Category Archives: Outings

McLaurin Bay

by Annie

Last summer, the kids and I stopped briefly at the the playground at Parc Martin Larouche in Gatineau (rue Notre Dame at rue Joseph Roy). Julian was 5 and Emma was 2. We didn’t stay for very long because it really was a “big kids” park and Emma wasn’t able to climb up to go down the slides. We noticed that there was a nature trail starting at the playground, but there were too many mosquitoes to venture into the marshy woods at that time of year.

With all of the rain we’ve been getting lately, we were anxious to get out and enjoy the outdoors this weekend. Since Emma is a year older and the mosquito season is over, we thought it would be fun to check out this park and trail again. So we packed a picnic lunch and headed out.

When we arrived, the kids checked out the playground. There are large rock climbing walls that you have to scale to get to the top to access the big windy slides. There are also lots of things to hang from (like monkey bars) and balance on, making it a great park for kids to test their abilities. There are a few swings too (two baby swings, two regular swings), but the highlight really is the play structure.

Once the kids had played for a while, we decided to check out the trail. The trail is 1.6km one-way or 3.2km round trip. It starts from the playground and goes through the woods and across wetlands of McLaurin Bay (Baie McLaurin) before coming out at the Ottawa River. At the start of the trail, there is a sign indicating the number of different species of flora and fauna that can be found along the trail. There are hundreds of different species of birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, insects and plants. As I read off the statistics to the kids, they became a little bit anxious that we might run into lots of scary animals along the trail.

The first part of the trail winds through the woods and the colours were brilliant. The next segment is a bridge across the marsh at the edge of McLaurin Bay. The bridge is a series of floating docks with railings held together by a cable, so the bridge moves up and down in the water as you step from one piece of the bridge onto the next. The next part of the trail goes by several lookouts. One of them is a deck overlooking an area populated by beavers (no lodges/dams to be seen today) and the other is a tower with a view of the whole bay. The final segment goes through the woods again and comes out between a few homes in a residential area by the Ottawa River.

I had briefly considered taking our picnic lunch with us on the trail and eating it when we got to the Ottawa River. I’m glad we didn’t though, because the end of the trail at the Ottawa River is all private property except for the very narrow exit of the trail onto the river-side road (Boul. Hurtubise), so there isn’t really anywhere to sit and have a picnic.

All along the trail there is signage indicating the types of birds, fish, trees, and other things that you can find in the nature reserve. The kids enjoyed looking at the pictures and also pointing out the things they spotted along the trail, including different types of squirrels, a dead mouse, a fuzzy caterpillar, interesting mushrooms growing in a tree and plenty of red “Canada” leaves.

Once we got back to the playground, we took out our picnic lunch and ate at one of the picnic tables right next to the play structure. The kids came and went from the table, taking a few bites and then heading off to go down the slide again, and then coming back for more.

The one downside, and perhaps the reason we didn’t stay any longer, is that there are no washrooms at the park. So when nature called, we went on our way…

Annie is an Ottawa-area mom of 2 kids. She blogs about the art and science of parenting at the PhD in Parenting blog.

My Kids Funky Closet
Sunday October 17th 10am- 3pm
The Glebe Community Center
175 Third Ave @ Lyon St in The Glebe

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Miller’s Farm

by Deborah

A couple of weekends ago we spent the afternoon with our three grandsons at Miller’s Farm in Manotick (6158 Rideau Valley Drive north). This is a family friendly venue where kids are encouraged to be kids.

There is a lot to see and do. For a small fee we took a wagon ride to the pumpkin field where the kids picked out their own pumpkins. 

We then headed off for a walk through the corn maze. 

The farm includes a market where there are fall mums, decorative gourds and corn, and a beautiful gift shop with seasonal products for Thanksgiving and Halloween. We stocked up on fresh produce; apples for lunches and squash for soup.

Our youngest grandson enjoyed jumping among the haystacks and poking his head through the cut outs to have his picture taken.

We closed out the day with candy apple treats for all. Bring your camera as there are many great photo ops.
 
Deborah is the grandmother to three boys ages 13, 10 and 4.

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Adventures at Mud Lake

by Krista

I am a city girl that was raised with a cottage, so I appreciate the beauty of leaving the city and heading to the lake/woods. I have not been able to go to my family cottage that much this year, and have been really missing the peace and quiet that comes with being away from it all. It was only when I found myself at loose ends with my almost two-year-old this weekend that I remembered that there is a wonderful spot close by that brings me to the lake, without having to leave the city – MUD LAKE. Located in the Britannia Conservation Area, it is a small wooded lake surrounded by a hiking trail.


We parked on Cassels Street, where the opening to the path is pretty obvious when you are looking for it. Goose was pretty excited by the nature show that she was given, stepping out of the car to see some neat looking caterpillars, fuzzy and multicoloured, nothing like the boring brown and green ones we have at home. We headed down the path and checked out the first little lookout on the water’s edge. We had been there all of three seconds when a duck swam up and walked right up to where we were crouched.


Goose was beyond excited. After many squeals (which somehow did not scare the duck away) I managed to get her back on the path, where we wandered to the next little lookout and saw a couple more ducks and a chipmunk, also a hit. As we continued deeper into the woods, the path wound away from the water. I feared that this might be our undoing, as the lake was the big attraction, but nature won out. There were plenty of bugs, plants, neat looking trees, and birds to keep us both in awe.

After about ten more minutes of walking, we hit a fork in the path. After a little bit of indecision


we headed left and found ourselves on one of several wooden viewing platforms. We were lucky, as there was a Great Blue Heron in the water in front of us. We watched for about ten minutes. We got to see him catch a fish, which delighted Goose, who squealed and startled him.


After he flew away, we turned around and headed home, happy with all we had seen.

Throughout our walk we bumped into a fair number of people, mostly runners, birders or photographers, but it was not at all crowded, even though it was a weekend. A few of the more serious nature lovers were dislodged by the noisy toddler, but they were all good-natured about it. Before we set out I couldn’t recall if the trail was safe for toddlers or suitable for strollers. I decided to chance it and leave the stroller at home and am glad we walked. The trail is certainly suitable for strollers. It is crushed gravel, fairly well packed, and about three feet wide in most sections.


We were there for about one hour, but did not walk the entire trail. It is over 3KM long, too long for the little legs. A cautionary note – there are no fences on the trail, nor at any of the lookouts. I did not feel that it was dangerous, but you do have to keep a close eye on your little ones if they tend to be “adventurous” like mine.


Krista is married to Willy and mom to a 3 year old son, Woo, and 1.5 year old daughter Goose. You can find her at Life in the Hutch or on Twitter @kgraydonald

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The Richmond Fair: Fall Fair Series Part 2

By Shawna

 Last weekend saw your intrepid heroine at the Spencerville Fair.  I made it just in time for the last round of the greased pig contest, then met up with a friend and we took my kids through the Small Animal and Poultry Barn before checking out a couple of the horse competitions.  We were contemplating hitting the midway when my husband arrived with his friend (such a social day!), and they ferried the kids off to go on a few rides and play a few games, though my youngest eventually ended up at the tractor pull and my daughter got to ride the kiddie roller coaster and cajole her uncle Bob into pretty much anything she wanted.  Since both my friend Raceytay and I are into the photo thing, this freed us up to wander around and take some pics.  In addition to the de rigeur shots of my kids on the carousel, we both ended up with, among others, shots of candied apples; mine were caramel while hers were the classic red sugar.

 

Other highlights: the classic fair food (pogos, Beavertails, fries ‘n hotdogs, soda, GIANT multicoloured lollipop), a high-diving show, watching my husband hit a sensor with a giant sledgehammer to win inflatable aliens for my kids, and trying to shoot the star out of a piece of paper with a BB gun (I can never resist trying at least once).

 This weekend we’ll be hitting the Richmond Fair.  If it runs true to form, there will be a petting zoo, a show by Little Ray’s Reptiles, an activity centre for the kids (last year, in addition to the usual music and drawing, they could try to identify full-sized plastic horse’s bones based on comparing them to a skeleton model), and a good display of antique tractors.  Though we no longer need it, it’s nice to know they have a space for both baby-changing and breastfeeding too.

 Maybe we’ll see you there!

 Shawna is mom to 4-year-old Sage and 2-year-old Harris.  She has  been writing online since 2003, and her latest project is a fledgling photography blog.  She loves fall fair season as much as her kids.

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Goin’ On A Treasure Hunt

by Erin

Ever heard of geocaching?? Yah, me neither until about a week ago. I came across it while surfing blog land. It sounded interesting so I had to learn more.

From Wikipedia:

Geocaching is an outdoor activity in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches”, anywhere in the world. A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook. Larger containers such as plastic storage containers (Tupperware or similar) or ammo boxes can also contain items for trading, usually toys or trinkets of little value. Geocaching is most often described as a “game of high-tech hide and seek,”…

Interesting, I thought, but surely there would not be any geocaches near me, and certainly not any in areas that I could go exploring with my 2 1/2 year old.

WRONG!

I signed up for a free account at http://www.geocaching.com/, and was excited to learn there were several geocaches within 10 minutes walking distance from my house. Now this was getting exciting!!

In order to find caches near me I had to plug in my postal code. This provided me with a list of caches near me sorted by distance. The caches are also rated for difficulty and terrain. Because I had no idea what to expect, we chose a very basic one. There is also a place to log your visit to the cache on the website. It was helpful to read through the posts because it gave me some hints on what to look for as well as some insight into the difficulty.

Since Miss K has a serious obsession with a certain cartoon “explorer”, I thought this would be right up her alley. She drew her own map and everything!

In addition to our GPS we brought some stickers and a magnet (for trading), a pen (to sign the log book) and a camera (to document the find). Since we weren’t venturing far from home I didn’t bother to bring drinks or snacks, but I will in future if we decide to go farther. Also, I highly recommend wearing closed footwear. Miss K wore Crocs and I wore flip flips – not the best choices when searching a wooded area.

I plugged in the coordinates provided by the website and away we went. It didn’t take long for me to realize that something just wasn’t right with the GPS. After some fiddling with the settings I realized that the unit should have been set to “pedestrian” and “off road”. Once I had everything fixed up we were back on track.

Miss K and I followed the “pink path” until we reached the general area of our treasure. On the website it describes what the cache will look like. We were looking for a medium size food storage container covered in black duct tape.

It took a little playing with the GPS unit to figure out how to find such a specific point, but finally the unit told us we were within 0.8 meters of the coordinate we had entered. A quick peek behind a tree revealed our prize:

We were very excited to say the least. I fished the container out of the tree and we opened it up. Inside there was a log book and pen sealed inside a zipper storage bag along with a variety of other items. I let Miss K trade swap some stickers and I signed the log book. We sealed the container up again and placed it back in its spot.

This was a really fun activity. Miss K is motivated because there was “treasure” and she got some new stickers. We are planning on going again soon – Daddy wants to come next time because he thinks that he will be able to find a more difficult cache with his superb orienteering skills (we will see). I think we will also create a cache of our own to hide on one of our favorite dog walking paths.

Erin is mom to 2 (almost 3) year old “Miss K” and 6 month old “Mister J”. You can read her blog at My Suburban Adventure

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Alcatel – Lucent Sunday Bikedays

by Jay

I love living in Ottawa. I love that this city provides so many opportunities for us to get out and enjoy our city and the great outdoors.

I know there’s only 1 more Sunday left of the family bike days but if you can make it I highly recommend it.

What are Sunday Bike Days? Every Sunday from the end of May until the Sunday before Labour Day the City of Ottawa shuts down our parkways to motor vehicles. People can go on the roads without worrying about cars and trucks.

Today we took out our bikes. We have Trail-A-Bikes for the kids that easily attach to our normal bikes. It allows the kids to ride safely behind us yet we all still get the benefits of pedaling at a decent speed.

We’ve also taken our inline skates while the kids have ridden their own bikes.  You don’t need a bike or inline skates to enjoy Sunday bike days though. There are tons of people out walking, running, pushing a stroller, even on scooters (feet powered scooters).

Today we went on Colonel By Drive and biked all the way from Hogs Back to Downtown and back again. In all it was likely about an hour, biking at a decent pace. You can turn around whenever you want and the adventure can be what you make of it. We parked our car at Hogs Back Falls and were easily able to access Colonel By Drive from there crossing 1 road at the lights.

Volunteers are at many of the blocked off streets if you have questions. Today we biked by 2 entrepreneur spirits selling Lemonade, but I highly recommend bringing a lot of water and a snack to have ½ way. There are loads of places to stop along the way and rest in the shade if you start at Hogs Back.  Shaded resting spots Do become few and far between once you’ve passed Bronson all the way to just before the University of Ottawa Campus.

If you do decide to park at Hogs Back Falls, once you have your bikes packed away there are some great trees for the kids to climb in the shade before climbing in the car again.


It’s not just Colonel By Drive but also the Ottawa River Parkway, Rockliffe Parkway  (all closed to traffic between 9am – 1pm) and Gatineau Park Pathways (closed to traffic between 6am – 1pm).

If you can’t make it out next Sunday, be sure to mark your calendars for Sundays next year. Or take advantage of all the wonderful bike paths in the city and go on a family bike ride anyways. My kids each gave this adventure 2 thumbs up and so did the parents!

Jay is the Mom to 6.5yr old Sydney and 4.5yr old Carter and has a blog for her business, Loopy 4 Ewe.

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Fear and Loathing at Calypso

by Allison

We’ve been sticking close to Ottawa this summer due to my son playing competitive (read: constant) baseball.  My husband had the week off this week, so we planned a couple of activities with the kids, including going here. This would be our grand family adventure, our glorious summer pilgrimage. We would arrive early, we would leave late. We would laugh mockingly as we defied  gravity and tighten our sphincters in the face of danger. It was going to be epic.

Did I mention that my kids are totally lame?

Okay, that’s unfair. They’re not daredevils, they’ve never been daredevils, I have no grounds for expecting them to be daredevils. The distinctly un-epic nature of this adventure was a combination of the unknowable and the unfortunate. I thought the park might have some slides that fell somewhere between zebra-striped four-foot-long kiddy rides and scream-til-your-throat-bleeds gut-wrenchers. But it really didn’t. Unless your seven and ten year old are adrenaline-junkie thrill-seekers (which I realize a good number of them are), there just isn’t a lot for them there. I have a policy where once a year or so I push the kids to do something that scares them because I know how great it feels once you do it. This policy went horribly wrong in the Midway-Octopus-Ride Incident of ’07, (and don’t think Eve failed to bring that up today), but usually it works out splendidly. So there we were in the lineup for the Canyon Rafting ride, because we could all go together and hey, four family members in a raft, what could go wrong? Okay, it was a little embarrassing standing there with Eve sobbing in terror while I patted her back saying ‘it’ll be fine, it’ll be fine’, and then Angus said ‘my stomach feels a little sick’ which is not-terribly-sophisticated code for ‘actually I just realized I’m scared crapless’, but we persevered! We stuck it out! We stooped to the ignominious level of telling them how much it cost to get us all in here and chucking them in the raft and hoping they’d be too scared to complain on the way down.

It was… okay. It was less of a fiasco than the Octopus Ride Incident. However, Eve was most emphatically done after that. We  spent a bit of time in the wave pool and had our picnic.  We went down the Jungle Run a few times, which was lovely. Then Angus said he would go down the Fast Track with me. Halfway up the stairs I realized he had really just said it to make me happy and was wearing his ‘I’m approaching the steps to the guillotine’ expression, so I told him I had already pushed him to do one thing today and I wasn’t going to do it again, but I really hoped he would do it because I knew he’d enjoy it and feel great after. So of course he gritted his teeth and conquered his fear and loved me for it, right? Oh hell no, I went down that sucker ALL BY MYSELF.

Also, note to self? Don’t use Neutrogena sunscreen next time. We got home and Eve looked at me and said “you got sunburned, Sister. I mean… Mother.”

Oh well. It was an adventure. Of sorts. I did eventually apologize for tossing around the word ‘wussy’ a little extravagantly (“How can you call me that? You’re my mother!” “I know. I’m the mother of a couple of WUSSIES.”) Truthfully, I wouldn’t have done any of that stuff when I was their age either. Thankfully, it never would have occurred to my parents to spend that unholy amount of money in order to give me that opportunity. It’s not my kids’ fault we clearly have too much disposable income.

A few people told me they have heard nothing but negative reviews of Calypso.  I don’t know — the weather was great when we went and it wasn’t too crowded.  If my kids had actually been willing to go on any slides, it would have been a great day, nearly worth the admittedly high price.  I would advise buying tickets online to skip the ticket line-up, remembering to bring cash for the parking (which I agree with everyone is stupid), and packing a cooler which you can leave by the wave pool, since on-site food is naturally overpriced.  And only bring your kids if they’re the kind who laugh in the face of danger.  My kids tend to prefer to paint pink hearts on the face of danger and invite it home to watch Vacation With Derek.

Tomorrow? They can play with the hose in the front yard. Safe, unthreatening and free.

Allison occasionally looks up from her book to parent her two children.  She blogs over at Bibliomama.

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