It rained all morning. I could have just stayed home, but I went for it. Turns out grey clouds make sunny skies all the sweeter.
- Transit: You’ll want a car, though you could make it by bike from nearby towns.
- Cost: Depends on how long you’re staying. Day fees are cheaper than over-night. It’s pretty inexpensive, reservations for campers are recommended.
- Crowds: Fairly tame for a long weekend. Most camping sites were taken, but it wasn’t a rowdy crowd. There weren’t many day-use folks.
- Attractions: Swimming, a gorgeous view of Lake Erie, bird watching, hiking, camping, fossils (!), forest, photography. Lots of amenities for kids.
- Accessibility: Some of the hiking trails have boardwalks and flat hard-packed dirt. Others require you to manoeuvre stairs, rocks, and waves.
- Click here for map.
In much of Canada the May long weekend is the start of cottage season. It’s when tourism really starts picking up, and when those lucky enough to have them get out to their cottages to open them up for summer.
For those of us in southern Ontario it’s also the unofficial beginning of summer – usually. Usually. We’re far enough south that the weather can be absolutely perfect that weekend; we’re also far enough north that it can be chilly and rainy. It’s most often the former, but it’s frequently enough the latter that I’m typically hesitant to get out the tent.
Between the sand and the water was a rock shelf baked warm by the early summer sun. We rested to the sounds of the water birds to the south and the forest birds to the north. And here in bare feet we waded out in the ankle-deep water across the scattered, scintillating reflection of the late afternoon sun.
Unfortunately, it’s that kind of “Oh, I’d better not just in case…” thinking that really shrinks the scope of my life. I noticed that years ago: Trying to prevent negatives in my life kept me away from positives as well. Bit by bit it whittles away at what I’ll take a gamble on.
I figure it’s something I started doing to keep me from feeling disappointment and hurt, and I know lots of other people who’ve said they see the same thing in their lives. And taken too far, or applied where it doesn’t belong, it’s life-limiting.
I decided that the May long weekend was one of those situations where it didn’t belong. So despite a very uncertain forecast, I decided to stick to my plans to go camping at Rock Point Provincial Park on the Canadian shore of Lake Erie with my better half and some good friends.
I looked out my door that morning. Dark skies and drizzle met my face. I worried.
We packed the car in the rain. I worried.
It let up for a bit, but then started to pour again when we were about an hour away from the park.
This did nothing for my anxiety. Would we be stuck in the rain the whole time?
And then a half hour away from the park the clouds started to break up. Ten minutes later it was all bright sun and blue sky and, from the looks of it, nary a drop had fallen around here.
When we arrived at Rock Point there was a gentle, cool breeze off the lake and the sun was warm, warm, warm.
Courage 1 Anxiety 0
What about the park itself? It’s all drive-in camping, smaller than I usually like, yes. And the trails wind through the oak and maple forest above the water on wooden boardwalk and quiet footpaths. We were there in time to catch the last of the ephemerals, the ground flowers in the forest, just as the leaves of the canopy trees were filling out and taking all the light.
We were surrounded by a riot of sunny, young green – not quite the emerald of July and August – typical of southern Ontario this time of year, and lit up like neon by the late May sun.
The lake, too – quiet that afternoon – was bathed in light. The sun scattered off it, the surface an endless, undulating sapphire.
After setting up camp we made our way to the shore and found a beach that went on for more than a kilometre.
First was long shelf of flat rock studded with fossils of what, from the looks of it, was a reef back when much of Ontario was a shallow tropical sea. The park website dates it to the Devonian period three hundred fifty million years ago. (Believe it or not, that’s very young for rock in Ontario.)
Great swathes of invasive zebra mussel shells bleaching in the sun were washed up on shore, and hard on bare feet – photogenic, yes, but I wouldn’t recommend walking across without shoes.
Long stretches of the shore along the west end of the park were like Swiss cheese, a patchwork of pockmarked rock, tall grasses, and water that we hopped around and wended our way through.
From the edge of the lake looking back we had a full view of Rock Point’s Carolinian forest bursting into verdancy. (And there wasn’t a trace of rain in the sky.)
We saw stretches of sand far up the shore, announcing the high water mark, the tipping point where the wind could blow it no further and the waves couldn’t wash them away.
And between the sand and the water was a rock shelf baked warm by the early summer sun. We rested to the sounds of water birds to the south and forest birds to the north.
And here in bare feet we waded out in the ankle-deep water across the scattered, scintillating reflection of the late afternoon sun. Birds wheeled around us on the gentle breeze, flouting the boundary between lake and shore that hemmed us land animals in.
At the easternmost point of our hike we came across the long, sandy beach that Rock Point is known for by many. It was actually kind of boring after our adventure along the rocky shore.
Sandy and pebbly, it was busier than the rest of the park, and though it was nice enough, there are countless lovely beaches in Ontario. I’d recommend Rock Point on its other strengths.
Back on the trails we found masses of columbines at the edges of the forest, lighting the understory up with dashes of red, orange, and white. Higher up were plenty of look-outs with great views of the lake and the shore.
Here we got to see the forest song birds that we’d only heard when we were by the water. Though we were too late to catch the spring bird migration across Lake Erie, the park was nevertheless full of them and their calls. (Coming back for the monarch butterfly migration is on my to-do list.)
And I easily could have missed it all. I could have been overcautious and stayed home, hibernated like it was still winter. As is my idiom. I would have missed a fun time with great friends, and a park resplendent with the sun and green that are the harbingers of one of my greatest pleasures: Ontario summer.