I pass Kitchener’s Stanley Park Natural Area every day as I head into work. Its trail follows the Grand River all the way to Bingemans and dotted with plenty of fishing spots – although I’ve never come across anyone actually catching fish. I hang out here every few months to observe the changing seasons and Autumn is a bit of a magical time of a peaceful time in this natural oasis.
Category: Nature and Landscapes
“Let’s go and shoot some fall photos” a friend asked a week ago. With my camera freshly returned from being repaired I was itching to run it through it’s paces; spending some time outdoors in the fall weather sounded like a fantastic plan. Although Southern Ontario has plenty of spots to catch the trees turn colour, we decided to explore a part of the province that we don’t normally get to see. We headed to “Grey County“, an area that covers Mt. Forrest to Georgian Bay, and take the “Beaver Valley” driving route that we found on the Grey County tourism site.
During the Labour Day weekend a friend and I did a road trip through Northern Ontario. We avoid the major highways (aka any of the 400 series highways in ontario) in order to take our time and stop at any place we found interesting. The trip was to encompass McGregor Provincial Park, then making our way to the west end of Manitoulin Island, with a final night at Grundy Lake Provincial Park just south of Sudbury.
McGregor Provincial Park where we just wanted some place to lay our heads down before heading off to catch the Chi-Cheemaun ferry that would bring us to Manitoulin Island. The park is quite small compared to the Pinery, but each campsite if fairly secluded so if you’re looking for a quiet time outdoors this is a good park to check out. The campsites are have a bit more gravel than expected, so pitching the tent is a bit more difficult than first expected. I’d recommend bringing a mallet or finding a rock to hammer the stakes in properly.
The highlight of the trip was to take the Chi-cheemaun ferry from Tobermory and head to the Mississagi Lighthouse and Campgrounds on the far west side of Manitoulin Island. It’s not currently labelled on Google Maps and we made reservations be sending messages over Facebook. Facilities are clean, there’s fresh water and firewood available for sale from the lighthouse staff. The lighthouse is still active, but we couldn’t venture inside as it’s being renovated – hopefully our road trip next year will allows us to to see the improvements! Each campsite is furnished with a fire pit, a good sized cooking grate to cook and picnic tables. Our site happened to be nestled within a grove of pine trees with a ten steps away from gorgeous views of Lake Huron.
By being so far west of the island, cell service is non-existent and it’s so dark that you can see the Milky Way.
Grundy Provincial Park
Our last stop on the road trip was Grundy Provincial Park, south of Sudbury. I visited the park about a decade ago and always wanted to camp there; unfortunately I didn’t recall how crowded the campsites are as well as how easily noise traveled. We even had a giant raccoon steal a package of hot dogs, but luckily we had extra meals planned for an emergency. For day tripping, the park provides a few nice beaches and cliffs to jump off of. If you’re going to stay a few nights, I’d recommend going about an hour more south and stay a Killbear. All was not lost, however. We still had a great view of Grundy Lake with the ability to see the stars clearly at night.
The Labour Day weekend provided a final opportunity to explore the great outdoors with the family. This time we decided to try camping at the Pinery Provincial Park just outside of Grand Bend – about a 2 hour drive from Kitchener, Ontario. We’ve always heard that this park is famous for its 10 kms of beach on the shores of Lake Huron, rolling sandy dunes and a 21 kms of rare forests that is great for hiking. It was time to find out if all of the hype is real.
We booked a camp site in Burley Campground, on the far west of the Pinery. Sites are nestled within an old pine forest providing privacy that you normally can’t find in many other car camping areas. Washroom facilities, showers and running water is a short walk away and for those who need electricity I’d recommend heading over to the Riverside area where you can find hookups as well as laundry facilities. Our particular site, 1087, was extremely clean and with tall trees protecting us from the heat of the hottest weekend of the summer. It’s also a short 10 minute hike through sand dunes to arrive at a secluded beach for you to enjoy. Even without swimming gear my wife and kids decided to charge into the waters of Lake Huron to cool off! I was thankful for the limited number of spectators as my 5 year old son decided to take off his shorts to enjoy the water in his underwear.
When it comes to car camping, I could never find reliable information of whether camp sites include grates to cook – not to mention if they’re actually going to be there. It’s one of the reasons why I always pack one just in case. I’m extremely happy that at the Pinery you’ll find that their fire-pits are well equipped. Each campsite has a well constructed metal pit with a sturdy iron grate that is attached to the pit for cooking. We made tinfoil dinners, hotdogs and pizza on the fires allowing us to save our propane cylinders.
Activities for the kids are plentiful with trails that are suitable for biking. The Pinery has a well equipped rental centre where you can find all types of bicylces including tandems. With the Old Ausable Channel running through the park there are penty of canoes to rent as well as hydro bikes and kayaks. If you’re lucky you can tag along for a free 1 hour guided paddle where you’ll learn about the habitat and native wildlife that is being preserved.
The beach by the Burley campground is fairly rocky and due to Lake Huron having higher than normal water levels this year you’ll find very little sandy areas. However if you need sand, and most kids do, head over to the day use areas where you’ll find a narrow strip before your toes touch water. But don’t be distraught with the lack of a beach as there are advantages with water levels being so high – the water is warm and it’s shallow for 15 metres before it reaches your chest.
I’ve read that National Geographic has rated the Pinery as one of the best places for sunsets in the world. I’ve yet to find an actual reference, however the statement is not hard to believe after witnessing it myself. Just after dinner on Saturday I went for a quick hike up the dunes to witness what I’ve only seen in Caribbean. The skies were painted in an orange and pink hues that is hard to describe, providing just enough light to enjoy a few extra moments of water play on the lake.
Watching the sunset, and the time as I didn’t want to hike in the dark back to camp, I was curious of how the shores of Lake Huron would look like at dawn. Getting up before breakfast I returned to the same location and wasn’t disappointed. Instead of skies being used like a painters canvas, a golden hue covers the land. My attention was drawn to driftwood scattered on the beach with their character being drawn out by the morning light while the morning mist was slowly being burned away. Photography enthusiasts should definitely make a pilgrimage to this provincial park.
The final activity that my family did was a short hike along the Riverside trail which follows the Old Ausable Channel. It’s a short 1 km loop and for tired kids – just enough to get them moving before complaining about sore feet. It’s well maintained and level and you’ll get to see many different species of birds and frogs along the way.
The Pinery is a very family friendly park with enough activities to keep your family busy without having to drive through traffic to get to Algonquin. Well groomed paths for bicycles, many hiking trails are wheelchair accessible and of you can’t go wrong having a beach along the shores of Lake Huron just 2 hours away from Kitchener. The park is open during the winter and I’ve heard that you can catch Bald Eagles hunting – maybe I’ll be adventurous enough to head out to see what I’m missing.
There’s something wondrous about the beauty of Alberta, Canada. It’s national and provincial parks have such a variety of terrain it’s difficult not to be in awe by mother nature’s handiwork. From badlands of Drumheller to being surrounded by mountains I’d be looking for ways to spend more time in the outdoors.
The river views are from Bow River that flows through the town of Banff. Some of the mountain views were taken from the top of Sulphur Spring as well as a hike on the Grassi Lake Trail close to the Canmore Nordic Centre.