Thursday, October 04, 2012

Family Outdoor Adventure Story in Ontario

We've had a cottage just north of Southampton, Ontario  for 9 years now.  I've always considered myself a bit of an adventurer, although it did take us 4 years to finally drive north past the lights in Sauble, but since then we have done a lot of exploring, or so I thought ;)

Early in July, the kids and I were at Sauble Falls, one of our regular hang outs, and I started talking to a young couple who told me about the Explore the Bruce: Adventure Passport contest. "Yeh yeh yeh .. I know the area pretty well and explore on my own", I was thinking, but then as they explained the program I started to get very intrigued.

The next day while shopping I saw one of the adventure passports and it caught my eye. I picked up a few and decided to investigate a bit further.  I Googled the passport, looked at some of the pictures and videos online, and immediately I was hooked.

The following day, my Daughter was off to camp for a week, and my husband was back to the big city to work for a week, so it was a mommy/son week with just my 10 year old and I.  He was quite excited about the passport so we decided to make this our little adventure.

We started close to home and headed for the Port Elgin North Beach .... Interestingly we go to Port Elgin all the time, frequent the beach and the ice cream shops and all the wonderful things Port has to offer, but we had never been to the North Beach!   This close to home and I've already discovered a little gem that I wouldn't have known about!  We followed the clues along the bike path and got our first punch .. Yay !!!  Heading south now to the Bruce Power Visitor Centre, again a place I've talked about going for years but never have.  It was a gorgeous sunny day, we had the roof down in the jeep and the tunes cranked and my son and I had a wonderful day just enjoying the drive !! Got our second punch.  The visitor centre was my son's favourite stop !! He loved the exhibits, learning about energy and the view from the balcony. We had added a little fun to our adventure by creating our own little photo scavenger hunt. I'm a photographer and my son is a budding young apprentice. We had a list of things that we needed to shoot along the way (Something green that makes you smile, someone wearing a red hat, bizzare mail box, beautiful landscape, 5 flags etc, etc.)  I tell you this because at the visitor centre my son pulled out his tripod and got all set up on the balcony to shoot a picture of what was truly a beautiful landscape.

From there we headed to Kincardine, got our clue at Lazy J's Ranch (Got some yummy honey while there) and then following the clue headed to the lighthouse. We got side tracked exploring the beach, shooting pictures, and walking along the main street. But I think the best part of these adventures is not just the final destination but the journey and the side adventures along the way.

Since our first day out adventuring we have recruited many friends to participate with us.  We've completed 10 of the 12 adventure stops and have made many wonderful memories along the way.  Greig's caves was such a wonderful spot and a hidden gem that we will return to every year. The drive to Sydney Bay lookout took us through Wiarton where we discovered The Green Door Cafe - fantastic food, great service, reasonable prices ... this will be one of our new regular stops!  We drive through Mildmay and Paisley every weekend in the spring and fall and never stop, and now finally I've been into the Cheese Haus and Back Eddies!  Walkerton was another gem, WHAT A VIEW! And on the drive to Tobermory we got side tracked at the Grotto and never did make it to the punch stop, just a wonderful excuse to head back up there next week.

Although I think the craziest stop was at Bannister Park in Sauble Beach. My kids and our dog ran ahead of us down the pathway.  We had no idea what to expect around the corner of the pathway.  Then suddenly I hear screams from my daughter coming from up around the bend. Turns out the boardwalk takes you over a bog, it's a beautiful view but not when your dog decides to run full tilt and jump off the end of the dock into thick, black muck!! He started sinking as if in quick sand and my daughter had to reach in and pull him out by his collar!  We were all covered!  Thank goodness there was a hose on the side of the community centre !!  Just another crazy dog memory to add to our list ;)

I thought I was an adventurer before I started the passport adventure, but what I've learned is you can only explore and adventure when you know where to go, and we were going to all the same places year after year because we didn't know of other new and exciting places to explore.The Adventure Passport program is such a wonderful excuse to start new adventures, visit new places, explore and create new memories with family and friends.  This has been a very special summer with so many new and wonderful stories to tell ... Thanks Adventure Passport !!

The Smith's !!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Sunrise Paddle ~ Lion's Head to Barrow Bay

Launching at Lion's Head Beach. Notice the seagull landing and the light from the lighthouse.

The first section of my Georgian Bay coastal paddle tour was from Lion’s Head beach to Barrow Bay. I had planned on heading out first thing when I awoke in the morning. That just so happened to be at 4:30 am. I figured to have a quick bite to eat and head out, why not? I thought I might be able to catch the sunrise past Lion’s Head Point.

Lion's Head Point
I didn’t encounter any cars on the way to the beach, or people there as I launched. The visitors to the Lion’s Head Beach Park Campground were still fast asleep. It was so quiet that it felt otherworldly. I launched at a quarter after 5 am and even though the conditions were prime, (little wave action and the wind at my back) I didn’t make it to the point in time. The sun rose at 5:38 am that morning. Thanks to some cloud cover right on the horizon I still got a couple of amazing shots as the sun rose through the clouds when I rounded the point. It was gorgeous!

Sunrise over rocks in McKay's Harbour
When I reached McKay’s Harbour the wind started to stir. The waves weren’t high but my speed slowed as my boat and paddle fought against the wind. Rounding Gun Point was exciting! In my limited experience, I’ve found that wind does funny things as it comes down over bluffs and at points. It seems to swirl, become unpredictable and almost makes the water churn. This was the most technical paddle I have encountered thus far. I kept my momentum up and my paddle in the water. It was so exhilarating!

My last shot, McKay's Harbour as I head to Gun Pt.
The camera went back in the dry sack.
 Once around Gun Point, the wind was stronger again, it was coming from the SW. The water calmed and turned to gentle rolling swells. My arms were getting tired at this point! I’m fairly certain that it took me the same amount of time to get from Lion’s Head to Gun Point as it did from Gun Point to my landing spot on Barrow Bay.
Approximately two hours after I set out, I landed on the rocky shore in front of a friend’s cottage in Barrow Bay. I was welcomed with delicious coffee and a morning chat. It was lovely. I doubt that I’m going to paddle many early mornings, but this kayaking trip from Lion's Head sure was worth the early start!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

SUP - Water Up the Nose

I recently lead Hendrik Breuer and his wife Monica on a media tour of Sauble Beach. Hendrik is a Toronto-based travel writer for many German publications and was on assignment in our area. While developing our itinerary for the day I had a brain wave to take Hendrik and Monica Stand Up Paddle (SUP) Boarding. Neither of them (nor myself) have ever attempted this activity before and I thought this would a really unique experience for them. So, I called Jack n Jill’s Surf Shop in Sauble Beach and got the board rentals set up.  

The day of the tour was not incredibly hot (about 23 degrees Celsius)  therefore not a  typical beach day but these two were keen so we went to pick up the boards. Jason, the owner of Jack n Jill’s was there to give us some tips on how to get started on the boards. 
  •  Make sure you have sunscreen on your face, back of the neck and on top of your feet before you go at least, but I would recommend putting it everywhere if you’re going to be out any length of time.
  •   Because the SUP is considered a vessel, you must wear a lifejacket and have a whistle with you
  • Make sure you have the paddle the right way.. if it’s backwards you are wasting a lot of energy paddling as most of the water is just slipping right off the blade.
  •  Walk out far enough in the water so that the fins of the board don’t hit the sand.
  •   Start by kneeling on the board.  Make sure you are in the centre where you will have your weight distributed most evenly. Choke up on the paddle (hold it in the middle, not the end) and paddle like this until you are comfortable.
  •   Paddle into the wind, again to maintain balance.
  • When you are ready to stand up, make sure you have forward momentum, this is what gives you balance. Stand up, again in the centre, in one fluid motion.

As close as a camera was getting to the water.
Armed with this information Hendrik and Monica walked the boards down to the beach. I’m not going to lie, the waves here high, but again, this couple was game to give SUP a shot. They set out; very brave indeed. Once out there they didn’t waste much time on their knees. Within minutes, they were standing up, even if it was for just a few seconds, they were standing up! There were some epic splashes, and I’m sorry I didn’t catch them on camera, but they waves were so high I didn’t want to take any camera equipment into the water. 

Monica and I drying off.

After a while and some successful stand ups Monica offered her board to me, she said there was only so much water up the nose she could handle. I on the other hand, seem to have a very high tolerance for water up the nose. I spent some time paddling on my knees and went to stand up. I’m not sure I was even up for two seconds until I came splashing down hard into the water. This happened several times until finally, I was up again and stayed up for about a minute! It was amazing, I encountered a couple waves (just two footers or so) in that amount of time and still remained on the board. It was only when I turned to give Monica the thumbs up that another spectacular wipe out occurred. No matter, after that ride, I considered my first SUP experience a success.

All in all, we had a great day at the beach! We got some awesome exercise and enjoyed the water; it was just gorgeous that day! It almost made falling in the water so many times enjoyable.  I simply can’t wait for my next SUP experience. 

When we returned the boards Jason said that the conditions were quite challenging for first time paddlers, so the three of us felt pretty good about ourselves. 

In closing, here is a tip from Hendrik and I: Do not wear your sunglasses, you will most likely lose them as we did. 

Monica and I rewarding ourselves with Funnel Cake!

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Kayaking Adventure on Georgian Bay

I moved back to the Bruce in January. In April I bought my first kayak. I’d been thinking about it for a long time, so I just went ahead and did it. I chose a Current Designs Vision 130. She is a 33lb Kevlar beauty! I chose this particular boat because I wanted something that I can, with moderate effort, load onto my car and go for a tour, whenever I want, without anyone’s help.

I soon discovered that I love paddling! It’s not really something I can describe, its serenity and exhilaration at once with a dash of I don’t know what thrown in. Whether it be with a few of the girls, just putting along shooting the breeze or a solo leisurely cruise along the shore of Georgian Bay, I’m in awe of this amazing place I grew up in and was smart enough to return to.

My paddling goal for this summer is to kayak the Georgian Bay Coastline of the Peninsula in its entirety. I have planned a mix of short haul two hour trips to longer half day paddles and a couple overnighters.
Lion's Head Paddling Georgian Bay

I’m clearly a novice paddler, and normally paddle longer trips by myself, so I don’t go out when the winds and waves are too high. My boat also doesn’t have a rudder at this point. I may get one before the end of the summer is out, but I might just see how I make out too.

I’ve yet to find my boat’s tipping point so I’m not sure what all she is capable of. I will do some practice with tips and rescues later on in the summer, I’m just waiting for the water to warm up a bit! Another paddling investment to be made before fall is a wetsuit...

Anyway, stay tuned for stories about my adventures on the Georgian Bay Coastline of the Beautiful Bruce Peninsula. Hopefully I’ll see some of you out there!

Your Adventure Starts Now