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Our Algonquin Road Trip Adventure with Buick

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!”

Buick Envision

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.

Buick Envision - So Sasha Buick Envision - So Sasha

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.

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What We’re Wearing:

On Me: Women’s Patagonia Jacket  // Women’s Sandbagger Pants // Women’s Salomon Hiking Boots // Unisex MEC Glide XC Mitts // ClimaHeat Tights // Soft Wool Toque (sold out) similar here

On Réjean: Unisex MEC Glide XC Mitts // Men’s Osolo Backpacking Boots // Men’s Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket // MEC Cragalot Backpack

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!

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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.

Buick Envision - So Sasha

These MEC Delux Camping Chairs were awesome. Comes with a built-in bottle opener, a cup holder that deploys when you need it and even comes with a pillow that can be adjusted to provide extra neck or back support

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.

Buick Envision
Photography by Jess Baumung

SHOP OUR FAVE CAMPING CLOTHING GEAR

Interested in learning more about our spacious crossover? Head over to www.Buick.ca for more information.
This post was created in partnership with Buick Canada. All opinions and views are my own.

Go Off Road with Mountain Equipment Co-Op + MEC Outdoor Nation

MEC Nation_1

As a street athlete and runner, I’m always looking for ways to challenge myself. That’s part of the beauty of running. No matter what level you’re at, you can always find ways to push yourself without being an Olympian or competing at an international level. Whether pursuing races of longer distances or working on increasing your overall pace per kilometre, the sport always presents a way for you to improve .This summer one of my goals has been to get off road and join the trail running movement.  Inspired by the influx of amazing photos I’ve seen on social media as of late, I jumped into my very first trail run about a month ago and got injured. Like most, I naturally underestimated how different it is from road running. However, after having more than a handful of trail runs under my belt, I have started to understand it’s appeal and added benefits.

First and foremost, the varying terrain combined with numerous obstacles create more muscle engagement than running on the street and specifically stabilizes muscles in the foot and the ankle. Whereas, road running’s one directional movement leaves stabilized muscles underworked. Trail surfaces are also typically softer than concrete or pavement, therefore there is far less impact to your legs allowing you to avoid injury due to overuse and impact. And one of my favourite benefits, it’s pretty much hill training in disguise. No matter what trail you run, there is a good chance that there will be some inclines. They may not be long, like a paved road might be, but they will typically vary in steepness, which will constantly challenge your legs and lungs.

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The burning question for most runners when they decide to try out trail running is whether or not the focus should be on perceived effort and overall course time, rather than pace time when doing a training run or race. According to Tim Lytle, from MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-Op in Toronto, overall course time and perceived effort should most definitely be the focus over pace time when hitting the trails, as they typically have more technical elements and ups and downs. I had a chance to chat with Lytle for a few moments and pick his brain on running essentials and safety tips for those new to trail running such as myself. According to Tim, “Footwear is the most important thing. I’d encourage a new trail runner to try on a variety of shoes and get to know what brands and models work for them. They also need to ask themselves where they will be wearing their shoes. The tread on the soles of trail running shoes can be very different from shoe to shoe. Some have an aggressive tread that would make running on pavement awkward, while others can be used on both road and trail. In the city you’re generally running on mixed surfaces so an aggressive tread won’t work.  As for clothing, go as simple as possible. I may carry a few gel packs so I like shorts with a zip-up pocket. If you want to get into longer runs like our MEC Ambassador, ultra marathoner and trail runner Luis Villgrain, you’d probably want a running vest or hydration water pack. In the summer, I like to wear a top that’s light and breathable like the MEC T1 ShortSleeved Crew and during colder seasons I’ll throw on a shell. The fabric on the MEC T1 breathes and is amazing at wicking away moisture from the body, a perfect combo.

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Tim also shared three useful tips for new trail runners to incorporate for safety and injury prevention; 1) Ensure you have the right footwear for the terrain you’re running and don’t hesitate to walk sections of the trail that are more technical 2) Pay attention to weather and be prepared because even yesterday’s weather can impact the trail today, so pay attention and 3) f you’re worried about running alone in more remote locations, ask a friend to join you. Otherwise pick times of the day when the trail is busy in case you run into any challenges.

IMG_2902Photography by Nathalia Allen www.amillionminds.ca

Where should trail enthusiasts head for the best runs? I have really been enjoying discovering some trails out east in Durham Region, typically Seaton Trails and Evergreen Brickworks area has provided some #BeenTrail run vibes as well. What’s Tim’s take on the best trails to hit up? “I really enjoy running the Lower Don River Trail starting from where Taylor Creek intersects with the Don River and ending at Flemingdon Park. The east Don Valley towards Flemington Park isn’t busy and is closer to a wild trail setting compared to a lot of the manicured paths you’ll find in the city. I also run the Beltline Trail that begins near Evergreen Brick Works. I’ll be taking a group of runners from MEC Outdoor Nation through this trail on Saturday and look forward to seeing all the work that’s been done on the trail this year, it’s looking great.”

SoSasha x MEC Trail Running Giveaway

MEC Trail Running Giveaway

Whether it’s your first trail run or you’re a trail running veteran, your experience is all the more better with dialled-in equipment. On my runs I like to wear clothes that look great but are also functional. Apparel with light, breathable fabric that also wicks away sweat from the skin, is key to staying dry on long runs. I love MEC’s Vitality Sleeves Tank and Agility 2 Shorts. The top is ultra light with flat seams for maximum comfortability with the ability to add a layer if you need and the shorts has storage – a back zippered pocket, plus two small drop-in pockets at the waist. Morning runs wouldn’t be complete without a supportive bra and long sleeve base layer that you can throw on to keep you warm. MEC’s Mission Possible Long Sleeve is brilliant. It has clever thumb holes to ensure your sleeves don’t ride up, reflective piping on the front and back for visibility and pockets located on the left bicep to hold keys and other personal items. Last but not least and probably the most important is trail shoes. The Nike Zoom Wildhorse GTX Trail Runners have a seam sealed GORE-TEX upper to keep water out but has a synthetic mesh that still allows your feet to breathe, reflective elements making them visible in low light, and specially designed rugged outer soles with Nike’s signature waffle tread for traction on varying surfaces.

Thanks to the amazing team at MEC, I am giving away this entire look to one lucky follower. Entering is simple. You must be following both me and MEC on Twitter and tweet the following, “@SashaExeter I want to take my trail running to the next level with @MEC! #SoSashaxMEC” for a chance to win. For an extra entry, you can leave a comment on this running lay down on my Instagram sharing your favourite trail to run. Contest begins Monday June 29th and ends Wednesday July 1st at midnight EST. The winner will be announced on Thursday at noon via Twitter. *Contest is open to Canadian residents only. Good luck!

MEC Outdoor Nation

On June 27th and 28th, MEC Outdoor Nation takes over Toronto. turning Evergreen Bricks into the coolest overnight adult campout where camp goers get to take in live music, outdoor activities, trail runs and campfires. The weekend’s festivities will all be about celebrating a shared love for being outside, while dreaming up projects that can help other young people experience the outdoors in brand new ways. MEC, Canada’s fave outdoor collaborator is making this all happen with Outdoor Nation, which is fully funded through their commitment 1% for the planet. What can you expect? Paddle boarding, live music, yoga, hands on workshops, and awesome speakers, its a weekend outdoor lovers won’t want to miss. For more information on MEC’s Outdoor Nation in Toronto click here. Stay up to date on MEC Outdoor Nation updates by following them on Twitter and Instagram.

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