Canada Trip #14 – Charleston Lake

We felt we could not stay on Lake Charleston for a week without actually exploring Lake Charleston beyond our own little sliver of shoreline.  We, therefore, entered the provincial park, plumped for the shoreline trail, and set off on a trek.  An information at the trailhead provided us with some information on what we might encounter on our trek.  Consequently, the younger boys had high expectations of seeing wildlife.  This was despite the fact that we were encountering significantly fewer critters in our borrowed woodland house than we encounter on a daily basis in our suburban home.  We saw some squirrels, a punk caterpillar, and a solitary deer, and that – apart from the fish – was the sum total of our wildlife encounters during our week at the lake house.  This was not what we anticipated.  My youngest son has a trail camera set up in our backyard so he can capture images of deer and foxes and the chupacabra (a mangy fox that malingers in our neighbourhood) and he brought his camera with him to the lake house.  It captured nothing.  Nothing.  A whole week living in the woods and it captured not one single image of a beast of any kind.  But I digress.

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The shoreline trail was an easy going loop.  It was a baking hot day so the shade of the trees provided welcome respite from the heat and also created lovely dappled light on the woodland floor.  Shoreline was a bit of a misnomer as the path barely took us near the coast of the lake.  There was one point where we popped out of the trees at the water’s edge but a couple of kayakers were trying to have what looked to be a romantic picnic right at that spot so we did the diplomatic thing and kept moving.  The only other body of water we passed was some kind of pond – probably a tributary of the actual lake.  It was so still, however, that it was practically stagnant and, of course, that meant biting insects galore were having some kind of convention there.  We were instantly being devoured.  The mosquitos were so big that when we swatted them, they left crime scene style spatters of blood on our arms and legs.  So gross.  Even my husband, who is normally immune from being bitten, was getting eaten alive by these vicious insects.  That was the day when I was bitten so many times that I had a particularly nasty reaction in the evening.

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Mercifully, to make the trek worthwhile, we did encounter one (non-biting) animal – a gorgeous little frog.  Or maybe a toad.  I have not identified what specific species of amphibian it was.  The kids were thrilled to have an actual animal encounter.

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Canada Trip #13 – Fun on the Lake

I won’t keep you in suspense about what our experience of staying in one place for an entire week was.  This post, therefore, is about the way in which we used our lakeside setting and relaxed in the house spanning that entire week.  Future posts will cover specific things that we did.

The house was sited on a steep hill and it was built part way down the slope.  We, therefore, had to take a flight of stairs from the driveway down to the house, the house itself was single storey, then there was a flight of stairs down to a patch of land, and there was a further flight of stairs that took us down to a small jetty right on Lake Charleston.  This meant the house was snuggled into a space that was very secluded and private and, therefore, very quiet and peaceful.  The elevation also provided us with lovely views and we got to see some lovely sunrises and sunsets during our time there.  Mr Pict, space nerd that he is, also enjoyed being able to go out onto the deck in the absolute pitch dark to study the constellations and show the boys the Milky Way free of light pollution.

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The big hit, of course, was having access to the water.  The boys loved jumping off of the lakeside deck and splashing into the water.  The water was really clear so we regretted not bringing goggles and a snorkel.  We were swimming among many fish and Mr Pict and two of the kids saw a swimming turtle at one point.  The kids also encountered a critter that was biting their toes.  They were initially concerned that this was a snapping turtle but I pointed out they would definitely know had they been bitten by one of those.  It turned out to be a really territorial fish who was biting at them any time they got near her particular rock – which was very close to the jetty stairs.  The boys nicknamed her Trish the Foot Fetish Fish.  I think they grew rather fond of her.

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The house also came with a canoe so we spent quite a lot of time going for brief excursions along the perimeter of the lake.  We could not risk crossing the lake or indeed venturing too far from the shore because there were speed boats bursting up and down the length of the lake pretty much constantly.  The kids have limited experience with paddling but got really pretty good at it towards the end of the trip.

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We also utilised the fire pit to make s’mores for dessert on a couple of evenings.  My kids are equally as drawn to fire as they are to water so I am pretty sure the thing they enjoy most about making s’mores is having the opportunity to poke things into flames.  We got into a totally sticky mess.  I also managed to get eaten alive by biting insects.  Insects find me insatiable.  My blood must taste like finest champagne to them.  Unfortunately, I have a terrible reaction to insect bites.  Most of the time, it just leads to discomfort but otherwise is not too problematic.  Sometimes, however, it results in me feeling very sick.  Unfortunately on one of the evenings at the lake house, I was covered in so many nasty bug bites that I developed an excruciating headache and a mild fever.  That was, however, the only downside to the location.

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We had one day of non-stop, torrential rain during our week there.  We, therefore, just hunkered down and used the time for relaxing on our own or playing games together.  Our evening habit was to play games and there was one in particular that we got a bit obsessed with.  We must have played scores of games of ‘One Night Ultimate Werewolf’.  I used my flumping around time to read a couple of books and draw while listening to podcasts.

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Overall, I think we all enjoyed our time at the lake house and benefited from the fact it forced us to slow down.  Given the stressful situation we had left behind, removing us from the chaos and forcing us to relax after a period of such intense activity, it was probably good therapy to experience a week of this style of vacation.  I cannot deny, however, that I did have the nagging feeling that we should be packing more experiences into each day in order for our vacation to offer better value for money.  I think what we probably need to do in future is find a happy balance between really pushing ourselves to the limit when it comes to travel and making time in which to relax.

Canada Trip #12 – Brockville

An early check out from the apartment in Montreal and a late check in for our next accommodation meant we had time to spare.  For various, mostly pragmatic reasons, we elected to spend that spare time in Brockville, Ontario.

One of the non-pragmatic reasons we selected Brockville was that it has a disused railway tunnel we could visit.  I confess to only being very vaguely interested in the prospect of visiting a piece of infrastructure heritage because industrial history isn’t my thing.  Just as with being a perpetual pessimist, the joy of having low expectations is that its wonderful when they are exceeded.  Such was the case with the Brockville Railway Tunnel.  I was expecting bare brick, chilly walls, and dripping water and really not a lot else.  It was a grossly hot and humid day, however, so the idea of taking a stroll through intense shade certainly appealed.  What we found, however, was a railway tunnel that volunteers have transformed into an installation that tells the story of the local railway heritage while also being a sort of sensory exhibition.  There was indeed bare brick, chilly walls, and dripping water, but there were also colour changing lights and music and sounds.  I liked the effect of the changing colours a lot.  Ever so often, the sounds of a whizzing train would be pumped in and the lights would go sharp white except for a red section that moved at high speed to replicate the movement of the train through the tunnel.  It was like a disco ghost train.  I mean, there is really only so much you can do to enliven a railway tunnel but I really think the team of volunteers of doing a sterling job of doing so.  It really did make for a pleasant stroll.

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We later spoke to one of the volunteers and he explained that the idea of gussying up the tunnel was for it to act as an enticement to bring people to the town and give it an economic boost.  That ploy certainly worked on us as we popped out the other end of the tunnel and found a pleasant, compact little town on the waterfront and decided to spend some time milling around there.  The boys skipped stones in the water while Mr Pict watched commercial ships charging through the water.  I also found that the town had once been the site of a hospital island where emigrants stricken with cholera had been housed during an 1832 epidemic.  I have a keen interest in the history of pandemics and some epidemics so I found this to be of interest.  A sign also informed me that a fellow Scot had expired there when, in his role as doctor, he had contracted cholera when attending to the sick.  We rounded up our time in Brockville by stopping in at a local pub for a tasty meal.

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Replete, we next headed to a local supermarket to stock up on groceries.  Our next destination was remote and we had been told that access to groceries would be limited.  We, therefore, decided to stock up on food for the week in Brockville since we knew they had a big supermarket and we had time to burn.  I am big on meal planning and buying only items that are on the shopping list.  However, we definitely added extra items to the shopping trolley because we discovered that Canadian supermarkets stock lots of items we used to buy in Britain but cannot get – or cannot affordably purchase – in America.  We went a bit crazy with breakfast cereal and chocolate and candy.  We actually bought enough that some of the cereal eventually came home with us.  The chocolate, of course, had a much shorter life expectancy.

We arrived at our final destination in the late afternoon.  Long time followers of this blog will know that our road trips usually involve us moving frequently from location to location, and never staying any one place for more than a few days.  For this vacation, however, we decided to treat – or challenge – ourselves to a change of pace.  We were going to be staying in the same location for an entire week.  Adding another layer to the change of pace was the fact that the house we were renting was situation on Lake Charleston and was fairly remote and quiet.  We were going to have lots of downtime in which to relax.

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