Winter may be a time where you want to hole up next to a warm fire and drink hot chocolate, but it’s also the perfect time to go on a weekend getaway. Not only is it cheaper, but there are fewer people and who doesn’t love snow city scenes. So bundle up and pack your bags. Next stop is Kingston, Ontario.
I know that winter camping sounds like an oxymoron, but it can be done! Especially in the comfort of a yurt.
First of all winter camping offers an entirely different experience than summer camping. It is quieter around the parks as everyone except you is off hibernating. Even better there are no bugs, so no complaints here.
I recently checked an item off my 2016 bucket list: to zipline at the Scenic Caves Nature Adventures near Collingwood, Ontario.
On thanksgiving Monday, we set off for the adventures, expecting it to be pretty quiet. We were so wrong. I guess everyone else thought that a Monday holiday would be a quiet day, and showed up.
We reserved online for the Eco Tour, which includes a walk over an amazing suspension bridge that wobbles when you walk over it, a treetop trek along 10″ wide planks, a 300′ zipline to the forest floor, a tour through caves, and a 1000′ zip along the Niagara Escarpment. What a blast.
Our tour included a discounted price on the Thunderbird twin zipline, but it was an almost two-hour wait (see reason above). But thanks to the wonderful staff, we got a raincheck! This means that I’ll be heading out again for my turn on the twin zip next fall. Check it out here.
Instead of taking photos, I decided to use my Sony Action Cam to take some video. I think it turned out all right!
Check out my video here:
Ziplining is one of my favourite activities. Look out for some more video about my ziplining experience in Jamaica!
Where is your favourite place to zipline?
As I’ve expressed before, I actively take advantage of my mini two-day vacations – also known as the weekend – in order to scratch the travel bug itch while working full time. These mini-vacations are what I call backyard adventures.
Of all of the edible flowers, lavender has to be my favourite. I jumped at the chance to head to Niagara-on-the-Lake for the 2016 NEOB Lavender Festival – a festival all about that little purple plant.
I may or may not have lavender detergent, lavender hand soap, dish soap, body wash, perfume and more. Don’t judge, I said it was my favourite.
Whether you love the look or the smell, lavender is more than just fragrance. It can help with anxiety, sleep and of course you can add it to food for a fresh, earthy taste.
The festival offered two ways to enjoy the grounds. The island hopper pass allowed attendees to scope out the festival with a couple of treats for $5 and the second option, the world traveller, was $15 for all the items.
So what exactly do you do at a Lavender Festival?
Frolic in the lavender fields
Lavender starts blooming around June or July, so the festival was placed perfectly for optimal frolicking. Run your hands through the bushes or sit and watch the bees dance around the flowers.
Eat lavender items
Have you heard of lavender flatbread? Or lavender lemongrass square? How about ice cream with lavender syrup?
That’s right, if you like looking at the flower and smelling the flower then why not eat it right?
The festival offered the aforementioned items as well as delicious lavender root beer and a lavender Japanese raindrop cake.
Haven’t heard of raindrop cake? Well, it’s made of mineral water and agar and is like eating a solid, jello-y raindrop aka: like eating nothing. My reaction: “Slimy yet satisfying” (#LionKingReference)
Rounding the day off with a lavender macaron, truffle, and cheesecake, my stomach was as happy as a lavender coloured clam.
Cut your own lavender
Before I realized I could cut my own bouquet, I had one handed to me. It now sits in a vase on my bookshelf. I got roped in by its aroma and caved to buy culinary lavender, pillow spray for better zzz’s, shea butter to lather up, and lavender honey.
The fields were open for those adventurers who wanted only the freshest of lavender.
You could also roam the vendors selling amazingly unique items, attend a lavender related workshop or join a tour of the greenhouses.
I was very impressed by the festival, which is only a couple of years old. The organizers stated there were 7,000 people in attendance during the weekend; so obviously, I’m not the only one obsessed with lavender.
What has been the most interesting or unique festival you’ve attended?
Camping is the quintessential Canadian summer activity. Some may choose to go to the cottage, trailer, or rock the stay-cation, but camping has always been such an important part of my summer.
We here in southern Ontario only have 15 weeks of summer, from the unofficial start of summer on the May 24 long weekend to the end of Labour Day weekend in September. We cross our fingers it doesn’t snow because that has happened before (Aug. 2015 in Calgary for instance).
That’s under 30 per cent of the year. Of those 105 days, only 36 are weekends/holidays.
I try to make the most of those precious summer weekends outdoors. Aka: camping.
Here are five reasons why you should make camping an integral part of your summer, whether Canadian or not:
Family, friend or me time
Whether you camp alone, with friends, or with family, it is a time to step away from the normality of regular life and relax.
Being outdoors or cuddling up to a campfire are perfect ways to unwind. Let your mind go and just reflect.
Camping can be time to reconnect with friends and family. It can also let you reconnect with yourself.
Camping lets you explore your own backyard, a nearby campground, a provincial park, or even the backcountry.
Look at the map of the area before you go. I try to conquer the most I can in one trip because you never know when you’ll be back. Look for trails, points of interest, geocaches and more. Life seems to open up when you go out and explore.
Try bringing along your hiking boots or even a bicycle for those wonderful trails.
I really do need to state the obvious. Camping is a way to reconnect with nature. I mean, take the ritual of packing up your belongings to go set up somewhere else to call home for a few days. It’s very nomadic.
Camping doesn’t even have to be very far away from your house. In Ontario, we have 334 provincial parks, 295 conservation areas and five national parks to choose from.
Camping can bring on a new-found appreciation for the wild. You may even discover a new species of flora or even spot some amazing wildlife.
Of all the options for overnighting in a new place, camping is by far the cheapest. Prices range at Ontario parks depending on your needs. Add the cost of gas and food, it still doesn’t put too much strain on the wallet.
The best part of camping is the memories made. From jokes shared by friends, experiences shared by family or the vista you keep all to yourself, memories made on a camping trip last a lifetime.
I recently returned from a trip where I had the honour of making three new friends.On that trip, we were looking for geocaches and came across this amazing peninsula that looked as if it was a tropical beach. Stunning.
What is your favourite camping memory? Share yours by commenting below.
So I left a couple of days ago for my third cross Canada trip, but the first one where I drove. Compared to being a kid when your parents make all the decisions, I learned a few things about the long haul that I would like to pass on.
1. Make sure to get your car serviced before you make the trip. My car needed an oil change at 16,000 km and it was going to hit that mark on my trip, so I got it serviced early to avoid the headache. My service person checks everything out for me, they topped up all my fluids, rotated the tires and even changed my wipers.
2. Have a good idea of an itinerary. Knowing where you want to stop for the day, stops along the way, and other breaks will help you stay on track and on time.
3. Don’t be afraid of breaking the itinerary. Our unexpected delay outside of Sudbury, caused us to change our itinerary. It was a great move, as the motel in Wawa was a lot nicer that the one we were going to stay at.
4. Snacks are your best friend. We were able to save money by buying one lump of food and not buying breakfast, lunch and dinner. A cooler with protein shakes, carrots, pepperoni sticks, cheese, and water and a bag full of crackers, bread, wafers, bananas, chocolate almonds, and veggie stix were sufficient for our whole trip.
5. It’s good to stop every 400 kms or so. Stop for the bathroom, for a point of interest, or even just to stretch your legs. It was pretty easy to break up the trip between towns or points on interest
6. When packing your car make sure you are not cramped in the seat and have all your necessities within arms reach.
7. Podcasts. Even music gets boring after a while. Dad and I have a similar interest in history, so I downloaded the Stuff you Missed in History class podcast. It is quite interesting and most of them are only half an hour long.
8. It’s a great idea to stop at the first information kiosk when you pull over. We found ourselves on a new road that was not on the outdated map that we had, or on the garmin. Stopping at information will give you the most update maps and it can give you some ideas of where to stop in the province.
9. Keep your eye out for the roadside information attractions. There are some neat attraction stops along the highway and you get to learn a little bit of history on the way. Some of the ones we passed by are: the halfway point of the TransCanada hwy, the Arctic/Atlantic watershed divide, the longitudinal centre of Canada, the provincial boarders, and the boarder of where Northwest Territories was in 1877.
10. Keep your camera up front. There are so many amazing photo opportunities on the side of a highway, and you never know when you might come across wildlife. They could run away before you get that camera out.
(Posting it after-the-fact because, again, no signal, and the internet at the motel isn’t free)
Well, Holy Mackerel. What a day. We started the day with a light drizzle and a rainbow in Wawa and traveled to the sunny, warm Thunder Bay. We stopped at the Terry Fox memorial to stretch our legs and take a few pictures. You could see the Sleeping Giant rock formation. (I mean, sure, it kind of looks like a sleeping giant.) Before this we stopped at Terrace Bay, and found a really impressive gorge and waterfall, called Aguasabon Falls.
We decided to drive on Hwy 11 rather than Hwy 17, because it was a road my dad had never been on, and it wasn’t that much longer. The southern route follows the Ontario/ US border and was supposed to be more scenic than the northern route. On that route was the Arctic/Atlantic Watershed boarder which separates the flow of rives from one ocean to the other.
I definitely recommend taking that route over 17. It is filled with hills and cliffs and lakes. What was surprising here was the corner of Ontario. Fort Frances looked so much like home. It had hay fields rather than the Shield. It was flat and warm, and completely out of character for Northern Ontario. Hwy 11 swings north to meet up with the TransCanada and that stretch of road was stunning. We followed the major lake, Lake of the Woods, from the boarder to Kenora.
Let’s be real, my dad did most of the driving today. Not only is he more suited (and more experienced) to driving, but after we saw the second moose while I was driving, he told me I needed to sit in the passenger seat to take the pictures.
We finally reached the Manitoba border around 5pm CT, under an ominous sky. Soon, the land started to flatten and going 120km/h was completely normal. The skies opened up and let everything out. It was like driving under Niagara Falls. I missed the first gas station of Manitoba, not realizing the next one was at least 100km away. Well, I pulled into the next gas station, running on fumes. Honestly, I thought we would run out of gas and be stuck on the side of the road, with no phone signal (I thought that only happened in the movies), and in the pouring rain.
(Side note: Speaking about gas, WHY IS GAS 150.9 IN NORTHERN ONTARIO? Is it really that hard to get that it is a quarter more per litre than Manitoba?)
We’ve stopped in our planned place of Portage-la-Prairie, MB and will continue on to Lloydminster, AB tomorrow.