On a sunny Sunday morning, we set off on our first ever summer vacation as a family of four – off to Awenda Provincial Park near Penetanguishene, Ontario, a 505km drive from home! We delayed our trip by a day as Lyssa, age 5 months, was getting over a mild case of Roseola. We were on the road by 9am, still a little nervous about the small one, but overall relaxed and in good spirits. At the last minute, Kory purchased a contraption that allowed us to attach our old iPad to the car, allowing Em to watch Daniel Tiger, Sarah and Duck and Peppa Pig videos in her rear-facing carseat (a lifesaver!). Lyssa mostly napped or chewed on soft toys, stopping to breastfeed at reststops. We pulled into the campground around 4pm – not a bad drive!
Kory and I got to work setting up the trailer, feeding Em, and getting the girls to bed. The evening felt really rushed and Kory and I both felt uneasy – we didn’t even get a chance to look around the park, or even our campground! It was a marked change from our pre-children days when Kory and I could set camp in a matter of minutes (even in complete darkness!). Thankfully we arrived to beautiful weather. Em had fun climbing and jumping off rocks, and Lyssa played in the pack n’ play.
Our campsite was lovely – we were surrounded by Sugar Maple, American Beech and Red Oak. We were right next to the privy toilets (we booked our site late into the season and it was the only one available) but they didn’t bother me and it was actually quite useful when we needed to get the toddler to the bathroom QUICKLY! The campsites at Awenda appeared to be quite large and fairly private. I imagine this park is especially beautiful in the fall with all the Sugar Maples!
Another treat at this campsite was the presence of Cancer root, a new plant for me! It is parasitic on oak tree roots and I had fun taking pics of it poking through the leaf litter.
The morning was rather dreary and rainy. We have an older pop up camper that Kory has lovingly and somewhat painstakingly restored. Although we plan on getting back into interior/backcountry camping when the girls are older, I was very thankful that we could all enjoy breakfast in the comfort of our dry and cozy camper!
Following our relaxing breakfast, we finished setting up the campsite to our liking and set off to explore Awenda! This park has a series of beaches connected by the appropriately named Beach Trail, an easy 4km walk. Baby Lyssa went up in my Tula baby carrier, and big girl Em occasionally needed uppy on daddy’s shoulders. If there is a must-have for our outdoor adventures, it is my baby carrier. My wraps and Tula have taken us far beyond the stroller trail while keeping Em and now Lyssa calm and secure. Awenda has some breathtaking scenery. I love the bright blue colour of the Georgian Bay water!
On our hike, Em enjoyed watching the chipmunks and made sure to point out every bird to daddy (an avid birder – follow him here)
We were treated with beautiful weather the next day, so we decided to attempt the 5km Wendat Trail, which loops around Kettle’s lake. Lyssa spent half the hike wrapped up on my front, nursed about halfway through, and then went up on my back. This will be our last trip with an exclusively breastfed baby, and I will certainly miss the convenience! Anyone that follows this blog through Lyssa’s first year (and beyond?!) will likely be blasted with baby wearing pics. I cherish every moment that I get to “wear” her, and nothing compares to the feeling of your baby snuggling into you for a nap.
In typical toddler fashion, Em ran the first kilometre or so, then needed to go up on daddy’s shoulders.
Daddy was stuck carrying his binoculars, camera + giant lens, and the toddler. Luckily, it was an easy trail! The trail mostly meanders through forest, with the vegetation blocking the view to the lake, but opens up at a wetland area with a bridge perfect for the curious toddler.
The trail continues on through the hardwood forest, with the occasional pine and some hemlock groves, to a beautiful lookout at the site of an old homestead. Perfect place for a snack!
After completing the trail, we went back to our campsite for lunch. Following our well-deserved meal, we packed up and went to the beach. We choose Beach #1. It is close to the parking lot (important with a toddler and all the beach gear). While planning our trip, we had heard that the beaches at Awenda were all rocky. We came prepared with water shoes but we didn’t need them at all! Beach #1 has a large area with plenty of sand. There are some rocks, moreso on the periphery, but the rocks are smooth (and perfect for the big girl to climb up and jump off of). This is a wonderful beach for children with soft sand and a shallow entry into the water. Another surprise was the relatively warm water – likely due to the HOT summer weather Ontario is experiencing this year. The small girl and I stayed in the shade while the big girl splashed around with daddy.
We fell into a pattern of hiking/exploring in the mornings, returning to the campsite for lunch, then spending the afternoon at the beach. We also did a day trip to Wye Marsh – a fantastic place that I will write about in a future post. Aside from that one rainy morning, we had fantastic weather. One afternoon at the beach, I was relaxing with the girls when I noticed some commotion – a water snake! Fellow campers ran over to watch this snake, and everyone was fairly respectful and let the snake do its thing. Kory did a quick consult via text to our knowledgable friend Josh (follow him here!) to confirm that it was a Northern Water Snake.
We also spent some time searching for an Eastern Hognose snake that had been recently spotted near the beach, but we were unsuccessful. Toddlers tend to have short attention spans!
Another great sighting was this huge Snapping Turtle that came right up to the dock on Kettle’s Lake. Em said, “His name is Crockie” (because he snaps like a crocodile)! I thought that was pretty witty (and awfully cute) for a 3 year old!
So there you have it – we’ve camped at one of Ontario’s 97 Provincial Parks that offer camping. We had a great vacation – an excellent first camping trip as a family of four. It was over far too quickly and no one was ready to come home (though the laundry was piling up…). I am so grateful for my husband and daughters and I’m looking forward to exploring Ontario’s Provincial parks with them!