This summer we decided to do a few staycations rather than going off on one big vacation and I’m really glad we did. We quickly learned that living in Southern Ontario provides endless opportunities for adventure. Our children got to explore and enjoy nature in our own backyard and understand how lucky we are to live in such a culturally rich, geographically diverse and absolutely stunning country.
One of my favourite day trips we did was a 3 hour canoe trip down the Grand River in Paris, Ontario with a tour company called Treks in the Wild. I can’t say I’ve done a lot of canoeing in my lifetime and my husband is a pro, he grew up with a cottage, so I was a bit nervous about how this was going to go. I knew the scenery would be pretty but I wasn't sure how long my 6 and 8 year olds would cooperate in a tippy canoe or how long my arms would hold up. I had visions of us all capsizing as the kids began to get restless and our leisurely morning going up in smoke. But what I quickly learned was that sometimes you don't know how much you'll enjoy something until you get out and do it.
My fears were unfounded. The kids loved the canoe ride and my arms held up. Because we took a guided tour (highly recommend this) we actually divided the kids between the two canoes so there was no possibility of wrestling but the truth is, the change in pace, the change in scenery, the stop to hike and the presence of a guide who pointed out birds, history, plants, etc. kept them entertained and involved.
A highlight for the kids was the short hike we took to a tree that had completely been hollowed out. At first they guessed that an animal such as a racoon had done this to make a home but they were astonished to find out that it was actually termites that had done this over time. The two of them had a hard time believing that such small insects could make such a big impact (a good lesson really). On our hike our guides pointed out some fauna that we’d want to avoid such stinging nettle and poison ivy and they showed us some plants that you could eat in a bind (they cautioned us not to try this on our own). My son continually repeated the mantra – leaves of three, let them be, leaves of four, eat some more. I don’t think the leaves of 4 is real advice though but to a 6 year old it seemed to be hilarious.
The ride itself was fun. There was a good mix of calm water and a few rapids to up the excitement. There were some people camping along the shores and relics of old train bridges along the way. Our guides knew so much about the local history of the region and about the river itself. It was fantastic to have their expertise and for me, their steering. Who knows where we would have ended up if I was in charge of guiding that canoe! The kids both took a turn at paddling but quickly realised that it was far more fun for them to sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery going by.
Our trip down the Grand River really was a Trek in the Wild for our family. We tested boundaries and skills we hadn’t tested before and the kids got up close to nature. Paddling in a canoe provides lots of time for talking and bonding. It was a great family adventure!
We had a great time in Paris, Ontario and were sad to bid our guides farewell at the end of our trip. We did take their advice and stop in at a local cafe, the Brown Dog Cafe, to try out their fresh apple fritters. The kids had their noses pressed to the glass watching them being made right in front of them. The fritters were so good we picked up a baker’s dozen to take with us to a friends’ home for dessert that night. Our guides never steered us wrong! I really did fall in love with Paris, Ontario that day.