13 Great Reasons to Go Camping

13 Great Reasons to Go Camping

School is out here and the weather has finally turned warm.  Yay, summer has arrived!  With the arrival of summer comes the time to plan summer adventures.  For Greg and me, our thoughts turn to camping.  Going camping is one of our favorite summer activities.  We are reminiscing about past camping trips and planning where we will go this summer.

Is camping part of your summer rituals?  Or is camping something you haven’t done in a long time? Maybe you’ve never gone camping?

If the thought of camping is new to you, here are 13 great reasons to go camping.

  • Being outside all day: So much of our daily life happens indoors. Going camping means spending the days outdoors. Each day is filled with different sights, sounds and smells when we spend it outdoors.
  • No schedule: While camping we eat when we are hungry, go for a walk when we feel the urge, go swimming when we are hot, go to bed when we are tired, get up when we are awake. There is no schedule, no need to do something at a specific time. I don’t have that freedom in my regular days, so really enjoy this when camping.
  • Swimming: Who doesn’t love going for a swim on a hot summer day? Here in Ontario most campgrounds are on or close to a lake or river, allowing lots of opportunities to swim while on the camping trip.
  • Wildlife viewing: Some of my greatest wildlife viewing opportunities have happened on camping trips. Last summer’s highlight was seeing a beaver swimming in the river, just ahead of our canoe. We were going in the same direction, so we followed him for probably about 5 minutes. Our presence didn’t seem to bother him, as he just did what he was planning. Typical wildlife encounters on camping trips include rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, frogs and many kinds of ducks, but sometimes include turtles, deer, moose and porcupines. Big or small, it’s always exciting to glimpse wildlife.

Great Reasons to Go Camping - Wildlife

Great Reasons to Go Camping - Wildlife

  • Paddling: We don’t own canoes or kayaks, or have easy access to them at home. Many of the parks where we go camping offer them for rent. Renting a canoe or a couple of kayaks for a day or several days gives us the opportunity to get out on the water and view the landscape from a different perspective. I love the peace and tranquility of an early morning paddle.

Great Reasons to Go Camping - Paddling

Great Reasons to Go Camping - Paddling

  • Hiking: Most parks have several hiking trails, some long ones and some short ones, that allow us to get out and explore. Many hiking trails have some great viewpoints along them, with special things to see along the way. I love hiking; it’s exercise, fresh air and an adventure all rolled into one activity.

Great Reasons to Go Camping - Hiking

  • Campfires: I love the tradition of a nightly campfire. There is something very primeval about sitting around a campfire, watching the flames, feeling their heat, telling stories and smelling that campfire smell.

    Great Reasons to Go Camping - Campfires

    Photo by Cape Cod Cyclist – Used under licence CC BY-NC 2.0

  • Roasting marshmallows:  That campfire creates the opportunity for roasting marshmallows. Did you roast marshmallows on the charcoal grill after are bbq dinner as a child?  I sure did. Now that we have a gas grill, roasting marshmallows isn’t an option. We always pack marshmallows when going camping. Sitting around a campfire, roasting marshmallows always creates a bit of competition, seeing who can roast the perfect one. Roasting marshmallows around the campfire is a great experience for kids, and an opportunity for adults to relive childhood memories.
Great Reasons to Go Camping - Roasting Marshmallows

photo by Nina Hale – used under licence CC BY 2.0

  • Spectacular views of the stars: With all the light pollution in most cities, the view we get of the stars at home is nothing compared to the views when we go camping. A dark clear night and an opening in the trees are all that is required to do some stargazing. While out camping we see thousands of stars and even see the Milky Way, which just isn’t visible in the city. If we are extra lucky we are there on a night when the Northern Lights are active. Seeing the Northern Lights dance across the sky is pure magic.
Great Reasons to Go Camping - Stars

photo of Milky Way by Steve Jurvetson – used under licence CC BY 2.0

  • Great night’s sleep: Nothing helps me get a great night’s sleep better than spending the entire day outdoors. All that fresh air really lulls me to sleep at night. Of course, we do have one trick that helps with the great sleep. We have an air mattress. Sleeping on an air mattress is a completely different experience than sleeping on the hard ground.
  • Get away from the everyday: I have no worries while camping. There are no obligations, or tasks waiting for me. No work emergencies, or things that must get done right now. We are in our own little bubble while camping, with no knowledge or care of what is happening in the world around us.
  • Connecting with family/friends: Going camping means spending a lot of time with the people with you. You do everything together. You make new discoveries and have adventures together. It’s a wonderful opportunity to really connect with them.

Great Reasons to Go Camping - Connecting with Family

  • Camping is fun: There is so much fun on each and every camping trip. Isn’t that the best reason of all?

Great Reasons to Go Camping - Fun

 

Greg and I are veteran campers.  We’ve been camping together for more than 10 years, and both of us were camping long before that.  We’ve done it with and without kids. Each camping trip is an adventure, with new things to do, new places to explore, new things to experience, and special memories to be created.  I hope we never feel too old, too tired or too busy to plan a camping adventure.

There are so many great reasons to go camping.  Why do you go camping?  If you’ve never been, I urge you to give it a try.  There is a great adventure waiting for you and your family.

 

A Note About Photos:  Most of the photos in this post were taken by me, and as such are copyrighted to me, Julie Rivet.  They can be used if proper attribution is made, with a link back to this post.

The three photos that are not my own are used under various creative commons licences, as noted in the caption under each photo.  

Hot Air Balloons

I’ve loved hot air balloons since I was young.  I always wondered what it would be like to float away in one.

One morning, shortly after moving to Ottawa for university, I looked out the window and saw a beautiful hot air balloon.  And then I noticed there was a second one.  Eventually, I realized there were a few dozen hot air balloons flying around.  It was the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival.

Since that first discovery of the festival, there have been many mornings on Labour Day weekend when I have watched the balloons.  It’s always in the early morning, a little after sunrise.  There is something incredibly peaceful and contemplative about being up early and watching their quiet flight, admiring the beautiful colours and interesting shapes. 

But watching the balloons just isn’t enough.  I’ve always wanted to go up in one.  This year, Greg and I decided it was time.  Last week, he made reservations for us, and so weather permitting, we would go up in a hot air balloon on Sunday evening. 

Greg and I arrived at the festival early and enjoyed many of the other things the festival has to offer.  As the time for the flight approached, I wondered if we would be able to go up.  While we were in the waiting area, we discovered the balloons had not been able to go up at on Saturday evening or on Sunday morning.  There wasn’t enough wind.  It didn’t look good. 

While we were waiting, one of the volunteers told me there was a light wind, but it was in the wrong direction.  The balloons are not allowed to go over Gatineau Park because they can’t land safely there.  And the wind was in that direction.  So we waited.  And waited… 

Our pilot, Chantale, came to get us and walked us over to her area.  She laid out her balloon as it needed to dry following her landing in a wet field the previous morning.  And we waited to get official word about if the balloons would be allowed to launch.  Finally the word came.  It was a go.  The hot air balloons were given permission to fly!

The frenzy of getting the balloon up started.  All around us on the field, we saw balloons start to inflate.  Then it was suddenly time to get into the basket and go.  We were the third hot air balloon to go up.  It was so exciting!  The view of the city opened up before us.  It was difficult to know in which direction to look, there was so much to see.  And then looking back at the field, we watched the other balloons start to take flight. 

Time seemed to fly as we were floating by.  It felt like we had been up in the air for only about 5 minutes when the pilot started looking for a landing site.  In reality, we had been up for about a half hour by then. 

Our pilot spotted a small field that seemed as though it would be a suitable landing site, but there was a light post at the outside edge of it that could be problematic.  She brought us down in a open area just past the field, the balloon touched down, tipped on its side (at that point, it felt like everyone was going to land on top of me) and then lifted up again.  But not very high, just high enough to get us trapped in some low trees. 

Landing in trees is not what any hot air balloon pilot wants.  The basket gets trapped, the balloon is at risk of getting punctured and there is a significant fire hazard because of the open flame from the burners.  This is not where we wanted to be.  With much effort from her ground crew who were there very quickly, the balloon was eventually freed and they pulled us out of the woods. 

The balloon ride was fabulous!  Our crash landing just added more drama and adventure.  And Greg and I decided that it is definitely something we would like to do again.

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At this point, we didn’t think permission would be granted to launch, so we thought this might be as close as we would get to the balloon.

Ottawa, Canada

Inflating Yellow Jack

Balloon festival Ottawa

She’s up! And Greg was paying attention and is running toward the balloon to climb in. I was distracted and looking at everything going on around me.

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Just before liftoff

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And we have liftoff!

Ottawa Hot Air balloons

Isn’t the view fabulous?

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Greg, taking it all in

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everywhere you look, hot air balloons!

A Glimpse into Western Life

Last week I was in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, in Southern Alberta.  The weather gods smiled down on me and sent me sunny days, with temperatures reaching into the low 20s (Celcius) in the afternoons.  It was gorgeous!

The landscape there is so different from here at home.  There it is all big open prairie, with rolling hills.  And lots of cows and horses dotting the landscape.  And oil wells too.

I was at the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site for a few days as it was a work trip.  The Bar U is fabulous!  I want to go back and visit someday when it is in operational season (they had just closed for the season on September 30th).   

Bar U Ranch in the Alberta foothills

Bar U Ranch National Historic Site

I could certainly handle looking at this every day!

At the Bar U, you can find out about ranching life from 1895 to 1950.  You can see cows (longhorn and shorthorn) and Percheron horses.  And you will see cowboys too.  It’s a world so different from my own.

Percheron horses are draft horses (they pull wagons and were the choice animal for pulling fire engines back in the day).  Draft horses are much larger than riding horses. 

Shoe for a draft horse (in this case, a Percheron)

 

On the left, shoe for a riding horse. On the right, shoe for a draft horse.

 

Here are the horses that would wear those large shoes.

Percheron horses - the grays (the whitish ones) apparently weigh about 2000 lbs each

 

I was able to take in a little local entertainment while I was in Southern Alberta.  We went out to a pub where some local musicians were have a jam night.  There were about 10 people around the table, most with a variety of accoustic guitars, but there was also a slide guitar and a fiddle or two and they played and sang songs about the land.  There were also some local delicacies available – prairie oysters.  Yes, I caved to the peer pressure and tried them.  If you don’t know what prairie oysters are, I’ll let you google those yourself.  😉

Ahhh, Amethyst…

My favorite book from childhood (okay, it’s still my favorite book) is Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery.  I love Anne, the main character.  She has so much enthusiasm and is so excited by life.  I love this passage, where she talks about amethyst:

“I think amethysts are just sweet. They are what I used to think diamonds were like. Long ago, before I had ever seen a diamond, I read about them and I tried to imagine what they would be like. I thought they would be lovely glimmering purple stones. When I saw a real diamond in a lady’s ring one day I was so disappointed I cried. Of course, it was very lovely but it wasn’t my idea of a diamond. Will you let me hold the brooch for one minute, Marilla? Do you think amethysts can be the souls of good violets?”

I must admit, like Anne, I much prefer amethysts to diamonds.  I think amethyst is so pretty and has so much character.  Everyone born in February is lucky to have this as a birthstone.    

Back in my university days I had the opportunity to go “digging for amethyst” at an amethyst mine near Thunder Bay, ON.  It was so much fun – like going on a treasure hunt.  The amethyst we found was not jewelry grade stones, but it was so pretty.  I still have those pieces on display in my living room.

Here we are at the amethyst mine.  Forgive the look, it was the early 90s. lol.    

Digging for amethyst near Thunder Bay, ON

July 1992, near Thunder Bay, ON

St. Lucia

We’ve been back from our trip since very late on Monday (almost Tuesday, really), but unfortunately I’ve been sick since we got home, so haven’t been able to do much, not even download our photos, let alone do a nice post here. 

So for just a quick peek, here is the resort where we stayed, the Sandals Regency in St. Lucia. 

http://www.sandals.com/main/lucia/lu-home.cfm

It was awesome!  Definitely worth the splurge (although we still did get an awesome deal)!  St. Lucia is beautiful and this resort was just fabulous! 

I’ll tell you more when I feel better…

Leaving on a jet plane…

Every time I’m getting ready for a trip, that song runs through my head.  I get all excited thinking about it.  But yet when I listen to the whole song, it’s actually sort of a sad one, not one filled with excitement…  Oh well, for me, that song is about the excitement of going somewhere new!

Tomorrow morning, very early tomorrow morning, Greg and I are leaving for St. Lucia.  A week in the sun!  It’s something we desprately need right now with all the cold and the snow. 

We’ve never been to St. Lucia, we usually go to the Dominican Republic or to Cuba.  But this year we splurged a little and off we go!  Greg wants to go windsurfing of course, and I plan to go diving… 

I’ll post some photos when we get back.

Pillar Rock

The image in my header is of Pillar Rock along the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island.  I saw it the first time as we were headed to Chéticamp, but we didn’t stop then as it was late and we wanted to get to our destination.  I absolutely wanted to stop the next day though and take the photo. 

I have seen pillar rocks or spider rocks or flower pots or monoliths – take your pick of names – in lots of places in my travels.  Somehow, they always fascinate me.  They are grand, yet they are isolated.  They inspire awe but also loneliness.  I love this photo in particular because to me it evokes melancholy, even though it was a bright, sunny day… 

What is it about them that fascinates humans so, to the point that we feel compelled to name them, photograph them and turn them into tourist attractions?