Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Failed Winter Campout

Not all adventures end well. Having said that, not all failed adventures are bad. Over the course of the winter I grew more excited for a winter camping trip. Given the ages of our kids (7, 5 and 1) I knew that a full on winter camping trip was unrealistic. Doing anything in the cold with a not-yet-two-year-old can be tricky. She doesn't yet know how to tell us she is getting cold. She'll let us know when she is to the point of not being comfortable anymore, but we'd like a little more warning. In any case I pitched the idea of sleeping in the back yard in a quinzee to the older kids and they were really excited. Our five year old was keen to give it a try "as long as it isn't going to be cold". I'm not entirely sure what she meant by that, but one day I'm sure I'll find out.

Our backyard 'expedition' had to meet a number of conditions. The first was that it had to happen on a Friday or Saturday night. If the night out was going to be a horrible experience we didn't need the kids to be grumpy at school the next day. The second condition we had is that it couldn't be ridiculously cold out. I'm not exactly sure what we meant by 'ridiculously cold', but given how cold it was until recently, I'm not sure it really mattered. Don't get me wrong. I'd love to camp out no matter what the temperature, but we don't have the proper gear and I want this to be an experience that we repeat.

The ideal conditions finally materialized the first weekend in March and everyone was healthy. After school on Friday we started building the quinzee. We took a break for dinner and allowed the quinzee to settle before digging it out. I went back out once we had finished and started digging. Unfortunately, it was dark out. This meant that in my haste I accidentally dug right through the wall. Our quinzee now had a sky light. It probably would have been fine had I left it. Instead I decided to put some snow on it from the outside so we didn't lose our warm air. That was a mistake. The hole only got bigger. I gave up on the idea of sleeping outside that night and started building the mound again. Perhaps the following night would work.

The next night one of our family members was not feeling well so we had to postpone. Perhaps the following weekend would work. Unfortunately, the rest of us got sick and the temperature warmed up. Our pile of snow began to shrink quite quickly. Clearly camping out in the winter was not meant to be. However, all was not lost. The kids are now super excited to camp out next winter. Hopefully, they will be asking me next year rather than me asking them.

We're already looking forward to next winter!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Winter Day Trip To Ferris

Ferris Provincial Parks is a small park located just outside the town of Campbellford. We visit quite frequently since it is so close to home. I spend a lot of time skiing at Ferris and regularly try to convince the kids that they should come along. Last weekend we decided that we would take the entire family along for some adventure.

The parks offers 5 km of cross country ski trails and snowshoeing trails (officially, though I have skied quite a bit more than 5 km at a time). The trails proceed mostly along camp roads but there are a few sections that wander though the woods. One of my favourites is the Milkweed Trail (take the first possible left after leaving the gatehouse). It's a narrow trail through the woods with some nice up hills as you make your way to the top of a drumlin.

Milkweed Trail
 This trip was meant to be fun for the kids so we skipped the Milkweed trail. Instead we followed the trail up to the junction to the Valley View Campground, where we stopped for a break.

On Our Way
By the time we had stopped our youngest daughter was fast asleep in the pulk so I decided to do a loop of the Valley View Campground. After a short rest our son decided that he wanted to come as well so he caught up to us. We did the loop and made our way back to the rest of the group who were on their way to find us. We proceeded to the first campsite and had a snack.

Picnic Time?
Unfortunately, we stopped for a little too long and the girls started getting cold. Other than that we had an amazing day. The sun was out, the snow was perfect and it seemed like we had the park to ourselves since we didn't seen anyone else. It's a small park but when you're travelling with young kids, you don't need huge tracts of wilderness. Take the kids out on short outings to local parks and conservation areas. The memories and experiences will not likely be forgotten for a long time.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Winter Visit to Frontenac Provincial Park

A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of visiting Frontenac Provincial Park. One of the things that I like most about Frontenac Park is that it's a wilderness park that isn't too far a drive from many locations in Eastern Ontario. Don't let the term 'wilderness park' scare you off. It simply means that you need to use your own power to get to where your going. They have short hiking trails and campsites that are a short paddle from the access points. The park also offers great opportunities for longer trips.

In winter the park office is open so you can use the facilities, get changed or sit by the fire and have a bite to eat. The Friends of Frontenac Park even offer free hot chocolate on the weekends (They also offer some great Skills Training Program).The park has 10 kilometres of groomed and well maintained trails, which offer some incredible scenery. While there we skied a portion of the Corridor Trail which was narrow and curvy. Having said that our seven year old, who went the furthest, had no troubles with the trail. It was very peaceful and we felt as if we were in the middle of nowhere.
Corridor Trail
If you're looking for something a little on the easier side try the Big Salmon Lake Road trail, which essentially runs parallel to the Corridor Trail (Trail Map). It's quite a bit wider with two sets of ski tracks and a path for snowshoeing. There are some ups and downs but nothing too wild.
Big Salmon Lake Road Trail 2013
Although on this trip we skied, two years ago we snowshoed a portion of the Big Salmon Lake Road Trail. It was great. Our kids were too young to do the entire trail, but we still had so much fun. We snowshoed until the kids were tired then we plopped down in the snow next to the trail for a snack and some hot chocolate. The trail was wide enough that had anyone come by they could have still passed easily. There are many other options for snowshoeing. See the trail guide for details.
Snowshoeing Big Salmon Lake Road Trail 2103
Although we have been to Frontenac Park a couple of times there is still a lot to explore. You can snowshoe on any of the hiking trails and they offer winter camping. We will definitely be taking advantage of this opportunity at some point in the future. I get very excited every time I think of camping in such a beautiful winter wonderland. If you're feeling adventurous why not try their Camping Challenge where the goal is to spend at least one night per month camping in the park.
Boardwalk on the Doe Lake Trail
Overall, we always have a great time when we visit Frontenac Park. It is stunning any time of year, but there's something about the fresh undisturbed snow that makes it so especially appealing in the winter. We will certainly be back (in all seasons).