Easter weekend camping is a relatively new tradition. This is our second year, to be exact. Last year, we started pondering over the meaning of Easter and it being the symbol of rejuvenation and rebirth. So we decided that there was no better place to celebrate it than in nature where the magic of rebirth happens every spring. Plus kids love Easter egg hunt in the actual forest even though they have long outgrown the age of believing in Easter bunny.
This year we chose Pinery Provincial Park as our camping destination for a number of reasons. There was more chance that it would be snow free compared to, say, Algonquin or Killarney. The route to Pinery conveniently lies through Waterloo where we could pick up our older son and then drop him off on the way back. We were also hoping to catch tundra swans taking a break on their way north. Finally, it is always fun to see some of our favourite parks during a different season. So far Pinery has been the destination for many enjoyable summer trips and one memorable New Year celebration. This was a chance to see it on the cusp of season change.
We left late Thursday night and with a stop at Waterloo, we arrived at the park close to one in the morning to find our yurt locked. In the hindsight, we should have called the park to warn them about our late arrival but on previous late arrivals at other parks we would find the yurt open with the key left inside or alternately locked but with the key left in an envelope near the registration office. We spent an hour driving around the park trying to locate someone to open the yurt for us, found an emergency phone, alerted the guard, woke up the ranger on duty. In short, it was quite an adventurous start to our trip.
Needless to say, we slept in the next morning. When we finally got outside, it was a nice and warm day. The park was surprisingly busy with almost all yurts occupied, and trailers and a few tents visible on the surrounding campsites.
We spent the first half of the day biking around the park. In the summer, riding the 14-kilometre Savannah trail and finishing with ice-cream is a long established tradition. But since the ice-cream counter and the store were closed for the season, our younger son proclaimed that riding the trail would be pointless. We biked along park roads instead, explored the Old Ausable River Channel, which was still frozen on one side of the bridge and completely ice-free on the other. We even saw a lonely canoeist on the water and felt quite jealous of him but canoes were chained for the season as well.
We then biked over to the beach. Lake Huron looked strikingly different from its usually cheerful summer self. Covered in ice and dusted with sand with a narrow strip of turquoise water in the distance and clouds overhead, it was eerily beautiful.
By then, the wind picked up and it was quite chilly, so we rode back to the campsite. Right on time too. Because the moment we finished cooking the soup, it started to rain and we retreated inside the yurt. With a bowl of hearty soup inside our bellies and the patter of rain on the yurt roof, we enjoyed restful time reading and napping. Once it cleared up, we ate veggie burgers around the campfire and then back inside played our favourite game, Settlers of Catan, well into the night.
Day 2 was gorgeous, all beautiful spring sunshine and blue skies. We rode over to the visitor centre to watch all sorts of birds twittering and chirping around the bird feeders.
We then hiked Cedar Trail, which is only 2.3 km long and starts right near the visitor centre. It has a great lookout platform over the channel, where we spotted an otter in the water (or at least we think it was an otter since it was pretty far away).
There is also a trail extension that leads to the beach. That day, the beach looked brighter with the sunlight against the blue sky. The ice cover alternated between sand dusted frozen waves, long stretches of white and then ice chunks as far as the eye could see. One brave, or maybe just stupid, kid actually rode a fat bike over the lake.
That day we also drove to the field behind the Lambton Museum to see tundra swans. Yes, they were still there! Because the winter was so cold, they arrived later than usual this year (so cold winters do have their bright sides). I was really excited to see them, something I wanted to do ever since I read about tundra swans on the Friends of Pinery website. It was quite a sight and a noisy one too. At night, we could hear them honking overhead while the guy at the next campsite played drums. Those were much better sounds to fall asleep to than the humming of cars back home.
On Easter Sunday, winter staged a short comeback as we woke up to a snow cover outside.
It didn’t stop us from having an Easter egg hunt. In fact, it was quite fun.
As always, we didn’t want to leave. After we packed, we decided to do another hike, this time on the Nipissing Trail, which took us to the top of the oldest and highest dune ridge and also provided great views of the park with a bit of Lake Huron in the distance.
We stopped at Denny’s Drive-in, our favourite fish and chips place at Grand Bend. We were happy to see that they were already open for 2015 season. We brought our blankets and enjoyed our meal outside.
Good-bye, Pinery, till Labour Day!