Some months back my husband and I decided it would nice to go camping with the kids and decided to enlist the support of some friends to help accomplish one thing neither of us had done before: camp together. Yes, my husband camped with my son and I had camped with both children but somehow it had never come to be that we had camped together..as a family no less.
Unsure of where to camp and when, friends of ours with children our age are seasoned campers and in the dead of winter I latched myself onto their already well planned trip. Well, it was not so much ‘well planned months in advance’ as much as just ‘planned’. I am learning in my older years (ha) that I dislike, or hate, making plans for something when there are hundreds of options available. Let me tell you, there are hundreds of camping opportunities in Ontario alone and so with two camping trips planned on their part (dates and parks selected – perfect)…here we came to tag along like a pesky little brother.
Travelling three hours northwest to MacGregor Provincial Park on Lake Huron the beauty of the landscape amazed both my kids and me. Coming from the suburbs of Toronto where the size of the average backyard is slightly larger than a postage stamp, the rolling hills of Ontario were a more than welcome sight. Farms were everywhere and they were making my daughter again profess her need and desire to ‘get away from the city’…permanently.
A three hour drive ended with setting up our home away from home on a lovely little site at MacGregor for 2 families. Away from the road, it was our own bit of paradise. Although it was not getting dark anytime soon, we certainly wanted to settle the kids (four) and dogs (two) not to mention the adults (three until the next day when we would be four) in as soon as possible. The main challenge was, as mentioned earlier, our family has camped but we certainly are not diehards. In addition to having no clue how to set up the new tent (thank goodness for my friend’s helpful husband and the indespensable assistance of my 7 year old), I was uncertain if our golden retriever would survive the night in our tent or be banished to the car. Fortunately Miss Maizy did not bother to bark once in the night despite many a racoon interested in us.
The next morning brought about the usual spraying of deet (the mosquitos are, as a friend says, “Yukon” big), running to the loo to freshen up with everyone else in camp and then a kids’ program about the local frogs, toads and turtles. The old kids were less than impressed, of course, but the little one thoroughly enjoyed it and, as they say, “when the kids are happy, so are the parents” … or something like that.
Later in the day we drove to Inverhuron Provincial Park so the dogs could join us on the beach. We learned while speaking to some of the dog owners we met around Port Elgin and Southampton that most of the beaches in the area are not dog friendly. However, Inverhuron had a portion of the beach designated for those of us with dogs and it was fantastic. The dogs both enjoyed the afternoon very much playing in the water with the kids.
The next morning it was much like groundhog day: wake up, grab your toiletry bag and head to the loo to freshen up. Breakfast was followed by a gorgeous trail ride with the kids and dogs.
The trail ride lasted a couple of hours with the kids and when we returned, despite the gorgeous weather we had all morning, the clouds began to roll in and they got darker and darker. And did I mention darker? The next thing I knew, my husband and I were throwing everything at the campsite into either a) cars or b) tents. The dogs were thrown into our tent and the two girls rode up in the midst of the thunderstorm our of breath, excited and ready to take care of their little (smelly) babies. It was sweet how the girls were cuddling the pups and wrapping them in towels to comfort them. I just kept thinking though “Now what towel can I use tonight and tomorrow?”