25 August 2008

Several "Tall Boys” and a few mosquito bites later…

The merry adventurers have returned from the wilderness, tanned, tired, mosquito-bitten and generally content with the way of the world. Despite the three-year hiatus from camping, everything went off without a hitch. Thankfully, we were blessed with the best weather that we’ve seen so far this summer – very hot days (perfect for the lake) but comfortable evenings for the campfire and sleeping.

The bulk of Friday was spent setting up camp, a process that I’ve never really enjoyed. By the time we reach camp, I’m anxious to get down to the very serious task of honing in on my inner pyromaniac, plunking down on my posterior and drinking beers by the fire. Unfortunately, however, campsites cannot set themselves up. This time the menial process was prolonged by the fact that we each had to scratch our heads and figure out how to build that damn new dining tent. Thankfully for hubby, it turned out to be an awesome purchase (very sturdy construction) and I was slightly less scathing with my comments about his losing our original dining shelter (R.I.P. you flimsy piece of crap). Once everything was finally assembled, we quickly transitioned into slumming it mode, opened our cheap tall boys of beer and ate a gourmet meal of turkey sausages and store-purchased potato salad…hey, even Martha needs to take a break sometimes.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any answer my to exhaustion prayers on Friday evening. We headed off to our cozy dome tent early, but I had a terrible time staying asleep. Typically I get my best Zs while camping, but this trip proved to be the exception. Between hubby’s tossing and turning, a sketchy owl that freaked out several times in the evening and our air mattress’ inept ability to stay fully inflated for more than a few hours, it was a recipe for sleeping disaster. After catching only a few random hours of sleep here and there, I woke up on Saturday looking as though I had been living in the wild for well over a week rather then merely one evening…très sexy.

After plying myself with horrible instant coffee (never again) and subsequently hurling it into the fire pit , Dan and I had a quick breakfast and headed off to the gate house to reserve a canoe. We planned to spend our morning on the lake and exploring some of the interior and islands, but unfortunately all of the canoes were booked solid for the entire day. I was upset but I only had myself to blame; I should have known better. On a busy weekend, always book your canoe the moment you arrive and register at the park! Fortunately, however, we had a good backup plan – hiking!

Charleston Lake Provincial Park is blessed with a variety of different trails or varying degrees of difficulty. Dan and I chose to follow the moderate Shoreline Centennial Trail (2 KM) that snakes through the woods, up some rugged terrain and along the shoreline. It was nice to trek though the woods in the early morning, before the heat of the day reached its peak. We pretty much had the trail to ourselves, only bumping into another family at a lookout point. It’s always exciting to walk through the deep woods, quietly scanning for other signs of life…namely bears or the infamous rat snakes of the Park. Unfortunately (or fortunately), we only saw a few chipmunks. I was surprised that even the mosquitoes seemed to be hiding out for the most part; although this could have something to do with the fact that I had enough bug replant on me to kill a small animal. I wasn’t taking any precautions! I put so much repellant on, that my skin actually resembled a basted golden turkey leg at a Thanksgiving feast.

After exploring the Shoreline Trail, hubs and I decided to hit up another 2 KM trail to Quiddity Lookout. We made it about half way before we encountered an unavoidable swampy mud patch. Because we were only wearing our runners, we decided to forgo the mess and head back to square one. The beginning of the trail is quite lovely, as it crosses over a marsh on a wooden boardwalk. I was happy to see that not only were there trails for the more fit or seasoned campers, there were also options for the disabled - something that is often lacking at other campgrounds. Big points for Charleston Lake!

By the time we concluded our second hike, hubs and I were getting ravenous and sweaty. It had turned into a scorcher of a day. After eating some sandwiches (yes, another A+ effort in gourmet cooking), we hit the beautiful beach just down the road from our awesome campsite. If you’re ever at CL, I highly recommend booking site #304 in the Shady Ridge campground; it’s large, well shaded, very private and boasts an excellent location - not too far from the water or the washrooms. The beach (one of three) was also quite pristine with a reasonable stretch of sand, some shady patches and cool, clean water. As I blissfully dived in, I actually felt like I was getting cleaner rather than grungier – a feeling I often get after bathing in rivers closer to Ottawa. I would definitely camp at CL again, even for the lake alone. A clean body of water is hard to find these days; I almost feel guilty for soaking my Deet-saturated turkey legs in it.

Lying in the hot sun on the beach, it didn’t take long for complete lethargy to take hold of me. My eyes started to drift shut so I headed back to camp for a siesta in the tent. Hubby, also being quite the pyromaniac, decided to take advantage of my downtime by building a good fire that would last us well into the evening. Several hours later, after dining on chili and wine (another class meal), we capped off the evening in front of the bonfire reminiscing over our childhood days in Scouts and Girl Guides. I was quite a prolific camper and had spent three years as a Brownie Leader (a.k.a. Snowy Owl), consequently, as you can imagine, my repertoire of stupid camp songs is quite extensive. I’m not sure whether it was the wine or simply the fond memories that prompted me to start belting out my finest tunes. Either way we had a good laugh and hubby even joined in on a few. I’m sure we made quite the picture, but at least our experience was more authentic that the campers two sites over who were…get ready for this…listening to episodes of M.A.S.H. and Back To The Future on their portable television! Colour me critical but doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of camping?

Saturday sleep time proved to be as equally frustrating as Friday. Once again, I was woken by a screeching owl and a snoring hubby. For a brief second I wondered whether there was a bear outside my tent, but I soon realized that the snorting and snuffling noises were emminating from my sleeping companion and were very likey a byproduct of the amount of tall boys he enjoyed earlier by the fire. I did, however, exact my revenge at 2:00 A.M. when I decided to pull the frightened female routine and got him to accompany me to the bathroom. Much to hubby’s chagrin, I sometimes revert to the bitter school of thought where, “If I’m not sleeping, nobody is!”

On Sunday morning we woke bright and early, had a basic breakfast and decided to pack up our gear due to the forecasted rain. Trying to pack up wet gear is a horrendous and messy job, so while we wanted to stay a little a little longer, we knew that it would be wise to get going. At any rate, it’s probably best that we left early as my allergies reached their climax and my eyes and nose were running like a faucet. Even the antihistamines that I regularly pumped through my body were no match for whatever was lurking in the air…not to mention on my clothes and our gear. I felt downright miserable!

The two-hour drive home went relatively quickly, aided in part by a healthy dose of Tim Horton’s coffee along the 401. There was absolutely no way we were going to subject ourselves to the ‘instant poison’ that we had at camp the previous day. Hubby was feeling particularly sorry for my pathetic sniffly state and even stopped off at Starbucks once we reached Ottawa so that I could have a comforting latté…he spoils me.

Once we were home it was business as usual. I spent the bulk of my time doing laundry, using hordes of Kleenex, sneezing and wishing myself dead, and comforting my surly guinea pigs who were none-to-pleased that ‘mommy’ and ‘daddy’ abandoned them for the weekend. We left the beasts with two full water bottles, an armload of hay, two bowls of high-quality pellets and enough food to generally satisfy an entire guinea pig tribe for a week. We returned to two angry, squeaking bundles of fur who had consumed all but half of a bowl of pellets, tipped over their sleeping castle and decided to throw in a poo and woodchip flinging contest for good measure.

By 2:00 P.M. I was verging on tears any insanity, so I tucked myself into bed for a much-needed nap. Hubby soldiered on and clean Dora…our dirty, dirty, car! Sadly the house didn’t get cleaned, but we’ll leave that to another day – yes folks, I was THAT tired.

And finally (thanks for making it this far folks), we ended off the weekend with our last season game of beach volleyball. Thankfully, the nap did me well and I was able to play my little heart out. It was one of our best games ever, but sadly we lost the bronze and ended up in fourth place overall…still not too shabby. We celebrated our efforts at a pub after the game and had a fantastic time.

Sunday evening…I slept like a baby!

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