a peek inside the fishbowl

23 Jul, 2007

My socks may never be white again

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

First, check this out:

Millipede on a tree

That’s just ONE of the critters we met while we were camping.

Unrelated to the photo above: know that my poor ankles are absolutely coated with Benadryl. I keep the crinkled tube in sight at all times in case I suddenly need to reapply. I woke up at around three o’clock this morning to give them a good scratch. Oh my. It hurt so good.

Physically, we’re back from camping. Mentally, I’m still somewhere between here and there. The house was clean when we entered it. We pretty much dropped everything and collapsed in a big heap. We barely managed to order dinner last night.

I am pooped.

Forgive the chronological retelling. This is more for me, not so much for you. 

Tuesday we woke and finished the packing we had started the night before. This is not an easy feat. We are a family of four with a small car. Predictably, there is always a point where Mark turns to me and says: “I don’t know how we’re going to get all of this in the car.” Then he repacks, and miraculously he manages to squeeze everything in. It’s the exact same every year.

I’m seriously thinking that we’re going to have to rent a minivan if we ever do this again. (Gack… Enterprise charges $346.49 per week)

The weather was great on Tuesday. We’d been checking the weather rather obsessively in the days leading up to our trip. Little did we know there was a deluge in store for us.

Packed to the hilt, we drove away. Within minutes I was making a mental checklist of all the things I had forgotten to pack: shortening, salad dressing… We’d have to make do without. We made it to our campsite exactly at check-in time. The weather was gorgeous. We were eager to unpack and head to the beach.

Unfortunately, one of the things we forgot to do was leave a set of keys with our neighbor. So the first thing we had to do was make some calls. Our (borrowed) cellphone wouldn’t work. So Mark found himself in a vintage phonebooth with a large stack of quarters.

[Note: click to enlarge photos]

Vintage telephone

We were setting up camp soon enough. Our campsite is one of the best in the campground (we’d scoped them out in previous years) and I was glad we were able to book it again.

View of our campsite

It’s a wee bit far from the bathrooms (imagine waking up and going for a two/three minute walk to pee) and uphill from the beach, but I love it anyway.

We had arranged to camp with good friends of ours, and we had the good fortune of being right next-door to their site. Not only are they good company, but their beer was colder than ours. Our kids followed a secret pathway from one camp to the next, which was perfect.

They all got along wonderfully (three girls, one boy) and spent a lot of time persuading Chippy, the resident chipmunk, to take a peanut or two.

I have a lot of blurry photos with chipmunk-coloured streaks, like this:



This one makes me laugh, even though it’s practically unrecognizable:

Chippy got a little too close to the camera

We spent the rest of Tuesday at the beach.

That night our friends made dinner, which consisted of an amazing pasta salad (even MARK ate it) and the best burgers I’d had in a long time. OMG, what is it about camp food that makes everything taste so good? Is it because we’re always starving? Or something about cooking over fire that takes us back to our cave-dwelling days and evokes some deep-seated desire to rip into a flank of some meaty animal, even though it’s shaped like a circle?

Give me meat!

I love sleeping outdoors. This year was a bit different. Mark and I invested in an inflatable mattress. It was great not to sleep on a thick-as-my-thumb-narrow-as-my-butt Thermarest. We quickly realized that our new mattress had a slow leak. At first Mark insisted this was normal. The first night I woke up feeling like a fajita. But at least I wasn’t on the ground. The inflatable mattress was a giant leap in camping comfort.

Tuesday night we woke to the weirdest noise. We’re used to the growls and scuffles of raccoons. That doesn’t alarm us anymore. But this was something different altogether. I still don’t know what it was, a toad? A nocturnal bird? Someone playing a joke? It sounded exactly like someone rubbing their fingers on a bathtub, a deep ooh-ooh sound. It was freaky.

May I describe, for a moment, my perfect camping agenda?

1. sleep in
2. eat breakfast
3. drink coffee in restful fashion
4. go for a hike
5. eat lunch
6. hang out at the beach e.g swim and read
7. eat dinner
8. drink beer
9. engage family in post-dinner activity: walk/game (i.e we played bocci ball one night)
10. sit around the campfire
11. drink beer
12. go to bed

Repeat as weather allows.

This pic will give you an idea of my ideal:

My view at the beach

It makes me happy just remembering.

On Wednesday morning the four of us went on a 2.5 km hike and spent the rest of the day at the beach. The girls constantly amaze me. It doesn’t take much to amuse them. They manage to find fun everywhere.

Give them a frog:

Sarah is holding a prince of a frog

…or some sand:

Sarah in the sand

… a couple of shovels and a bucket and they’re set. Most happily (for me) they no longer require direct supervision. I don’t have to worry about someone eating a handful of sand, grabbing a wasp, or wandering into the water. I am happy to watch them playing happily.

Wednesday night we were reminded of one of the reasons we love coming to this area so much. When the sun goes down, the fireflies come out. It is a wonderful sight to behold – thousands of tiny lights hovering in the darkest parts of the forest that surrounded us. I love it. Not only is it absolutely gorgeous, but it reminds me of the many unseen things in the forest, but this rare time they are illuminated for our viewing pleasure. 

The girls were thrilled. I have a great “remembery” (as Sarah used to call it) of Emma and Sarah walking through the forest with their glowsticks, trying to catch them. Sarah caught four of and put them into our tent for us all to watch while we fell asleep.

We had a brief (and sad) firefly-related moment. Mark crushed one while explaining their bioluminescence. Sarah cried. What a sensitive soul she is.

Thursday we woke to rain. It poured much of the morning. We hung out in the tent, cuddled, played Uno, and read. At one point we took a little trip to a little store, just to break things up a bit. Lunch was eaten in the tent: a cup of soup and jam sandwiches. Emma expressed a lot of interest in the “new” bread we bought. It was white bread, the whitest you can get. And unfortuntely it got eaten by someone else a short time later.

This is what happens when you leave a bag of bread outside

When the rain finally stopped we went on a short hike. Big mistake.  It was bug city. Thankfully it was only a 1.5 km hike. We plowed through it without stopping, because stopping would have just provided a landing surface for the mosquitoes and deer flies. After awhile I was violently slapping everything that touched my body: including wind and branches.

Friday we woke to rain again. The girls were great. Somehow they found something to keep themselves occupied. I didn’t mind the rain. I was more than happy to be relaxing and reading and listening to the rain patter overhead. I think Mark took it the hardest.

Forecasts promised it would all be over by midmorning, but by 11 a.m. it was still pouring, and they were still predicting it would end by midmorning. It was raining so hard we actually drove to the comfort station to pee. The forecast was finally updated to a rainfall warning and we were informed it wouldn’t stop until that evening. So we packed up and drove away, destination unknown. Was it going to be Gananaque or Brockville? We chose Brockville.

We arrived around 1:00. We are all starving. Mark and I were coffeeless and on edge. I’m embarrassed to report that we ate at East Side Mario’s. Downtown Brockville is a lovely little historic town. We passed by a few old-style pubs, and I know we would have fared well in one of those places, but it was still pouring and parking would have been an issue. So we took the easy route.

The meal was decent. We were famished after a breakfast of potato chips and fruit.

Mark had the idea of catching a movie. He found a newspaper with movie listings. The latest Pixar movie, Ratatouille, was showing nearby. We tooled around the 1000 Islands Mall for a while (Mark bought socks, the rest of us bought books) and eventually found ourselves at the theater.

Emma was annoyed with all the commercials and previews. Sarah was squirmy near the end, but overall we really enjoyed the film. It was the perfect thing to do on such a rainy day. When we emerged the rain had miraculously stopped. We drove home, started a roaring fire, hung up two damp sleeping bags and cracked open a couple of beers. Lord knows we deserved them.

We had a bit of this

Saturday we had a post-breakfast hike along the Sandstone Island trail. This is one of the best trails in the area, probably one of the most interesting we’ve experienced overall. There is so much to see, like this cool rock overhang:

 Rocky overhang

Saturday was our last full day and we had a lot to squeeze in, the hike, lunch, two canoe trips, dinner, and some quality time at the beach. And we did it. The weather was picture perfect.

Emma and the tree

But we didn’t do an awful lot of swimming. It wasn’t hot hot hot as previous years. And the lake was a little on the chill side. When I did get in the water I did my favourite lake-related swimming, or perhaps it’s not really swimming… just floating on my back, ears underwater, face upturned toward the sky. I often wonder if I could fall asleep that way.

Sunday we packed up and went home. For some reason it was more difficult fitting everything back into the car. En route, our roof-top container slid around alarmingly, but we made it home without any of our stuff dropping out on the 401.

Other than my ravaged ankles and Mark’s itchy welts (he thinks he brushed up against something, be it flora or fauna) we all survived wonderfully. We are all intact, our spirits are that much brighter, and we have a lot of new fun memories.

Five nights, six days is the perfect length of time for us. Any more than that would be hard to pull off. I really hope our girls always love camping and grow up to be nature-lovers.

** view the whole Flickr set here.

Other general observations:
– We need a bigger tent. Experts say to buy a bigger tent than you think you need. Well, we did that. We bought a six-person tent for our family of four. The “sleeps six” should be rewritten as “intimately sleeps six skinny people without sleeping bags.” Our four sleeping bags cover the entire floor. I’m upgrading the first sale that comes by. Something with a front room/separate entranceway for storing shoes and bags.
– I need to update my checklist so we’re less likely to forget stuff.
– Sarah cannot sleep in a sleeping bag. She always manages to wiggle out. By the second night I unzipped her bag and spread it across their mattresses, and unzipped Emma’s and spread it over them like a blanket. This worked a bit better. At least they were covered. Why hasn’t someone invented some kind of soft harness to keep kids in their bags?
– Crocs are cute, but only on the very small.
– I will always pack alternate/non-perishable foods in addition to what I’ve planned to make and serve. Anything is fine, as long as it doesn’t require heat at any stage of preparation.


So, what have you guys been up to?


6 Responses to "My socks may never be white again"

1 | mrsgryphon

July 24th, 2007 at 12:15 am


oh, I miss Ontario camping, with the big lakes and the beaches within walking distance of a perfectly treed site. Of course, Alberta camping often means Rocky Mountain views, but still… I miss the beach.

2 | roz

July 24th, 2007 at 8:48 am


Welcome back! you were certainly missed!
I was also away cottaging / camping up in northern ontario: Cottaging because i slept in a cottage, camping because i had to pee in an outhouse…also glad to be back :)

3 | Pendullum

July 24th, 2007 at 9:30 am


Welcome Back!!!!!!!

4 | BeachMama

July 24th, 2007 at 11:10 am


Oooh welcome back! Your recount reminded me of how much I used to enjoy camping. We haven’t gone in years and it would be so much fun to do again (or so I want to believe). Maybe next year.

5 | Mama V

July 25th, 2007 at 8:14 am


love the photos… hey… if you’re willing to share… what campsite number is that? I’m always looking for nice, treed campsites, and we’ve never been to Charleston Lake. I hate booking a site without actually seeing it first…

6 | a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive Camping at Charleston Lake Provincial Park, the 2020 edition - a peek inside the fishbowl

August 2nd, 2020 at 3:09 pm


[…] the record, here are the posts about our experience at Charleston Lake in 2010, in 2007 and in […]

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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 daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). 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, 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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