Have you been to adult summer camp?
I guess I haven’t either, but I found the closest thing to it – Summerfest at Skydive Chicago. I mentioned in another post that this was one of my skydiving goals for the summer and what an adventure it was.
Summerfest is a skydiving boogie. For non-skydivers, this means a skydiving event or party – more accurately 10 epic days of skydiving with some of the best load organizers and coaches during the day with endless events and activities at night.
I skydive in Canada, where dropzones are comparatively small. What a culture shock it was to show up to a dropzone that was essentially a closed community. I mean you did not even need to leave this place! The hangar was equipped with its own store, rigging loft, class rooms, restaurant and manifest building, bathrooms, theatre and all with air-conditioning. They have two twin otters, a skyvan, a caravan and a helicopter for the event.
Behind the huge landing area you could find a large pond to swim, disk-golf, cabins, the tiki-hut and endless camping. This was all bordered by a huge row of vendors set up for the boogie. The night’s festivities ranged from obstacle courses, bubble soccer, zip lining, lip syncing contests, flame throwers and Mario cart racing with roman candles. These events cumulated with a night-skydive with lights that ended with a massive fireworks display with a limo being launched off a ramp, complete with helicopter.
I also was lucky enough to:
- Jump from a skyvan for the first time.
- Jump from a helicopter for the first time.
- Participate in my first hybrid.
- Do a sit fly “campfire.”
- Eat donuts in freefall for my friend’s birthday.
- Win a lip-syncing competition…never saw that coming.
That is one heck of an adult summer camp. If you are interested in seeing more, check out Join the Teem for their Summerfest coverage.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I came up with this great idea to take our horses to the dropzone (skydiving), ride down to the beach and try and entice them into the water. Overall, it was a great experience and made for a fun afternoon, but as promised here is the full video of our adventure.
Check out the full post here.
Sometimes I come up with crazy ideas and believe it or not, I sometimes find people that even want to go along with them.
The place I skydive at is near a beach that we occasionally land on. Once or twice I noticed people with horses riding down to that beach. The logical next step in any reasonable person’s mind is to figure out how I could also get my horse there.
Now it is a public beach, but it has a weird access point and no parking anywhere in the area and most definitely nowhere to park a horse trailer. We are near the Trans-Canada trail, so I thought why not park a horse trailer at the dropzone and do a trail ride to the beach.
As I mentioned in a past post, I have been trying to get out and do more fun things with my horse and this definitely seemed to qualify. You know; skydivers, parachutes, planes, motorcycles, cars, boats, a town, and the beach + horses seems like a reasonable adventure.
I was surprised to find that the lure of the beach meant that three of my fellow boarders also wanted to go. With the trailer booked and GoPros in tow, we were off to the dropzone with our horses.
It typically takes about 20-25 minutes from take-off for the skydivers to land. None of the horseback riders really wanted to test out their horse’s tolerance to “large flying tarps” right off the bat, so as we watched the plane turn to a speck on the horizon, we unloaded the horses and threw on their tack. We were down the road before ever seeing a single canopy coming in for landing.
Unfortunately, my horse again decided that we were doing the ‘most exciting thing’ and spent a large portion of the beginning of the ride executing a lovely piaffe (if only it was on purpose). As her energy was barely contained, I decided to jump a ditch and wait across the street for the motorcycles to pass. Not long later we were on the Trans-Canada trail doing a working trot, which substantially calmed them down.
My directions took us slightly out-of-the-way and through a small town. There is nothing like seeing four ex-show horses in town to look out of place. We continued towards the beach; past trucks pulling boats, barking dogs, motorcycles, scary signs and everything. By this point there were very few spooks – either they were tired or finally getting used to everything.
We turned a corner to follow a shaded sandy path to the beach. As we emerged into the sunlight, the road noise was drowned out by crashing waves. It was a beautiful sight for us, but rather terrifying for the horses. We quickly discovered that although they didn’t seem to mind the water, the waves were a whole other issue. We got off and walked our horses into the water and after some convincing they were in.
After a gallop down the beach with water spraying up around us, we turned the horses for home. Uhh or rather the dropzone. We took the fast way back along the road. I mean hey, they already walked through a town. This would be easy.
Just as we rounded the final turn to the dropzone, I heard the familiar buzz of a plane engine. I quietly said “guys I think the plane is taking off.” And not a minute later a plane flew over us, no more than 150 feet above! And guess what? Not one horse reacted! Lots of carrots for them later.
Once we were back at the dropzone my fellow riders packed up, while my horse met the skydivers. It is weird seeing my two worlds collide. I never expected the skydivers to be so nervous around horses.
Not long later the horses were loaded in the trailer and we were on our way home. Cheers to the next adventure.
Stay tuned for a video of our full adventure.
Spelunking. Although I prefer being above ground or in the sky, I have always been intrigued by the idea of exploring caves. I tried Scenic Caves and enjoyed it, but I wanted to try caving in a more natural setting.
Enter Warsaw Caves. Although this place is REALLY busy on weekends for camping and the beach, if you go in the evening the caves are relatively quiet. I was also pleasantly surprised that the caves are not only extensive, but deep and very much “at-your-own-risk”. This was just what I was looking for – an opportunity to explore caves on our own without a guide.
There are seven entrances outlined on a map available at the front gate. We did not do all the caves because we were running out of daylight, but if you are willing to climb down, each cave is fairly extensive. In most cases, you could go farther than the suggested route on the map. Just be sure to pay attention to where you are going!
We went mid-May and some of the caves still had ice in the bottom. Although this was a cool discovery, it made some of the descents rather interesting. There is nothing like falling down a two foot slide, at the bottom of a cave with a low ceiling to make the day interesting.
And headlamps, headlamps, headlamps. We thought one headlamp and several flashlights would be fine, but we quickly discovered this made maneuvering difficult. We ended up spending too much time holding flashlights for each other to see and prevent injuries.
Overall, it was a really interesting location to go caving. We also stayed in the campground because it was late and we needed somewhere to sleep, but I personally would not come here just for camping. Certainly worth the drive for caving though!
It is interesting how goals change over time. As I step back from the show ring, more and more I realize what I have been missing out on from the equestrian industry.
A large portion of my 11 years of horse ownership involved competing in the hunter ring at the national level. I would not trade those experiences, but I have to say finding new things to do with my horse is awesome too.
The Hamilton Hunt, a local hunt club, arranged a wine tour on horseback in the Niagara region. I have been tossing around trying out hunting for the last few years. The wine ride was open to non-hunt members and had slower groups, so seemed like a great introduction. Well…and wine.
I anticipated that it might be a bit much for my horse…and I was mostly right. The day of was probably one of the hottest so far this summer. Despite the sweltering heat, Scout was still very excited. The ride started at Hernder Winery. After a brief introduction by the hunt masters, the group broke into smaller groups based on speed. With 57 horses on the ride, we elected to stick with a walk/trot group for our first outing.
Through the vineyards, Scout started jogging on the spot. She was pretty much doing a piaffe – which would be great if I could recreate that in the ring! She kept up these antics all the way to the second winery, Peller Estates.
We entered the winery through the vineyards to come upon a beautiful pond spraying water from a fountain. The staff greeted us with a selection of white, red and rosé wines. They were good, although it was a bit of a challenge to taste on horseback.
After Peller Estates, we headed to Shorthills Conservation area for a ride through the park. We picked a narrow dirt trail that wound through the dense forest. At this point, Scout started cantering on the spot. I was really proud of her for crossing some scary bridges though.
On our way back to Peller Estates, our group leader gave us the option to go ahead and canter. After a long gallop, Scout calmed down and behaved awesome for the rest of the ride. I think being able to get out some energy made all the difference. I have to give a big thank you to the Hamilton Hunt for a well organized ride.
I hope this is only the first step and I look forward to trying out many new adventures on horseback. I received a certificate for free capping this season, so who knows, maybe hunting will be my new thing!
Adventure does not necessarily mean travelling the world. People often forget about the hidden gems in our own backyards – I am a culprit of this too.
So when a friend told me about an abandoned water park and hotel I could visit within a 30 minute drive of home, I was pretty excited. The location is Prudhommes Landing – once a popular destination teeming with visitors. Now stands a dark decaying hotel with spray paint inside and out, while the last remaining turns of a water slide stand in the background. The hotel is boarded up, but old curtains blow through broken windows signifying its abandonment. It is incredible to see how quickly vines and grass are stealing the water park back to nature.
A fascinating and fun place to explore but be cautious of the condition of the hotel, as it is deteriorating quickly. If you are looking for more interesting locations to explore, check out a post by my friend and fellow blogger on 5 mini-adventures you didn’t know about. Remember have fun in your own backyard!
In contrast to what it once was…
I have been going to Algonquin Park for as long as I can remember. My parents were avid back country campers (my mom still is) and passed on a love of the outdoors to me. A few visits to the park a year, since I was a child, has left me with a pretty good collection of personal favourite locations. With that in mind I have collected my top ten places to visit in Algonquin park.
I have yet to fully explore the east side of the park, so this top ten will focus on south, central and west Algonquin Park locations.
10. Beach campsite on Penn Lake
I would reserve this destination for the off season when it is less likely to be really busy, but in the fall on a hot weekday this is an awesome campsite. It is the third campsite on the east side of the lake after the Night Lake portage and is a huge beach. It is on a peninsula too, so you get sun for most of the day. This is a great way to get a private beach while back country camping.
9. Mizzy lake Trail
I am including this trail because at 11km there are few casual walkers to encounter. It also has many boardwalks and a different feel to some of the hiking trails in the park. For this reason, I have been lucky enough to see lots of wildlife on this trail.
8. Island site on Rain Lake
I like ruins and this site happens to be the location of an old ranger cabin. All that is left is a chimney, but it is cool to see in the interior of Algonquin Park. The site itself is also really nice with a rocky shoreline and lots of space to put up a tent. This lake is busy, but if you are planning to camp on Rain Lake anyway, I would highly recommend this spot.
7. Island campsite on David Lake
This is a beautiful site if you want a little island all to yourself. The site itself has a really neat “fireplace,” but the opposite end of the site is probably my favorite part; a huge rock to lie on in the sun. The swimming from this side of the site is also really nice. Only downside is that the island is so small you will have to paddle to the mainland to collect firewood.
6. Lookout point on Lookout hiking trail
Okay, this one is fairly well known, but I think a top 10 places to see in Algonquin needs to have it. It’s a short 1.9m loop to the look out and a relatively easy hike. It is uphill, so keep that in mind while planning. I would go during the week and highly recommend after the leaves have changed. It is an incredible view that can’t be beat.
5. Old lumber site on Timberwolf Lake
Granted there is not a WHOLE lot to see here, but as a lover of history and abandoned places, this sport offers great exploring. We camped on the second campsite on the east coming out of the mouth of the river. To mix things up, we entered Timberwolf via to 160m portage from Misty Lake. Although there is a note about an old tote road obstructing the river, we were able to cross it with little trouble. From the second campsite, it took a fair amount of bush whacking to get there, but we found it by sticking to the shoreline. You almost hike to the next campsite, so make sure not to disturb fellow campers. There is a small meadow where you can imagine buildings once were and it is full of wild raspberries (NOTE: do not eat berries unless you know how to recognize safe ones from poison ones!).
4. Tim River
This one is a bit obvious, but I really like Tim River. It used to be less traveled, but now is a well used destination. The possibility of low water and having to walk a canoe up a boggy river does seem to deter some people. I really like river paddling. I don’t mind big lakes, but there is something adventurous about a winding river with something new to discover at each turn. I have also seen a lot of moose here, so Tim River is worth a visit.
3. Waterfall on Head Lake
The last campsite on the south-east side of Head Lake shares a bay with a pretty cool waterfall. Although Head Lake is close to HWY 60, it tends to feel more remote as it takes “work” to get there. From Cache Lake it involves a 1640m portage or several hours meandering through rivers on the Madawaska River and Head Creek. There are other ways to get there, but they involve more paddling and portaging. If you can grab this campsite (which is a nice one) you have a personal waterfall. You can either do a few minute hike from the campsite or swim across the bay to the waterfall. It is tall, but easy to climb from the sides. You can also hike the river back from the waterfall, although I never made it all the way to Kenneth Lake. It is a lot of fun, but use caution when climbing.
2. Picto Bay on Rock Lake (Pictographs)
This is a more recent discovery for me, but a new favorite. The sheer cliffs in Picto Bay themselves are worth seeing. You don’t really get a feel for them until you paddle the shoreline below these giants. If you are looking at the cliffs, about a ¼ way from the right is where you will find the aboriginal pictographs. They are difficult to find and faded, but it is amazing to see a piece of history still out in nature. Floating at the base of cliffs in a canoe, in the middle of Algonquin, really is an experience.
1. Madawaska River from Lake of Two Rivers at the 50m portage.
This one is a catch 22 for me, as my number one. This was my favorite spot until they put in the bike trail a few years ago. Maybe it is more about the memories here, but I just love this spot. We used to launch a canoe from the Lake of Two Rivers beach, paddle the Madawaska River until this portage and then pack a pic-nic lunch to enjoy here. On a hot summer day after lunch we would swim in the falls. There are several small falls with pools of water between each. It was a great place for an afternoon swim.
As I mentioned, I have yet to visit the north and east sides of the park, so next up on my list is the Barron Canyon, the Water Slide and High Falls.
What is your favorite place in Algonquin? Why?
The problem with being a restless soul, is I am always looking for the next adventure. I sometimes wonder if that means I will never be entirely happy with the day-to-day routine, but hey, if it means I get to try new things …
While looking for ways to keep active this winter, I stumbled on indoor rock climbing. Many people I skydive with rock climb, so it seemed like a good choice.
I started with an introduction package from Climber’s Rock. The great thing is it includes a belay lesson, all rentals and two months of gym memberships including the yoga studio for approx. $80. This gives people a chance to decide if they like rock climbing or not. I found the belay lesson a bit long, but overall good. Once you learn to belay, you do a quick test the next time you come in and are free to climb.
I never expected climbing to be such a workout! I also didn’t think there was such a range of options and things to do at the climbing gym. For example, top rope is when you climb a wall and are attached by a harness to a rope, which a belayer controls at the bottom. Each
route is given a difficulty rating. I’ve seen routes marked between 5.3 and 5.13+ at my gym. I recently managed to do a 5.10- while struggling a fair amount. There is also lead climbing, where the climber clips in with their rope as they climb. A much more difficult process. Many gyms offer auto belays, which is like top rope climbing that does not require a belayer – it’s done by machine.
And finally the gyms offer bouldering, which are shorter walls that are climbed without a harness. They usually involve a few technical moves before either climbing over the wall or jumping back down. Personally I struggle with bouldering, as I find most of the walls are on steep inclines and difficult to hold on to. I also do not have much upper body strength, which makes it harder.
Rock climbing is great because almost any skill level can try it. The easiest routes have children on them and the hardest ones are done by competitive climbers. The equipment is also relatively cheap and lasts a long time. This makes the sport more attractive to first time climbers.
Although I have been mostly sore since starting climbing, being a goal oriented person, I love the challenge of progressing through the levels of climbing.
I can’t say I ever expected skydiving to turn into a winter activity. Well, I can’t ever say I thought I would be a skydiver, but here I am swept up in the excitement and passion of it all. It truly is a passion for the people in this sport. Every jump is one more challenge or goal to achieve, and getting to jump and land in the snow was a special one for me.
I hope you enjoy the photos.
Read some of my other skydiving adventures: