Archive for July, 2007

Byng Island (July 21, 2007)

July 23, 2007

Byng Island Conservation Area is at the mouth of the Grand River in Ontario, which empties into Lake Erie. It is regarded as one of the major fishing areas in the Great Lakes, and is just the other side of the river from Dunnville Ontario.

It was also our first camping with Erin. This is also the site of Jacob’s first fish he caught on his own.

We booked the site a week or so in advance, and had a fun drive down trying to find the place. It is not enough to just say “Dunnville”, you sort of have to know your way around. Anyways, after a little searching we found the campground, and were really pleased with the cleanliness and organization of the place. It is also quite busy, and there were many seasonal camping families there with semi-permanent setups. The seasonal campers looked like they were all having a great time.

Erin’s family brought along a couple of tents, one being a large dinner tent which ended up being their main tent area. We parked a couple of sites down under a nice tree, which made for some nice shade during the day. No need to run the air conditioning on this trip!

It was a lot of fun to have everyone there with us, and our boys were thrilled to be camping with their cousins. After dinner, Scott and I agreed to take the kids fishing down at the docks, which was a lot of fun.

Everyone is fishing!

The competition for fishing rods was heavy and earnest, as there were many smaller fishing boats roaming up and down the river and they all had fish on them. A couple of 14 footers even started trawling closer to our shore, which concerned the kids because they thought that the fishing boats might land our fish. I was concerned too, not because they were so close but because they weren’t getting any bites. As you can see from the photos, it was evening and the sun was setting. I guess the fish knew what we were up to.

Jacob casting

Anyways, everyone got a chance working the rods to the point that it was starting to get dark, and we were all thinking about heading back for the nightly campfire. Jacob was helping pack up the equipment when he suggested that he make one more cast. This is after an hour of no contact fishing. I am not sure why he brought up the idea to stay behind. He cast out into the river, and then very quickly reeled the line in to pack up. The hook got to about 6 feet from shore when all of a sudden he had a hit. We could tell it wasn’t like the multitude of snags we had been picking up all evening because his line was actually moving.

Within about 2 minutes Jacob had caught his first fish.

Jacob\'s first catch

It was a very exciting time, and we took just enough time to catch a quick photo before we sent it back home to hang out with it’s fish friends.

That night we all sat by the campfire at Erin’s site with the kids telling stories and roasting marshmellows. Unfortunately the sad state of wood at our site prevented us from getting more of a smolder going.

After the kids went to bed, Scott and I tried to light the fire at our trailer’s campfire ring. It only took an hour, a bunch of lighter fluid, and some liquid courage to create a nice smoking smouldering mound that vaguely resembled the tailpipe of an old 1950s roadster with a head gasket problem. Everyone else, which would be the folks with the actual smarts, decided to stay at Erin’s nice warm fire and watch the flames dance in the cool night air. Well, at least Scott and I kept the mosquitoes out of the area.

The boys stayed up a little later and went on a couple of excursions through the local forest and through the other camping areas, which got to be a little difficult as it got darker. I am not sure how we found our way back.

The following morning was a wonderful time, and I took the kids on a walkabout tracing the steps of our little moonlight adventure the night before. Surprising how different things can look with a little light on them.

It was a nice country drive back home from Dunnville, and we all though that we should go back again next year.

Fishing off the dock was fun

Next year we are going to see if these two want to come back too!

Valens Conservation Area (July 13, 2007)

July 16, 2007

Nicholas’ Birthday Party!

Well, Nicholas waited an entire year for this one. He had been saying throughout the year that he really, really wanted to have a party. But when we asked him what kind of party he wasn’t really sure. So Amy suggested a camping party, and he though that was a fantastic idea.

We went to Valens again.

This is a picture of the Chinese paper patio lanterns that I purchased from JYSK. They were nice enough, and not very expensive. And they also used Christmas mini lights. Unfortunately they did not survive the weekend rains. The light from them was very nice reflecting off the trailer.

I took the two boys and the trailer to our site as kind of an advance party. The remainder of the family and friends were due to show up the following morning. It is an easy trip as it is only a few minutes up the road, and we have to pass a Tim Hortons on the way, which is really nice as there is a large parking lot there with lots of room to maneuver the trailer. Here is a picture of the site once we had figured out how to back the trailer in and set up. On our previous excursion to Valens, we had camped in the cedar forest. As you can see, this area is more of a hilly grassland with a few young trees. The ground was packed dirt and small rocks, and not very well suited to bare feet. At least there was a decent fire pit, and large rocks had been placed at a distance around the campfire pit to keep the grass out of the area.

Imagine our surprise when we pulled in and parked next to this ’80s Airstream Excella. We were the only two Airstream trailers on the entire campground, and ended up on adjacent sites. It was a young family and their young uncle, all down from somewhere near Kingston. The trailer belonged to one of their parents, who did not use it very much. They were nice folks, and you could tell they did not drive this trailer much as there was a lot of slow work to get it unhooked and on the road at the end of the weekend. They did not want to damage it on the narrow roads.

Here is a shot of the trailer once everything was finally set up for camping. The boys had a difficult time at this site as there was not much to do, until they discovered the 6 teenage girls beside our site, and a foot long garter snake. Things really heated up at that point. Surprisingly, our 5 year old was really in to making friends with the girls, while our 3 year old was trying to play with the snake. In both cases our neighbourhood girls and snakes tried to show polite patience…

Things really improved the following morning once Grandpa showed up for the birthday party, and confirmed that he was going to camp overnight with us. The kids thought that was great, and so did I. Not just because there was a lot to do and I was the only onsite adult.

I took the boys out to the fishing bridge on the first night with their new toy fishing tackle, and a basic reel setup that we had picked up a few weeks earlier. This weekend was the annual fishing derby. I have never seen Valens so busy. We were on the bridge for about an hour, and there were about 50 other people along the bridge fishing as well. I could see about 10 fishing boats on the lake. We did not catch anything, and there was not much biting, but we did see a little girl pull in a small sunfish on her Dora the Explorer rod and reel.

We went back to the fishing area briefly in the early morning, and there had already been a lot of fishing activity, and in fact the first place and second place fish had already been caught before the sun was up.

Amy showed up with the party items, and we found a couple of tables near the beach to set up. It had been threatening rain, but we decided to press onwards and see if we could beat the forecast. Patrick discovered a number of caterpillars crawling between the trees beside the road, and the two boys played with them for quite a while. Until one of them got stepped on, but that is another story.

Once all of the party goers arrived, we started a BBQ and got cooking. We had lots of gourmet food for the grill, and Amy had prepared much of it. Our guests also brought some fantastic summer food, and we all ate happily as we watched the clouds roll in with wary eyes. The kids went down to the beach to get in some “swim time” while we cleaned up the cooking site, and at this point the rain began. We decided to relocate everything back to our house, since we live just up the road.

Uncle John agreed to take care of little Grace while we were getting people settled. The party actually turned out really well, as we all gathered for cake and ice cream and the kids got a chance to take a real shower before we headed back to the campsite.

We sent Patrick home, and Nicholas had his buddy Christian over for a sleep over at the trailer with Grandpa Lang. It was a little bit of work keeping up with these two, as they have both turned out to be quite curious and love exploring – with and without adult supervision. The next morning we went for a walk through the Valens forest, and then went to the lookout over the wetlands. Here is picture of the kids up at the lookout.

The walk through the forest was a lot of fun. Both of the boys had not seen many of the plants and fungi from the area before, and were very inquisitive about what lives in the forest. I was swarmed by mosquitos, but the kids did not seem to be very bothered.