Our Labour Day weekend trip to Pinery Provincial Park is always bitter-sweet. As we are soaking in the last bits of summer, we also have to come to terms with the fact that our busy life of school lunches, after-school activities and bus schedules is just around the corner. This year the bitter-sweet flavour was even stronger than usual. And not because the summer finally decided to show up as we were about to say goodbye to it. We were also saying goodbye to our older son who is starting university this year and moving to Waterloo. Since camping has always been such a great part of our lives, it seemed very fitting for him to leave for college from a campground.
We have been coming to Pinery every summer (and once in the winter) for the past seven years. I still remember the first time we camped there. Our campsite turned out to be in one of those rare for Pinery clusters where all your neighbours are in plain view and where you are awakened by the sound of tents being unzipped as people hurry on their early morning, or occasional middle of the night, trips to the bathroom. After giving up on trying to go back to sleep, I crawled out of the tent and decided to go for a walk. I found the closest dune crossing and headed for the beach. Crunchy, coarse sand between my toes. Gentle warmth of the early morning sun at the back of my neck. The way all sounds cease to exist once you descend between the sand dunes. The feeling of awe as I climbed the dune and looked around.
To me, Pinery has something that speaks directly to a kid in each of us. It is home of quintessential summer and childlike joy. It’s the land of water fun, sandcastles, spectacular sand dunes and mesmerizing sunsets. It’s made of mid-summer dreams and languid musings.
This year was no different. The slightly colder than usual waters of Lake Huron were still filled with excited splashes and delighted screams. The sandy beach (or, as our friends’ three-year-old son once called it, a huge sandbox) with its endless building possibilities was full of adults and kids alike working on their sandcastles and forts. In the evening, as the excitement of the day faded away, crowds of campers would return to the beach to watch the sun dip into the lake. It’s always inspiring to see people waiting for something other than a traffic light change or their double-double in the Tim Hortons drive-through.
While the beach is one of the main park attractions, there are lots of other things to do at Pinery: hike trails, check out the Visitor Centre, watch wildlife, paddle along the Old Ausable Channel or go fishing. One of our favourite activities is biking along the 14-kilometre Savannah Trail followed by ice-cream. This year was no exception. The trail was fun, the ice-cream was delicious.
Unfortunately, as all things in life, the trip came to an end. Our son moved to Waterloo. We took our ritual end-of-summer dip in Lake Huron, stopped for fish’n’chips at Denny’s in Grand Bend and headed towards our back-to-school life. Until next year!