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That Time We Almost Quit Camping Forever

I was looking through some pictures the other day, remembering our camping trips over the years. Flipping through my snaps was a sentimental journey. There's Killbear back in '06  - Emma's very first camping trip. There's our first trip to Grundy Lake in '08 - the one that got us hooked on one of our favourite parks.  And there's our first time in Killarney with Emma....

Wait a minute. That trip.  Killarney, 2009. That's the one where we almost quit camping forever.

Emma's first trip to Killarney in 2009. She was four years old and insisted on swimming in George Lake.
Look closely and you will see her lips are blue and she is wrapped in 3 heavy towels.  It was sooooo cold!

Yes. You read that right.  We almost quit camping forever because of an ill-fated trip to Killarney Provincial Park. Can you believe it? No more camping. No Sometimes Eventful Blog. Or Facebook page or Twitter feed. No 100th post.   Did I mention this was my 100th Sometimes Eventful post? It is! So it seems fitting that I tell you this little story of how what happened back then and how it was so important to where we are today as an outdoor family.

The BEST car-camping site in Killarney. It's big. It's secluded. And in 2009, it was mosquito heaven.
When Emma was very young, a camping trip was a big production.  Starting when she was 18 months old, we planned only one trip a year that involved a full week away with Emma and Hope the Wonder dog. We had a big sleeping tent and a kitchen tent. And we had lots of stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. Quite frankly, our camping trips back then were a tonne of work. But we always had fun, making all the work and hauling all the stuff worth the effort. Until the Killarney trip.

In 2009 Emma was four years old and Alex and I decided it was time to return to Killarney for our annual, week-long camping trip. It would be our first time there with Emma and we were so excited to introduce our daughter to this jewel of a provincial park.

Looking at the pictures, it appears we had a fabulous time.  And in hindsight, we did laugh a lot and have fun on that trip. Alex and I just didn't realise it at the time.  Here's why....
  • It was an unseasonably cold and wet summer.  Our trip was in July, but the temperatures rarely rose above 20° C during the day and fell to 12° C at night. Did I mention it was July? It also rained every day. 
  • The mosquitoes in Killarney must be a special breed that have adapted to cold temperatures. The little blood suckers were out in full force on that trip.  To this day, I have never experienced an infestation on a camping trip like we did in Killarney that year.
  • Our sleeping tent failed. Twice. The zipper on the front door broke to the point we couldn't use it at all.  And the roof leaked. Did I mention it rained every day?  I suppose the good news was that we could still go through the back door of the tent. But the back door really wasn't designed to be the main portal, so it was awkward and inconvenient.
  • Our kitchen tent failed. We had so much rain, the weight of the water pooling on the roof of the kitchen tent caused a pole to buckle. With a bit creativity, Alex was able to fix it enough to keep the tent up for the trip and provide some refuge from the wet, cold and bugs.
  • Hope the Wonder Dog hated being wet and dirty. I swear, she had some cat genes in her. Poor Hope. She spent that entire trip wet and dirty. I think this was where she learned that a kitchen tent is a very good thing , even if it has a broken pole. She would go and stand at the door of the tent and just look at us woefully until we let her in to escape the wet and the bugs - whether we were in that tent or not.
  • Speaking of Hope, we took her for her first paddle in a canoe on that trip. It bordered on disastrous. She was a bundle of nerves and tried to jump out every time we got within 20 feet of  a shoreline. Her nervous energy spread to her human paddlers. Nobody had fun on that particular paddle. 
"I am wet. I am dirty. I just want to go home. Please."
As an added bonus, raccoons invaded the kitchen tent one night and had a blast with Emma's craft supplies. We had secured our food, but apparently crayons, plastic lacing and beads are just too delightful for the masked marauders to resist.  

We tried our best to be happy campers. We fished, hiked, and had campfires. There WERE moments of fun....


But in the end, the miserable weather, the miserable mosquitoes, and the miserable tents broke us down. We left the park - and our only "holiday" that summer - early. As we bundled up our tent in one big, muddy, broken mess and tossed it in the garbage dumpster at the campground, we vowed that our camping days were done. DONE!

We deemed camping to be too much work, too much stuff, too far to drive, too cold, too wet. On top of that, our backs hurt and we rarely slept well.  It was just too much. We weren't having fun anymore.

Silly us.

We took the next summer off and rented a cottage on the Bruce Peninsula. One summer without a camping trip was enough for us to realise we really are a camping family. We missed the adventure of exploring different parks and everything that goes along with camping.  But we also realised we needed some creature comforts to get ourselves back out there.  So, we bought a tent trailer with a promise to each other that we would go further and camp more with our fancy new accommodations.

Guess what? It was the best decision we ever made. Since that first summer with the trailer in 2011, we now camp more than we ever did with our tent. Our backs don't hurt and we often sleep better in the trailer than we do at home. We've made a May and September trip an annual tradition, extending our camping season from Spring to Fall. We never, ever considered doing that when we camped with a tent. In fact...

Camping with the trailer has made us more of an outdoor family
than we ever were in our early days as tent campers!

Now here's the really funny part of the story.... Five years after we dumped our tent in a Killarney Provincial Park garbage bin and vowed to never camp again, we bought ourselves all new, very light-weight gear, including a new tent, backpacks and sleeping pads. We did two backcountry trips last year. And guess what? We are hooked.  More backcountry trips are planned for this year, mixed in with the "luxury"camping that includes heat and running water in our tent trailer.  There will be five trips in total this year - a big step-up from the one-trip-a-season of our earlier, family camping years.

Have we been back to Killarney since that fateful trip in 2009? As a matter of fact, we have. But we didn't stay in a tent or a trailer. We were much better prepared for the cold.  And there were NO mosquitoes!

To find out more about our winter trip to Killarney Provincial Park, check out my posts here:A Winter Yurt Adventure in Killarney

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