a peek inside the fishbowl

12 Aug, 2016

Camping at Restoule Provincial Park

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy|travel talk

I don’t think we’ve expressly stated this, but we’ve somehow made it a mission to visit a new campground at an Ontario Provincial Parks site every summer. These are the ones we’ve been to so far:

And those posts only scratch the surface. As I re-read some of them I realized I have written MANY MANY words about our camping adventures and have covered the why/what to pack/what to eat aspects extensively, but I wanted to take a moment to write a few words about Restoule Provincial Park and our recent experience there.

We booked our site many moons ago and for some reason I had it in my head that it was a six-hour drive from Ottawa. Ha. I was wrong! It was just over four. (Yay!)

Fellow car camping families may agree that one of the most stressful parts of car camping (aside from packing up the entire car and freaking out about what you possibly forgot) is driving into a totally new site for the first time. There are so many things that can be horribly wrong at this point in the game. The site is basically The Foundation of Everything. It can be too small, too close to loud neighbours, too close to toilets, too far from the comfort station, covered in tree roots, on the banks of a mosquito-invested swamp etc etc. Ontario Parks online booking maps don’t provide nearly enough information so every year we make the Best Possible Guess, cross our fingers, and hope for the best.

Every year the routine is always the same as we enter the park.

1) Mark parks the vehicle and goes into the main gatehouse to check in. Upon return, he hands me THE NEWSPAPER MAP. Every provincial park has one and I think they publish one per season. This information is gold. Misplacing it = death.
2) Clutching the park newspaper-slash-map, I attempt to navigate us to our campsite without (a) getting us lost during the last stretch or (b) giving my husband grounds for divorce.
3) While driving down the narrow dirt roads of our campground, we count the site numbers as we near our home base for the next five nights.
4) We hold our breath, crane our necks to see our site as we sloooowly approach.

Good news: Our site was ok.

Our campsite at Restoule

On the map it had looked like our site was backing on to a forest but it really was just another campground, which was not pictured. Oh well. It was right across from a water tap (YAY) and just the right distance from toilets AND the beach. As a bonus, our site had two picnic tables, which came in quite handy.

Set-up is a breeze now that the girls are older. The eldest, especially, has an excellent tent-assembly skill that totally eludes me. She’s perfectly able to Visualize and Direct. There’s a future manager in her somewhere for sure.

On the first night, we went to bed early – 10ish – happy to be snug in our sleeping bags and with our books and magazines. Little did we know what was in store. To summarize, it was probably the worst, most disruptive sleep I’ve ever had in our 13 years of family camping.

First, we awoke with a start to the clatter of a pile of plastic dishes being knocked off the picnic table. Given the location of the tent relative to the table, this was practically next to my head. Raccoons were the culprit – as to be expected – but their messy investigation of our campsite went on for ages. The raccoon family was later joined by a fox and they had a scuffle, with resulted in much yipping, growling, and shuffling. Later we heard someone sniffing the edges of our tent. SNIFFING. Somehow, we eventually fell back asleep only to be woken by a blaring car alarm. The girls slept through it. I’m not exactly sure how this was possible because it was nearby and incredibly loud in the dead silence of our campground.

Mark and I imagined someone rolling over on their key fob in the middle of the night. And here’s the other thing: it didn’t just go off once, it went off THREE TIMES. IN A ROW.

In the early pre-dawn hour I heard odd scratching noises. I was half asleep and didn’t really think much of it because it could have been one of the girls tossing around in her sleeping bag. It was Mark who finally clued in. It was a chipmunk INSIDE our tent (!) which we were able to shepherd out without much issue. And then there was a group of shrieking blue jays: a juvenile who was begging food from the rest of his family.

Juvenile jay shrieks at parent jay: "FEED ME"

What else woke me? Oh, how about a half-empty mattress and a full bladder? When the closest facility is 250 steps away, you GO the second you think you might need to.

Suffice it to say I was a walking zombie on day one.

In the morning our neighbour stopped by to chat about that car alarm. Mark and I had been shaking our heads about That Idiot Car Alarm Family but this fellow told us that campers use their car alarms to scare away curious bears. Ha. We found out later that a bear has been wandering around our campground. So, in fact, this person was doing everyone a favour by alerting us to the presence of a bear.

Live and learn I guess. Sigh.

Camping part two, is coming up.


2 Responses to "Camping at Restoule Provincial Park"

1 | Brenda A

August 12th, 2016 at 6:33 pm

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I love your camping stories!

2 | andrea tomkins

August 12th, 2016 at 7:41 pm

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Thank you Brenda!

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Have a great summer at Saunders Farm!


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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark. We have two daughters: Emma (19) and Sarah (17). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger, and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999... which makes me either a total dinosaur or a veteran, I'm not sure which! The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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