a peek inside the fishbowl

12 Aug, 2015

Camping at Achray, part two

Posted by andrea tomkins in: travel talk

If you follow me on Twitter – or was watching the 6:00 p.m. news last night – you already know that a massive tree fell over in our backyard yesterday morning. Thankfully, it fell in the right direction and no one was hurt, but the What Ifs have been filling my brain and I’m still on edge about it all.

This was the scene at around 8:30 yesterday morning.

Tree down

Here’s another view.

In part of one this post I mentioned we had forgotten to pack some critical items for our overall camping success:

1) A frying pan
2) A dust pan
3) Dinner plates

I knew that not having this things wouldn’t destroy our camping trip, but they sure are nice to have, aren’t they? The frying pan is for the obvious. Anything that can’t easily be cooked on the grill can be cooked in a pan. And the dust pan is for the sand which will inevitably find its way into the tent. I’m not dirt phobic by any stretch, but the sand we track in makes me a little crazy. And the dinner plates? I tried to be optimistic about their absence. It meant there’d be fewer dishes to wash, and better portion control as we ate everything on the smaller, lunch-sized plates, right?

We had to make some adjustments. For example, our first breakfast was drawn out more than usual. First, we had coffee and juice. Then, we waited while Mark fried the bacon a few slices at a time on a makeshift frying pan (yes, you read that right) constructed out of a foil tray lined with more foil. When the bacon course was complete, I mixed up the pancake batter. Then Mark made pancakes, a few at a time. And we took turns eating them hot off the ‘pan.’

As per our camping tradition, we always set off on a hike after breakfast, and we always start with the easiest. At Achray, it’s Jack Pine Trail. It’s a short walk that takes visitors out to see the setting of Tom Thompson’s famous Jack Pine. (Which you can see and read a bit about on the National Gallery website.) At the end of the trail, or should I say, the climax of the trail, there’s a rock face you can scamper down to reach a natural beach. If you’re lucky you’ll see a little waterbird or two running between the incoming waves.

The walk back included a bullfrog sighting, wild raspberries ripe for picking, and a monarch resting amid a field of milkweed.

Monarch on milkweed

Camping has permanently changed for us. When the girls were small they required constant supervision, and although they were pretty good at entertaining themselves, they still needed a lot of attention. Now, we are four adults (almost). They take care of their own needs and are very good at helping. I can’t imagine setting up the tent without their help anymore. We let them start the campfire on their own too. This year they baited their own fishing hooks and removed and released the fish they caught. I am one proud momma, that’s for sure.

S. catches a fish

What kind of camping family are we? This is something I’ve thought about. We aren’t one of those families who belt out show tunes around the campfire. We stare into the embers and poke the fire with smoking sticks. We are a family of photographers, minnow catchers, nature lovers, readers, and Uno players. Mark called Achray “an introvert’s paradise” and I think he is right. This campground is radio-free, and since there are no showers here either, it seems to get a pass by a whole segment of the usual camping population.

So I was brushing my teeth at one of Achray’s pseudo-comfort stations (think: a pair of flush toilets and sinks, co-ed) and had a foamy mouthful of toothpaste when I noticed some guy standing awkwardly on the outside of the building, kinda watching me. I looked over at my eldest, who thought he was waiting for a sink so she skirted closer towards me. I looked up, and it was our friend Pete! Mark and Pete have been friends since high school. To make a long story short, we had company around the fire that night and borrowed a frying pan in the process. It was destiny.

I’ll be writing more about the Achray, and some of the things we did while we were there in my next post. As long as more trees don’t fall in our yard. Sigh.

5 Responses to "Camping at Achray, part two"

1 | Jen_nifer

August 13th, 2015 at 12:44 am


Yay for borrowed frying pans!

2 | Shaun Markey

August 13th, 2015 at 6:19 am


I remember years ago our family (of 7) went on a cross Canada driving trip and camped along the way. The first night out we were alone in a campgrpund wen my mother realized we had forgotten a fairly important item – matches. We had a cold supper and breakfast the following morning. We stocked up on matches at the first store we came to!

3 | Brenda A

August 13th, 2015 at 3:50 pm


I am enamoured with all your details of Achray except the shower-lacking part. Achray sounds ideal and I am adding it to our “must camp here” list, but how does one manage more than a few days without a shower?

4 | andrea tomkins

August 13th, 2015 at 4:00 pm


The lake! We were in there every day. It totally does the trick. (I’d be more concerned if we camped for longer than our usual 5/6 day stretch.)

5 | Misty

August 26th, 2015 at 1:53 pm


After our recent camping stint at Sandbanks we can’t wait to get back to Achray! We are also the “introverted” family (despite the kids being much younger than yours!), and we love that Achray weeds out certain types of car campers :)

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (24) and Sarah (22). During the day I work as a writer at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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