Better late than never! As Spring approaches here in Southwestern Ontario, let’s revisit our trip to Algonquin from last summer.
Algonquin is one of our favourite places. Kory and I have visited many times, and we even took the girls for a winter visit last year. This was our first time camping with our *very* mobile and fearless toddler. At the time of the trip, Em was 4 and Lyssa was 17 months. We went into the trip relaxed and we were prepared to change plans if a 9 day camping trip with 2 small kids proved disastrous. It ended up being a fantastic vacation – I wasn’t ready to come home, which is always the sign of a great trip.
We planned for an early start to drive the 600 or so kilometres to Algonquin and managed to be on the road just after 7am. Once again, we did not pack light!
We took our time on the drive, enjoying our breaks at the rest stops and letting the kids be kids. We have learned that we can’t be in a rush when travelling with kids, so we try to make the most of our travel days.
We hit traffic on the 400 (as always) and made it to our site 9 hours after leaving home. Our campsite was #14 at the Canisbay Lake campground in Algonquin Provincial Park. We like the Canisbay campground because it is set back a bit from Highway 60 so there is less road noise than at some of the other campgrounds in the park. Our site was lovely! Sugar maple, hemlock and yellow birch surrounded us. Kory got to work setting up the pop-up camper while the girls explored their home for the week.
It took awhile for all of us to wind down after a long day on the road. Tantrums ensued and both girls had a later than normal bedtime. We find that the first night away from home is the most difficult for the girls. I play white noise on my phone to drown out the campground noises and help lull the girls to sleep. Finally, both girls passed out and Kory and I enjoyed a campfire.
Day two started early – the toddler was wide awake at 6am. We took our time getting up – everyone was a tired, and yes, a bit grumpy. Camping obviously entails quite a change from our daily routine and we had a bit of an adjustment period. The bugs were pretty bad. Mosquitos were out in full force, both day and night, and black flies were around for the first part of the week. Our poor pre-schooler, Em, has inherited my tasty blood, and was a bug magnet. Unfortunately, she adamantly refused both practical clothing and bug spray much of the time. I do have bug jackets for the girls, purchased from MEC, and while they work perfectly, Em was not a fan of the scratchy mesh fabric on her skin. She is my sensitive girl – prickly fabric and strong smelling bug spray are not on her list of favourites. Lyssa seems to have lucked out – the bugs barely touched her (just like daddy).
We had brought along a play tent for the girls, both to contain the toys and give them a break from the bugs. On this first morning in camp, the toy tent was a huge hit! The girls played happily while Kory and I finished setting up the campsite and cleaned up after breakfast.
Interestingly, as the week wore on, then girls wanted nothing to do with the toy tent. They were much more content to play around in nature. On that first morning though, it seemed to remind them of home and help them adjust to camp life.
The Canisbay campground has a trail to the beach so we decided to go exploring that morning. Em lead the way, announcing that she was the “line leader”!
We were surrounded by ravens and the beautiful call of a Veery. Several warblers including Ovenbird, Redstarts, Magnolia, Yellow-rumped and my favourite, Black-throated blue, surrounded the trail in the morning light. It was one of those magical moments where I’m reminded why I love camping and hiking!
I returned to camp to get Alyssa down for a nap. After nap, we packed up and drove to the Algonquin Art Centre. It was the last day of the Tom Thomson exhibit to mark 100 years since his final spring in the park. I don’t think Kory and I have ever been to an art exhibit together, but we were thrilled to see the original paintings. The colours and depth were incredible. Photos were strictly prohibited though, so all we have are outdoor pics. Thank goodness once again for my ring sling which kept the toddler away from the art!
On the drive back to camp, Em got to see a moose off the side of the road! One of our favourite books to read is Up the Creek by Nicholas Oldland. The book tells tales about a bear, a moose, and a beaver. After seeing the moose, Emily wanted to find the bear and the beaver! Then she fell asleep in the car…
Once back at the campsite, this girls entertained themselves with sticks and a beachball while we cooked dinner.
Rain threatened so Kory hurried to set up the tarp over the fire pit. It rained much of the evening and night. I tried to keep our spirits up as we donned rain gear and cleaned up camp. Thank goodness, once again, that Lyssa still likes going up in the carrier. She refused to keep her hood on though!
Em, after her late nap in the car, stayed up to enjoy the campfire and roast marshmallows with daddy, which she delightfully called “marshing mallows”.
A thunderstorm hit when she was finally ready for bed, and she fell asleep holding my hand – another special camping moment.
Check out part 2 of our trip here!