Summer vacation started nearly 7 weeks ago and the chaos has not died down since my four children have been off of school. For the first time since school ended we are finally all together with a quieting of pace. After missing our camping trip last year, we cannot wait to get back to Algonquin Park. It is here that we enjoy the peace and solitude of the tall pines and smooth water at Lake of Two Rivers campground. This will be the first year that we are dog owners and bringing our little Coton de Tulear with us. Jasper has been a wonderful addition to our family of 6 and camping with him has been less stressful than I had previously expected.
My husband has gone out in our canoe and kayak with his brother and niece, as well as our three girls and Jasper. My son left hours ago to hit the bike trails with his other his cousins. Just as I started to think I was alone for the first time in months, the boys returned and my solitude has been invaded. I can’t help but chuckle at the little things that amuse them. They are throwing a disc (frisbee) over my head as I am writing and trying hard to both concentrate and ignore them. I realize just how blessed I am and how full my life is. Although I long for an hour alone with my thoughts, and to not have to answer questions or plan the day’s events, I also love listening to the laughter that comes when the children get together with their cousins.
Camping with family, kids and in-laws, at Algonquin Park’s Lake of Two Rivers, has been an annual vacation for us for nearly 22 years. It has been the destination of choice for my husband’s family even before then. Something about this place draws us back year after year. If we miss coming to Algonquin in a summer, for whatever reason, we are always left feeling like we haven’t really had our summer getaway.
Sometimes, we talk about possibly becoming cottage owners’, then we decide it wouldn’t fit us and chuckle at our logic. We feel returning to the same place year after year, would soon lose its appeal and become boring rather quickly. Then we remember our second home, Algonquin Park, Lake of Two Rivers. It is here where all four of my children have learned how to ride their bikes without training wheels; where Jedi battles and boys wielding light sabers to become our conquering heroes and save the day. Here we have watched my son’s imagination come alive as he created swords from sticks for his little sisters and creatively strung a bow and made arrows from the wood around him. His ability to entertain knows only the limits of his creativity and it seemed in the outdoors, there are none. Ben has built a swing for his sisters using a rope and a piece of wood, he has hung a climbing rope to climb a tree and captured hours of entertainment and feelings of great accomplishment.
Stringing up a slack line meant our kids and their cousins could compete to see who had the best balance and who would make it across the farthest before falling. It is years of memories, banked up, of watching young faces sharing their excitement regarding the fish on the end of their line, and laughing while grandpa blames the banana someone ate for the reason why his line remains empty.
This is the place where our children and their cousins have grown up playing at the beach from the time they were in diapers, until now, with the oldest one’s entering university. Hiking the trails, riding their bikes, fishing, canoeing or kayaking the waterways, spending time with their grandparents and relaxing as a family away from the hubbub of daily life. The magic in this place is where my ADD mind gets an opportunity to relax, unwind and chill out!
The end of the trip comes all too quickly and we are forced to say goodbye to the neighbours we have met and to pack up our belongings for the trip back home. Before we call it a day and say our vacation is over, we stop in Barry’s Bay at the Valu-Mart to pick up some ice cream. Only in the summer will you find the 6 of us sitting in a grocery store parking lot or on a street bench, eating right from a tub of ice cream. This time we picked up a tub of Kawartha Dairy ice cream and a package of waffle cones. We must have looked quite silly with the ice cream tub on top of our pop up trailer and the kids lined up waiting for their cone, while Jasper, lay sleeping in the open doorway of the trailer. We drew a bit of attention and a passerby stops to ask with a smile, if the trailer is the dog’s house. We all laugh! This has been one fantastic family vacation. Knowing that there won’t be many more like this as the kids are getting older, I acknowledge the need to hold onto this family memory.
*All images courtesy of Ben Cheer, In The Moment Photography,