On Monday, we drove all day, from the shores of Lake Michigan, to get to Niagara Falls. We had checked to make sure the campground we hoped to stay at would be open; many of the campgrounds in Canada are open only through Canadian Thanksgiving, which was October 14. The website of our chosen destination, Jordan Valley Campground, indicated that their camping season ended on October 15. I was disappointed, because I assumed that meant they closed on the 15th. I was thrilled to learn that their last night was the 15th, meaning we could camp there both Monday and Tuesday night and be out on Wednesday morning by 11:00 check out. So, we set off for Niagara!
After spending 10 hours crossing Michigan and the southern tip of Ontario, we made it to our campground with only 30 minutes until their 9:00 office closing. We checked in and set up in the dark, with only a vague sense of our grassy, bucolic surroundings. We had a few neighbors, which was surprising considering we were there mid week during the last two nights of the season.
When we woke up, we admired the pretty campground; it was surrounded by orchards, vineyards, and grassy fields. The campground itself had trees at every site and some fall colors were starting to show.
With only one full day in the area, we decided to load up the bikes and head to the falls! It was a beautiful day, with mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 60s. While the area around the falls is very busy and commercial, that really cannot detract from the majesty of the waterfalls. We decided to drive through Victoria Park to see the falls and look for parking. On the Canadian side, you can get a great view of all the falls- American, Bridalveil, and Horseshoe. We parked in the main lot and walked over to the welcome center and riverside walkway. There we got some nice views and found a cafeteria booth where I could plug in, access WiFi, and prep for a phone meeting.
While I had my meeting, Jon and the girls got up close and personal with the falls by boat. They had a great time but, apparently, Daisy loudly announced that she didn’t think it was worth it upon hearing the price as they bought their tickets. She assured me afterwards that the trip to the base of the falls was, in fact, worth the $12 ticket price!
When they returned to the cafeteria, I had finished my meeting. Even though it wasn’t our usual Friday check-in time, we made plans to connect with the Lighthouse students in Ojai to show them the falls. After a quick FaceTime session, we grabbed our bikes and went for a riverside ride. We rode through Dufferin Park and along the parkway, away from the crowds. A few highlights of that ride include bumpy paths, rickety bridges, ginormous gnat swarms, and black squirrels (we call them “shadow squirrels”). We were both impressed and freaked out by the squirrels, which gave off a slightly evil vibe to our unaccustomed eyes. Jon was inspired to rewrite a classic song, and began singing, “Black squirrel screaming in the dead of night. You better learn to run or learn to fight!” That song will definitely be going on our “Ellis Family Road Trip Classics” album. Other soon-to-be hits from that album: Sunlight on Green (hiking ballad), and Rump in the Wind (ode to primitive bathroom practices).
After our bike ride, we drove along the scenic Niagara Parkway toward Niagara-on-the-Lake, a favorite, pre-kids spot for me and Jon. This adorable small town is full of wineries and B&Bs as well as dozens of great shops and restaurants. If it hadn’t been late in the day, we would have parked and hopped on our bikes again. The recreational path continued through miles of wooded parks alongside the river, almost the entire 15 miles from Niagara Falls to Niagara-on-the-Lake!
Though we didn’t have time for a bike ride, we made a short stop at Strewn Winery. This is a place Jon remembers fondly. I had given him a wine tasting and cooking class for his birthday 15 years ago, when I still had the time and creativity for romantic gifts like weekend getaways tailored to my husband’s interests! Yesterday, we tasted some wines and felt compelled to purchase a bottle of the sweet and delicious ice wine that the region is known for.
Arriving back at camp, close to dark, Jon started an amazing dinner of pesto and kalamata pasta, a mixed green salad, buttered French bread, and two cheeses. This was, of course served with one of our Strewn wines, a Chardonnay. For dessert, we enjoyed dark chocolate shortbread and some of the ice wine, which was made from a Cabernet Sauvignon grape and so yummy! Jon is definitely the king of gourmet campground creations.
After dinner, we packed up as much as possible, knowing that rain was forecast for the next morning. We were expecting a bit of precipitation. What we got, around 5:00 this morning, was pounding rain accompanied by a full lightening and thunderstorm, which seemed to be directly on top of our pop-up for a good 45 minutes. The girls woke up so they came to our bunk and we laughed and snuggled up under our blankets to enjoy the stormy weather. Jon and I were a bit nervous, wondering how we’d manage to pack up and pull out in the storm, but we figured it would subside eventually, and it did. We found some brief windows of light drizzle to get everything done, and pulled out of camp at our earliest time ever- 8:00 a.m.!
We’re now heading across Ontario in the rain, trying to get a motel close to Montreal for the night. We passed through Toronto this morning and we’ll drive through Montreal and Quebec City tomorrow in order to get to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia as soon as possible. We’re hoping to see some fall colors and to catch good enough weather that some of the campgrounds in the national parks will still be open; many indicate that October 31 is the last day of the season in that region, so we’re staying optimistic!