Wednesday, September 13, 2017

2017 Canadian Vacation in Cottage Country

I am working to embrace the fact that my blog posts seem to be running a month behind. I am trying to get back in the habit of writing again because there is so much I want to remember for later, but I am making an effort to give myself some grace for right now.

We hadn't planned to go to Canada for vacation two years in a row, but with my nana's declining health it felt like the right thing to do – even if it meant driving 1,000 miles with two kids and a dog. And so we did. It took 20 hours of driving to get there and 18.5 hours to get home.

We do not often visit the same place twice, but last year we had such a lovely time at our rental cottage on Lake Simcoe that we knew going back would provide another great experience for our family. 

Like last year, we kicked off our vacation with my family reunion. We actually arrived in the middle of the night and slept in a tent in my aunt and uncle's yard since our cottage wouldn't be available until the next day. We enjoyed two days of visiting with relatives before getting down to the business of doing nothing.

Though "doing nothing" is not exactly accurate. Again, this year we spent lots of time biking, kayaking, and swimming, but there was no specific agenda. There were naps to be had, playgrounds to explore, and new (and old) restaurants to try.

Located on the north tip of Lake Simcoe on Shingle Bay, the cottage we rented again is right on the water with its own dock. It is an ideal location for us because we could run out the door to swim, or launch our kayaks whenever we felt like it.

Jack really impressed us with his ability to maneuver his own kayak across the bay and Isaac is finally comfortable hanging out in the boat with us. Being out on the water was probably our family's favorite activity this summer.

We were also able to test the canoe that came with the cottage. We own a canoe, but it is heavy and cumbersome and tips more easily than our kayak. While the kids are little, kayaks seem to be a better fit for us.

The canoe was long enough for Daniel to comfortably take the boys and Sophie out for a spin. I tagged along in the kayak, which was a good thing because I ended up having to tow them back!

As for biking, we didn't end up riding our bikes as much as we did last year. The mosquitoes seemed extra fierce this summer, and after biking to-and-from dinner one night on the Oro-Medonte Rail Trail, we realized that biking next to a marsh on the way home was really just sacrificing our blood to the mosquito gods. No one enjoyed that part of the experience!

Daniel and I have talked about coming back to this area in winter because the Oro-Medonte Rail Trail is also used for snow mobiles and cross country skiing. One day!

So instead of the rail trail that linked us to town, we chose instead to drive our bikes into town where we could park and bike around the south shore of Lake Couchiching on the Trans Canada Trail.

This portion of the trail connects Couchiching Beach Park and J.B. Tudhope Memorial Park. The kids were thrilled with such good places to stop and play along the way.

About halfway between the two parks is a small skate park which Jack was dying to try. We acquiesced and he attempted to ride his bike over the ramps and down the half pipe. His first attempt on the half pipe ended in a fall, but he hopped right back up and tried again. He did fine on the second and subsequent attempts. As a parent, it's hard to watch your child fall (especially on concrete), but it was worth it to see him accomplish something so intimidating.

On this trip, we were able to spend one rainy afternoon visiting the OPP Museum, located at the OPP Headquarters in Orillia. Our boys loved dressing up like little policeman and playing with all of the toys that were available in the kids area.

On another day, Jack had the opportunity to ride a few rides at a local fair while Isaac napped. Jack tried his first roller coaster for little kids, but didn't love it. He actually asked them to stop it early! I pretty sure he preferred learning how to swing across the monkey bars and playing on the fantastic playgrounds we found.

We also spent an afternoon on a double date with one of my cousin's and his wife. We left all of our kids in the capable hands of my aunt and uncle. The kids got to swim and have fun with Uncle Mike and Aunt Barb while the four of us enjoyed a kid-free lunch, a stroll on the pier with ice cream and a little shopping before the rains came.

On our very last night at the cottage, the storms knocked out our power. We didn't realize it until pretty late at night since we had been outside enjoying s'mores and a last campfire. I ended up putting the kids to bed in the dark while Daniel loaded our car so we could make an early start the next morning.

I'm pretty sure we will be back to Cottage Country as they call it in Ontario. Campfires every night in the summer, biking, kayaking and swimming every day, this is our favorite kind of vacation.

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