Friday, October 17, 2014

Beauty in our own backyard

Campsgiving was fantastic!

Packed up Friday evening, hit the market Saturday morning, then a big brunch and grocery shopping as the stores would all be closed Monday. Load everything into the car, then drive..

..a whole half-hour.


Arrived & set up

We'd never been to Valens Conservation Area before, despite having driven past it a number of times. We'd planned to camp there one New Year's Eve, but the weather turned awful (near-freezing temperatures with rain) so we kiboshed the trip and figured we'd go explore another time. That time waited until this weekend past!

As soon as camp was established, I ventured out on the trails for a run.

Trailhead just steps from our campsite
Huffing and puffing my way through the succession of drumlins within the park, I discovered that not all of the trails are in the best of condition.

Had to wade through calf-deep swamp here
I did make it through, however, and found my way to the gorgeous 300m boardwalk through the wetland at the North end of the man-made lake.

Lovely fall colour in the woods beyond

The trails on the other side of the lake were in much better condition, and I had a really lovely time trotting through the woods. I also ran across the fishing bridge that spans the lake.

Wish a hump in the middle so boats can pass under.

About 6km of glorious nature & sharp hills

I returned to our campsite just before sunset, then wandered up to the beautifully maintained comfort station just a stone's throw away to use the free showers to rinse the sticky black mud off my shoes, gaiters and legs. Glad I brought real trail shoes instead of my usual travel running footwear!

This photo doesn't do the swampiness justice at all.

With the sun setting and the temperatures headed down past the freezing mark overnight, it was time to get some food in our bellies. What better for Thanksgiving weekend than turkey?

Tandoori turkey breast tenders from the charcoal grill, that is!

We had a lovely evening around the fire, capping it off with a heavenly cup of hot chocolate before bed. Awaking to a sunny but cold morning, we got the fire going again before enjoying an enormous breakfast.

Back bacon & egg wraps with Irish cream flavoured coffee!

My poor, soaked running shoes set to dry by the coals.

Then we set off to do some trail work, as I'd like to leave the park even better than we found it and opening up the trails for other runners, walkers and cyclists was just the way to spend the chilly first part of our day.

There were several inconveniently placed fallen trees

Tanker and our little saw hard at work

Much better!

After some clearing, we tried using some downed limbs to make a way through the swampy puddles I'd forded through, but they were simply too deep. I took Tanker another way around to show him the boardwalk through the wetland, the lookout tower behind the camp store, the fishing bridge that belts the reservoir (lake), and some of the lovely trail through the woods.

Lookout tower

Woodland Walk Trail

Lake from the fishing bridge

Stream through the wetland

Blazes of colour

I got in another, longer run, exploring almost all of the 10km of trails in the park. The constant hills and somewhat technical, rooty trails made some excellent training for Horror Hill!

And the fishing bridge & boardwalk are just plain fun to run on.

Then as the golden hour set in, we brought our canoe down to the boat launch and set off for an evening paddle.

The warboat ready for launch.

I paddled, Tanker fished, and we both enjoyed the beauty of the lake.

Approaching the bridge


Fishing bridge from the water

We finished up just as the sun was setting, taking a walk out onto the bridge to see the sky catch fire.


Then it was back to the site again to make dinner and enjoy another wonderful evening by the fire. While not so chilly as the night before, the humidity had come up as a system moved in, making the air feel damp. We were most grateful for our campfire and another cup of hot chocolate!

Not to mention some toasted marshmallows

This is living, right here.

Our site by night - reflective guylines everywhere!

As morning came so did the rain, but we had set our tarp up well and enjoyed a good breakfast as we packed up the site.

Snug and dry at our brunch table!

We drew a lot of comments from other campers at the park that weekend - it seems we were the only ones there who weren't in an RV, fifth wheel or other hard-sided shelter, usually with a propane heater of sorts. People couldn't believe we'd camp in a tent even though the temperature had barely got below freezing! We were just happy to be able to enjoy a gorgeous, mostly-sunny weekend at what is truly a hidden gem of a park.

We'll be back, Valens!

Yes, it certainly was!

So I ask you - what amazing beauty is hiding right under your nose? Why not take this weekend to go explore a place you've always wondered about? You might just find a new favourite spot!

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