Climbing, Caving and Camel Rides

Unfortunately, I had to work this past weekend. And unfortunately, I may be working even more so this upcoming weekend. But I try to schedule my work time early in the morning or late afternoon/evening. It’s still important to enjoy the daylight with the family – especially as summer has officially started and the countdown for precious weekends we actually have together is on its way.

Whenever I’m in the mood for a challenging hike, calling up Ada or Hoa never fails. They always know just the place to explore. Granted, the hikes are not nearly as challenging as even the easier ones from the West Coast but we still manage to work up a light sweat.

And I was in a serious mood for a hike. Any hike would have been fine but when my first plans fell through, I found myself more eager to not just go on a hike, but a more adventurous one.

Hoa was busy at the annual Island Dragon Boat race so we picked Ada up and headed to the back entrance of Mount Nemo – a part of The Bruce Trail.

Mount Nemo Bruce Trail

Top view from Mount Nemo

The main entrance includes a paid parking lot at the very top. Ada, however, showed us an area to park from the back entrance for free. Plus, it started us off with a nice climb to get our bodies warmed up. By the time we reached the top, we learned we climbed about half the height of the CN Tower.

spelunking caving mount nemo

Spelunking the vertical caves.

Along the trail at the top, we found crevices – vertical caves – to climb in and out of. One of them lead us to the opening at the side of the cliff.

Chaeli was at first apprehensive. I think it was how dark it looked from the entrances but for the most part, there’s enough light to make it comfortable to see once at the bottom. After her first climb down, she became quite the explorer.

I wish we had more time to complete the rest of the trail as we only did the one side next to the escarpment. We decided to turn back and miss out on the end loop. When we reached the bottom, we did a good 7K in around 2.5 hrs (which included 3 cave explorations).

The next morning, I got the troops up to head to the zoo. Our annual membership ends beginning of August but looking at our calendar, I knew we would not have another chance to visit the zoo before that date. In fact, July is completely booked.

Zoo Peacock Cafe

Breakfast at The Peacock Cafe

As usual, we went to The Peacock Cafe just by the inside entrance for breakfast. They do not have much diabetic-friendly selections for me so I made sure I had my Weetabix with berries and almond milk just before leaving. But I joined Doug and Chaeli for a large coffee while they ate their toasted bagels and cream cheese.

Torongo Zoo Zoomobile

Waiting for the Zoomobile to take-off.

Near the end, we took the Zoomobile for a round trip just for kicks. Then made our way to the camel ride area so Chaeli could finally ride a camel for the first time.

We’ve been wanting to do this for years. And I mean YEARS! We just never had a chance or it wasn’t open when we had the chance. She loved it – though complained that the back of the camel was much harder to straddle than the ponies she’s been on.

Toronto Zoo camel ride

Will Sir Camel mind a photo-op with his guest?


camping at bronte creek


we spent this past cold weekend (the days were nice but our first night felt like it was just hovering above the 0 degrees mark – 2nd night was better but still chilly) camping at bronte creek provincial park.

thankfully, all sites were electrical, allowing us to use our little space heater in our trailer. we have one that has a safety feature – it automatically turns off if it gets tipped over. it actually had to be turned down to the low side – our trailer is so small, it doesn’t take much to heat it up! i ended up sleeping in just a t-shirt and underwear.

first of all, some photos of our weekend:

bronte creek campground dog park

leash-free dog park (campground side)

the leash-free dog park on the campground part of the park was actually a large area with trails that led us through a field, into a forest and a side trail leading down to the creek. a couple of loops around gives both dogs and humans a nice hike. it was very scenic.

bronte creek - kid's farm and petting zoo

sleeping piglets!

bronte creek - kid's farm and petting zoo

little goat resting – loved the backdrop of the wooden framed doorway and textured wall.

bronte creek - kid's farm and petting zoo

chaeli’s new friend

the day-use area is a separate entrance to the park. there’s no way to go from campground to the day-use area except by driving outside of the provincial park and entering through another entrance (campground vehicle permit will let you get in the day-use area but not the other way around; i suppose this does give us campers more privacy). there’s also no way to cross over from one to another by foot or bike as the two areas are divided by the creek with no bridge. we were a little baffled by this set-up – it’s a little bit of a pain to get from one to another but the beauty of the park does make up for this small inconvenience.

anyway, we visited just the barn with the petting zoo – chaeli got a chance to pet and feed different animals, including a lone cow hovering by the fence just waiting for visitors to fetch the fruits dropped by a nearby pear tree as a cow-treat. poor chaeli’s hands are so small that no matter how flat she made her palm, the cow engulfed pretty much her entire hand, leaving a trail of slimy saliva all over! it happened to me too when it was my turn to feed the cow. they don’t have any top teeth so the experience isn’t painful – just a little gross.

bruce trail - river side and ruins side trail

ruins along the bruce trail

bruce trail - river and ruin side trail

posing with uncle hoa (who we believe has 0% body fat)

sunday, after eating breakfast and packing up, we met ada and hoa at a nearby restaurant for lunch.

afterwards, they took us to the bruce trail’s river and ruins side trail for a 4.5 km hike which we completed in about 1 hr and 20 min. we’ve done one hike along another side trail of the bruce trail in the hamilton area which wasn’t too far from this trail – called the ray lowes side trail. i knew before the start of this hike, it would be a good one. not just because ada and hoa usually know how to pick the good ones, but because the trails around the burlington and hamilton areas are all just so gorgeous!

it definitely did not disappoint – the scenery and vegetation gradually changed as we made our way through the loop. it was still incredibly lush in some areas, especially parts of the trail that left the woods and was only small enough for a single file of hikers. i brushed through a lot of vines and floral-type, long stems and for awhile, felt like i was in some type of tropical rain forest.

the difficulty of the trail wasn’t too bad. i wouldn’t recommend it for those who are not in shape and/or beginner hikers as there are some inclines and declines with areas that can become quite slippery, especially if there’s been some recent precipitation. but it’s not too hard, either, as the tough spots are like short bursts followed by a steady plain for a longer stretch. the toughest part is really just the first decent down – which is always more tiring to climb back up at the end.

> view rest of our photos from our bronte creek weekend camping trip.

now about the park itself – it was kept really clean (well, it is in oakville) and definitely classified as a city park where people have the option of trying out camping without going too far from their homes. it’s perfect for this type of fall camping where we only go from friday night to sunday morning. the days are much shorter so we don’t have the luxury of arriving too late to set everything up. rather, it’s close enough for us to make it just as the sun starts to set, allowing us just enough time to stabilize and level off our 2-wheel trailer. barely enough time, though. just barely.

there are also grocery stores and restaurants all around the park within 5-10 minutes of an easy drive. we actually took advantage of this saturday morning where we were suppose to have cereal and fruit. but camping in the cold made us famished! i suppose all the extra energy went into our bodies trying to just generate heat to keep warm. luckily, our park map/magazine had a $5 coupon for coras. so… away we went.

i suppose the downside of this, as with all city parks, you risk getting the type of city people who don’t really understand park etiquette. i passed by one group that were throwing their water melon peels into the bushes surrounding their campsite. not only is this an act of littering (which one can be fined for) but it’s also leaving out edible trash for critters/wildlife (which one can also be fines for). luckily, we were not in bear country but still… it’s more pleasant to camp without the nuisance of racoons and skunks rummaging through the campground area.

but as oakville is a nice, family-style community, we were not bombarded with young (or older) city folks wanting to just come and find a place to party and drink excessively. most of our neighbours were families with young kids. so all in all, it was a successful camping trip. we would definitely use bronte creek again if we were looking for a close and quick get-away.

board games, high park zoo and duck confit french toast

this weekend, as do all good weekends, went by too fast. but it was a good weekend indeed. the type i wish i could just put in a jar for a rainy day.

doug did have to work saturday, so that day was low key. chaeli and i took hobbes to the vet for a routine heart worm check-up. not fun for him since they had to put a needle in his hind thigh to draw some blood. the poor guy starts to shake whenever he’s on top of the examining table.

nothing special happened for the majority of the afternoon. chaeli had homework and i had housework. but then, being the amazing, domesticated mom that i am, i told her to put socks on because we were going to wendy’s. and not just eat food from wendy’s. but eat there.

which is fun for a kid. for me? it just means the garbage can be disposed of THERE and not at HOME. and the mess, should there be a mess would be THERE. and no, not at all at HOME.

i made up for my lack of domesticated skills after dinner though. well, sort of. my intent, in order to win mother of the year, was to just turn on netflix and veg out in front of the tv.

chaeli, however, wasn’t in the mood for tv. she asked, “can we play board games?”

i looked at her and replied back with a question, “really? with just the two of us? don’t you think it would be more fun if we did family game night with daddy home?”

“no… it can be fun with just two people.”

i will admit. i took a moment to think of all the excuses i could think of. i had my heart set on being lazy in my pj’s, lying in bed watching whatever netflix had to ofer, at least for kids. plus, do you know what it is like to play boardgames with kids? they either don’t follow the rules or they take a long time to decide on their move or they whine when they lose.

well, maybe not all of them and not all the time. the potential for any of these things to happen can very well happen.

but suddenly, i was in the mood to play myself. and i’m glad we did play that junior scrabble game, even though it forces you to limit your choices to the words already on the board. because it was a great way to spend the evening.

the next day was quite nice. we met up with ada and hoa at high park so doug could go for a run with them. while they ran, chaeli and i took hobbes to the off-leash trail to get some fresh air and move our muscles a bit.

i was not at all feeling guilty for the fact that i wasn’t joining them. in fact, i was rather happy to announce, “i don’t run. yoga, p90x and wimping out on gym cardio machines… that will do it for me!” they’re all marathon/triathlon types. or at least 10K types. and due to this, doug has been eating healthy and cutting back on the luxuries that happens to be beer. that’s why i don’t do marathons. i like to eat.

ada only did 30 minutes with them and then text-ed us to meet up with where ever we were. which was good. chaeli wanted to go to the zoo but with hobbes, i have to keep him away from the fenced in animals. ada was able to stick closer to her while i stood back whenever hobbes got overly excited from seeing an animal which he probably took as being a very, very large dog. except when he saw the turkeys and peacocks. then he just took them as very, very large birds.

we ended up at origin afterwards for an awesome brunch.

duck confit and french toast… heaven!

another year of ‘boo at the zoo’

it’s not the same as it use to be, really, but still, when i woke up this morning, i could tell it was going to be a sunny day. and while doug is at work, i do my best to make the day productive.

mind you, i brought work home from the office and i haven’t even touched it. a part of me wondered if i should just skip the halloween festivities at the zoo this year but then another part of me said, screw it! why should my kid suffer because of the crap from work? plus, a quick look at the upcoming weeks is proving to be quite grey and wet. it’s not a for sure thing that this rain will still stick around come halloween but just in case, at least we get to do something with chaeli on a nice day.

there was one very cool exhibit. they had this creepy crawly cave display where they pulled out the best of the best of creepy-crawlies. many of these species are from behind the scenes and only pulled out during special exhibits.

the artic animals were very active today and chaeli insisted on visiting her favourite animal – the polar bear cub. here are photos she took from today:

indian rhino

the rhino came right up to us

polar bear

eating his kibble

arctic owl

finally – the owl came out to greet us!

sunday ‘ooz’, library and retro-judy blume books


this is what doug started to say for ‘zoo’ when chaeli was young. it was a way to say, “hey, think we should go to the zoo this weekend?” while around her so that she didn’t pick up on the word ‘zoo’ and get her hopes up in case we weren’t able to go.

of course, in the past couple of years, she knows that ‘ooz’ is just ‘zoo’ pronounced backwards. and now calling it ‘ooz’ has just become our thing.

while doug worked his sunday shift, that’s exactly where chaeli and i found ourselves yesterday morning. she came up just after 8:30am to wake me up. the zoo opens now at 9:30am (shorter hours past the summer season) so it was just enough time for us to get ready and head over for breakfast.

chaeli brought her digital camera and spent the hour and a half taking as many photos as possible, spending most of her time taking shots of the polar bear cub. he’s grown a bit but still so small compared to the three adults. and very cute with a whimsical, playful temperament.

of course, of the 100 or so photos, most of them came out too dark or blurry but i told her not to worry. we can weed them out later. so she took a few shots of certain animals or scenes to be on the safe side. in the end, about a third were actually quite good. so i opened up a flickr account for her and uploaded the photos to share with family.

here are some of the highlights:

polar bear

cub swimming

polar bear cub

cub was enjoying deep dives


a mid-morning snack – picking at the flowers

anemone and starfish

one starfish and one sea anemone-mone-mone…

prairie dogs

hobbes would object to the word ‘dog’ in their names


the bunnies were all still sleeping when we visited them


just chillin’ out on the rocks

we came home for a couple of hours before heading out to a library in our area – one of the many main ones in the city that happened to be open on sunday’s.

for chaeli’s grade 3 leading log, she went through four chapter books in two weeks. we do have a lot of books at home but with the rate she’s going, they won’t last her the school year. nor do we have that much space to continue purchasing books (and we don’t want to get carried away with how much we spend either). i will continue to buy some books from scholastics but going to the library is a great way to balance things out.

the usual library we usually go to does not open on sunday – this gave us an opportunity to try a different location. i’m glad we did. the entire first floor is dedicated to children and young readers with one section dedicated to early readers. it pretty much carried all chapter books and contained the perfect selection for grade 3 and 4 level reading.

chaeli chose three books which i think should last her for the next two weeks. she was quite excited – especially as she got to use her own library card and check out the books at the self-checkout area.

the rest of the day was spent with her reading and playing while i uploaded her zoo photos (and camping photos). as well, i read two chapters of tales of a fourth grade nothing (my own copy from when i was 9 – and i still have superfudge, too) before dinner plus another chapter of it before bed. we were also able to get in one UNO game done before bedtime.

it was a great mother-daughter day!