There was a time when I loved camping. Every summer, I couldn’t wait to air out the tent, pack up the car and hit the road. We had all the gear. Over the years we’d collected all the creature comforts for a perfect camping weekend. All packed, the back of our hatchback looked like a mobile Coleman outlet. Then, one year we didn’t have time to get out during the short Ontario summer. Instead, we rented a heated cabin with indoor plumbing during the off season, and that was it. We were done with camping.
Earlier this year, I was browsing the internet for some unique ideas for a corporate sales meeting (it’s part of my job), and came across Long Point Eco Tours. What really caught my eye was the glamping in their wilderness suites. I miss camping, but I have no desire to pitch a tent, sleep near the ground or walk half a mile to pee at a spider infested comfort station. Luxury camping sounded like a great alternative, so I reserved a fancy tent for us last weekend. Then, early Saturday morning, we set out for the north shore of Lake Erie.
We stopped for lunch at The Arbor in Port Dover. If you’ve never visited the region, I’ll tell you a bit about this restaurant. It’s a seasonal, outdoor, fast food joint and a local institution. According to the sign, it’s been around since 1919, and driving down here for foot-long hotdogs was an annual tradition for my family, as far back as I can remember. In fact, until just a few years ago, I always made a point to get down here once a year. It fell off my radar though. Summers got too busy, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t even really like hot dogs. Still, when I’m here, I have to get one. Anything else would just feel wrong.
When The Arbor comes up in conversation, my Mom will tell you about the time a bee landed on my hot dog, and my initial, irrational, reflex was to hurl it across the parking lot like an outfielder. I don’t remember exactly what happened next. I suspect I got an ice cream cone and spent the rest of the trip sulking in the car.
Next, we moved along to the beach. This is truly one of my favourite parts of Ontario. So many wonderful memories of summer as a child took place around here.
When I was very young, my grandparents had a cottage here. It was a just a little shack, right on the beach. You can catch a slight glimpse of it in this old photo. Like my grandparent’s house, it was built by my Papa and has that arts and crafts meets mid-century modern flair that he put into all his handiwork. I love the diamond motif on the shutters.
I still remember playing on the soft beach in front of the cottage. For years, when I’d looked back on the back on the black and garnet sand here, I thought it had something to do with pollution – after all it was Lake Erie in the late 1970s. It was infamously contaminated by heavy industry back then. It turns out though, it’s just minerals – so, there’s no need to call in Erin Brocovitch.
My grandparents sold the cottage in the early 1980s, but this region remained a destination for our family. Our friends still had cottages here and docked boats nearby. They’d often invite us out to cruise around the lake on sunny summer afternoons. Then, later on, as a teenager, I’d come here with my friends to spend the day at the beach or camp.
This area is not just significant for me though, it’s also a UNESCO biosphere reserve and an important location for bird migration. Countless species of fish, reptiles and amphibians, as well as rare plants, can be found here.
Thankfully, we didn’t encounter anything slithery.
After a walk along the beach, and then around the sand dunes at Long Point Provincial Park, we checked into out tent.
The beds were comfortable, and thankfully they were outfitted with electric blankets. We cranked those suckers up to eleven before we went to bed. It was the only heat source, and dang, it got cold out there on Saturday night. Of course, the real selling point for me here was the plumbing. The end of the tent was sectioned off with canvas and a zippered door. Through that door was a toilet and sink, along with fluffy towels and cozy terry cloth robes. Then, through another zippered door at the very back of the tent was a private outdoor shower. Indoor plumbing is the best!
There was also a trail that started a few feet from our front door, so we went for a hike.
On Sunday morning, we woke up bright and early to the sound of gunfire. We weren’t under siege. It turns out, it’s just open season on ducks right now and we were right beside a huge marsh. It’s funny though, I didn’t see a single duck anywhere. They’re keeping a low profile right now, I suppose. Wouldn’t you?