There and Back

Franklin Beecham
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Editor’s Note: This post is written by a member of LTV’s sponsored content team, The Leisure Explorers. Do you own a Leisure Travel Van and enjoy writing? Learn more about joining the team.

As a child, my parents introduced us to the outdoors and taught us to appreciate nature. Mum would slap together some sandwiches, maybe a boiled egg or two, some baked tarts, a bottle of orange squash, and a packet of crisps. Dad would hurry us into the back of our Hillman Husky car and throw in a blanket and cushions.

We would slowly amble along quaint English countryside roads, taking in the warm dusty air through open windows, stopping at the odd thicket of brambles to pick wild blackberries, peaking into a nest of song thrush eggs, and picking a posy of wildflowers. “Where are we going?” we’d ask. “There and back,” was Dad’s reply. Soon enough, we’d end up in a farmer’s meadow or a glade of trees and enjoy the day’s bounty with a picnic in nature.

We have taken our Wonder Rear Twin Bed on many long Canadian road trips over the years–to the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, along most of the Great Lakes, through old-growth forests, and to the top of mountains. We decided to dedicate 2022 to much smaller excursions with less time on the road, so the following is a chronological brief of our journey within Ontario.

May 2, 2022

Our latest pre-camping season began as usual, taking our Wonder for servicing. It’s always a head-turner when I pull into the local Ford dealership. Driving home, the courtesy shuttle bus driver noted that he didn’t realize Ford sold motorhomes. I don’t think he was prepared for my long-winded reply about where and how they are made. In case you didn’t know, LTV owners are passionate about their rigs!

Because we live in a high-rise building, we don’t have the facilities to de-winterize our motorhome and prepare it for upcoming camps. Luckily we have some great friends willing to offer the use of their driveway and water supply. Leisure Travel Vans made this process very simple, and with a trip to our local Flying J services station, our grey and black water tanks and the whole plumbing system were flushed and ready for our next adventures. Where you may ask? There and back.

Rural Rootz Nature Reserve

May 4, 2022

We hit the road and were heading north. Destination Wiarton, Ontario, and our favorite Harvest Hosts, Rural Rootz Nature Reserve. It’s a great time to be there. The trilliums and snowdrops are in bloom, and the colors of spring show their palettes in the floral gardens. It’s always a welcoming destination, and owners Tom and Dee have a gift of providing their time and energy to guests that surpasses all other destinations to make our travels memorable.

While there, we also like to help out around the premises to prepare the nature reserve for opening time. Chakra dragons have to be hung, the store’s summer tarp roof has to be put in place, and the tea room needs furniture brought in from winter storage. Robyn helped out tidying the area, broom in hand. It’s the least we can do for this magnificent location. We love the natural beauty and the whimsical touches that Dee and Tom have created and shared.

Rural Rootz Nature Reserve

May 24

Our first “park” camp of the year was also our introduction to Leisure Travel Vans Travelers Club rallies. After mooch-docking and visiting our relatives in Toronto for the night, we continued east along the busy Highway 401.

The Ontario Sunrisers Spring Rally took place at Rideau Acres Campground outside Kingston, Ontario. The grounds are clean and spacious, very suitable for a Rally, with full-service sites. It was pretty surreal to see over 30 Leisure Travel vans of all ages and models. A benefit for us was to meet several social media followers of ours in the flesh, like Carter the Wonder RV and Lynn and Dave from @Retiredreinspired, as well as other owners of LTVs. There was an interesting meet-and-greet scavenger game and group bonfire, and an opportunity to hear about different camping experiences.

Ontario Sunrisers Rally

A memorable activity for us was a paddle to the Rideau Canal in a 14-seat Voyageur canoe. It was fun to be with about twelve other uncoordinated paddlers aiming for the canal locks at the Kingston Mills lock station. As an interpretive excursion, we learned a lot about the hard-working voyageur way of life, traveling with their loads of furs across brutal waterways, belted with red sashes that offered slight support from hernias, with very few toilet breaks. The saving grace was a meager shot of rum now and then. We have it so good! Our interpretive crew was dressed in period clothing and kept us smiling during our paddling with historical references. It was a fun time, and we were lucky the weather held out for us.

Voyageur Canoe

May 27, 2022

We left the rally and began westward towards home with blackened clouds opening up to a full-on downpour. As it was going to be an extra long drive, we pre-planned to stop in the Kawartha Lakes region of Ontario and camped at Emily Provincial Park. With all the sudden rain, the campsite we had reserved resembled a swamp–muddy puddles everywhere. We like nature, but not like this! We spent the day and night in the rig through the pelting rain and decided in the morning to drive around the campground and scope other prospective sites. Cross-referencing them with the availabilities on the online reservation system, we settled on a few that were confirmed to be available at the front office. Choosing the best site that was dry and on high ground, we switched our paperwork and settled into our new site.

By the time we switched campsites, the weather changed to bright and sunny. We had planned to have an outdoor-cooked meal and looked forward to a visit with friends who lived nearby. It was to be a great time reminiscing, enjoying laughter and good food, and then, for some reason, I didn’t feel so good. I excused myself and decided to go inside the motorhome to figure out what my next steps would be. Lying down on my bed was the only comfortable position. I knew then that the aching pain I was feeling in my side was familiar–I had a kidney stone.

Of course, the mind goes into overdrive. What to do? We are camping–several hours from home. Robyn doesn’t drive, and I knew the pain would only get worse. Our friends, Kitty and Glen, offered to take us to the nearest hospital. Glen, a retired first responder, knew what I was going through and drove with haste. The wait in the emergency room wasn’t too bad, and not long after, a CT scan confirmed my diagnosis, and painkillers were ordered. It was a kidney stone, but it was slow-moving. We were released around 11:00 pm, and our friends graciously picked us up and returned us to the park. After a good night’s sleep, we decided to cancel our next day and leave early. Luckily there were no hiccups on the drive home, and the kidney stone passed a few days later.

Emily Provincial Park

June 20, 2022

We’ve met some lovely people through our travels, and every time we camp, people make positive comments about our Wonder. The sleek design and non-obtrusive color are appealing.

One day while puttering about outside the rig in our storage facility, a fellow was doing the same on his Winnebago. He complimented the good looks of our van, and we struck up a conversation. It turned out that Rod and his wife Sherry lived a few blocks from us and were retired and moved from the same area as us and also bought a motorhome as we did. I gave him our WonderWheels business card and asked him to check out our blog.

A few weeks passed, and we received an email from him asking to get together for a drink. We had a lot in common and struck up a friendship quickly. After a few get-togethers, we suggested a campout together where we chose Pinery Provincial Park along the shore of Lake Huron. Pinery is not too far from home and is one of our favorite destinations. Pinery has a combination of old Carolinian forests, trails, sandy duned beaches, and a beautiful lily pad-lined river, with camping available in tents, yurts, cabins, or RVs.

We reserved two sites next to each other in the Riverside campground and chose to host a dinner. We did some trail walking while our new friends went biking, and we all enjoyed paddling the Old Ausable River in double kayaks, one of our favorite activities at the park. We shared two delicious dinners together, and Robyn and I decided to finish the trip sitting on the near-deserted beautiful sandy beach, watching the waves roll in on Lake Huron. It was a pleasant camp, and Pinery didn’t disappoint.

Rod and Sherry enjoyed their kayak

July 4, 2022

Our next trip was to a small campground on the shores of Georgian Bay. We had traveled to this area for family visits for several years and had passed by this campground hundreds of times but never once stopped to camp. The campground we are talking about is Craigleith Provincial Park at the base of Blue Mountain outside Collingwood, Ontario.

Driving through the nearby towns, we realized how much had changed in the decade since we were here last. The campground was loud, mainly due to the traffic noise from the adjacent highway. Our site had water and electricity–water is unusual for a Provincial Park. For travelers to the region, it is the perfect location to camp and enjoy the nearby attractions. Craigleith was once a shale mining facility. The waterfront is mostly rocky, with a small beach area, though not on our favorite list.

Craigleith Provincial Park

July 7, 2022

We left Craigleith and detoured to Wiarton, staying at Rural Rootz, a welcome change after a so-so camp. There were another Harvest Hosts couple camped in their shiny Airstream. We all enjoyed great conversation and laughter together around the propane fire bowl. Such a relaxing visit with good people and a beautiful environment.

Relaxing at Rural Rootz

August 8, 2022

Robyn and I met in college in the seventies studying graphic design. I was a fresh immigrant from the UK, so my college days were full of new experiences.

One of my closest friends I met in college is my pal John. He introduced me to canoeing, fishing, and camping in the woodland lakes of Ontario. Coming from England and enjoying camping as a youth, I was in awe of the enormous size and beauty of the Canadian lakes, rivers, and forest systems. We camped several times each summer for many years with a few other friends. To this day, we still camp together annually at least once. Though living on the opposite ends of Ontario, we always have a lot to say to each other, washing down our memories with a shot or two of whiskey and reminiscing of days gone by whilst eating fantastic food.

This year, we reserved a campsite at Darlington Provincial Park on the shores of Lake Ontario. John still camps in his tent, while I camp in the luxury of my Wonder. We always have a fun time–we share meals and chores, and there’s always loads of laughter. We even hand-fed some friendly chickadees who dropped in to join us. The campground is perched high on the clifftops overlooking the lake, covered with seeding grasses that migrating birds feed off—a typical Provincial park with comfort stations and good walking trails. There’s also a dump station and a water fill as well as a sandy beach and picnic area.

Old pals at Darlington Provincial Park

August 17, 2022

One park Robyn had discussed visiting many times is the Elora Gorge Conservation Area. Formed by glacial meltwaters, the steep-sided limestone cliffs provide a stunning backdrop to the rushing river below. This is not a Provincial Park but was similarly maintained and well-maintained when we were there.

Campsites have ample room and are fairly private, with the usual fire pit and picnic table. Our campsite was located near the top rim of the gorge. Trails running along the fenced-in edge of the gorge afford hikers excellent views of tubers and kayakers battling the rapids below. There is a rental office for tubes, but be warned, it is a hike to the launch area and an even longer one at the end, carrying your tubes both ways. Nearby is the quaint town of Elora, Ontario. Parking is minimal because it is a tourist destination. However, we were lucky to find a spot that fits our Wonder.

Watching tubers on the Elora Gorge

August 23, 2022

We have always encouraged our children to enjoy nature and camping. When they were young, we would tent camp, sometimes in unfortunate weather. As adults, they still crave the outdoors and have a deep respect for nature. We always enjoy hiking on local trails with them, and so we invited our daughter and her partner to join us for a short camp at Pinery Provincial Park. The two tent camped on our site and took in the outdoor beauty, a restful getaway from their hectic jobs at home.

While camping, they enjoyed hiking the Carolinian Forest Trail, and we even did a short nighttime hike along the river together. The Blackstone came in handy at mealtimes with tacos and steaks. It was great to camp with family again.

End of the day at Pinery
Busy bee at Rural Rootz

September 12, 2022

We returned to Wiarton to catch the beautiful colors and to see our friends again for a few days. Rural Rootz was a happening place, with many visitors coming to see the gardens and hiking the trails. We like to help out when we can, and on this trip, Robyn helped Dee with crafts for sale in the store while I helped Tom bushwhack a seldom-used trail. Armed with a chainsaw and a lopper, we took no time to clear the saplings and brush, blocking the trail ahead. It’s amazing how fast nature can take over.

September 15, 2022

Good friends and old neighbors had talked to us about their previous camping trips. They had recently acquired an unusual Combi-camp tent trailer and suggested we camp together. Due to the glitchy Provincial Park online reservation system, we couldn’t narrow down our preferred park, so we decided to camp at a park neither of us had visited before. Robyn and I left Rural Rootz for the Muskoka region of Ontario.

The last time we were up this way was in the fall of 2020. We reserved two sites on the lakefront at Oastler Provincial Park with our friends Dave, MJ, and their cute dog, Finleigh. Oastler isn’t a bad park; some of the tenting sites have stunning views of the lake. We took a stroll around the park to view these and the forested sites and came out impressed with what we saw.

After our stroll, Robyn rested while we three and Finleigh canoed around the park’s lake perimeter. Robyn came out for a beach walk and even dunked herself in the frigid lake’s waters. Why? I don’t know! Again, we shared meals together, and the scotch and bourbons made for great conversation and laughter beside the fire pit.

Happy hour at Oastler Provincial Park

October 5, 2022

I decided to have one more Provincial park camp. The weather was still looking good, and I wasn’t done yet for the season. We opted for something dependable and returned to Pinery. It was so quiet because family camping had ended, and schools were in progress, though amenities were limited. There were many open sites–just the perfect time of year. It seemed like the campers arriving were there for the peacefulness and the autumn colors.

Pinery Provincial Park

October 7, 2022

We left Pinery and headed north on Lake Huron, stopping in another favorite Harvest Hosts, Bad Apple Brewery. However, we weren’t here to stay the night as it was too early in the day–we were here to stock up on beer. Instead, we forged northwards in rainy weather to Goderich, Ontario. We were too early for the next Harvest Host, so we opted for a late sushi lunch, then headed to Square Brew. After tasting their beer and adding a few more to take home, we called it a night, parking in a private space behind the brewery.

Square Brew Brewery

October 8, 2022

As we had done previously, we decided to end our camping season back at Rural Rootz. Parked at one of the pads was a delightful couple, Nicolle and Collette from New Brunswick, in their Unity. They had wanted to stay at Rural Rootz after hearing we were arriving soon, as they had read about our adventures through our blogs and what a fun time we had together. Tom and Dee hosted a tasty luncheon, and we shared great conversations together.

In the few day’s stay, we were also able to winterize our Wonder and say goodbye to the gardens, signaling the end of our camping season.

Sharing a laugh with these LTV owners

It was a year of short trips but trips full of great memories of the places we visited and the people we were with. We’ve been there, and now we are back.

Franklin Beecham

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