2016 Trip 5: sun, sand & fireworks!

Driftwood PP - July 2016

Canada Day long weekend, and actually, an extra long weekend when you add a day on. Friday is the holiday, so we added on the Thursday and headed out Wednesday night.

The Wednesday leaving almost did not happen. We made the booking many months ago, as is required to get a waterfront site at this campground, we knew we were adding a day, but it was not until just last week when I was reviewing our summer bookings, that I noticed I had not booked the Wed evening. Driftwood is within the range of what we call our normal weekend circle of travel so there was no reason why the evening would not have been booked...but understandably forgotten, given that these reservations are made at 7:00am in the morning in the dead of winter. So in a fit of panic, I immediately logged into the Parks reservation site to see what was available for the Wed evening. Lo and behold, the site we had booked for the weekend was available, so I snapped it up right away. Talk about bullshit luck. This year has been particularly difficult to get reservations, so to have the exact one we needed be free, was most surprising.

We dropped Dale off at work in the morning this time, as President Obama is in town today, and the downtown core will be pretty much closed off. We figured it would just be easier for me to scoot home after work and then pick Dale up along the way out of the city. It was actually pretty quiet in the core today, so it looks like many civil servants either took the day off or just stayed home and worked.

Nice to get out a day early, as the highway was very quiet. Driftwood is farther than we think. We generally say it is a good two hours, but in reality, by the time you get out of the city and on the road, it takes close to three hours in reality. Not many at the campground, which not surprising, but I think tomorrow night will be a different story. We are on the same site as last year, and it is a dandy. This one has more sunlight on it, which really help the solar keep the battery topped up. We are able to angle the Alto so it looks right out over the bay and down the river. Facing almost due west, nice sunsets are pretty much a guarantee. As is our routine, we shared a sandwich on the road, so we were straight into relax mode once the chairs came out.

great start to the weekend

There are hardly any clouds in the sky, and the sunlight is streaming into the site as the sun gets closer and closer to setting. It is still pretty warm outside, and we sat out for the longest time. Once the sun disappeared below the hills, the air became noticeably cooler. A couple more trailers pulled in, but the site beside us remains empty. That will change tomorrow evening.

and how classic is this scene...

perhaps I'm a bit reflection obsessed

It cooled off nicely overnight, and we did put on the furnace in the morning to take the chill and dampness off. Not a cloud in the sky and the forecast is calling for a hot and sunny day. I fired up the Coleman to get coffee going, and Dale was well into scouring the papers I had purchased. Lounged around most of the morning, then we pulled the kayaks off the car.

Once the afternoon rolled around, and after much lounging in our chairs by the waters edge, we decided we really needed to get our asses in gear and get out for a paddle. It can be very easy to just veg most of the day, but a little activity always is good to put into the days mix.

shore lunch

A bit breezy, and there is a chop to the water, but certainly not enough to deter us from a nice paddle. We geared up and headed west down the river. It is hot and sunny, and a few cooling dips of the arms in the water was a refreshing treat. We found a nice little sandy area, shored the kayaks and waded in for a quick swim. More of a float actually, as the water was pretty shallow. Very refreshing... The whole park area was created when the Des Joachims Dam to the east of us was built, and we wondered just what is the natural river bank. How wide was the river at this point originally, and how deep did the river get when the dam went in. Reading the park newsletter, it flooded farmland and a small lake by about 30 meters, and Driftwood Bay formed a pocket which traps a lot of driftwood as it floats down the river.  Lots of driftwood lines the shoreline, as the park is certainly appropriately named. The Ottawa River was a major log running river back in the day, and the numerous deadheads everywhere is one leftover sign of this.


a favourite site

Our site is a combination sun & shade, and the solar panels are probably getting at best a few hours of solid sun. I checked the Trimetric and at one point the panels were outputting a little over 5 amps. This is a good thing, as we are also consuming amps. It is pretty hot outside, so to keep the interior a little cooler for Barley, we run the Fantastic on medium. This really helps. As well, the fridge needs to run longer to do its job, and this draw can slowly add up. We are around 98% charge on the battery, but with the anticipated rain tomorrow, it will be interesting to track where this charge level goes.

Headed back to our campsite and we arrived back just as the clock struck G & T. Our neighbours rolled in around dinner time, along with a number of others. Any empty spots were now occupied and it looks to be a full house. Dinner this evening are burgers on the grill, with a side of greek pasta salad. Simple and easy.

We decided to get a few sunset pictures from the water, so we hopped in the kayaks and paddled down the shoreline. There are a few little islands to the east of us, and we thought they might be nice to get into the pictures. The water was very calm and the paddle quite relaxed. Lots of others had the same idea and there were many canoes and kayaks out as well. While we waited by the islands for the sun to set, we chatted with a couple sitting on the shore, waiting the same as we were. They were kayakers as well, and were interested in the weight of our boats. Turns out they also bought theirs from Jason at Paddleshack in Ottawa. Small world once again. Headed slowly back to camp once the sun disappeared, and sat out for the longest time.

love the sunset glow

Overcast this morning and it looks like the rain that is forecasted is now rolling in. The water is calm, which is a bit unusual with the mass of clouds that now occupying the sky. There are some serious dark ones way off in the distance, so I think rain is a given at some point soon. Got the coffee going, and there are lots of people out and about, kids exploring the shore and adults getting things sorted for the day. There is a faint hiss of Colemans going, and the smells of breakfast hang deliciously in the air.

Chatted with the neighbours on each side of us, and one man talked about coming to this park since 1992. He said at that time is was a very primitive park, and attendance was low. The Ranger at the time lobbied to put in some electricity and a comfort station, convinced this would save the Park. His prediction was correct, and the Park is now a popular destination. It sure is for us. The same man also mentioned the difficulty getting reservations this year, at most any park. He and his wife are retired, and he said getting sites even mid week was difficult. This is something we have noticed, and experienced this year as well.

Dale decked out for Canada Day

Dale gave a little tour this morning to the woman next to us. She and her husband have two little girls and they love to get out and camp on the weekends. She has been researching other trailers, as their 2009 hybrid is getting old and tired looking. She was a bit amazed when we told her ours was a 2009 as well. She commented that it looks brand new, and I explained that it probably has a lot to do with the materials the Alto is made out of, and the quality of construction. Dale said she was quite interested in learning more, much to the chagrin of her husband.

The water was quite calm, so we decided to head out for a quick paddle before the inevitable rains came. This was after we put up the awning and got our stuff safely tucked away underneath. We headed east along the park and around the bend into the main part of the river. The shoreline is classic Canadian Shield. Hard rocky outcroppings of granite, spotted with scraggy jack pine, impossibly emerging from the hardscrabble surface of the rock. Eacking out a survival in what must be an arduous task for its roots to keep it healthy and stable. Tons of driftwood as well, washed up against the rocks, worn smooth by the endless movement of the water, help along by the sandpaper shoreline. Some of the pieces are simply beautiful, stark white in their smoothed shapes.

The darkness of the clouds is getting closer, so we made our way back. Know that the Ottawa can turn nasty in an instant, there was a slight urgency to our paddle strokes. Not that we are far from shore by any means, just do not want to get caught out in the open when the rain descends. Sure enough, we had just pulled the kayaks up and flipped them over when the skies opened and the rain began, slow at first, it quickly escalated into a blustery driving rainstorm. No thunder and lightning to add effect, just a huge dump of water and winds.  We could see light sky in the distance, so we figured it would be short lived. Soon enough it was over, but the low heavy clouds remained, as they would the rest of the day.

not much of a view now

nasty can happen real fast. got to keep an eye on the river all the time

I wandered up to the comfort station in the afternoon and enjoyed a nice hot shower. By the time I got back, the suggestion of a nap sounded like the right thing to do, and it was a perfect afternoon for one. Barley soon found his own little niche and was fast asleep with us.

Dinner this evening is salmon fillets with B.C. Salmon Rub, a nice little spicy sweet concoction. An arugula quinoa salad filled the balance of the plate. A tasty easy meal. Local strawberries with whipped cream rounded out a nice refreshing meal. Finished reading the rest of the paper, and that was pretty much the end of the day. A damp coolness has settled in, but this was quickly dispatched by the furnace.

It is interesting to read on the Altoistes Facebook group about what sort of options people try to decide upon ordering their own Alto. The reasoning and rationalization that occurs really shows how everyone thinks differently. Sitting here now, with it being chilly and damp outside, the sound of the furnace coming on and the fan ramping up to speed, pushing out such delightful warmth and comfort, makes the case for really trying to envision how you may use your camper, years down the road. We can say this from experience, as the furnace was our option mistake. It did not take us long to realize the error of this omission, and the work involved to fix it. Had we known, or thought a little out of the box, this may not have happened. I do chime in ocassionally when opinions are sought, and my response is generally "option the hell out of it". Easy to say, as we all have different needs and plans, but I just know down the road someone will say, I wish we had got the furnace, or the hot water heater...muttered of course while suffering the lack of. One never knows what sort of weather conditions you will run in to, but it sure is nice to be prepared for most anything.

This is definitely a sit in the camper evening, and most others are doing the same. Very few campfires tonight, the light drizzle putting a damper on that activity. Also usually the private camping resort next to the park puts on an amazing fireworks show but must be taking a raincheck.  Hopefully tomorrow will bring a little sun and warmth,..and fireworks!

Well today brought no warmth and little sun. The wind off the river was howling most of the evening, and although it seems to have subsided a bit this morning, there are whitecaps on the bay and the awning is dancing around. The awning strap was chattering off the side of the camper all night, but I could not drag myself out into the elements to remove it. My mind soon tuned it out and I fell off to sleep. So far it is looking like a hunker down inside sort of day. We will drag ourselves out for a power walk, but that's probably about it.

No rain, but the wind off the water is pretty intense and brings a chill with it. No coffee outside on the Coleman this morning as I think I would have blown away, coffee mugs and all. Fortunately it seems to be all wind and no rain. Everything is getting dried out from last night, especially the awning, which was looking pretty soaked.

We took a short run up to the local store to see if they had any papers, but no luck. We filled up the Santa Fe for the trip home tomorrow, one less item to think about. Amazing the difference in the weather and temperature between the waterfront and the highway. Quite nice along the highway, but back at the site, it was cool, and of course very windy. As the water is rough, we figured we would not get out for a paddle, so we put the boats back on the car. Relaxed the rest of the afternoon, but later it did clear somewhat, so we grabbed the chairs and sat on the beach for a long time. Bit of a change of campers today, and we chatted to a few that were out exploring the beach.

Lots of sunny breaks in the clouds this afternoon, so we were able to sit out and enjoy the day. Wind has calmed somewhat, and beyond the black cloud that may drop some rain on us, it seems clearer to the west. Sure enough, we got about a half hour drizzle, then the wind totally died and the sun beamed through around dinner time. Steaks on the Q, with grilled baby potatos for dinner, we sat on the picnic table and enjoyed the meal in the setting sun. Amazing how a little sun takes the chill off everything.

a sunset panorama

What a bonus to end the weekend. Chatted with a number of our neighbours, then enjoyed more strawberries and whipped cream for dessert. Simple and yummy. On Canada Day there are usually fireworks from across the bay, but with the rain last night, we hoped they would go off tonight, sure enough, the show started right after dusk.

Naturally, on the day one needs to head back to the city, it looks to be a bright and sunny day. Little wind is blowing across the river and bay, and there is not a cloud in the sky. We slowly started to pack up our gear, and it was real slow, stretching our time on site as much as possible.

It was great having the extra days tacked on to the weekend, gives more time to relax, catch up on some zzzz's, and just basically forget about work and the city. Very invigorating all around.


  1. Hello to both of your!! :) You new visual is sooooo nice!!! I LOVE the pictures at the top of the page...like on a internet site. Very beautiful! I love your blog! Have au nice altoesque summer! Michèle

    1. Glad you are enjoying our blog, and thanks for the nice words on the new design. Always good to freshen things up every so often.
      Our Alto is a big part of our summers, and soon enough, will be for other seasons as well.