Thursday, July 10, 2014

Breaking in the Canoe

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.

Charleston Lake
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 mean how cool is this ferny little paradise?  I had to balance along this sturdy log (below) to get to the next section ... it got quite narrow at the far end, and I didn't like the look of the black ooze under the grasses and ferns on either side, so I went carefully feeling a bit dizzy.

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 ...
and loons
Last year's loon, but I just love this photo :)
marsh birds
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!
May 1 thru Oct 2,  2014


  1. such beautiful photos Wendy! It looks like you had an amazing time. Brought back a lot of memories of camping when I was growing up and then with our children. Everything looks very wild and secluded. Love the close-ups of the ospreys. The sunset is stunning! Glad you enjoyed your new canoe. I remember the old heavy ones!

  2. Wendy!!! Golly!!! First I want to say that it is always a treat coming by your blog! I am drawn to nature and your posts are so very rich and beautiful! I am glad that you all got a water view this year! And I'm glad you made it back with those strong winds! I can only imagine how strong they were through your story! My goodness! You need to work for National Geographic! Your shots are out of this world! You really capture wildlife like no other! Loved this and I am glad you all had a great time! Nicole xoxo

  3. Your photos are amazing. I can see why you had such an amazing time!

  4. Oh, how beautiful! I really enjoyed coming along on your wonderful adventure! I can't tell you how nostalgic this blog post has made me for my childhood home in New England - the little ferny glens, the water-lily ponds, the gorgeous pines and rock outcrops - they just bring me back to that time. What an amazing place and so nice to see all the birds (especially the loon), and the views of the water. The sunset photos are amazing. I so enjoyed seeing these and so glad you had a lovely, relaxing time. xo Karen

  5. What a stunningly beautiful place and all the better for being captured in your photographs!! The pictures of the ospreys and the sunset are beyond wonderful Wendy, indeed all of your animal/bird pictures are amazing. You do also write beautifully and gave such a great description, I really felt as though I was walking/paddling along with you and you were chatting away as we went. So glad that the new canoe and you bonded, it sounds as though although the return journey home in the wild weather was tricky it made you very confident in the abilities of the new canoe! That floating bridge is a very unusual structure, I hope that they get it fixed as it must be great to walk over with some wonderful views. I loved everything about this post, especially how happy you sound! xxxx

  6. What a superb camping trip! I love camping but my MS, and having autism in the family has stopped this I'm afraid. I love nothing better that to be in nature, it's very frustrating that I can't go on long country walks anymore. Love the fresh air, eating my lunch sat on a rock somewhere, the sights and sounds of Mother Nature....refreshes the soul! :) x

  7. As beautiful as a picture postcard... Wendy !! oh ! Canada, our amazing province :)
    have a wonderful weekend- Gaia

  8. Where do I start? The amazing photos,or the description so vivid I could hear loons calling,the trees whispering, and the gentle splash of paddle on water?
    Loved it!
    Jane x

  9. What a wonderful post! I'm so happy for you that your new canoe is working out. I remember that you were sad about getting rid of the old one, even though it was so heavy. It sounds like this new one is very stable since it handled the wind and waves so well. If there had been a snake in my camp site I would have vacated. Immediately. Ha!

  10. OHMYWORD Wendy! That photography is breathtaking! I feel like I was there with you guys... although I'd be useless, I am not one for the whole canoeing thing.. ugh the work with oaring and the like! I am more of a sit in the back with a parasol, kind gal! hehe! What a fab post :) Hazel x

  11. Looks like an awesome time! I love canoeing, we went last weekend as well but just to a little lake nearby so the scenery wasn't nearly as spectacular.

  12. What a wonderful trip this looks-what an adventure! You have some beautiful wildlife and glorious woodlands-how peaceful it must have been. Fabulous photos Wendy, xx

  13. What a perfect time to have a camera and take all the photos you want! Amazing scenery of a place I've never been. Sure makes me want to travel! Love that old skull....I think! hahaha! Hugs, Diane

  14. What an amazing trip. I'm not keen on camping but think I would have loved this. Wonderful photos Wendy.

  15. Oh wow Wendy your photo's are amazing what a fantastic place, I don't know what you are talking about when you say you don't do anything exciting or write as well as others, your posts are always lively and full of interest, my life seems dull in comparison, would you believe I have never been camping apart from a caravan holiday as a child if that counts lol. I agree the Hobbit was the ideal book to read in those surroundings and I think you were very brave to fall into the water, I think I would have been like your hubby and just put my feet in. Have a great weekend. :) xx

  16. This post brought back memories. 42 years ago we spent a couple of days in Gananoque on our honeymoon and took a cruise of the islands. It sure is nice to see more of the area through your lens.
    Our youngest daughter and family have a trailer similar to yours and just love taking off for various parks on the weekend. I think Arrowhead is one of their favourites.
    I've been keeping an eye on our ospreys and young but can't get the angle for shots like you have - very nice!

  17. I totally loved reading your post and every one of your photos was just great. I LOVED the shot of the loon. When i was a girl we spent lots of time in Minnesota and there were so many loons. I just love them! I have never been up in your area, and you have inspired me to come and visit . it looks so gorgeous. Know you had a wonderful time!

  18. Wendy, your photos of Fananoque are absolutely beautiful. The camping trip sounds like fun. MY hubby and I love to canoe.. Beautiful birds and scenery. Great post! Have a happy weekend!

  19. Hi Wendy,

    Your beautiful photos of Charletson Lake brought to mind the Group of Seven, and I instantly felt their inspiration, after viewing your images of this spectacularly gorgeous landscape and waters. What fun you had camping and canoeing in such lush and colourful surroundings! Quiet time, courageous, splashy dives and striking species of birds, ducks and loons, I'm sure, made it worth the drive into this dreamy world, worthy of novels! Thanks for taking us along and sharing the wonder!


  20. Amazing photos! You have some great scenery to photograph.....I can see you are really enjoying your summer, Wendy!

  21. Just totally awesome. Thank you so much for sharing and all your lovely support over at Chalky's.


Thanks so much for leaving a comment, it's nice to know when you've stopped by! :)

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