Modern Travel - A One Tank Trip to Charleston Lake Provincial Park

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“We call it the Queen of Lakes,” said Tom Hugh, a local living near Gananoque, describing Charleston Lake. Situated about 330 kilometres east of Mississauga in the Frontenac Arch UNESCO World Biosphere, the 26 km2 lake is also home to Charleston Lake Provincial Park.

After our trip here, I understood its royal nickname.

It’s truly a regal spot.

Our family spent three nights at the provincial park and it was one of our best camping trips yet. Though I have to admit, it wasn’t exactly camping, more like cottaging, since we stayed at Tall Pines, the park’s rustic cabin.

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Roofed accommodation is a feature of many Ontario’s 330 parks with yurts and other shelters, providing options for campers who prefer a bit more comfort.

Our cabin was nothing like we expected in a provincial park. It was secluded, so much so that we accessed it using two of the park’s rental canoes. After a 35-minute scenic paddle, and there was Tall Pines, perched on the rocks overlooking a gorgeous Charleston Lake.

Our family doesn’t own a cottage, but if we did, I’d want it to be like this one: simple, wood, large windows with good screens and a westward facing deck with two large Muskoka chairs on it. These wooden seats were just the spot to watch the lake’s incredible sunsets shows display hues of purples and pink so vivid they looked almost fake.

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With only solar lights and no electricity, it was a pleasant change to see our teens enjoy themselves off the grid: fishing off the deck, swimming, canoeing and making campfires. My daughter brought all of her French tests with her specifically to burn, which she did with relish.

“And this was a grammar test,” she said as she scrunched it up and threw it on the fire.

There are plenty of activities both in the park and in the area, and we canoed, hiked and treated ourselves to ice cream treats at Twist’s Outlet, a nearby nostalgic tackle/sweets/souvenir store.

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Our last adventure before heading home was at Skywood Eco Adventure, located in Mallorytown about a 20-minute drive away from the park. The smiles never left the kids’ faces as we made our way though a series of zips, along with climbing obstacles through a pine forest and flew above scenic marsh land. I wasn’t smiling though. I gritted my teeth and tried not to scream, though sometimes a high-pitched squeal escaped to the delight of my kids.

“Can we come back again?” they asked as we left for Toronto. Yes, but the next time you’re zip lining on your own. I’ll be on a Muskoka chair, watching the sunset on the Queen of Lakes.

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The Drive

On our family’s trip to Charleston Lake Provincial Park, we test drove the Chrysler Pacifica minivan.

“Our own captain seats!” was our son’s first reaction to the Pacifica.

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This was definitely a vehicle designed for family road trips.

In the second row of the minivan, both kids had their own separate bucket seats, complete with arm rests and plenty of space between them (which meant no poking or ‘accidental’ elbows). And each of them had their own seat-back screens with head phones, the kind you usually see on planes.

My son had his shows loaded on USB, while my daughter had her iPad hooked up with an HDMI cable. The system allowed them to watch their own shows or the same one. Games, like Sudoku, solitaire and some educational activities, were also on the system, and our kids were actually played checkers with each other.

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“Are we there yet?” was something we never heard once because the expected arrival time appeared on their screens. Genius.

Being a minivan, it was spacious and easily fit all our gear comfortably. I loved how the 3rd row of seats stowed away automatically with the touch of a button. The automatic sliding doors were also a dream for easy loading and unloading.

Though a large-sized vehicle, it accelerated nicely and was excellent on gas mileage, thanks to its 3.6L V6 engine; we averaged 8.4L on our trip. (The Pacifica hybrid model is even more impressive with a total driving range of up to 911 km on a full tank and charge.)

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Other admirable features were the adaptive cruise control, tri-pane panoramic sunroof, blind spot monitoring, an intuitive navigation and entertainment system that easily synced to our phones and automatic parking. Though I must admit that the last feature took some getting used to. My palms were sweaty and heart raced watching the steering wheel move while the car parked itself oh so close to another vehicle.

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Vented seats, on the other hand, I loved immediately. It was like the first taste of peanut butter pie or the first visit to an airport lounge. Who knew this luxury existed? A touch of the control panel and cool air refreshingly tickled our backs, in the front seats only.

“Braggers!” the kids said when we oohed and aahed.

Who’s the captain now, eh? or 1-888-ONT-PARK

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