Dreaming of Tennessee

 

In my opinion one of the best parts of travelling is dreaming about where you want to go. The planning is sometimes as much fun as travelling due to the anticipation of all you will see and do once you get there.  After doing some research and drooling over pictures I would love to go to Tennessee.

To keep track of all the places I would like to someday travel to I have started a category called “Oh the Places We’ll Go!”   My list is so long I don’t know if I’ll ever get to all the places on it, but I’m sure I’ll have fun trying!

I find researching about new destinations something I do in the winter when I’m actually home on the weekends for a change! I first picked up some travel pamphlets about Tennessee at a rest station on the way to Florida in 2014. I’ve kept them in a drawer to remind myself to look up the information and make a plan for “someday”.

Tennessee is a place that I would love to try and take the boys to before they are grown. My oldest is heading into high school in the fall, so our years of being able to travel all together are getting shorter.  Tennesse looks like it has a great combination of history, mountain biking, scenery and family friendly activities that would appeal to my family of boys. There’s so much to see and do that the hard part will be deciding what we have to leave out.

Here is a list of attractions and places I’d love to explore in Tennessee. I’ve included links for all the places so you can look and plan your own trip. I also have a Tennessee Pinterest Board you can follow.  If you’ve travelled to any of these places I’d love to hear what you thought of your trip. I have also included a campground that looks fantastic. I’d love to hear from anyone who has stayed and Anchor Down and what they thought of it.  Let me know if there is a spot I need to add to my wish list!

Spots to visit in Tennessee

Tuckaleechee Caverns

Smoky Mountains

Lookout Mountain

Forbidden Caverns

Gatlinburg

Fall Creek Falls State Park

Pigeon Forge

AnchordownRVresort

Quick and Easy BBQ Salmon

When camping I’m always looking for easy meals. I love to cook but don’t want to spend my entire day prepping and washing dishes. This BBQ Salmon recipe couldn’t be easier. Prep takes less than five minutes and it only needs an hour to marinate before you can fire up the grill. I recommned using fresh salmon for the best results.

I love to use leftovers the next day in a salad with spinach, dried cranberries, walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette. That’s if I’m lucky to have leftovers! My oldest son loves salmon and usually has seconds or sometimes even third helpings when I make it. I often serve the salmon with Roasted Potatoes and a side salad.  Enjoy!

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Salmon all ready for the BBQ

Ingredients

1 large Salmon fillet

3 Tbsp olive oil

4 tsp minced garlic

2 Tbsp dill

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Cut a large salmon fillet into single portions. Drizzle both sides of fillets with olive oil, garlic, dill, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Before lighting grill, spray with non stick spray. Grill for seven minutes per side over medium heat and serve immediately.

Camping at the Elora Gorge

 

This was supposed to be a campground review of the Elora Gorge Conservation Campground…but I had a bit of hiccup. I don’t know where the photos are!  I downloaded all my photos from my camera but somehow I seem to be missing some. If you know me, you know that this is not an entirely unusual event. Electronics and I have a love hate relationship.  My husband can attest to this. He’s the one stuck trying to figure out how I managed to yet again change the settings on my laptop, or try to recover items I accidently delete.

I do have photos of what we did while we camped in Elora so its not a total wash. Our main reason for heading to Elora was so we could tube down the river at the Elora Gorge with the boys. When we arrived on Sunday afternoon the campground was packed and the parking lot by the tubing registration building was overflowing. They actually had a sign up stating that tubing was sold out. I was a little worried that the campground would stay that busy , but by Sunday evening many sites were packed up and empty. By Monday morning the campground was almost deserted.

The campground sites were clean and many had large trees that provided shade.  However the campsites are very open so there is not much privacy from your neighbours. We were close enough to the river that the boys could walk from our campsite and go fishing.

The conservation area  has a nice splash pad for children that are too young to travel the tube run. There are also some nice hiking trails that follow the gorge. The Elora Quarry is a short drive if you want to head to a sandy beach for the afternoon. We took the boys to check it out but if wanting a spot to keep an eye on  small kids by the water edge I would recommend getting there early in the day. Even in the middle of the week it was very busy. As we were camping at Elora Gorge we showed our pass from check in and the fee to enter was waved.

Elora Gorge River Run

Registering for our tubing equipment was quick and easy.  Speaking with the staff they say it’s usually much quieter during the week that on weekend but it can get busy on a hot summer afternoon. For information on costs and hours of operation for tubing click here. It was about a 10 minute walk from where we parked to the start of the tube run.

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The weather was extremely hot so the river  water felt great. It takes about an hour to tube from the river’s starting point to the end. Which means you if you want you can make multiple trips during the day.  A school bus comes along regularly to pick up anyone who would like a ride back up to the starting point.  My older boys travelled the river twice while my youngest thought once was more than enough! He tends to take after his mother in the adventure category!

The largest rapids were at the beginning of the river run. The river depth when I was there only came up to below my waist in most spots (and I’m extremely short). However the river depth and conditions depend on recent rainfall. Take shoes as the river bottom is quite rocky and at points in the run you may need to get out of your tube and walk it back into the current.

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Overhead view from the bridge.
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End of the line

We enjoyed our three day stay but don’t think we’ll be back to this area. We did everything that was of interest to the boys and for the cost of tubing we could go to a water park…but more on that later! Downtown Elora has some nice shops to explore but I wouldn’t recommend bringing along three boys who have no interest in shopping. Lunch and ice cream as a bribery tool only work for so long!

Albion Hills

Ready to Ride!

Albion Hills is a conservation area in Caledon near Toronto. We have camped here numerous times over the years, often due to mountain bike races at Albion.

One of the races my boys compete in at Albion Hills is the 24 HR Summer Solstice Race.  This race starts at noon on Saturday and runs straight through until Sunday.  The course this year was an 18 km loop, the goal is to have your team members complete as many laps as possible in the 24hrs. We have competed for a number of years now with a variety of teams.  It’s a fun weekend of racing and visiting with friends.

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Waiting for the start of the annual 24HR Summer Solstice Mountain Bike Race

My husband prefers to set up the day before the race when the campground is quiet and it’s easy to pull in to our campsite. This race often sells out, so by Saturday morning there are hundreds of mountain bikers. We always make sure to book a serviced site months in advanced for this race. Tents, trailers and mountain bikes are in every possible spot as far as the eye can see! Friday night is a fun night of relaxing and everyone having fun before the Saturday start time. The weather this year was fantastic for sitting out at night with a campfire and the kids enjoyed making ‘smores.

My oldest son completing one last lap for the team!
My oldest son completing one last lap for the team!

Albion Hills has great mountain biking trails, but for the younger kids it also has a great wading pool and splash pad that can be accessed for an additional fee. On a hot day it’s a good way to beat the heat and what kid doesn’t love a pool?! If camping for the weekend and you have small children I would recommend driving to the pool area.  The pool is a good distance from the serviced campsites.

Fun at the splash pad and pool!
Fun at the splash pad and pool!

Here is the link to check out the prices for tent camping sites, serviced trailer sites as well as the fees for the pool .

Campground Review

In the past we have always camped in the bottom serviced section.  When camping recently for another race we decided to try the upper campground named Deer Run. The upper section has more privacy between campsites with trees and but this can make some of the campsites narrow. Depending on the type of trailer you have some sites may make it a little more challenging to park and set up. Those with tent trailers and tents would have plenty of room. However in the lower section the site are wide and open. Easy for set up but not as much privacy. In both sections there are outhouses but no showers. The upper section has a very small playground (just a swing set and climbing structure) while the lower campground has a larger playground.

Site #93 our home for the weekend
Site #93 our home for the weekend
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Upper campground on a quiet Sunday afternoon.
A view of the playground and field with campsites in the background
A view of the playground and field with campsites in the background

On our most recent visit we had a great weekend camping with friends. All of our kids had a great time playing football and tag in the grassy area in front of our campsites.  An evening thunderstorm crowded us all into our trailer for several hours, but seven kids from the ages of 8-15 had fun playing games in the back bunk room.  The adults relaxed and chatted at the kitchen table with the dogs underneath hoping someone would share the snacks…ok it was just my dog begging for treats!

I would recommend Albion for those looking to get away for a couple of days. During the week the campground is fairly quiet but it can become busy on the weekends.  Due to its proximity to Toronto there are many day trippers that come  to picnic and barbecue for the day and of course those who come to ride the trails!

 

Canada Day in Ottawa

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Canada Day in Ottawa

Family Friendly Fun

My family loves Ottawa! It’s a city that has so much to see and do, and is a great family friendly place to visit.  I took this picture back in 2012 on Canada Day.

Ottawa is a fantastic place to visit especially on Canada’s birthday.  The museums have free admittance and biking along the paved walkways is a great way to get around.  Evening fireworks downtown are not to be missed! We found a viewing spot along with thousands of others and waited for the light show.  Just when you think the fireworks must be over another explosion of colour starts.  Even though we’ve travelled there several times,  I find that there is always something that we missed. It just gives me a reason to go back again!

Canada is getting ready to  celebrate it’s 150th birthday in 2017 and I’m looking into possibly returning to Ottawa again next summer. The city is planning special events every month next year to celebrate the milestone.  My boys keep asking when we can go white water rafting, and since my youngest is now big enough I’m thinking we need to put in on the wish list for next summer.

The Ottawa Tourism website is a great place to start getting ideas if you are planning to visit.  After reading the list of events for 2017, it’s making me want to visit during the winter as well. I might actually consider staying in a hotel for a change!

If wanting to check out some of the places and activities my family has enjoyed on previous trips look under my Family Favourites section.

And remember, if you have visited Ottawa and  know of  something we should put on our must see and do list I’d love to hear from you!

Just The Two Of Us in Niagara

We recently did something we’ve never done before…camp without children! Don’t get me wrong I love my boys, but our trips are usually catered to places and activities that the family as a whole can enjoy. For our anniversary I requested for us to have a weekend getaway for just the two of us. In our house summers are so jammed packed that I knew I would have to pencil a weekend on the calendar in advance or it would never happen.

I’ve lost count of the number of times we have been driving and I’ve pointed out to my husband a restaurant or attraction that looks interesting to me. The response has always been “we’ll have to go there….but without the kids”.  Well I finally got my wish.  We decided to go back to one of our favourite areas, Niagara-on-the-Lake. We camped at Riverside Park Campground  (see my recent campground review), but instead of doing kid focused activities I was able to do “girly” things. In a house full of boys anything that doesn’t involve a mountain bike is considered “girly”!

Saturday afternoon we took a walk along the main street in Niagara-On-The-Lake. I was able to pop into shops that I wouldn’t dare take three boys, who despite their best behaviour would have been rolling their eyes asking “how much longer?” My husband may have been doing that behind my back but was a great sport about it.

Historic Niagara-On-The-Lake
Historic Niagara-On-The-Lake

Ravine Vineyard

On Saturday night we had a fantastic dinner at Ravine Vineyard . Before dinner we enjoyed a glass of Ravine wine on the back patio while waiting for our table. The weather was perfect for sitting outside. The restaurant is small so make sure you make a reservation as they sell out quickly. I made our reservation online several weeks in advance. Ravine uses local produce and the menu changes depending on what is in season. When we were there local asparagus was on the menu. We tried an asparagus soup that was amazing. For dessert I had panacotta with rhubarb and maple candy. I think it might be my new favourite dessert!

 

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Weekend Dinner at Ravine Vineyard, Wine Shop and Restaurant
View of the fields at Ravine's back patio
View of the fields at Ravine’s back patio

 

On Sunday we took a tour of Peller Estates and enjoyed wine tastings at Peller and Two Sisters Vineyard. I highly recommend the Merlot! My husband treated me to a play at the Shaw Festival after we had dinner at The Irish Harp. Since I was asked to bring back a treat by my youngest, we stopped at The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory to pick up some chocolate to take home.

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Two days without children flew by, but it was great to be able to finally get out and discover new places on our own. My husband and I are already looking forward to the next time we can pack up and go off on our own again. Sorry boys!

 

 

Simple Travel Trailer Purchases

I lost count of the number of times we arrived at our destination and I said “you know what we need?”   So here are some simple travel trailer purchases that have worked for us and have helped make our trips a little easier.

 

Battery Operated Puck Lights – Closets and cupboards can be deep and dark. Attached to the inside wall or ceiling they help you find that missing sock or cutting board that has somehow wandered away from where you left it. These are also great if you are dry camping and want to try and save your trailer’s battery power. Just don’t shut the cupboard door and leave the light on! (I might have done this once or twice)

 

3M Hooks – These are great to use in the bathroom to hang towels to dry. Depending on the finish on the walls you may have trouble getting them to stick. We found ours stick well on the sides of the shelving unit in our bathroom.DSC_0061

 

 

 

Rubbermaid Table – Almost all campsites have a picnic table but it’s nice to have an extra space to keep items dry and off the ground. Also a great place to work if you do most of your cooking outside.

 

Dollar Store Baskets– We use these to help keep the boys clothes organized in the bunk room. Each boy has their own basket to hold items. Also great to use in the bathroom to keep items together and from falling off shelves when travelling down the road.DSC_0058

 

 

 

Thin Bath Towels– When we first started camping I packed some of our fluffy thick bath towels from home. Big mistake! With three boys swimming and generally getting dirty we use a lot of towel during a week of camping. Thick towels take longer to dry, and after several days they can start to smell less than fresh! If there are several days of rainy weather you quickly run out of room inside to try and dry everything. I went to Walmart and purchased thin inexpensive towels. They may not be as soft but an hour outside in the hot sun and they will be almost dry.

 

I am always on the look out for new ideas for the trailer so if you have any suggestions on what works in yours I would love to hear from you!

Beach Reads

It’s no secret that I love to read. Give me a good book, a mug of tea and a comfy spot and I’m good for the day, or at least until I’ve finished reading the book! In the summer I love to stock up on books and sit outside soaking up some sun while getting lost in a story, and if I happen to drift off and get to nap for a bit it’s even better, throw in a beach and it’s a perfect 10! Camping and reading go hand in hand (at least in my mind). Away from home there’s less housework to be done, laundry can wait until we get back and the mom taxi is off duty! So from time to time I’ll give some book suggestions from authors you may not have heard from that I’ve enjoyed. Today I have two suggestions for you.

I wandered across this book after looking for new authors on Goodreads. I enjoyed The Violets of March because it was set in two different time periods, present day and the early 1940’s. It’s a nice combination of mystery/romance/self discovery/history and it now makes me want to travel to Washington State. I’m looking forward to reading more by this author.

Another book to suggest is Walking Back to Happiness.

Get out the Kleenex if you cry easy as the book starts with the main character mourning the loss of her husband. Set in England it’s the story of how a young widow finds herself roped into being a dog walker  by her mother. Since becoming a dog owner I’ve become a sucker for books with a dog on the cover! It’s a novel about dogs, starting over, dealing with family and loss with a bit of romance thrown in.

I’m always looking for new authors to discover so if you’ve read a book and couldn’t put it down I’d love to hear from you!

 

Ready… Set… GO Camping! – A start of season trailer stocking list

Spring has sprung…Finally! My family is eagerly looking forward to the start of camping season.  Most winters we’ve been cooped up at home over the long, dark and sometimes snowy winter months, so all of us are excited to get back outside. Summer is our favourite season as all the boys in my family mountain bike, and we’re able to combine camping along with their racing season quite well. Their races are usually on Sundays, so as soon as the race schedule is published we start looking for campsites so we can make a weekend of the event.

Over the years I’ve fine tuned my packing list.  I pack the following items before our first trip and leave them in the trailer for the summer months, restocking them as required. It makes getting out the door easier when I know these items are already packed and ready. Here is my go to trailer staples list for the start of the season:

 

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Packing Up!

Non Perishable Food Items

  • Peanut Butter
  • Maple Syrup
  • Olive Oil
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Pam Grill Spray
  • Chocolate Milk syrup
  • Oatmeal -Packaged Instant and Old Fashioned
  • Canned Tuna and Salmon
  • Sugar
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Hot Chocolate mix
  • Crackers
  • Popcorn
  • Chicken noodle soup
  • Granola Bars
  • Spices-Garlic Powder, Dill, Oregano, Basil, Italian Seasoning, Onion Powder, Cinnamon, Salt and Pepper
  • Cereal
  • Jam
  • Pasta
  • Jar Pasta Sauce
  • Juice Boxes
  • Bottled Water
  • Marshmallows

Toiletry Items                                                              DSC_0072

  • Shampoo and Conditioner
  • Soap or Body Wash
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrushes
  • Mouthwash
  • Dental Floss
  • Q-Tips
  • Advil/Tylenol adult and kids
  •  Kleenex
  • Deodorant
  • Feminine Hygiene products
  • Pepto Bismol or Tums
  • Benadryl  Adults/Children
  • Toilet Paper
  • Hand Soap
  • First Aid Kit
  • Band Aids
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug Spray

 

Kitchen Items

  • Paper Towel
  • Tin Foil
  • Ziploc Bags-small and large
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Wax Paper
  • Plastic storage containers of various sizes
  • Dish Soap
  • Tea Towels
  • Garbage Bags
  • Hand Soap
  • Windex
  • Paper Plates
  • Disposable Cups
  • Kettle
  • Coffeemaker
  • Toaster
  • Lighter /Matches

 

Linens

  • Towels
  • Wash cloths
  • Pillowcases
  • Sheets
  • Sleeping Bags
  • Extra Blankets
  • Pillows
  • Laundry Soap
  • Dryer Sheets

Did I miss anything? I’d love to hear what you can’t leave home without.