Charleston Lake – July 12-15, 2018

We woke up Thursday morning to another beautiful sunny day at Sandbanks. The girls played around the campsite while Kory and I packed up the pop-up camper. We jumped in the car to start the 152km drive to Charleston Lake Provincial Park, stopping at the On Route just outside of Kingston for lunch. This would be our third campground this week, having already stayed at Presqu’ile and Sandbanks. We made a detour through Kingston, took a picture of the street sign for the Tragically Hip Way and continued on our journey. I love Kingston and had hoped to stop and walk around a bit, but the downtown was busy and under construction. There was nowhere for us to park with the trailer. I’m looking forward to tenting it on our next trip!

We arrived at Charleston Lake, near Lansdowne, around 2:30 in the afternoon and quickly found our site, 333. What a beautiful site! We had our own trail down to the lake, right off the back of our campsite! This park has a nice variety of trees. Our site was surrounded by White Cedar, Sugar maple, Black cherry, Ash, White Birch and Elm.

Canopy shot!

The landscape at Charleston Lake is gorgeous! Smooth rocks and windswept pines surround the lake with lots of islands and bays to explore. I find this landscape so soothing! Family friends of ours have a cottage in the region and I spent some time as a kid in a similar environment. I was filled with childhood memories of swimming, canoeing and hiking. I love it! From our site, we could walk to 2 beaches,  including one with canoe rentals, the vault toilets and the showers- perfect! 

The girls and I walked over to the beach while Kory finished setting up the campsite. The beach is great for small kids – shallow, calm, and sandy.

Beach at Charleston Lake

This beach obviously doesn’t compare to the beaches at Sandbanks, but I think Lyssa felt more comfortable in the smaller environment. We put on her puddle jumper and in she went, floating around and trying to swim like the big kids. Kory joined us for a while and we had to drag the girls back to the campsite for dinner.

Even though it had already been a long day, we wanted to explore this beautiful park so we decided to push the limits and take the girls on an after dinner hike. We drove over to the Boardwalk and hiked the Quiddity trail to the lookout before turning around to try and beat the bugs (and Lyssa’s bedtime!).

Sisters on the Quiddity trail

This is a lovely trail! The first part is accessible and the boardwalk has lovely views of the wetlands. A friend of ours told us to look for Rat snakes along the boardwalk, but that can be difficult with small kids running around. I finally remembered to bring the real camera with me and I had a great time taking pics in the evening light.

View from the Quiddity trail

Once back at the campsite, we helped the girls to sleep and then snuck away to the lake, testing the limits of the baby monitor. The water was like glass, reflecting the gorgeous colours of the setting sun.

Beautiful view of Charleston Lake from our campsite

I feel like I didn’t truly relax on this vacation until a full week in… this beautiful campsite certainly helped! Soon, the swarm of mosquitoes found me and I retreated to the campfire. There are many forest fires burning in the province and fires at the park were restricted to 5-11pm. We were thankful that it wasn’t a complete ban.

A dry summer across much of Ontario

The next morning was partly cloudy and we decided to rent a canoe. We had to drive to the Visitor Centre to pay for the rental and pick up our life jackets and paddles, then back to our site to walk to the beach. We loaded up the canoe, a big, heavy bullet proof Scott Canoe Echo, with some snacks and the camera before putting in right at the beach.

Girls in the canoe

Charleston Lake is beautiful! We paddled around, exploring bays and looking for turtles as Caspian and Common Terns soared overhead. Snacks entertained the girls for a bit but eventually we let them out on a small island to stretch their legs and explore.

Exploring an island

Back in the canoe, Kory and I were having a great time but the girls started to grow restless. At one point Lyssa went headfirst into the lake. Her life jacket was on, of course, and Kory quickly got her safely back into the canoe. Are second-born kids always more adventurous? Back to the beach we paddled.

The fearless 2-year old

The afternoon was spent eating lunch and playing at the beach. We met a family with a 5 year old girl – Em quickly declared they were best friends. The girls played so well together, with Em’s new friend trying to teach her how to swim.

Back at the campsite, Kory took Em fishing.

Fishing right from our campsite

It was really nice to have the lake right behind our site. I didn’t want a site directly on the water because the girls don’t know how to swim so having a short trail to the lake was ideal. 

The next morning, we were excited to do some more hiking. We choose the Sandstone Island trail, a 3.3km trail marked as “moderate” on the park guide.

Sandstone Island trail

Though we managed the trail without difficulty, I would consider parts of the trail to be a bit more challenging. At one point the trail ascended an old waterfall! Thankfully, we had the Tula for Lyssa. Em hiked the trail like a pro, although she did get tired and whiny by the end. Lyssa hiked part of the trail too. One of my favourite moments of the trip was when Em helped her little sister navigate rocky sections.

Happy family on the trail

My next step will be to ask Em to carry her own backpack and water bottle for hikes. This is a beautiful trail! The sandstone formations are really neat. Em was excited to explore the small cave area.

Em loves exploring caves!

The afternoon was spent on the beach, of course! Em met up with her new friend again and had lots of fun.

The next morning, we woke to again to beautiful weather but we had to pack up. It was time to drive home. We snuck in one last view of the lake and Em spotted a decent-sized snake on the trail right off our campsite!

Rat Snake

Kory confirmed with our friend, Josh (who has an excellent blog), that it was a Rat Snake! An awesome sighting to end our trip!

Charleston Lake is a lovely park with lots to do and explore. The canoeing and hiking were both beautiful and challenging and the beach was perfect for kids. It was a great place to end our trip.

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