One very important and reoccurring discussion Réjean and I had when I was pregnant was around how we could maintain our lifestyle and continue to do the things we love like explore and travel as new parents. As much as we love our new role as mum and dad, we are still who we are as people and that shouldn’t stop just because we have a little one. With Maxwell more adjusted to traveling in the car, more specifically her car seat, we were finally ready to take on a short road trip last month. Now, Réjean being from a small town in eastern Canada, he loves being up north out of the city and has been begging me to go camping for as long as I can remember. As for me, I couldn’t be more of a city girl and my idea of camping is literally staying at a hotel without 5 star amenities. We truly couldn’t be more different in that sense but we promised each other we would take turns on choosing our family adventures and after a game of rock, paper, scissors; Réj won the right to choose the first one. And I am kinda glad he did because we had a ball and laughed our butts off the entire time.
So Algonquin bound we were with a newborn and probably way more camping equipment than we probably needed. I thought if I was going to try this camping thing out, I want to have everything on hand to make it a legit experience. But just let me be clear… instead of jumping into my camping experience two feet at a time, I decided it was best to just dip my proverbial big toe in first. With it nearing the end of November, a baby on board and me not knowing how I was going to handle the remote wilderness, it made sense to keep the trip short and sweet, LOL. I was pumped though. Not only was it our first family road trip. It was also the first time we did a long(ish) journey in our Buick Envision and I don’t feel like a vehicle really becomes part of you and your family until you’ve done a road trip in it.
The greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination. It’s the memories you make along the way with the ones you love!”
Now just to show you how little I know about camping, I had assumed that you just sort of roll up to a campsite and basically set up wherever you like but apparently it’s not much different than booking a hotel stay. This I didn’t discover until the day before we were set to leave. Large Provincial parks and sites like Algonquin Park, you are usually required to either book online or via phone for a camp plot on your lake of choice (and yes, there are multiple lakes to choose from). Your choice is based on whether you would like electricity or not, access to showers, car access or if you are REALLY into the outdoors; a walk-in site. The latter is where you have to hike for miles to the interior to set up shop. Yup, no thanks…I prefer to be on the perimeter where I still have access to cell reception. I imagine that availability could be tough during the summer high season. After October, all of Algonquin’s parks are closed for the season, with the exception of Mew Lake, which can be used for both day and overnight camping. Lucky for us, not many people wanted to be out there in 11 degrees so we basically had the site to ourselves minus another couple and a gentleman who clearly looked like it was not their first time to the rodeo.
Whenever I venture far north into cottage country, I always fear that I will get lost somehow, but, this time getting there was the least of my worries. Our Buick Envision is equipped with OnStar and it was a great opportunity to test out the service and request turn-by-turn directions directly to the car at the touch of a button. Accessible via the infotainment system home menu or the small blue button located on the rear view mirror, OnStar is literally acts as a safety net, providing drivers with access to a live advisor who can provide assistance for just about anything, around the clock. In our case – directions to Algonquin’s Mew Lake, so we could worry less about missing a turn and just take in the beautiful scenery around us. The best part, seeing as though we skipped town on a workday, I was able to check emails and get some work done, while Réjean was behind the wheel thanks to OnStar’s 4G LTE wifi hotspot.
So you’re probably wondering what does one pack for a day camping trip with a three month old baby right? We literally brought as much equipment as the car could fit, which turned out to be quite a lot of stuff. For a crossover SUV, the trunk has considerable cargo space. My friend and photographer Jess came along on the journey too and he had ample space in the backseat to relax and keep Maxie entertained on the drive. I am still amazed at how the Buick was able to design a mid-size crossover with the interior of a full-size SUV. The extra room in the backseat also came in handy as it was converted into a nursing and changing station for the baby throughout the day. I ran the car to keep it warm and toasty for her during these breaks.
I turned to MEC (basically a camping and outdoor MECCA) for all of the family’s needs from apparel, sleeping solutions and even cooking supplies. I know this sounds quite extra for a day trip but you just never know. Trying anything new with a baby can cause some anxiety so getting everything we needed under one roof made life so much easier. We bundled up in layers – sweaters and lightweight vests underneath our down Patagonia jackets that kept us surprisingly warm. We wore thermal tights as a base layer underneath wind breaking pants that were also waterproof in case of rain, which it did not thank God! Maxie was in this snowsuit the entire time, with the exception of on the drive to and from. I know some of you were worried about Max being out there in the cold but funny enough, she was the warmest out of the four of us the entire day.
What We’re Wearing:
After obtaining our park permit and getting our plot assigned by the site attendant we decided it was best to start setting up the tent right away in case Maxie and I wanted to take a nap in there. One of the reasons why camping intimidated me so much in the past was because I always thought it would be such a chore to pitch a tent. I doubt I would have been able to do it without Réjean but it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. We used the MEC Cabin 4 Tent. It’s super spacious and has plenty of head room, so we didn’t have to crouch to get in and out, plus we were able to stand up to make changing our clothes easier. It sleeps four comfortably and has double doors allowing us to roll up one, so we could have a nice view of the lake. Our Mallard -5 Sleeping Bags were designed specifically for the weather conditions of November and were insulated with 650 duck down fill – #CozyAF!
I know it must look like we nailed this trip but if you happened to be following along on my IG stories, you would know that there were a couple mishaps along the way. But hey, it made for some very entertaining moments to say the least. I definitely was not going to be eating tuna out of a can during my first camping trip so we prepped a large container of vegetables with olive oil and seasoning to go along with fish and steak we planned to grill at the site for lunch and dinner. I went up there smug and very impressed with myself remembering to scoop up a cooking grill when getting our MEC Camp Together Cooler but once we decided to get a fire going we realized with had no lighter, no gas tank or lighter fluid for the grill to get things going. Hands down the BIGGEST fail. Réjean literally had to purchase firewood, steal some flames from a neighbouring site and run back to our plot with burning firewood in his hands (as I followed and creepily documented it for Instagram stories of course!) A whole two hours later and we finally got a pit going enough to cook all our food. The result. Slightly overcooked as it was hard to gauge cooking time over an open flame but having the meat and fish wrapped in foil paper somehow kept it moist. No word of a lie, it just as good as any BBQ steak I’ve ever had.
Very different from my type of adventure for sure but it was kind of nice being up there, away from the craziness of the city. Even the air smelled cleaner somehow. The campground actually prohibits music because sound travels so easily up there. Annoying at first because I had plans on using the car’s wifi to listen to the Spotify playlist I created specifically for the trip but in the end I was happy we couldn’t. It was just so peaceful and forced us to actually talk and connect – something that hasn’t been happening a lot lately due to our crazy busy schedules. Max was a total angel and made camping with a newborn easy for this mama bear. Clearly she won’t remember any of this but I am just so happy that we are able to do these things as a family and document it all so when she’s older she can look back at how much she did so early on in her life. My hope is that these experiences will set the foundation for a well rounded, well traveled little girl who will forever be curious, wanting to learn more about life.