You Don’t Have To Rough It

There is a new trend in the quest for outdoor enjoyment. The days of “roughing it” are gone. Today, individuals and families who want to enjoy the Canadian outdoors can do so with the same luxury and attention to detail that you would expect from a five star hotel. The term “glamping”, or glamour camping is an experience where you can enjoy the outdoors yet have all of your needs catered for.

One example of glamour camping in the Thousand Islands is the kayaking, camping and dining programs run by 1000 Islands Kayaking. Imagine if you will a camping experience, where staff handles all of your accommodation and meal requirements and you are able to enjoy the beauty of the Thousand Islands unencumbered. Several adventures are available from day trips to full weekend camping experiences.

The main focus of the experience is kayaking the 1000 islands. Kayaking allows you to get an up close and personal view of the islands, wildlife, and landmarks. Since the company provides transport of the main necessities for lunch and accommodation, your kayaks are not loaded down allowing you to easily paddle through the water. During the stops, the guides will educate you on what you are seeing as well as make sure that you are safe and sound. When you stop for lunch, you will experience the flavours of the 1000 Islands. 1000 Islands Kayaking partners with local growers and the gourmet lunches and dinners are made up of food from “Local Flavours” a group of producers from the area.

If you have camped before, one of the dreaded activities at the end of a hard day of paddling is setting up camp. When you arrive at the evening’s final destination staff that have set-up camp and put together another gourmet meal for your enjoyment greet you. When they meal is done you are ready to relax and enjoy the spectacular sunsets on the St. Lawrence. If you want to enjoy the adventure of kayaking and camping in the beautiful Thousand Islands, without all of the heavy lifting, 1000 Islands Kayaking has the adventure for you. www.1000ikc.com

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The Village

 

There is much discussion about the “Global Village”. The notion of the world as a village is bolstered by technology that brings us together. Having lived my entire life in the city I had no point of context for life outside of the city or what life in a small village would be like. We were drawn to country life and the notion of simplicity. When we finally moved full-time to the country and to the Thousand Islands, we were in for quite a revelation. The small villages and towns that make up the Thousand Islands and the way of life have made the move one that we will never regret.

Shortly after moving to our new home, we were greeted by a smiling face bearing a basket. Funded and organized by volunteers and local businesses this program welcomes new residents to the area and gives them some welcome cheer and a smiling face to the community. In the city, it is rare that anyone says hello to one another, yet alone welcome a neighbour to the area. The other thing that struck me was that everyone waved at each other. People walking on the road, farmers in their tractors, passers-by in their vehicles, wave at you. I have adopted this wonderful country gesture and I wave every chance I get. It just makes you feel good.

The other difference between city life and the country village is support for your fellow resident. During times of crisis and tragedy and in every village in this township, I have seen great feats of generosity and teamwork. In the villages of Lansdowne, Rockport, Seeley’s Bay, Lyndhurst, there are countless fundraisers, support events for residents in need. In the short five years we have lived here, we have witnessed more selfless acts of generosity than my entire life in the city before. While the global village through technology exists, the small villages that make up the community of the Thousand Islands have something that can never be duplicated. In the city, we never experienced the same level of community that we have seen here. If you are looking for somewhere to raise a family and a true village, there is no equal to the Thousand Islands and the villages we live in. So the next time you are in the Thousand Islands, make sure you wave!

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Camelot Island Neighbors: My first kayak camping trip in the 1000 Islands with the Boreal Baffin. Awesome!

Students from Cornell University on Camelot Island granite cliffs

Students from Cornell University on Camelot Island granite cliffs. Photo courtesy of KayakJock

Hey neighbor!

Like anywhere you’re going to live for a few days or longer, you want to know a bit about the “neighborhood” and who your neighbors are, right?

Kayak camping is a little different though. You never know who your island neighbors are going to be until you get there. It’s a transient crowd. They are on the move.

During our three-day kayak camping trip to Camelot Island in mid-August, we had lots of neighbors.

When we arrived, there was a large group of 12 kayak campers from Cornell University, who were already set up on two of the six island campsites closest to the kayak-friendly ramp at the south side of Camelot Island.

They were part of Cornell’s Outdoor Education Program, where they learn wilderness survival, paddling, navigation, safety, natural history, and camping skills. The two guides from the program had come out to the 1000 Islands in May to survey the area beforehand and learn their way around.

I didn’t understand how 12 kayak campers could fit onto only two small island campsites. So I took a peek. On each site, there was a large low hanging tent fly or what you would call an open pitch tarp tent, hovering just above a row of six sleeping bags.

Blue open pitch tarp tentI didn’t see any mosquito netting. Now that’s what I call, “togetherness” and “roughing it”.

Suddenly, my tiny Big Agnes SL2 backpacking tent seemed like luxury accommodations. Everything is relative. Everything around you has a relationship to something else. Your perception of each thing can suddenly change. This is one of the things I love about tripping.

Tent, Camelot Island campsiteOur group of four kayak campers set up on the east side of Camelot Island on campsites 3, 4, 5, and 6. The sites are very close to the motor boat docks where the big cruisers come to rest, and one of the island’s two composting outhouses.

The 1000 Islands are a mecca and playground of choice for Ontario boating. Snuggled up to the docks, the recreational motor boats remind me of giant turtles enjoying the sun. But, I much prefer setting up camp under the shade of the old oak trees. It’s hot and sunny in August!

Sea kayak, motor boats, Camelot Island dockOn the south side of Camelot, the sailboats were quietly moored in the little cove off the kayak-friendly ramp.

Cove, Camelot Island, full moon risingBut, the full moon after sunset seemed to be the most welcome neighbour of all.

Neighbor habits

Once you meet your neighbors, you start to notice their habits.

They usually aren’t the same as yours. When you want to sleep, they want to party, or get up at dawn and jog past your tent. When they want to sleep, you want to get up and start making noise.

As paddlers, we spend most of our time out on the water, and are only home at basecamp for breakfast, dinner, and sleep. I think this is one of the reasons we take up paddling – to get away from home and the neighbors. We like to be free!

One thing to know about neighbor habits in the St. Lawrence Islands National Park of Canada is generators. Many of the park islands allow generators. They are noisy things. Where generators are allowed, they will be!

Camelot Island allows generators. “Is that a vacuum cleaner I hear!?” It seems motor boaters like to keep a tidy boat. But, there are some islands where generators are prohibited, like Mulcaster, where you can kayak camp in generator-free peace. You can check the St. Lawrence Islands National Park of Canada website for more information.

Neighbor benefits

But alas. Neighbors bring news from afar and usually have the daily weather report. Neighbors greet you with hello or bonjour. Sometimes they have an extra supply of TP when the island outhouses run out, or invite you over for a beer.

Kayak camping neighbors usually have some pretty awesome sea kayaks! The more the merrier! There is never a more beautiful sight to me than sea kayaks out on the water or parked along a shoreline.

sea kayaks, Camelot IslandBe a good neighbor

Camelot is a pack-in, pack-out island. It does not have any facilities for garbage, recycling, or composting of leftover food, so you need to plan for hauling away used containers and food stuffs.

Now, how do I close this picturesque post about Camelot Island neighbors?

Here it is! Your ever-present friends and neighbors. The things you love to hate. The awesome composting outhouses!

Two sea kayaks parked next to composting outhouse, Camelot IslandIf you’d like to plan your own awesome kayaking trip in the 1000 Islands, you can contact 1000 Islands Kayaking for complete outfitting, lessons, day tours, and tripping with certified, experienced guides.

Happy trip planning!
Peggy Varner
Publisher of the BaffinPaddler http://baffinpaddler.blogspot.com

Read other stories in this series: My first kayak camping trip to Camelot in the 1000 Islands with the Boreal Baffin: Awesome!

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Maple Syrup Festivals in March and April

Please click here to read about Maple in the County 2014

Photo by kylemac on Flickr

Nothing says spring like the sweet smell of maple syrup wafting from a sugar shack. This March and April, festivals in Kingston, and Prince Edward County will envelop The Great Waterway in that familiar scent and invite visitors to indulge in a little (or a lot) of the liquid gold. Here’s a breakdown of where and when the maple syrup festivals are happening, and what you can expect at each:

 

Maple Madness at Little Cataraqui Creek

Where?

Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area (MAP)

When?

9:00am to 4:00pm on these days:

Saturday, March 10th to Sunday, March 18th; Saturday, March 24th and Sunday, March 25th; Saturday, March 31st and Sunday, April 1st

What’s happening?

Start off in the Outdoor Centre with a light-hearted puppet show on maple syrup and then take a tractor-drawn wagon back to the conservation area’s sugar bush to learn how maple syrup was made in the pioneer days and how it’s done now. Before you go, stop in again at the Outdoor Centre to pick up some sweet treats at the bake sale.

Website?

cataraquiregion.on.ca/events

Maple in the County

Where?

Throughout Prince Edward County (MAP)

When?

Saturday, March 31st and Sunday, April 1st

What’s happening?

On both days, there’ll be fares and artisan markets with maple syrup inspired food, crafts and artworks on display; tours of sugar shacks throughout the county (with and without wagon rides); and sugar bush nature walks. Some restaurants and wineries are also offering special menus and tastings in celebration of the sweet season.

Website?

mapleinthecounty.ca/schedule.php

 

 

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The Nickel Tour: Conclusion

You have wandered down the gentle slope of Brockville’s Courthouse Avenue, no doubt impressed by how much Canadian history can reside on one short block of a small city in Eastern Ontario. Now you stand at the southeast corner of King Street, Brockville’s main thoroughfare and there is much more to come.

Don’t let the wealth of eclectic shopping opportunities distract you there will be plenty of time to indulge your inner shopper later. Likewise the array of dining establishments covering the culinary spectrum; Indian, Thai, British, Italian and the finest fish and chips in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec. (At a recent tourism show in Montreal Tourism Brockville discovered that most Montrealers recognized Brockville as the home of Don’s Fish & Chips).

Heading east on King Street, about halfway down the block you find the former home of The Brockville Recorder & Times newspaper. In need of larger premises it relocated to the northern end of Brockville in the late 1990’s. A bronze plaque proclaims that the Recorder & Times is the oldest continuously operating newspaper in Ontario. Chauncey Beach brought out the first edition of the Recorder, a weekly newspaper on January 16, 1823. A daily edition The Evening Recorder began publication on November10, 1873. In 1918 The Recorder and rival Daily Times (founded in 1883) merged and on February 1 that year the first edition of The Recorder & Times daily rolled off the presses.

Continuing to the next intersection you come to Market Street West home to one of the oldest Farmer’s Markets in Ontario. Charles Jones donated two acres of land to the city in 1832 for the establishment of the market. Today on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays between May and October the street is alive with vendors selling all manner of local produce and handmade craft items. It is one of the most picturesque settings for a market with the St. Lawrence River providing a spectacular background.

If you have timed your visit just right you may see one of the many lake boats passing the city on its way to the Great Lakes. It’s common enough for residents, but quite a thrill for those not used to the spectacle. Boat watching may be the fastest growing hobby in the region.

At the foot of the street is our goal, the Brockville Railroad Tunnel, the first railroad tunnel in Canada. Brockville was a fairly major railway hub in the mid nineteenth century. Construction of the tunnel was begun in September 1854 to allow the Brockville and Ottawa Railway access to the St. Lawrence riverfront. At the time the riverfront was home to a large number of Brockville’s industries. It opened for railway traffic in December 1860 and continued in use until 1975. The tunnel travels approximately half a kilometer under downtown Brockville, directly under Brockville’s City Hall.

The distinctive wooden doors of the tunnel were a necessary safety feature. It may put things in perspective when you learn they were closed at night to prevent cattle from wandering into the tunnel! A short section of the tunnel (approximately 26 meters) is open to visitors during tourist season. A display chronicling the construction and history of the tunnel is situated in this section.

So there you have it. Not too taxing a tour shoe leather-wise but filled with unique Canadian history sites.

 

 

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Plenty of winter left to enjoy!

While conditions for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing may not have been the best so far this winter, there’s more than a few weeks left, and we’re due for a good snowfall, which means get your skis and shoes ready.

There are literally kilometres of trails in our region for these popular winter sports—including the Cataraqui Trail.  But there are a few other spots that you may not be aware of just waiting for you to explore. Some of these offer un-groomed trails, which make them perfect for snowshoeing. If you want to ski, then you’ll have to “break trail” yourself.

Conservation areas are perfect places for these sports. They offer a combination of flat lands and some more challenging terrain to traverse, so whether you’re a beginner or an expert, you’ll find the right spot.

The Quinte Region Conservation Authority  covers the western part of The Great Waterway and there are two areas places here for skiing and snowshoeing:  Vanderwater and Quinte Conservation Areas. Vanderwater runs along the picturesque banks of the Moira River. The 15 km of trails are not groomed, so heading through the low lying areas and the higher grounds could be challenging. There are some steep ridges but the climb is worth the scenic panorama that unfolds to the west.

Quinte Conservation Area brings a little bit of country to the city. Winding trails pass through orchards, open meadows, and woodlands, so this is a perfect spot to go snowshoeing. There is a small park located at the mouth of Potter’s Creek overlooking the Bay of Quinte for a rest spot.

Further to the east the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority (CCRA) oversees trails and parklands that offer a variety of outdoor activity opportunities including cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The most popular of these is the Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area.  Here you will find trails for all levels of skiers and open areas for snowshoers. If you don’t have your own equipment rentals are available and you can even sign up for ski lessons

As you head east along the St. Lawrence River, the Raisin River Conservation Authority  (RRCA) operates three areas where you will be able to enjoy the great outdoors: Cooper’s Marsh, Charlottenburgh Park, and Gray’s Creek. These three sites have varying terrains and are a little off the beaten path to enjoy a quiet outing. The RRCA has information about snowshoe rentals on its website.

In addition to the Conservation Authorities the Ontario Provincial Parks in this region have trails and areas appropriate for skiing and snowshoeing. Among these are Charleston Lake, Frontenac and Sandbanks. Visit the park websites or contact them for full details.

So if you were worried that you might not get out for a ski or snowshoe this winter, or weren’t sure of where to go, don’t despair. There’s plenty of winter left and outdoor sports enthusiasts will revel at being able to check out these spots. Track!

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Setting up Camp on Camelot: My first kayak camping trip in the 1000 Islands with the Boreal Baffin. Awesome!

Boreal Baffin sea kayak on dock, Camelot IslandThis is a great moment in kayak camping in the 1000 Islands. Paddling to an island and scoring a campsite just a few steps from where you’ve parked your awesome sea kayak.

Our group of four paddlers from Ottawa, Ontario landed on the south side of Camelot Island at the kayak-friendly ramp in a quiet little cove bordered by steep rock cliffs on a Tuesday afternoon in mid-August for three days of kayak camping.

Kayak friendly dock, Camelot IslandCamelot Island is a popular island destination with kayakers, motor boats and sail boats.  A large group of 12 kayak campers from Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, had already set up their basecamp on the first two campsites closest to the ramp.

The last four available campsites, 3, 4, 5, and 6, were on the east side of the island just off the trail from a large motor boat dock.

Pick the “best” spot

We had never been to Camelot Island before, so we surveyed the sites. Campsites 3, 4, 5, and 6 are in a big open circle, surrounded and protected by a canopy of beautiful 40 or 50 foot tall oak trees.

Oak trees, Camelot IslandThe sun peeks through the trees giving the sites an open, airy feel. With our group of four, we could each have our own tent space, picnic table, and metal fire pit, and be together in one big open area. It was perfect for us.

There is a circular trail on Camelot Island that runs right through the middle of campsites 3, 4, 5, and 6. A large picnic shelter is only a few steps away.

The sturdy animal box in the large picnic shelter keeps food safe from animals, like the island racoons.

I was happy to hear that there aren’t bears on the islands in the St. Lawrence Islands National Park of Canada. I’ll sleep better.

On Camelot Island, campsite number 3 has an opening through the trees that gives you a view of the water. It looked good to me.

Tent on campsite 3, Camelot IslandIt is also the closest site to one of the two composting outhouses on the island. How convenient! I thought this must be the best spot of the four, so I offered to take it.

Campsite 3, composting outhouse, Camelot IslandPaddle buddies grabbed sites 4, 5, and 6.

Then the wind shifted.

Me: “I was feeling a bit guilty for taking the “best spot”. Could someone please help me move my picnic table a little further away!?”

Paddle buddie (smiling): “Oh, we just thought you were being incredibly gracious for taking that spot!”

This was my first lesson learned as a newbie to kayak camping: Always pick the spot furthest from the outhouse. This is a convenience you don’t want nearby. You would think I already knew that! I thought composting outhouses would be different. But no. However, they are roomy inside, with lots of natural light, and are kept clean and stocked with TP by Park staff.

Creepy crawlers

Me: “What are those giant earthworms running past me so fast!?”

Paddle buddie (laughing): “They are millipedes. Get used to them.”

Me: “Am I allowed to step on them? Don’t look!”

But, I didn’t have to get used to them. Four millipedes ran past me when we arrived and I never saw another one during our three days on the island. They were clearing out of camp because of us or the snake.

The largest Garter snake I have ever seen, was curled up near a fallen tree with the back end of the largest toad I’ve ever seen in its mouth. There aren’t any poisonous snakes on the islands, so there was nothing to worry about. The snake crawled off somewhere to digest its lunch and we never saw it again.

A vole or a mouse was hiding under another fallen log in the middle of our basecamp. It became our camp mascot. It didn’t do much, it just hung around.

Bumps in your bed

I love oak trees. Especially old oaks. I was wondering why I hardly see them anymore on forest hikes or in new suburban neighborhoods in Ontario and Quebec. Maple trees seem to be taking over.

Then I looked at my campsite. The ground was covered in acorns! “Anyone have a rake?” After picking out as many acorns as I could, I stomped the rest into the soft ground and thought: “The Princess and the Pea will have to sleep on a few of these tonight.”

Tent mates

My Big Agnes superlight Seedhouse SL2 is a 3-season backpacking tent. It fits easily into the nose of my low-volume Boreal Baffin sea kayak and sets up quick and easy.

When I look at my pale green Seedhouse SL2 tent, I can’t believe I paid over $300 (Canadian) for something so tiny, lightweight, and paper thin! It weighs less than 4 pounds.

The SL2 is supposed to be for two, but you only have room in it for one person and a little gear. The only way in or out is the front door, so zipper function is really important. So far so good.

As soon as I set up my tent, four different types of small spiders set up camp on the four corners of my tent fly lines. The Big Agnes SL2 tent is designed for good ventilation, which means when I’m inside, the mesh interior gives me a full view of the spiders or anything else that crawls under the tent fly. It’s not a  design feature I like.

I’d rather not see what’s crawling around next to me, but I’ll let the spiders guard the periphery of my tent on this trip.

Water

There isn’t any running tap water on the islands. You have to pack your own drinking water or plan to pump and properly filter water from the St. Lawrence.

I managed to pack two days worth of drinking water in my Boreal Baffin and brought along my MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter to filter extra water for drinking and cooking. I even boiled my filtered water as an extra measure. Paddle buddies filtered drinking water every day.

Time to spare

It was day one of our three-day kayak camping trip in the 1000 Islands. We drove two hours from Ottawa, Ontario, launched from Clark’s Marina in Gananoque, Ontario at 10:00 a.m., paddled with loaded sea kayaks to Camelot Island, set up camp, had lunch, and it was still early afternoon.

Awesome! We had lots of spare time and energy to paddle and explore other islands.

“Anyone want to paddle to Gordon Island?”

I couldn’t have been happier to hear those words from a paddle buddy.

I wanted to check out Gordon Island for Paddle to Yoga. I love paddling to awesome spots where I can do yoga in the outdoors waterfront. I call it, “Paddle to Yoga.”

When planning this kayak camping trip, I asked 1000 Islands Kayaking and the St. Lawrence Islands National Park of Canada which islands might have the nicest picnic shelters waterfront. They both told me: “The historic gazebo built in 1904 on Gordon Island.”

1904 historic gazebo, Gordon IslandWe paddled to Gordon Island. I found it odd and enchanting. I’ll explore why and describe it in more detail in another post in this series of stories when we return the next day.

Kayaking to Gordon IslandGordon Island has become one of my “special spots.” A spot that I remember, where I felt something special, and want to return.

Back to basecamp on Camelot Island

Later in the early evening, we made dinner, dodged most of the falling acorns from the oak trees at our basecamp on Camelot, and went for a swim from the kayak-friendly ramp in the quiet cove on the south end of the island.

Paddle buddies sat on the ramp and watched the sunset quietly fade into pink and purple to greet a rising full moon. The night was warm and the wind was quiet. All the motor boats and sail boats were settled in for the night.

View of Camelot Island cove from the kayak dockI put on my PFD and swam out to the little island directly across from the kayak ramp and watched the sunset pay its final tributes to the horizon while I floated aimlessly in the water. It was awesome! When night fell, it was time to follow the trail back to camp, get into some dry gear, and join the  paddle buddies huddled around the campfire before turning in.

It was a great first day of kayak camping in the 1000 Islands. We weren’t tired. Just happy and relaxed, and the boats were all tucked in and secure for the night.

sea kayaks, Camelot IslandMe: “I’d like to go back to Gordon Island tomorrow morning to do yoga in that awesome gazebo.”

Paddle buddy: “I’m up for that too.”

Read other stories in this series: My first kayak camping trip to Camelot in the 1000 Islands with the Boreal Baffin. Awesome!

Happy trip planning!
Peggy Varner
Publisher of the BaffinPaddler http://baffinpaddler.blogspot.com

Posted in 1000 Islands, Active Adventure, On The Water | Leave a comment

Curling rocks! Get your game outside! 1000 Islands Pondapalooza, February 17-19, 2012, Gananoque, Ontario


After a curling game in an indoor curling club last week, I was dreaming out loud to teammates:  “I’d like to try this in the outdoors!”

I took up curling this winter and I’m already hooked. We formed a team with four family members and we play once a week in a recreational league in Ottawa, Ontario. I love it!

Then, I saw an ad for 1000 Islands Pondapalooza, February 17-19, 2012, in Gananoque, Ontario.

Alongside a host of awesome outdoor activities at 1000 Islands Pondapalooza, there’s the 1000 Islands Pond Curling Championships. Perfect!

Me – lead: “Hey, guys, do you want to register our team?”

Skip: “Curling in the outdoors is wild!”

Vice-skip: “That would be really crazy ice! How do you play it?”

Skip (laughing): “I’ve done it. You just go for it!”

Me – lead: “Some strategy. I like it! Wanna go for it?”

Second rock: “Huh? Do I have a choice?”

Me – lead: “Not really. I’ll drive, you can buy the coffee!”

We really are a family team. How can you tell? Too much togetherness! If you see us out there, you may hear:

Skip: “Sweep!”

Second rock: “What, I don’t think it’s necessary!”

Skip: “SWEEP!”

Vice-skip: “Don’t sweep!”

Me – lead: “Will you guys make up your mind! Ha, ha!”

Despite ourselves, we are a pretty good up-and-coming recreational team. It’s a lot of fun! And I love all the opportunites to learn new aspects of the game.

We enjoy heading out for brunch, lunch, or dinner after a game, depending on what time we play. Win or lose, it’s all good. Curling is a social game.

If you’ve never tried curling, I hope you give it a try some day. Or at least get out to this year’s Pondapalooza in Gananoque and see how wild n’crazy pond curling is. I can’t wait!

Canada has a lot of great curlers of all shapes, sizes, ages, and abilities. It blows me away.

If Mother Nature is too kind and warm, the game is still on, but will head indoors. Sounds like a win-win situation to me: Crazy outdoor ice, or good indoor ice!

Check out all the activities at 1000 Islands Pondapalooza 2012

  • 1000 Islands Pond Curling Championships
  • 1000 Islands Adult Pond Hockey Championships
  • Celebrity Pond Hockey Challenge
  • Children’s Ice Fishing Derby
  • Taste of Gananoque
  • Vendors Village
  • Gananoque Brewing Company Ice Bar
  • Freeze Your Buns Fun Run
  • Kids Curling Clinic
  • Family Events
  • Kids Events
  • Christmas Tree Bonfire
  • The Loose Nuts presents “On the Rocks!”

Yah, yah, I know. I need curling shoes! I’m having trouble getting the slider on my hiking boots!

Peggy Varner
Publisher of The BaffinPaddler http://baffinpaddler.blogspot.com

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“The Cataraqui Trail”: One of our hidden treasures

I’m not sure how my husband and I “found” the Cataraqui Trail shortly after it officially opened  in September 2000,  but over the course of a few months, we travelled its 100 plus kilometre route that connects Strathcona, just east of Napanee, to Smiths Falls along an old railway line.

Watch for these signs marking the trail.

Each time out we’d walk or ski a section of the trail and mark our spot for the next time. There was a lot of back-tracking as we had to get back to our car, but we didn’t mind that too much as we’d inevitably see something on the way back that we’d missed the first time around.

We’ve been out many times since that first year and have joined or taken friends and family to discover this beautiful trail and the communities it passes through.

 

 

 

What we find especially interesting are the changes over the seasons—and there are a lot of them, from the first buds of spring to the snow-coverings of winter.

In 1997 the right-of-way was donated to the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority by CN Rail, and land acquired for the development of the trail in 1998. It has become one of the best year-round recreational facilities in our region yet it never seems to be crowded. It remains a hidden treasure, but one that more folks are discovering.

The trail is an important link in the Ontario network of snowmobile trails, and therefore snowmobiling is allowed.  As pointed out in the regulations, “Except for trail maintenance and emergency vehicles, motor vehicles are not allowed on the Cataraqui Trail. This means that vehicles such as ATV’s and dirt bikes should not be on the trail.”

There is mutual respect between the snowmobilers and those of us on foot. We step aside for them, and they slow down for us. However, the trail is not monitored, so it’s “Use at your own risk.”

 

Snowmobilers must have a valid OFSC Trail Permit. Everyone is encouraged to purchase a membership, which, along with private donations, helps to finance the trail’s development and upkeep.

With recent donations from the Ontario Snowmobile Association (Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs) and the efforts of the Lennox and Addington Ridge Runners Snowmobile Club parts of the trail have a new surface of stone dust. Grooming and other maintenance has also been done with the help of the Rideau Ridge Snowmobile Club and the Athens and District Snowmobile Club. Visit their website at www.familysnowmobiling.ca

While cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are popular winter activities on the trail, this is truly a four-season facility. We’ve seen lots of folks out hiking (often with dogs), horse-back riding, skiing, bike-riding, bird-watching, and just generally enjoying themselves on the trail. Yet it is rarely crowded.

For the most part the trail is relatively flat but there are occasional steep grades. Sturdy footwear is always recommended. In the warmer months some parts of the trail are wide enough, and well-packed enough, for strollers and wheelchairs, so the whole family can get out and enjoy the trail.

Getting to the trail is easy as there are 48 main and secondary road access points. While much of the trail passes farm lands and other open spaces there is a lot of it that goes right through communities so it’s easy to stop for a snack or meal if you didn’t bring one.

As these photos show the trail is a great place for winter activities.  When the snow’s gone, we’ll get back to enjoy hiking—and who knows? Maybe we’ll do the entire route again this year.

 

Trail marker: 100 km.

While this may be one of our region’s hidden treasures, it’s bound to be discovered as more people want to get active, and any time of the year, the Cataraqui Trail is a great place to do just that. See you out there!

By Christine Peets
Photos:  © Jim and Christine Peets

 

 

 

 

 

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Canadian Juniors enter the final stretch in Napanee

Alberta is the province to beat heading into the final draws of the M&M Meat Shops Canadian Junior Curling Championships in Napanee.

Both the men’s (Brendan Bottcher) and women’s (Jocelyn Peterman) Alberta entries are atop their division with the weekend playoffs on the horizon.

Bottcher clinched his tenth win of the tournament with an 8-3 win over the Yukon on Thursday night. He’s now 10-1 and has earned a spot in the playoffs.

Second in the men’s division is Manitoba’s Kyle Doering rink, who is 9-2. His only hope for a first place finish is to win this afternoon’s draw against the Yukon and for Bottcher to lose his showdown against New Brunswick this morning. If that happens, Manitoba would clinch first by virtue of their win over Alberta earlier in the tournament.

In third place Northern Ontario’s Brennan Wark rink is tied with Nova Scotia’s Stuart Thompson. Wark faces New Brunswick this afternoon while Thompson battles Alberta. Which ever team claims third will advance to the semifinals on Sunday at 1 p.m. where they’ll take on the second place team for a shot at the finals, which take place at 7 p.m. on Sunday. Both games will be played at the SPC with the finals broadcast live on TSN.


On the women’s side Peterman shares the lead with Manitoba’s Shannon Birchard at 9-2, each with one draw left. If both teams win their draw, Manitoba would earn the top seed by virtue of their win over Alberta in the round robin. In third is British Columbia’s Kesa Van Osch, who is 8-3. The B.C. girls will take on the second place finisher in the semifinals with the winner moving on the the finals.

The women’s semifinals will take place tomorrow at 1 p.m. with the finals set for 7 p.m., both at the SPC. Like the men’s finals, TSN will also broadcast the women’s final live as well.


Although many of the rinks will enter tomorrow with no shot at the playoffs, all 26 teams have their own individual reasons to be proud. Each team will return to their provinces with at least one victory to their credit.

“You don’t hope for anybody to go winless,” said Canadian Curling Association (CCA) Director, Championship Services and Curling Club Development Danny Lamoureux. “Conversely you don’t want anyone to go undefeated either because if they lose that final game you feel so bad for them. There’s no zeroes on the scoreboard which we like to see.”


As the tournament winds down he says the CCA has been impressed with the host venue.

“At events like these I usually have people chattering in my ear saying I don’t like this or that,” he said. “I have had nothing this week and that’s in large part to the work of the host committee.”

Lamoureux says he’s been happy with the attendance all week and expects a large crowd for the finals.

Tickets are still available by calling 613-354-4423.

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