Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Lakeside Camping weekend(s)

Last Friday we packed the car to the roof and beyond (filling a new roof bag) and set off in the pouring rain towards Aspen Beach Provincial Park, on the shore of Gull Lake, 90 minutes drive north of Airdrie. The forecast for the Gull Lake area was better than for Airdrie, and it did dry up as we headed north, and by the time we arrived at our pitch at 8pm it was a nice evening.  Before we'd unpacked the tent our neighbour came over to say hello, it turned out she works in Lara's year at her school as a French language teaching assistant. It's a small world! She kindly offered to let us put anything we needed in their RV fridge, and charge any phones or tablets, as our pitch had no electrical supply.
We put the tent up without any drama, within 30 minutes, but it took quite some time to unpack all our things and set up inside, then cook some supper, and get the kids ready for bed, so it was past 11 o'clock before they were in their sleeping bags. It had only just gone dark too, so it was unlikely they would have gone to sleep much earlier anyway.
No matter how comfortable our new airbeds were, we were never going to get much of a lie-in, and soon after 7am Dan woke up, which is the alarm call for everyone. It might have been early, but it was a lovely, calm, sunny morning, and so getting up wasn't such a hardship. I took the dogs for a walk down to the lake, only a 7 or 8 minute walk, and found the other important part of the campsite - the playground. It was right on the lake shore, and whilst the water is cold at the moment, it's a shallow lake and we're assured it will warm up through the summer. Back at the tent we had a breakfast of fried and boiled eggs with salami and croissants, then set off down to explore the lake shore with the kids and dogs. We even had a little stab at fishing, though we certainly weren't expecting to catch anything. We headed back to the tent for lunch, with the intention of inflating our own 10-foot boat, and going out on the lake for a while, with me rowing, expecting the novelty to wear off for the kids within 30 minutes. We bought new PFDs (personal floatation devices - mustn't call them lifejackets!) for everyone specially for the weekend.
Chantelle, our neighbour, and her husband Serge approached us as we prepared lunch and asked if we would like to go with them on their boat for a tour of the lake that afternoon. Their boat was apparently plenty big enough to accommodate all of us, and we should meet them at the boat launch at 1pm...
While we had lunch, Lara bit down on a piece of bread and her second lower front tooth came out! After a brief discussion about whether the tooth fairy would find her here, when she's not at home, we decided we'd try it, and before she went to bed that evening she put her tooth under her pillow. That clever tooth fairy did find her, she broke into the tent, didn't disturb the dogs, broke into Lara's little personal tent, and swapped her tooth for $5.
After lunch we walked to the boat launch, it turned out Serge's boat was a 9-seat motorboat with a 275hp engine, capable of 40mph, which is fast for a small boat. We went out on the lake for 2 hours, Dan wasn't sure about it for the first 10 minutes, but then relaxed enough to fall asleep, and he only woke 10 minutes before we returned to the launch. In the meantime Serge revved the boat up to 30mph, and Lara sat up at the pointy end with Chantelle, and couldn't take the smile off her face as she was buffeted by wind and spray.

We returned to camp at 3pm and started to think about what to do for tea - everything takes longer when you're camping.  All the campsites here have firepits with a grill to cook on, so we bought some firewood from the campground office, and Lara and I set about making some kindling, and Olga showed Lara and Dan how to make the fire and light it.

While the fire got going, Lara and I took the dogs for a walk through the woods. Mishka caught site of something that he was interested in chasing, and this alerted Jackson. Lara was holding his leash, and he set off at a gallop to see what Mishka was interested in. We've drilled it into Lara how she must try to hold onto his leash all the time, when we first let her walk with him she would panic if he pulled and would let go of the leash. To her great credit this time she didn't let go, but he pulled her really hard, and she fell full-length on the stony path, ripping her trousers and giving her a nasty graze on her knee. She didn't let go of the leash, for which I was very proud of her, it would have been a nightmare trying to get him back if he chased a squirrel into the woods. She picked herself up, and with a stiffest of upper-lips she didn't cry, and we headed back to the tent. Olga cut the bottom half of her trousers off to give easy access to clean her graze, and this made us realise I'd not packed  a first aid kit, but I found one in the emergency kit we keep in the car for if we're ever stranded in winter.
Tea was burgers cooked on the grill and garlic bread cooked in foil on the fire, with s'mores for dessert - these are marshmallow and chocolate sandwiched between cracker-type cookies, cooked over the fire. Lara had a treat of roasted marshmallows for supper once Dan had gone to bed; he took some persuading to settle down, but zipping him properly into his little sleeping bag, inside his own little tent which was covered with a blackout curtain, and putting some lullabys on his tablet did the trick by 9.30pm. Ahh, modern family camping!
Lara had her marshmallows and was happy to go to bed at 10pm, with it still very light outside, and with the large group of campers in the field 50 metres away making a lot of noise, it reflected how tired she was that she fell asleep without any great problem, watching her new Lego movie on her tablet.
This gave Olga and I an hour sitting by the fire, enjoying a few glasses of wine, until it went properly dark and we retired for the night.
Sunday was Father's Day, so I was entitled to a lie-in, and it was 8am before we got up. The weather forecast wasn't great for Sunday, but luckily it turned out to be wrong, and on stepping out of the tent we were greeted by clear blue skies.
After a quick breakfast of eggs and croissants again, I was presented with my card and presents from the kids, and Lara took me away for my surprise trip down to the lake for some fishing. This meant her having three casts then heading off to the playground, but I enjoyed my hour of peace and quiet by the lake, not catching anything.
Then it was back to the tent to start the process of packing up. It only took 30 minutes to take the tent down, and it even all went back into its bag, which isn't normal. Packing all our other things up and arranging them in the car took quite a lot longer, whilst having lunch and keeping an eye on the kids, but in the end we set off at 1.45pm, just before our "check-out" time of 2pm.
We had a nice, calm drive back to Airdrie and unpacked half of the stuff straight away, but only half - we're going back to the same campground this coming weekend!