This last year, I’ve spent a lot of time dedicated to exploring my local area, rather than just jumping ship (or plane, really) in order to head off to another country. Although I still really love to do that, I recently realized that I haven’t seen very much of what’s right in my own backyard. Growing up in Ottawa, I spent a lot of time out in the country as a kid. We used to go for hikes or walks in the forest, head off to farms or cottages, bike around trails, canoe local lakes and even snowmobile from time to time. But one of my favourite things to do has always been to go camping.
Whether it was winter camping with the air cadets when I was 12, or the summers we spent camping on back lakes in Quebec, or even the time I spent a night sleeping right on the beach in BC – I’ve loved it all. I even camped all around Europe one summer, while living in a van for 3 months with 4 boys from New Zealand (I’ll save that story for another time). And then, when I ultimately ended up living in New Zealand (yes, with one of the 4 boys), I joined an Outdoors Adventure Club to meet new people. We spent lots of time hiking through mountain ranges, while staying in huts designated by their Department of Conservation.
It was only when I returned to Canada, that I realized how fortunate I am to be able to have access to an abundance of beautiful natural land to explore, right at my fingertips. So, when Ontario Parks reached out to a few bloggers this year, in order to send them on a once in a lifetime adventure to celebrate their 125th anniversary, I jumped right on board. It was an opportunity to explore a diverse array of places right here in Ontario, that have so much to offer. I got to fish, canoe, hike, watch epic sunsets, swim in Lake Superior in September (yes, it was freezing… but worth it), cook my meals over campfire, and immerse myself in the beauty of our nature right here in Canada.
** If you’re looking to plan an adventure like this for yourself, be sure to check out my post on the Ontario Parks blog!
My love for the outdoors has been reignited and is growing more and more over time. It’s almost addictive – the more I keep exploring, the more I just wanna explore. And not to mention, the health benefits of being out in nature are almost endless. Recently, I got whisked away on Parkbus up to Arrowhead Provincial Park in order to check out their new Visitors Centre and winterized picnic shelter, and also to mark an official opening of their winter trail season. Built to accommodate the rapid growth of their winter program, this new addition to Arrowhead has taken 4 years to complete and is absolutely stunning.
At Arrowhead in the winter, you can go skiing, snowshoeing, tubing and even hiking. But one of the most popular things to do there is to skate their forest trail. There are warm-up areas, a lounge area with a fireplace, and even recreational skills training. There’s no need to be afraid of winter here in Ontario!
Twenty-six provincial parks are actually open during the winter season. Services and facilities range from day-use to front and back country camping and cozy roofed accommodations. The cabins are absolutely amazing and I can’t wait to stay in one this winter. We still like to keep warm here in Canada, we just like to have a bit of fun while doing it!
If you’re just not feelin’ those winter vibes, in the summer you can bike, canoe, go birding, boating, swimming, fishing, or even hike the many trails. Ontario Parks is pretty darn awesome because they run programs and events all year long in order to provide education and keep the love for nature and conservation alive. Park staff offer weekly educational programs for children and adults from early July to Labour Day. They include nature and historical walks, evening programs with guest speakers and videos, and children’s crafts and games.
They’re also so great at perpetuating the health aspect of being outside in nature, keeping active and breathing in that fresh air. Ontario Parks runs something called “healthy parks, healthy people” and as a nutritionist, I’m all for it. As 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of nature education in Ontario Parks, they’re also launching the new Ontario Parks Discovery Program and I can’t wait to see what they have in store!
I’ve only been to about 15 of the 340 Provincial Parks that Ontario Parks protects, but I can’t wait to keep checking more off of my list. Since I’ve taken up fishing a lot more this year, I’d like to try my hand at ice fishing this winter, while staying in one of their cozy cabins. In 2019, Ontario Parks is launching their #FindYourselfHere campaign, and I plan on doing just that – as much as possible. Now, the only thing left to do is plan my next adventure!
Photos by Ontario Parks & Catherine Sugrue
*Please note that this is a sponsored post*