2012 Trip 5: Stellar Sandbanks...

Sandbanks PP - July 2012

Off to Sandbanks and Prince Edward County, or 'The County'as it is called by the locals, for an extended long weekend. Our yearly trip where we meet our Ottawa friends here, and touch base again with the friends that actually live in the County. Sandbanks is known for it's wide expanse of white sand beach and sand dunes and Prince Edward County is known for it's picturesque countryside, artisans and wineries.

Headed out Thursday morning, right in the midst of a long running stretch of high temps and no rain. Great for camping, swimming and sitting on the beach. Weather looks awesome for the entire weekend. Uneventful drive, stopped in the County's main town Picton for some supplies, and arrived at our site around 12:30. Nice big site, level, and with good space between the other campers. We are again in the Woodlands campground, which is appropriately named, as it is very heavy with assorted maple trees. Kinda reminds us of Murphy's Point PP. Our plan this trip is to explore some non-electrical sites in the other part of the park, nearer the water, for our trip next year. We are coming to the conclusion that electrical sites are not a necessity we once thought. Although, when there is minimal savings in site fees, if the site is a nice one then electricity can be a bonus.

Unloaded the foldies to bike over to the beach. Sandbanks is a huge campground and the Woodlands section that we are in is far from the main beach, so our bikes are perfect for getting to the beach and tooling around the other camping sections. Lots of people on the beach, even for a Thursday. I imagine the weekend will be packed, given that it is stinking hot out and a swim does wonders to cool you off. Pretty intense sun now, so we found a spot up by the trees with some dappled shade. The sand is very hot, so much so that you have to sprint to the water. The water temp is amazingly warm, it is literally like bathwater, walk straight in temperature. I did notice that the water level is lower, as we seemed to have to wade out a little further to get to any depth. Sandbanks still remains in our mind one of the best beaches around. It is a massive long beach, beautiful white fine sand with a hard sand bottom and gradual slope out from the shoreline. As a bonus, on a day with a good onshore breeze, there can be some good sized breakers coming in, which are a lot of fun to body surf on.

Biked to the camping section that runs along the far end of the main beach to check out sites for future camping. The sites here do not have electrical service, are much less treed, more open, and are sandy since they are at tucked behind the sand dunes that run parallel to the beach.  We tried to pick site numbers that offer some shade and a little bit of space. Definitely a different feel here, more beachy and friendly, and being right on the beach would be very cool. We will try to grab a spot here next year.

As we cruised along looking at sites, we came upon our first Alto sighting in the wild. We have never seen another Alto at a campground we were staying at, and actually have only seen one on the road. It is a little newer than ours, we could tell this because it has the new style back window. The plates on their RAV4 tells us they were from Quebec, which is not surprising as we think there are only a handful of owners from provinces outside Quebec. Interesting as well, they have the exact same orange Napolean BBQ as us.

Got back to our site and Dale has set up her little shower tent, and she is a big fan of only using it and I usually head for the comfort stations but this time the line-ups waiting for the showers were too long.  So this weekend I have had all my showers at the Alto and I must say that I am becoming more of a fan of using our exterior shower.  You avoid the shower line-ups, it is super convenient, and we only use enviromentally friendly camping soaps. The novelty of showering outside in nature is pretty cool...Dinner this evening is BBQ pizza,...the nifty pan Dale bought is getting a lot of good use. Chilled inside in the evening, and since there is a fire ban in effect it seems to make the campground a little quieter.  With no campfires there are less people sitting outside, chatting and having a few laughs. Bugs got bad after dark, so we settled inside and put on a vid.

Friday...
Yet another nice day forming up here. Poked around a bit this morning, read the paper, then headed into Picton. Turns out we missed bringing a few things, so a trip was needed. Picton is only about 15 minutes, so it is no big deal. Filled up with gas while we had the opportunity, then back to the site. Really mellow day going on, which is kinda nice. Helen and Paul are due to arrive to their B&B in Bloomfield later this afternoon, and we are having them out this evening for a BBQ. Did a little prep for dinner, then hopped on the bikes and headed for the beach.
The Foldies... ready for the beach!
 Found a semi-shaded spot up near the tree line, just like we did yesterday, as it is another stinker of a hot day. The water is refreshing, but warmer. Brought our noodles with us this time, and floated around aimlessly in the water, observing the goings on around us. Very few things nicer than this... what a great way to spend a hot summer day. A feeling shared by many, as the beach was pretty full.

We had a quick outside showers before dinner, then Helen and Paul arrived at the site around 5:30 and we sat around outside while we got dinner ready. A Teddy classic was on the menu, Philly steak sandwiches, spicy slaw and kettle chips, truly a summer feast. Sat out quite a while, until the bugs drove us inside. The evening stayed pretty warm so we put on the air conditioner for a bit to cool the Alto off. All the comforts of home just when you need them. This is the way to camp.

In the middle of the night I woke up to the sound of a huge crack and of a large tree falling. It happened pretty fast and it was loud enough to wake me, and long enough for my sleep laden brain to recognize the distinct sound of a tree crashing to the ground. If you have ever heard a tree fall, usually at the hands of a chainsaw, you know it is a pretty unique sound as it falls through other trees..., and the finality of the big thump as it hits the ground.  I went outside and saw other campers with their flashlights. We walked around looking for the fallen tree in the direction the sound came from. I thought perhaps it was the dead tree I had seen on a site a few down from us, but it was not. After talking with the other campers, we concluded that no damage was done and all was OK. The really strange thing about the tree coming down is that there were no other factors at play to bring it down. The air was totally still and no wind, and no big rain storm either... so what caused the tree to just fall?  Was it just simply its time?

Saturday...
Up early, did up the dishes from the night before, then went into Bloomfield to meet Helen and Paul. We are wandering the shops in the morning, then doing the beach in the afternoon. Another hot day. Upon stepping out of the Alto in the early morning I could feel the wave of heat that would form the day. Walked the main street of Bloomfield. This is such a nice little town. We remember many years ago when we would come here tent camping at Sandbanks, there really was not much here, Picton was the only game around. Slowly the town of Bloomfield has evolved with more and more little shops, restaurants and B&B'. It appears to be now the artistic centre of the County. It is quite the thriving town now, and can be a very enjoyable sauntering around, lots of variety, from bakeries, clothing, artisans, cafes and even a funky little bike shop.
Bloomfield Main Street,
very funky,
with lots of shopping for the ladies...
bike parts art...

Headed back to camp to get ready for the beach. Stopped at the little deli/store to pick up some ice and chatted with a comical kid working the counter. Probably about 13, but going on 25. I asked him, on this sweltering day, if I was the first guy to buy ice today, and he slowly replyed "No, however, if you were asking about firewood, you would be the first guy in a week" True enough, given that there is a fire ban in the area. We saw a few more items we needed, and I got back into line again. Ahead of me was a young woman in a very tiny bikini, and I could see the kid was cautiously eyeballing her. When I got to the counter, I asked him how many bikini clad girls he sees in a day, "More than you can imagine" was his response.

The four of us headed to the beach and it was packed,the most we have ever seen on the beach. We found a spot up in the shade, but ended up sitting on the top of a little sand berm. Spent a ton of time just floating around, enjoying all the activity around us.  After almost a couple of hours, we were done.
 Back to the site, quick shower, then we chilled before meeting Helen and Paul for dinner. I grabbed a quick little power nap in the hammock, which was glorious. Great to recharge the batteries, as the sun and the heat on the beach can suck the energy right out of you.
Dale... just a pea in a pod.
 Dinner was at Portebello's in Picton. A nice little mid scale restaurant with a creative menu in a cozy surround. I had pan-fried pickeral with tarragon cream sauce, and a side of saffron rice. Hard to resist pickeral when it is found on a menu. It was quite tasty, and nicely fried. I actually liked the parts of the fillet without the sauce the best, as the true light flaky taste of the fish can stand on its own quite well. After dinner we walked the main street, then headed home.
One can never get enough pickeral...
We had a racoon checking out our sight when we pulled in, and even our headlights did not seem to deter him from his mission. He retreated but we could see his masked face peeking out at us from behind a tree just beyond our hammock. It would not be our only encounter with him. Read the paper a bit, did some typing, then retired. Around 1:30 we woke up to it being real still and warm so I got up to turn on the fan, and when it pulled in the air we noticed the strong smell of a campfire. This was odd since this weekend there is a fire ban in place. Of course we hoped it was only an illegal campfire and not a real fire since verything around us is tinder dry. There seemed to be some low hanging smoke or fog through the trees, but we could not see any flickering flames. I thought I would take a little wander around, so I opened the door a bit and flipped on the outside light. As soon as the light came on, a loud grunt and snort came from under the Alto, which scared the shit out of me. I quickly retreated and slammed the door shut. Seems our racoon friend had settled in under the trailer for the night. Needless to say, my foray outside was postponed, as images of a racoon latching onto my ankle displaced any concerns about a fire.

Sunday...
A little overcast this morning, which is a welcome change, as it might bring some rain. Slowly got moving and after breakfast I took a little spin on my foldy to the other campsite past the beach. I want to have another looks at the sites there to gather more numbers for next year.
Simply awesome way to cruise the campgrounds...
 Then back to our site to get it packed away, then headed out around noon for home. As is tradition, we took the Glenora Ferry across to Hwy 33 and along to Kingston. A bit of rain on the way, but nothing that put a dent into the drought we have been experiencing. From there, we made our way up Hwy 15 for a slower pace and more scenic drive home. Stopped at an RV store in Smiths Falls, and picked up some propane fittings I needed for my furnace project. I was lucky to run into a young guy that let me have a look through their shop supplies for the fittings I needed. This was a huge bonus, as those things are generally not on display. A nice leisurely drive home the rest of the way.

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