It’s important to play hooky from real life once in a while. I pulled the boys out of school for the day and, together with my cousin Elanor who has been visiting all week, drove to Bruce Peninsula National Park for a day of exploring.
Much to my amazement, the boys had full-on tantrums when I informed them that they weren’t going to school and would spend the day exploring. (Apparently their friends are cooler than their mom, even at this young age.) But then I overheard four-year-old L. telling his older brother not to worry, that “adventures are way more funner than school.”
When they found a baby snake lying in the middle of the hiking trail, they immediately announced it was “the best day ever.” The snake was perfectly still, not moving even when I prodded it gently with a stick. At first I thought it was injured or dead, but soon after picking it up, it started to wiggle like mad; it must have been playing dead. The boys were over the moon. They had a new pet – a wild and active one at that – and coddled it for the rest of the hike.
The approach to Indian Head Cove never fails to leave me breathless. It is so unexpected, so stunning and rugged, the water so turquoise. I particularly love it in the off-season, when there are fewer tourists. Elanor was amazed by it: “I can’t believe this is in Ontario!” she gasped. It’s true – the water looks more Caribbean than typically Canadian.
We scrambled over the rocks, me trying not to nag the boys too much about being careful. They raced like little mountain goats over the crevices and boulders, elated with this unusual field trip. We squeezed through the tunnel that goes down to the famous Grotto, a cave with an underwater hole inside that glows bright blue, revealing the distant exit to Georgian Bay. (My brother has swum it many times, but you couldn’t pay enough to do it!) We picnicked on the rocks of the Cove, enjoying homemade bread, hummus, and crispy apples.
It was glorious – except for the garbage that I could see everywhere. It’s hidden away, jammed in cracks and behind trees and rocks, but it’s still disappointingly present. How anybody in their right mind could contaminate such a spectacular place, I do not understand. There were plastic water bottles lying around, a smashed wine bottle, even a dirty disposable diaper. It was disgusting.
We left the National Park and headed for Lion’s Head, a small town on the east side of the Peninsula that I’ve never visited in all the years living here. We went in search of caves, but first stopped at a cute little 1960s-style diner and bakery called Rachel’s for a quick coffee, lemon square, and ice cream for the boys.
We hiked along a portion of the Bruce Trail, which runs right through Lion’s Head, and soon found William’s Caves along the side of the trail. They are impressive gaping mouths of rock that loom up out of nowhere. Signs warn hikers not to enter, so we merely approached the entrance and looked in, the boys begging me to go further.
Rain began to fall and we raced back to the car, arriving just in time. An older woman stood nearby, asking about our hike. She lives right near the trail and when I told her about the “Do Not Enter” signs, she scoffed. “What? Signs? Aw, I’m no citified person obsessed with safety. You have to take those kids in! The caves are wonderful. They go so far back, they’d love it.” I promised her we’d return another time, since the rain was now heavier and the boys were worn out from their trip.
We will be back. Our little road trip was an important reminder of what glorious sights there are in our own backyard, a short drive away. How lucky we are to live in this beautiful place.