After our first night camping at Blind River (see July’s post) we travelled on and spent four nights camping in Agawa Bay, Lake Superior Provincial Park. I remember those days feeling relaxed and endless. It was the first time on our trip we had no permanent access to power – so the process of adjustment could begin. We were cooking most of our meals on a camp stove and generally spending our time outside, relying on natural light, so the days took on a different rhythm.
My favourite memories of Agawa Bay were wandering down to the shores of the lake with the boys, collecting the beautiful jewel coloured agate and making ‘gardens’ in the sand with Theodore. We spent most of our days and evenings by the lake, the hours stretching for days. Monty was a big fan of the water, so he spent a lot of time ‘Montying’ his way in to the lake and throwing his pretty stones in with daddy.
I’ll be honest, I was obsessed with bears for the first few nights (weeks) but reading up and speaking to the park rangers helped. It was later that I learned that whilst bears are definitely ones to be aware of, it’s the cougars you’ve really got to worry about. By which point we’d camped our way across five Provinces and survived, so I felt altogether better about the realities of co-existing in nature with two tiny, tasty looking humans.
One night after dinner we got chatting to a family from Fairbanks, Alaska. A couple with their 13 year old son and family dog. They explained that they were taking two years out to travel around Canada together in their ‘bear proof tent’, a small tear drop trailer. They were planning on having a two week break with some friends on Manitoulin Island before heading to the East coast in time for Fall. It felt reassuring to speak to another family on their own adventure and to exchange stories about our East and West coast experiences (Mike and I travelled the East coast and Newfoundland on a previous trip).
Our tents survived their first heavy night of rain, but we quickly realised the benefits of a tarpaulin suspended above – or at the very least pinned over the top to stop what we found to be inevitable water drops accumulating over time. We also decided at this point that a screen tent to cook in during inclement weather was going to be very useful. We already had a ‘play tent’ for the boys (a 6 berth tent), which turned out to be one of our most valuable pieces of equipment. It provided a dry contained space where they could keep their toys and books and have space to play and move around freely, whatever the weather. It also provided a place of safety, where Mike and I could sit and relax knowing no one could wander off.
The boys settled into sleeping in a tent very well. We have co-slept with both of them, so sleeping in one room all together is normal for us – and incredibly useful. That coupled with our days following the rhythms of sunrise and sunset made for healthy sleeping routines. The only exceptions were nights when Monty was teething, and the occasional night terror (from me!)
An hours drive from Agawa Bay, there is a small town called Wawa – most obviously notable for a giant goose sculpture on the way into town, along with two others dotted along the road for good measure (the boys really enjoyed spotting the geese!).
One rainy day we took a trip in to get supplies and to grab some ‘inside lunch’. As we were legging it from the car into the diner, a tall friendly looking lady with a huge smile on her face and open arms leaped out in front of us, exclaiming ‘hey, how are you? Do you want to stop in and play?’ She explained that she was from the family centre and that they were having a French language day if we wanted to join them, an invitation we very gladly took up with two slightly grouchy children in the rain.
This was our first experience of any services for children and families in Canada. Having never leapt into the street to connect with the local community in my own social work practice, I felt inspired and excited by such a pro-active approach. The boys enjoyed a good two hours in what was a beautifully equipped centre, learning the french names of all the different animals (their go to toys of choice every time, bar a few tractors and cars for Monty). We enjoyed an enthusiastic and supportive chat (with a hug!) and a good play, a lovely surprise on an otherwise rainy day camping.
Moving on, we spent a night in Nipigon, then on to Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park.