Friday, August 19, 2011

The Experiment...Part 1

We like camping...a lot...and do freely admit that this is one of the very few things we miss about not having our own car. Time was, we would book a 3 or 4 day trip to a place like Sandbanks or Bon Echo in Ontario or even at Lac Taylor or Lac La Peche at nearby Gatineau Park in Quebec. Camping, for us, is a fun way to take an inexpensive holiday and one we were more than prepared to have to 'shift' when we got rid of our vehicle. Because we only went camping once a year, it was hardly a serious sacrifice - renting a car would fix that. However, we wondered if it were at least possible to find a local campsite, pack up our gear and...yes...cycle to the place. The answer was 'yes' to all three questions - with a few minor changes.

We love a challenge like this and so, earlier this year, decided to give it a try. We thought we would try to pack our camping gear into the various panniers and wheeled, human powered devices and head out to go camping. We would try to go for one night as an experiment and we would see how much work would be involved.

The place we found is in the city's west end of the greenbelt and it was called the Ottawa Municipal Campground. It's located just beside the Equestrian park and is very easily accessible by a combination of cycle paths and only a few not-too-heavily-travelled roads. So, last month, Adam made a reservation for one site for one night for the two of us. We were committed to going and, dagnabit, we were going to go.

As I said, we love a challenge like this and there were a couple of challenges before us. The first one was in finding a place to stop for lunch since we knew we would have to. I get fatigued fairly easily, despite the utter comfort of my catrike, so planning for breaks, including one for lunch, acquired a new significance. Normally, we would have packed a good lunch and made a picnic of it all; however, this would not work out because of challenge number two...cargo limits.

Camping, even for one night, still requires that you cart a lot of equipment with you. You have to, essentially, bring your house with you. Okay, it's only a tent and not bricks and mortar but a tent can still take up a lot of space which our one does. Then, there are sleeping bags, pillows and all the other gear you actually need. Determining what we would need, versus what we would like to bring with us, did take a bit of extra care and one area we shaved a lot from was food. With car camping, you bring most of your own food, a cooking stove and all the necessary pots, pans, utensils, cups, plates, bowls et cetera. But, for this trip, we limited our food to some trail mix, a couple of bags of lentil chips and a few cereal bars. We did bring our mini camping stove (a real sweetie of a thing that fits into a wonderfully tiny bag), some fuel and my tin cup in which was an envelope of coffee. However, we forgot to bring a pot to boil water in so I was relegated to my caffeine tablets I did remember to bring for this particular instance. We brought our toothbrushes, soap and dental floss as well as two very thin but useful beach towels. We were only staying for one night so that seriously cut down the amount of clothing we needed to bring. In short, we shaved off a lot from what we would normally have brought with us...

...but it still made for very full panniers on my trike and a very full trailer which Adam pulled on his bike. Still we felt as prepared as we could be and, best of all, as enthusiastic about the whole venture. We were going to have fun.

The weather was nothing short of magnificent the morning we packed our things. Sunny, warm and yet not too hot, we pulled away from our place at 10:20 with the intention of stopping for lunch at Britannia Park (a place we'd previously visited and enjoyed). We would buy lunch at the park's little 'burger shack', a charming place called 'Baja Burger' but it was well worth the nearly $25 for two burgers (served on gluten free buns...a bonus), a side order of fries which we shared, two pops and one of those super deluxe ice cream bars which we also shared. We sat down to eat by around 12:30 and continued our journey to the campsite about an hour later.

So far, the trip had been pleasant and the heat of the day wasn't too grim that we couldn't handle the final long uphill slog to get to the gate of the campsite itself which we arrived at by 2:20 - precisely 4 hours after we started.

The site we picked was right across from the bathroom/shower facility and there were a few other campers in sites right by ours. Although our site did have one tree on it, the set of sites was quite sparse in that regard. The gnats were pretty thick and annoying but nothing we couldn't deal with. Admittedly, it was somewhat amusing when Adam emerged from the campsite office with a tag which we were supposed to place in our windshield. Such is the general assumption most campsites make, eh? Instead, Adam simply kept the tag in his pouch and ready to show to any official who may ask whether we were legally authorized to be there.

Setting up the tent took a short time though I have to admit that it's a challenge to arrange the air mattresses, sleeping bags and associated liners in such a confined space. I did it anyway even though I had Adam's air mattress wrong-side-up. Oh well, no harm done.

So, what did we do after setting everything up? Well, we thought we'd try and go for a walk around the facility but the whole place seemed to consist of other clusters of winnebagos or other non-tent campers. There was a playground and I plunked myself onto one of the swings just to stretch other muscles. Otherwise, the whole place is fairly nondescript and devoid of anything much beyond individual campsites.

But then, the whole point to this exercise wasn't to find exciting, distracting things to do but to just see if we could go camping without the use of a car. That goal was met, as far as I was concerned.

Part 2, really, I'll post it.


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