wading in the water all trying to hold on to as many memories as we could. It was by far the best week of camping we have had, we could not have asked for better weather and could not have asked for a better week as a family. I hope Emelia cherishes these weeks together as much as we do, because as parents we know how fast childhood passes by. We are holding on to these moments as long as we can, there will be a day when our little girl won’t be a little girl anymore and I want to spend every second I can with her. This week was a perfect way to spend time together as a family doing everything we love to do together.
Tomorrow I am back to reality but still holding on to the last few weeks of summer. This summer as been one of the best we have had, I have had lots of time with my beautiful little girl, lots of time together as a family and lots of time with friends. Could not ask for anything more.