In my 21 years of living, I’m not sure if anything has ever made me as happy as exploring a new park. Regardless if it is a hike for a couple of hours, or a full week camping trip, I’ll always be ready at the drop of a hat. This summer I got the opportunity to venture through four new Provincial and National Parks: Bruce Peninsula, Wheatley, Rondeau, and Algonquin. If I had a chance to go back to only one of these parks, I am confident that I would be unable to choose just one, as each one provided me with a good experience and taught me valuable lessons.
Bruce Peninsula National Park was the first park I attended this summer. I went right in the middle of May for three days where I got to camp out and hike with my dad. We had the opportunity to explore a bit of each trail, made it to The Grotto and back multiple times, and walked the entire perimeter of Cyprus Lake. I even worked up the nerve to hike down to the inside of The Grotto.
I knew it was not going to be a simple climb down, but I was not as prepared as I should have been. I took the water way down, which meant carefully navigating steep rock landings and at some points, blindly trusting that my feet were able to make it to the next rock. At one point I was holding onto the cliff with just my fingers and shuffling my feet across a natural rail that was only large enough for the toes of my boots. Since the water was so low at that point of the year, one slip up could have meant I would end up in the shallow waters where the rocks were sticking out every which way. This was a journey that my father really tried to discourage me from doing, but I knew if I didn’t at least try I would regret it.
After maybe 20 minutes, I finally stood at the entrance of the cave. The trek down was entirely worth it. The moist walls of the cave mixed with the wind from the waves really brought the temperature down; something very refreshing after such a strenuous journey.. The limestone of the rock gave the clear water its iconic aquamarine colour; it looked to be a place where you’d meet a mermaid. I stayed down there for at least an hour by myself, possibly more, just to reflect. That day, I learnt to slow down and take on new challenges one step at a time.
During the month of July, I was able to go camping for two separate weekends at Wheatley Provincial Park. These were my first camping trips without my parents; the first camping trips where I was the adult and was responsible for everything, which was a big deal for me. I went one weekend with my boyfriend, and the other with some of my closest friends and favourite coworkers. Both trips we had a campsite at Boosey Creek, my favourite of the campground in the park. Unfortunately, we did not select weekends with great weather. Rainstorms were very prevalent both times. When I went with my friends, there were several tornado warnings for that day, and a tornado touched down not far from the park. None of us will ever forget holding down our tents as we turn to see the water rising up from the river, and us booking it to our cars, getting blocked by a fallen tree, and taking shelter in the comfort stations.
Thankfully, the rest of both weekends consisted of being at the beach, lots of campfires, and just getting to be around one another. After what I experienced this summer, I believe that my soul is now embedded into the soil of Boosey Creek, not that it’s a bad thing. Being there helped me remember how to adapt to new situations, and to roll with it!
Towards the end of August, I got to go on a daytrip to Rondeau Provincial Park. Though I was only there for a few hours, I still was able to see lots of what the park has to offer. Lots of beach area, walking trails, and bike trails with beautiful wildlife all around. I spent my whole time there walking around with my boyfriend. We were able to have great conversations about where we want to go in the world, and how we can get there. I had a short-lived time in the park, but that still didn’t stop me from being reminded to chase after my dreams with the hopes of them one day becoming reality.
The very last week of August I went to my cottage for a week, with one day dedicated to checking out Algonquin Provincial Park. My best friend and I went to Kiosk campground not knowing what to expect and ended up finding an abandoned railway trail.
We set off from the parking lot having no idea what to expect, and the views did not disappoint. The trees crept so high they created canopies, blocking us from the sun. We would walk by rocks so tall and cool that it would feel like we were walking in a fridge. We were walking along large lakes, took different routes to try and see something cool, found a campsite, and even had to cross some pretty tall train bridges. That whole trip was just about taking a chance on something new. We let our hearts guide us through and ended up finding some pretty neat things.
I’m almost certain that I will visit each one of these parks again at some point in time. I also know that I will get to visit a whole lot more parks in the future, but something tells me that this is one summer that is going to be hard to top. I am very thankful to live in such a place where so many diverse areas of land are maintained and kept up that we can visit and explore.