I make no apologies for the length of this post as it is a favourite topic of mine :)
Hello Everyone! I hope you've all had a wonderful weekend what with July 1st celebrations and July 4th celebrations. I'd like to say thank you again for all the kind comments everyone left on my last post, they have touched me very deeply. I'm always amazed that anyone reads this blog of mine when I don't do a whole lot of exciting things or write so beautifully as others do. But when I receive such heartfelt comments from you when I open up a little, it shows me that not all friends need to be here in my neighbourhood. A lot of you are going through, or have already been through, the sad territory of ageing parents and loved ones with dementia, and it's comforting to know I'm not alone in this. This virtual blog friendship has really changed my way of thinking about the internet, and I'm so very grateful that I can count you all as friends. Thank you ... you have no idea how much this means to me.
So now that I've confessed that I don't do a whole lot of exciting stuff, I will admit that camping (to me) is exciting, and this past week/weekend my family and I did just that. We went away for five days of camping in Eastern Ontario and had a marvelous time on the lakes and in the woods. Our destination was Charleston Lake, just north of Gananoque "The Gateway to The Thousand Islands".
This is a beautiful part of Ontario, and well worth the visit if you like admiring tiny islands, rocky shores and sparkling waters. The Thousand Islands dot the St. Lawrence River, and our American friends share this beautiful seaway that winds its way along through Ontario and Quebec, eventually opening up into the Atlantic Ocean. The Thousand Islands is home to many gorgeous homes both Canadian and American, which look like old money and lazy summers. There's one tiny island that is split between the two countries with the Maple Leaf waving on one side and the Stars & Stripes waving on the other. And when I say "tiny", I mean some of them have only enough room for a house and maybe a lawn chair on the side! We took a boat tour of the islands years ago and just loved seeing the beautiful waterways and homes. We didn't go this year as weather and time didn't permit. I noticed lots of bed & breakfast homes in this area too, many were gorgeous older homes along the St. Lawrence River. Charleston Lake has a similar landscape with the tiny islands and the backdrop of rocks and pines.
We were thrilled this year with our campsite. Although it seemed a little on the small side at first glance, once we got everything set up it seemed just right.
And this year we were able to get a site on the water!! It took some doing, but we've never had a waterside site in all the many years we've camped at Charleston Lake (or any campground for that matter). Off to the left of the above photo was a little trail that led to the water where we set up our chairs ...
... and parked our boats.
The hammock got strung between a couple of trees too, and it was just so wonderful to lay in the hammock with a good book. I'm rereading "The Hobbit" again and found the woodland setting perfect for this book. Do you ever choose a book to suit the setting if you're travelling? I do :) I love reading when I'm camping and find it makes the book all that more enjoyable if it "fits".
Seriously, couldn't this bright little stand of birches have come straight from the pages of "The Hobbit" where the elves live?
But there was more to just sitting by the water and reading. We wanted to take our new canoe out and break it in. It was such a pleasure to paddle this new lighter canoe. Every time I went to pick it up I unconsciously braced myself for a heavy weight (which is what I did with our old 65 lb canoe), but was surprised each time as it lifted up off the ground light as a feather!
We did lots of paddling, and really got a good feel for how different this canoe is to our old one. The wind was high during the days, but the sun was hot, so we decided to go for a day-long outing, so packed our lunch, fishing rods and swimsuits. We paddled to a small inlet and pulled the boats up on the other side of this floating bridge.
This bridge has seen better days, and I think the heaving ice through this winter has warped it beyond its usual safe limits. The park has closed it off, but of course that only makes everyone want to climb onto it. My husband and son set out to fish from it ignoring the heavy creaking and groaning and swaying(!) the bridge made when pushed by wind and water. It's maybe a bit difficult to see, but the sides are all twisted and the bridge is sitting under water in parts.
|The turkey vultures were enjoying the hot breezy thermals all day ... you can see one just above the trees.|
I don't care for fishing, and spent my time walking along the shore in my flip flops with the camera. I highly recommend walking along boggy, piney ground in flip flops because it really makes you slow right down and take care with every step! I didn't want to accidentally step on a black rat snake (we saw a nice 4 ft one in our campsite), and I didn't want to step on a soft bit of ground and go right through to the water. Going slowly and cautiously makes you see things you may not have spotted otherwise.
This little area along the shore was so enticing.
I always want to go around the next corner to see what's there, or in this case, across the log to see what's on the other side. Curiosity killed the cat ...
... but satisfaction brought him back!
Such a mysterious little spot, I took quite a few photos, but will only try your patience with a small sampling.
Ferns, moss, pine needles and black water ... a recipe for heaven on earth.
I would love to be able to visit this beautiful area every day.
A nicely chewed tree by a beaver (below). I guess they topple these bigger trees to get the smaller branches at the top for their lodges. I wonder how long it takes a beaver to fell a tree.
After the fishing venture was over, we continued to another inlet within this inlet and found a spot for lunch on this island (below) made up of three large rocks ... Duck Island Restaurant!
I rate this restaurant as five-star. There was lots of free parking ...
Our table reservation was ready and waiting for us ... and the dog was allowed to join us.
There was a spectacular 360' view ...
It was very private and quiet ... we really felt like we were the only ones dining there ...
Our waiter was a bit on the quiet side, but what a smile!
And after lunch a tour of the gardens was recommended. There are an assortment of exotic native plants ...
... and natural looking sculptures ...
The place is quite old (millions of years old!), and the rock foundations are starting to show their age. But we enjoyed our lunch (the food was delicious!) and then we headed to our next island destination for an après-dinner swim.
My husband doesn't care that much for swimming and only stood in the water. My son and I jumped right in! Actually, ok, I have to be honest with you here. I have a fear of jumping off any ledge into deep water. I did this once when I was a foolish teenager and ended up so deep in the water I totally panicked and couldn't get back up to the surface fast enough. I've never been able to bring myself to do it again. So although I could've easily jumped off the edge of the rock ledge surrounding this island and been in refreshing water instantly, it probably took me about 20 minutes to build up my courage to sort of fall face first into the water ... so graceful. My son was just as bad. It's that fear of the unknown ... and the fact that we had that grinning fish skull in the kayak taunting us ... that made us a couple of chickens and then we started telling each other what we thought might be in that there water. I know. pathetic. Once in I didn't want to come out of course.
We sat on this island and swam around for a couple of hours because we were waiting (and hoping) that the wind would die down enough for us to paddle back. The route back was directly into the wind. I should've taken a picture of the waves, but didn't. There were white caps all across the lake, and we knew we either had to wait till late evening for the wind to calm, or we'd have to battle it out and try to paddle back. We did the latter. Well! I tell ya ... wild. ride. I think we bonded with our canoe during that paddle. The canoe was rising up high on one wave and then sent crashing down in the gullies between with water pouring over the front and in on both sides. Up and up and CRASH! down. Over and over again. I've never had to paddle so hard in my life! My son was actually enjoying himself in the kayak which seemed to be cutting through the high waves with ease. He was soaking wet too when we got back however. I have a new respect for my brave little "Mattawa" canoe :)
The wildlife at Charleston Lake is not particularly large in size. The literature claims that we are "in black bear country", but we've never seen a bear in all the years we've camped there. We do see lots of critters on a smaller scale though. There are lots of ducks ...
|Last year's loon, but I just love this photo :)|
|I didn't even see the heron hiding in the reeds until I downloaded this photo.|
and turtles, and the park's favourite black rat snake (we saw one, but no photo) ...
turkey vultures everywhere ...
But by far, the best thing to see in this park are the ospreys. There is a man-made platform that the ospreys return to each year (below). The adult birds add more sticks to the huge nest every year.
This year there are two babies in the nest, and the adults were kept busy fishing for the hungry chicks. We saw the adults with fish in their talons a couple of times, but didn't get a photo.
The adults get quite agitated when anyone passes by in their canoe, so we just paddled by and took pictures as we went. It makes it tricky to keep the camera steady while in the canoe.
Such a magnificent bird ... one of my favourites ... and I love the chance to see them up close like this whenever we visit this park.
Well that pretty much concludes my camping trip. We had such a relaxing and enjoyable time, and look forward to returning to this spectacular park again next summer.
Always a pleasure to visit here :)
Thanks again for stopping by!
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