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camping at Pinery Provincial Park

August 31st, 2010

A dog and the sunset

Last Friday, I had the day booked off when it looked like we’d be heading way up north to go camping about six hours from home. When Sandra started getting this temp work, I switched the reservation to Pinery Provincial Park, 3 hours away on the shores of Lake Huron near Grand Bend Ontario. Although we could have easily driven there after work and arrived around 10pm, I decided to keep the day off, run some errands, go to Costco, and be able to pick her up from work at 5 and get on the road.

Friday didn’t exactly go as planned. I blame the sketchy noodle bowl from the mall fast-food Japanese restaurant on Thursday. But I stocked up on steaks and baking potatoes and corn and beer and had the dogs and the gear ready to go by 5:30.

The drive to Pinery was lovely. I’ve never been through Stratford before, and really, must find a way to go back for an actual visit. We passed through what felt like the heart of Ontario’s agriculture community; so many farms, growing everything from corn to soybeans to broccoli! We saw cows and sheep and alpaca and goats. We even saw a Turkey store with an LCBO in it. Weird.

I didn’t know what to expect about Pinery. From the descriptions online, it sounded a lot like a very family-friendly campground, with lots of programs and a fabulous beach. Our site – 948 in Burley campground – was rated “good” for quality and “average” for privacy, which tends to mean it’s pretty open to both neighbors and the road.

As we drove through the park for about a half hour to get to our site, I realized that Pinery was both much larger and much more wild than I’d expected. From doing some reading, I’d learned that Pinery has the largest Oak Savanna in Ontario; a grassy area dotted with majestic oak trees.

Campsite 948 in the Burley Campground. The privacy was rated as "average" but the site was pretty nice. We had neighbors on one side that were quite close - maybe 10 feet from their tent to ours. Otherwise decent.

Living in Canada, I don’t feel like I see a lot of Oaks. We had one in our back yard growing up, but in later years, I’ve gotten more used to Maples as the standard. Our side was mostly open, but had several gorgeous Oaks around the edges for a bit of privacy.

Dog Beach

But the main reason to go to Pinery isn’t for the trees. It’s the 10km of white sand beach, with shallow warm waters and perfect sunsets. Like about three dozen Provincial Parks, Pinery has a dedicated “pet exercise area” at one of the beaches. The rules state that dogs must be kept on leashes, even on this pet beach, but many (including us) were just keeping leashes nearby and our dogs under control in the water.

First thing Saturday, I took Jackson and Cooper to the beach to burn some energy. The week before, Sandra worked on two pitches until midnight, giving us little time to get them to the dog park during the week. And man, were they full of beans! At 10am on Saturday, the dog beach was still fairly empty. Not so a few hours later when we went back for the afternoon with chairs and sandwiches to enjoy the rest of the day. We staked out our spot in the sand and I spent the next four hours in the water.

Swimming dogs

So many sandbars make the water pretty much waist deep for a long distance, so it was warm and sandy underfoot. One of the best swimming experiences I’ve had outside the Caribbean! For the dogs, this was great. I could stand and they could swim constantly, or I could run with them through the shallower sections while chasing balls.

This was really the first time we’ve swum with both dogs for so long. We took Cooper to Kelowna BC when he was about 5 months old and went to the dog beach there. But Jackson hasn’t really been in the water with us for more than a few minutes at Killbear.

Jackson, as it turns out, gets a little anxious. I don’t know if he’s worried about us, or if he just doesn’t like swimming. Many times, he swum up to me and pawed at me with his front paws by jumping half out of the water. Sounds cute? It’s not. His claws are kind of sharp, and with the power of a 95lb lab, have left huge bruises and scrapes over much of my body.

I figured out that if I watched him coming at me, I could turn and hold him a bit to give him a break and help him calm down. Then, send him back to the shore where Sandra would be waiting.

Swim to me!Giving Cooper a rest

On the other hand, Cooper was even more of a suck than I’d believe possible. If he swam out to me, he expected me to hold him… on my shoulders.

Pretty cute, actually.

Driftwood at sunset

Whether this past weekend was the best camping we’ve ever had, or just a really good time, it doesn’t matter. Going to the lake for two nights felt, to me at least, like going on a fantastic summer vacation for much, much longer. I had that end-of-vacation-cry feeling when we drove away; I didn’t want to leave.

best laid plans

August 1st, 2010

Well, another week, another bout of dog-related drama. You know we had scheduled and rescheduled and scheduled again a week long camping trip to Killarney Provincial Park and a few other areas in the near North of Ontario. We had shopped, and packed, and planned out everything from meals to a backcountry canoe trip of […]

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I feel like we’ve spent the entire summer trying to go camping. See, that was my big plan when we moved here on only one income. We already have all the gear, tents sleeping bags, cookware. And Ontario Provincial Parks are pretty awesome. A lot of them even feature designated off-leash areas for dogs. (I […]

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