Tag: camping

Travel Swellness: Camping with the GMC Acadia Denali

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Not that I’ve ever been the type to hate nature (although I do not like bugs…) but I’ve always considered myself a city girl. Over the past few years, though, I’ve been seeking out more time in forests, or by the water, but always with creature comforts (does having showers and flushing toilets count as a creature comfort?). I’ve gotten into camping (my first trip was last summer); just car camping (where you park on your campsite) — I have yet to do back-country camping (I don’t know if that’s something I’m ready to tackle quite yet).

For my most recent camping trip this summer at Grundy Lake Provincial Park, I had the opportunity to drive the GMC Acadia Denali. I was a bit nervous the vehicle would feel enormous like some of the recent cars I’ve driven (the Ford Explorer, the Cadillac Escalade), but to my relief, the Acadia Denali was not so over-sized for me that I felt nervous driving and parking it, and yet it had loads of room for me, two friends and two dogs and the piles of equipment you need for camping.

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Equipped with OnStar 4G LTE WIFI Hotspot, which is handy for road trips since you may drive through dead zones with no data service, the Acadia also featured OnStar Turn-by-Turn Navigation, which got us to Grundy Lake, to Burger’s Priest in Barrie (where we stopped for lunch on our drive back) and home with ease. I get very stressed out when lost as I have no sense of direction, so having a reliable and easy to follow navigation system is a must for me, and the OnStar was easy to use (the interface is clean and it’s all very intuitive).

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The WIFI also is handy when you’re in the car for a few hours, too. You know the two of us not driving would be looking up essential celebrity gossip and all of those other nonsense things you must google asap as we made our way north.

The Acadia is equipped with Apple Carplay, which we didn’t use much of during our camping trip, but it was useful when I had the car to myself and I had to make calls while driving. Safety first, after all, and I was able to call my friends to let them know I was soon arriving using Siri. Music-wise, for our road trip, we had fun checking out stations on Sirius (indie music for easy listening and old school hip hop for when we were needing something more hype).

Grundy Lake camping

The trunk area was spacious enough once we lowered down the last row of seats to make room for sleeping bags, coolers, the tent and food. When you’re car camping, you store all of your food in the car so as to avoid attracting bears, so you’re in and out of the car a lot, so it’s by no means a new feature but the button to close the trunk is a simple but most useful feature. The Acadia features the hands-free liftgate but I admit I always forget to use it. It’s funny how you can operate on autopilot, isn’t it? (For example, I still often forget I can turn right on red here when I drive, since I learned to drive in Montreal, and you can’t turn right on red there.)

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The interior of the car is the perfect blend of luxury and outdoors ruggedness. The leather seats were comfortable and easy to clean up after two dogs traveled in the vehicle (just a quick run through with my Dyson). And the exterior was Blue Steel Metallic, which is a very sexy colour; deep and mysterious and yet more special than just black. It’s a colour that makes you take a second look at the car.

At the end of my stint with this GMC Acadia Denali, I think it bridges the gap and suits both aspects of my lifestyle: life in the city (dinners out, errands, mini excursions to explore other nearby cities) and the outdoor adventures that I’m more and more drawn to (hikes with Billie Jean, camping). It is indeed “a luxury crossover vehicle,” smart marketing, haha. Granted it’s on the large size for just me and my dog for city stuff, but then again, you do need to bring a lot of people with you to eat the towers of lobster and crab at Fishman’s Lobster Clubhouse, so perhaps it’s just the right size.

Thank you GM Canada for GMC Acadia test drive! Next up, the GMC Terrain. I’m interested to see how this compares to my experience with the Acadia.

Billie Jean Grundy Lake

 

 

Leave a Comment September 12, 2018

Travel Swellness: Glamping at Whispering Springs

Whispering Springs tent

My summer of road tripping came to a close at a lovely new property that’s only about two hours from Toronto: Whispering Springs.

Whispering Springs is in Northumberland County near the towns of Grafton and Brighton. It’s located nor far from the Big Apple on the 401, where I somehow have yet to visit even though I’ve driven by it many, many times.

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With four glamping tents and more being added for 2018, Whispering Springs is exactly the kind of getaway to nature that does the body good. It’s close enough to Toronto for a quick escape and yet the accommodations are luxurious so it won’t make city slickers feel put out.

For example, you make your own fire and cook your own food on a BBQ, but there’s a fridge for your groceries in your tent (no need to pack a cooler) and firewood is supplied. Plus, you can even purchase a basket of market ingredients from Whispering Springs if you prefer to lie in the hammock rather than go pick up your own supplies. There is a farmers market nearby, however it sadly wasn’t open while we were at Whispering Springs as we visited during the week so we shopped for our groceries at the supermarket in Brighton.

If you’d rather not cook at all, there are restaurants in the nearby towns. We went out for lunch one day and picked up some great fish and chips at Zack’s Diner followed by Kawartha Dairy ice cream cones for dessert at Mrs. B’s Country Candy. I got my last fix of Moose Tracks for summer seventeen!

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You won’t need to worry about breakfast at Whispering Springs, though, as a lovely basket will be dropped off at your glamping tent each morning. Homemade granola with yogurt, fresh baked pastries, fruit bowls; exactly what I was craving each day as I woke up to the sound of the trees rustling in the morning breeze.

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It’s blissful quiet at Whispering Springs and we spent most of our time just enjoying a breather from our hectic schedule. We took a whirl, well, as much as one can whirl, in the paddle boat. Enjoyed some quality hammock time. Lounged in the hot tub. And, my favourite, we hiked two of the trails. One leads you by the lovely wedding chapel in the woods and follows one lovely little spring.

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There are also yoga classes and massage therapy available at this glamping property but we didn’t have a chance to try either this trip; instead carved out our own quiet time by the pond.

Whispering Springs king size bed

The glamping tents each feature a different theme. The comfortable king-size bed will make it hard to get your day going. There’s a very inviting freestanding bathtub as well; if you prefer a shower, there is an outdoor shower by the lounge area which I couldn’t pass up (showering in the fresh air is such a novelty, isn’t it?).

Whispering Springs bathtub

Whispering Springs had only been open a couple of weeks when I visited (and is now closed for the season until spring 2018) but there is much more to come. More tents will be added, and even during our short visit, we saw so much progress: the wedding chapel was coming together, and meditation stations were added along one of the trails.

Whispering Springs forest

I can’t wait to see this gem of a destination develop even more in the years to come.

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If you’re thinking ahead to 2018 getaways, book now to make sure you get the nights you want at Whispering Springs; or if you’re looking for a great gift idea, Whispering Springs also has gift cards for sale (tuck one into someone’s stocking as an extra special gift this holiday season!).

Is glamping something you’re planning on for 2018? I’d love to hear from you!

Leave a Comment November 14, 2017

Travel Swellness: #GoodTimesOutside camping adventures

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Earlier this summer, MEC and I chatted about ways to enjoy #goodtimesoutside this season, and I know camping came to mind first for me. I’ve been interested in trying it for a few years but the whole idea is daunting when you’ve never done it (other than as a Brownie once). Would I be able to pitch the tent? I had visions of me getting all tangled in the fabric I Love Lucy-styles. Would I go hungry or even be able to start a fire? 

Thankfully, I was able to round up some friends who have camped and were willing to show me the ropes. We booked the campsites (Rondeau Provincial Park  with my friend Ally, and Killbear Provincial Park with my pals Anya, Arthur, and their dog Bun) and leading up to my first camping trip, I pestered my friend Ally with question after question: Where do we do dishes and how? Where do we plug things in? There will be washrooms and showers, right? I knew well enough that for my first forays into camping, car camping would be the best. No portaging for this first timer.

Killbear camping with BJ

Before we went on our camping trip, I had a quick chat with MEC engagement coordinator, Dennis (he’s an avid camper), and learned a few key tips (I also read a few articles online) and before I knew it, the camping weekends were upon us.

Killbear hiking

Here are six things I learned from my first camping trips this summer:

1. Camping is a great way to disconnect from city life. I feel like I came to loving the outdoors late in life. But now, I love being in nature. When I travel, I try to include visiting a garden or park or go for a hike, and when at home, I take my dog, Billie Jean, for walks by Lake Ontario, hike whenever I can wrangle a friend with a car (including visiting waterfalls in Hamilton) so it’s not surprising I enjoyed this aspect of camping.

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And I’m so lucky because my camping trip to Rondeau happened to be the weekend of the Perseid meteor shower. It was so magical to be lying in the dark in the fresh air and seeing so many shooting stars. Ally got some fantastic photos (you should follow her on Instagram for more of her travel photos:  @allycarlson).

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That said, I love nature but I do not love insects. I lucked out on both trips with the mosquitoes and blackflies not being much of an issue. In fact, I barely noticed any at Killbear on our trip in August. And I had minimal interactions with spiders and other buggy creatures. Phew!

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2. Camping calls for a lot of gear. A lot. I don’t know if there’s a way around this. Could I pack lighter? Let me know, avid campers! Both times I started packing and thought, “Oh, it’s not so bad,” but inevitably there’s always so much to bring! From all your cooking tools and food to your tent and sleeping gear, it just piles up. Thankfully, with gear that packs up efficiently (my six-person tent compacts into a bag not much bigger than a rolled-up yoga mat — bonus, it was pretty simple to set up!) and with this awesome MEC Scully 100 duffel bag (which is waterproof) that you can stash smaller pieces into (making packing up your car so much quicker, the task of packing for camp is less daunting. Having all of the right gear can make a world of difference, says Dennis.

3. Make a detailed camping checklist for groceries and supplies. This was actually the first tip Dennis shared with me. “To minimize forgetfullness,” he says, admitting that he once ventured out camping and realized when he arrived he’d forgotten his sleeping bag. My friends and I made a detailed spreadsheet, planned out our meals, and outlined who was responsible for what…and this worked out well, except I didn’t go through the list on my computer carefully enough for Killbear as I forgot to pack garbage bags! Doh! So make a list, and check it twice.

4. Camping without electricity isn’t so bad. Being a camping newbie, I was adamant that our campsites have electricity. But at Killbear, there were no sites with electricity available so we booked a non-electric one. And I realized I didn’t really need it. I charged several portable battery packs in advance of the trip (to charge my phone and lantern), and with a borrowed hand pump, we filled a Casper air mattress (which I had filled with an electric pump at Rondeau), but I actually found a thin sleeping mat from MEC quite comfortable (and much more compact and much less work to fill with air), so I would consider a non-electric campsite again. If I got desperate for an outlet, I noticed outlets in washrooms where a few people were charging their phones

 5. Bring games, activities and music. Dennis suggested bringing cards and camp games so you have some entertainment at your campsite. We brought dominoes, playing cards and another card-based game and it was a fun daytime activity when we were just hanging out at the campsite  The music he recommended both for entertainment but also so that you have some noise going to alert animals like bears of your presence.

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6. Camp meals are the best meals. We ate like champs on both trips. Steak and eggs for breakfast. Easy snacks for lunch since we were usually on the beach or out hiking, and usually one fun dinner. We made veggie quesadilla (one of Dennis’s fave camping meals so we took his idea for this dinner!) and with some stellar guacamole, we were literally happy campers. I read up on camping food before our trips and it recommended pre-slicing all of your veggies and it made cooking so much easier. We cooked both on a camping stove and over the campfire and I’d assumed all of our cooking would be on the campfire but I learned that it’s often easier to use a stove. But a must, as I learned, for the campfire? Spider dogs! 

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I think I’m now a camping fanatic. Not sure if I’m game for backcountry camping just yet, but I definitely see lots of car camping in my future. Billie Jean adores it, too! Thanks for helping to gear me up for a new way for #goodtimesoutside this summer, MEC!

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Leave a Comment September 18, 2017

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