For some of you, this photo is familiar - a typical angle of Algonquin Provincial Park. We spent three nights in the park, specifically Lake of Two Rivers campground. One of my favourite artists is Tom Thomson of the Group of Seven, and seeing these pines on rocks reminds me of his paintings and our friend Floyd's metalwork. Rocks and trees like these portray a kind of beauty that is strong and resilient. Inspiring and encouraging.
As we packed for the trip, the preparations were almost overwhelming. Sterile water and formula, feeding tube supplies, sleeping bags, food....
And then there's the creative way we travel - a van that dwarfs our camper, even when it is "popped-up." Rachel can't handle long trips, so she needs a stretch. That adds to our travel time, challenging all of us to be patient.
Is it worth it?
Even though we need to pack and prepare for ordinary and extraordinary scenarios - must have enough marshmallows and must bring spare g-tubes - we anticipate and savour the trees, the fresh air, and the space away. Sure, there was an awkward moment when a fellow camper shared his displeasure at the feeding tube supplies being cleaned in the public laundry tub, but that was minor compared to the major smiles on the kids.
We took in campfires with the whole family, marshmallows, s'mores, and pie-iron brownies, and we all heard the wolves serenading us between 9-10 at night. The type of bedtime lullaby that brings shivers down the spine but a feeling of awe for the song of the wild.
We camped with Tim and Jess Brand (my sister) and their kids: Caleb, Nella, and Aleah. Our kids entertained each other, and Jess and I shared stories of our years camping as kids in the same campground years ago.
Camping is a unique holiday - You share a sink in the communal washroom with complete strangers while brushing your teeth before bed, and when it rains all night, you hear stories being exchanged the next morning of wet sleeping bags and puddles in the tent.
Conversations drift through the trees when you share a forest together. Not only does it bring strangers together for a good story, it's also a time for humour. Like when you might be bold to the family across the way that is yelling at each other while scooping water out of their tent with hatchets (?) - and offer them your brother-in-law's poop scooper masked as a shovel. You don't tell them it is a poop scooper because they shouldn't be yelling at each other. (Yes, the scooper was relatively clean.)
We did have rain one night, and Emily woke up in a puddle. Yet the morning that followed brought sunshine, and by nightfall, everything was dry again. The kids loved picking blueberries that the bears left behind, and even those of us who don't really like blueberries devoured these wild ones.
We found a few accessible trails and took in the sights. We took time to learn about the plants, and we even caught a glimpse of a mother moose with her two calves.
We enjoyed time at the beach, and Janneke loved hanging out in the dinghy when the water was too cold.
Camping creates creative thinking: using the cooler for a table to play games under the tarp in the rain.
Rachel and Janneke seemed to enjoy the outdoors, but their first two nights were a challenge for us. By the third night, we had figured out what worked, so we hope that means we are better prepared for the next trip. The challenges include finding ways to care for the kids without stressing our backs, keeping them warm on the cold nights and dry on the wet nights, and we are also challenged in trying to sleep through their sounds. Both girls don't sleep well, and when they are awake at night, they make noises that distract tired parents from sleeping deeply.
But sleepless nights seem to fade from the memory when you can throw rocks with your kids into Lake Opeongo.
Or visit the logging museum and see your kids grasp the idea of stewardship as it relates to forestry, logging, and land preservation.
I loved taking Em and Soph out for a canoe ride on Lake of Two Rivers. We used the same canoe I grew up paddling, and it was awesome to share the lake, island, and view with my girls that I remember so fondly. Lake of Two Rivers holds many good memories of camping with my family when we were kids, so it was a treat to share it with my girls.
We ended our time with a visit to Tea Lake Dam, and left with a promise to return.
Our trip couldn't have been possible without the help of our respite worker Christina Teeuwsen and the Brand family. Christina took care of Rachel and Janneke, and Jess and Tim helped us with meals, a canoe - and made us good coffee.
It was a short but sweet holiday. The appetite for more camping has been whetted, and we remain optimistic that more camping trips are ahead. It is intimidating to accept the fact that we cannot camp alone; camping for our family means other people have to camp with us. Oh, the pressure to be fun to camp with! Each trip is a learning experience, and we try to improve our plans based on mistakes made. We know we will need to change the sleeping situation for Rachel and Janneke, but we love how the joy of the trip supersedes the frustrations of the moment.
Peace to your homes.
Soli Deo Gloria