“It’s rather small, isn’t it?” Kathie remarked. Typically, this is not a phrase any guy likes to hear but, as I had no control over the situation, I took no offence. She went on to say, “And going from one end to the other doesn’t give you much of a workout, does it?”. Listening intently, after all, I kind of agreed with her assessment, I then tried to improve the moment by adding, “sure, but it is very beautiful in some spots so we might as well make the best of it.”
Now before you go getting the wrong idea about the rest of this post and either stop reading it thinking it is heading somewhere you’d rather not go OR you continue reading it in hopes that it is going somewhere that it’s not, let me explain.
Visiting any park for the first time can be a gamble. You can read all the reviews, look at images others have taken, and research it until the cows come home (why you would have to stop when they do come home is beyond me!) but until you actually get there and see it first hand you really don’t know what it’s going to be like. A good example of this was our most recent camping adventure.
Kathie, Bear and I spent the Victoria Day long weekend at Craigleith Provincial Park, on the shores of Georgian Bay west of Collingwood, Ontario. The forecast called for nothing but sunny skies and it was shaping up to be a fantastic weekend.
We found our campsite (site 219) fairly quickly as it was located within steps of the park office. We did have some initial concerns as our site backed on to the (small) main parking lot but, as it turned out, it really didn’t pose any issues whatsoever. Our site was spacious, shaded, fairly easy to back into, and reasonably level. The hydro hookup was conveniently located on the site… unlike other parks where you must don your hiking boots and pack a lunch before heading out to find the yellow pole. And there was an added bonus that you don’t find at many Ontario Provincial Parks. The sites in section D at Craigleith have a water hookup as well.
We knew from our research (ok, Kathie’s research) that Craigleith had a small campground area with only 167 campsites. According to the information, the park area looked much larger, therefore, our assumption (and we all know what happens when you do that) had been a provincial park with plenty of space and few campers.
The campground and, more specifically the shoreline, is picturesque. But it is a small park, with 167 campsites, a large playground for the kids, a volleyball court and a grass field for playing soccer or throwing a ball around and that’s about it. Other than a Day Use area, there is no other part of the park that isn’t campsite-related. No hiking or biking trails through the wilderness. Not even a forest.
Using Google Maps to search for Craigleith Provincial Park, which we did, it appears the park is fairly large with Highway 26 running through the northern 1/4 of it. It appears as though 3/4 of the park exists south of Highway 26. I should warn you, this is not the case! In reality, the park is the small amount of green space that is north of Highway 26. Note to self, don’t always trust Google Maps.
As well, the Ontario Parks website provides the following tidbits of information about Craigleith: “Fractured plates of shale that form our shoreline contain fossils that are 450 million years old” and “Flat rock is ideal for launching a sailboat, kayak/canoe, paddle board, wind surfing, fishing or watching a spectacular sunset”. Which sounded great to us, however upon arrival, we were informed that no shale, rocks nor fossils are to be removed from the shoreline and there are signs posted everywhere. Okay, so not a huge deal for us but imagine the disappointment if you went there with kids. (I can hear you peanut gallery… and your comments that Kathie did)
Kathie then asked the park warden where the best place to launch a kayak was and was somewhat stunned when he responded they did not recommend launching any kind of water craft, especially kayaks, from the shores of the park. They also did not recommend wading or swimming off the shoreline. Well, crap, that is disappointing! We were looking forward to getting our kayaks in the water for the first time this year and exploring. I guess we’ll have to wait.
I may sound like I’m bashing the park and that we did not have a good time. That couldn’t be farther from the truth, I just wanted to provide a head’s up to others. It’s not the park’s fault it’s small. It is a well-kept, clean park and we were very happy with our site. The shoreline is ruggedly pretty and the neighbours (Dave, Kendra and family, from Limehouse, in their Airstream) and other campers we met were great.
While out walking Bear, I met some who were trying the park for the first time and a number of people who return every year. The couple, in the shoreline campsite across from us, had been coming back for 18 years and always chose the site they were in. It just goes to show you that everyone has different criteria for determining what makes a great park for them. As Kathie and I have so many more places and parks to explore, it may be a while before we return to Craigleith.
Up next for us is Earl Rowe Provincial Park.
Until next time… Enjoy the Ride!