Family Camping: Where The Heck Do I Start?

Family Camping-Where The Heck Do I


Have you toyed with the idea of going on a family camping vacation, but you have no idea where to begin?


Anyone can call and book reservations to a resort, and book a flight (but wow, the $$$ involved). Even with discounts and last minute bookings, it’s still pricey!


A GREAT vacation does not have to be that expensive!


Sure, planning a camping trip is a little more work, requires a little planning, forethought and some physical labour when packing up that vehicle, but nothing will bring your family together, and sync your internal system better than a trip to the great outdoors.


The first question is when to begin?


That’s an easy one. Begin NOW.


In MANY parts of Canada (and the northern U.S.), there is still snow on the ground. Weather is still unpredictable in March, and kids are still going on ski trips in the great northern part of our fabulous country. Doesn’t matter. Start now. The sooner you book, the sooner you have it out of the way and can begin planning everything.


Where to start?


Location, location, location. Book the venue. But don’t book until you’ve done some research.


First time campers, or even campers who just haven’t done this very often, they need to see what’s out there. You need to find out WHERE to camp.


Questions to ask yourself:


Do we want to be a fair drive away from home? (best option for seeing some wildlife you haven’t seen before)


Do we want to camp closer to home? (best option for those with little kids, you’ll just feel safer knowing you’re not 6 hours away from the closest hospital – JUST IN CASE)


What kinds of facilities will make our trip the most enjoyable?


Do the campgrounds we’re interested in have ratings or reviews?


Do the campgrounds we’re interested in have activities our family will be interested in?


What are the policies and rules of campgrounds we’re interested in?


These answers will help you decide on your best options. When you narrow it down to two or three campgrounds, it can be difficult to make that final cut. So how can you decide?


Ask friends and family if they’ve ever been. Ask around at work. If they’ve been there, what did they think?


If you’re still undecided after all of this, a simple eenie, meenie, miney, moe will do the trick. Pick one and go for it. BUT, before you do that, see if you can look at a campground map. Look for washrooms, other facilities, the beach, high-traffic areas (avoid if possible), and pick a few campsites you might be interested in.


And finally, have your credit card ready and pick up the phone to make your reservation.


Once that confirmation email comes through, you’ve cleared the first hurdle. Congratulations, you’ve just booked your family’s camping trip!

Getting Lucky

Getting Lucky

From time to time, I seem to surprise my husband of 18 years with some random new fact about myself. It always catches him off-guard, and he looks at me as if to say, “Who ARE you?”

I don’t mean to do it, it just happens. You would think after being together for so long, we would know everything about one another, right? I thought so too. Even at this very moment, I think there is nothing he doesn’t already know about me. But I am sure, in time, some small detail about my life will pop up and he will be shocked again.

We spend a LOT of time talking, about everything, or so it would seem. We lounge outside, on long, humid summer evenings, enjoying a drink together and we just talk. Sometimes he dominates the conversation (which throws me because he’s usually fairly quiet and laid back) and sometimes I’m the one spilling my guts, but regardless, we thoroughly enjoy these talks with one another.

On one particular evening, a few years ago, as the summer sky was darkening, he had a sudden urge to throw a baseball around. We had mitts and gloves in the garage and so he took them out… convinced me to play some catch. He stood a few feet away from me, thinking he was being respectful of his girl, and not making me step out of my comfort zone, and probably not wanting me to embarrass myself with my poor throw.

I smiled at him and asked that he move back… go on further down the street. He looked surprised but moved back a few steps… and I had to repeat myself again. When he hadn’t moved away far enough, I decided to back up to a point where I was comfortable. He seemed unsure, but as I wound up for the throw, memories of playing baseball on the field as a kid in gym class came back to me. I LOVED playing baseball when I was younger. It was my favourite game, and I was often part of the group playing it in the summer with a group of neighbourhood kids.

My husband didn’t hold back with his shock as the baseball sailed easily and swiftly through the air. He caught it just as easily, because he was on a baseball team around the time that I met him, and I went to a few of his games. We tossed the ball around for awhile after that, and he said he couldn’t believe he didn’t know, after all this time, that I could throw a ball. I laughed at him… he didn’t know me in my tomboy days. I could climb trees and hop fences to match ANY boy in my neighbourhood when I was young. I built forts and rode my bike through dirt fields, and came home sweaty and filthy, with more than my fair share of cuts and scrapes. Games of tag and man-hunt were played daily through my summers as a kid. I happily and almost giddily, shared this with him. I honestly thought he knew, I thought I had told him!

A little while later, the song “Inner Ninja” came out, by Classified. I loved the song, mostly because it was catchy… I don’t remember exactly how the topic came up this time, but it must have been through another one of our evening conversations. I shocked him again when I told him that when I was in grade six, I had taken a karate class, which was hosted by a teacher at school. The classes were held before school started for the day, and all I remember is yawning throughout the class. I had the moves down but was still surprised when it came to sparring at the end of the course, in order to get the next belt. I was in grade six, I couldn’t fight for the life of me, so the moves that I had been practicing, along with my yawning, did me no good and I failed epically.

But my husband didn’t hear ANY of the bad stuff I was telling him. He didn’t hear how I had FAILED the sparring match. Oh no… he immediately got our boys’ attention and asked if they knew their mom was a ninja.

Are you kidding me?

*sigh*

Inner Ninja became my theme song after that. Whether I liked it or not. Good thing that song was catchy.

To conclude my story of hidden lifetime tidbits of myself, when I began learning about blogging last summer, I kept it to myself for awhile. I like to think things through, turning it over and over in my mind. I needed a topic… and it began with camping (because of my deep-rooted love for it), and then it progressed to family. Two of my most favourite things in the world… even before wine and chocolate!

When I explained to my husband that I wanted to start a blog and write, maybe make a living off of it, I got that look from him again. The “who ARE you?” look, as he said, “Really?”. I told him I’ve always loved writing (honestly, he should know just by my post-it notes, they are practically mini-novels most of the time!). He had no idea, and I still can’t figure out how he didn’t know.

English was always my favourite class in high school, and I had considered the idea of writing novels like some of my favourite authors; Danielle Steel, Stephen King, and later on down the road, David Baldacci, Jodi Picoult. Wouldn’t it just be awesome to not have to work a traditional job and to get paid for writing?

More ideas and research and reading, and finally I am here. I have, what I think is, a good blog. A place I can call my own, to write and share as much or as little about myself as I like. This is the place I go to when I can’t sleep in, and then my husband gives me hell for being up so early… but I can’t help it. It’s almost therapeutic. It’s mine to share and I have things to say and it’s beginning to pay off. Literally.

I received my first pay for writing, last weekend.

It’s changed everything. It’s changed how I feel about my full-time job. It’s changed how I feel about my future. I am not stuck anymore. I have options. I have VERY REAL options. There are people out there who will pay me to do what I love to do.

Does anyone have any idea how freeing that realization really is? I feel like I can finally breathe.

It is freedom.

And while it’s just a small step, it’s a start. Baby steps are still steps and that is all that matters.

If you’re reading this, I want to personally thank you for being a part of my journey thus far, and I truly hope you’ll stick with me as I navigate through whatever this will become!

The End of a Beautiful Day

The End of aBeautiful Day


The sun is setting behind the great pines of Algonquin, and the humidity is easing up. Dinnertime has come and gone, and everything has been washed and put away so that bears don’t come looking for snacks.


Four folding chairs are placed around the fire and everyone is freshly showered and in pjs. My husband pours me a glass of wine and kisses me on the cheek as he hands it to me, right before cracking open a can of Canadian for himself. The boys have marshmallows out, and I’ve set up chocolate bars and graham crackers for s’mores. The roasting sticks wait for their calling.


A loon calls out from the the nearby lake, and we all stop talking to listen. What a beautiful sound.


One by one, the stars begin to appear in the darkening sky above us, as the fire crackles. We can faintly hear the fires of fellow campers doing the same. My youngest son exclaims that he saw a shooting star and we encourage him to make a wish. He thinks hard for a second and then smiles. Done.


We discuss what we’ve done today as a family. We began the morning with a nice little hike on a trail close by. We packed some water, granola bars and bug repellent just in case, and we took a lot of stunning photos. We made sure to get some family shots, too. We took our time on this hike. We enjoyed the smells, and the views. We even brought a few peanuts for the chipmunks on the trail.


We came back to the site and made soup and sandwiches for lunch, before heading out on our bikes for a bike ride. It was a good workout, being a little overcast made the ride a little more comfortable. We saw a bear along the way, as she munched on blueberries behind one of the campgrounds. She paid no attention to us, she was all about snacking.


When we came back, the boys did some exploring on their own while I headed for a nap. I fell asleep listening to kids playing, squirrels chirping their warnings and crows clucking. My husband also gave into his exhaustion.


Tomorrow is our beach day. It’s supposed to be sunny and very warm. They’re calling for 30+°C and it’s going to be so relaxing. We all love our day at the beach. Caleb will be building sandcastles and moats, and Tyler is talking about swimming out to the island. I have a feeling it won’t happen, it looks closer than it is!


The sun has disappeared completely now, and we can spot the nearly full moon through the trees. The sky is lit up with stars. Millions and millions. I look up to enjoy them, and see two satellites gliding along. I cannot explain the amount of peace and happiness I feel, being here, with my family.


It feels like I’ve come home.

Photo Challenge – Optimistic

photochallenge-optimistic


January is the month that we have to turn vacation requests in at work. I’m usually excited to do it but it’s getting more and more difficult to work around everyone.


This year, we have a wedding to attend in Ottawa (super pumped about that!) and Tyler’s spending 6 weeks at the military college for cadet camp in Kingston. We’re planning a big camping trip, trying to arrange for several families to attend, while still holding out for Tyler’s return from camp. If it all goes well, I’ll get to see my parents for the first time in person in two years. I’ve really, really missed them. It’s really difficult to be away from them.


So I took on the task of checking the calendar, checking dates and trying to map out how we were going to do this. With Tyler away for so long, we will be putting Caleb in day camp for a couple of weeks and figuring out other arrangements for at least two other weeks. That was our big project this week… and I get pretty excited about planning our family time when it’s still cold and dreary outside.


Devin’s vacation has to be approved first, before I can hand mine in… he has to work around his co-worker’s vacations because they have seniority, but for me, it really doesn’t matter. I am fairly lucky that way!


Yes, I can almost smell the Algonquin pine trees and the evening campfires… I can hear the birds chirping, kids playing and wood being cut for fires. The optimistic was of looking at it is that it’s only 6 months away!


Optimistic

Right Here, Right Now

righthererightnow

I’m snoozing in the front passenger seat of our Journey.. The vehicle is fully packed, with our bicycles on the back, and we’re driving through the twisty roads of cottage country. The radio is on, but my husband has it set to Slacker, because the stations don’t come in well out here.

We’ve made two pit stops, and two coffees have done nothing to keep me awake. I’m tired. It was an early morning… getting everyone up and ready and out the door by 8:30 a.m. The excitement for the week ahead has finally taken it’s toll on me.

My husband slows the vehicle down, and turns the right-hand signal on… the kids remove their headphones. We’re here.

We park off to the right-hand side of the campground gate. The vehicle is silent except for the kids, moving stuff around, as their second-wind kicks in. I open the window and breathe in, deeply. Oh that smell of pine, campfires, and sunshine. Can sunshine have a smell? Oh yes, it can here.

My husband returns to the Journey with some papers, and a big smile on his face. MY second wind just kicked in.

This is going to be an awesome week.

Write Here, Write Now

Camp Supplies Checklist

Camp Supplies Checklist

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So, in some parts of the world, it’s nearly SUMMER! I am so jealous, I just have to tell you! The birds chirping, and flowers blooming, the trees are all nice and green again! And you get to look forward to SUMMER CAMPING! You lucky things!

We’ve been using this same list for about 13-14 years… I typed it up for a friend who was more into five-star camping than actually being outdoors (which I respect!), and kept it. Over the years, technology has changed, so items on the list have changed over time.

It’s been downsized along with our vehicle size, and re-prioritized constantly.

I’m offering my family’s list to you, for free! It’s downloadable as a .doc file so you can totally edit it to suit your family’s needs.

(You can left-click to save it as a .doc file on your computer.)

checklist

You’re welcome!

Why Camp At Algonquin Park?

Camping at Algonquin

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My family and I are Algonquin Provincial Park’s biggest fans, and we have been going there for generations, for peace, rest and relaxation. I wanted to share some of the best perks about spending time there and seeing the vast beauty that this area has to offer.

At many of these venues, there is a log book for people to sign their family names, with the date and where they are from. I am always taken aback that people from other countries and continents… I just think it’s so cool to have visitors from so far away, and I love that they made Algonquin their destination! I could probably qualify as a travel agent for Algonquin Park, that is how much I love it!

I’m sharing the top ten reasons to visit the Park, the links will open a new page for you to check out what the Park has to offer. Enjoy!

10. The. Chipmunks. Are. Adorable.
9. The Logging Museum
8. The Visitor’s Center
7. The Portage Store
6. Biking
5. Hiking
4. Canoeing and kayaking
3. The historical aspects of the land and it’s development
2. Stargazing
1. The breath-taking scenery is, by far, the best reason to visit!