Even from a safe distance, few people can hold back a smile seeing a eight-week-old freckled pup wrapped in a pink blanket. I’ve finally got her – I picked up my new pandemic puppy after months of searching and then a six week wait.
The first trip we take together is an over-night stop at Presqu’ile Provincial Park in Brighton, Ontario on our way home. My home. And her new forever home.
She hasn’t exactly got her hiking legs yet. On a nippy late fall day, I’ve got Victoria wrapped in a fleece as we watch the waves crash against the shore along Lake Ontario. She jolts alert to the water’s roar. It’s Victoria’s first-time seeing nature this large and loud, and she’s understandably nervous.
Victoria’s been in this world barely seven weeks.
Mid-November I got my new puppy, days shy of the eight weeks. The family who raised her was ready for her and her eight siblings to go. Two months ago, after struggling to rescue a new dog, I put a down payment on a new-born black and white Sprocker – half Cocker, half Springer and all Spaniel. (Check her out here).
This weekend, I picked her up, snatching her away from the only home she’s every known and the one littermate left. (That dog was going to her forever home the next day). Victor spent her first night away at a hotel. I figured it was a good transition to her new life as travel buddy and canine cutie.
Actually, it was a longish drive to where I picked her up, and I assumed (correctly) I’d need one sleep along the journey back.
Plus, having a dog in tow – even if that dog is more swaddled than sprinting – is a great reason to check out an Ontario provincial park I haven’t seen yet: Presqu’ile Provincial Park minutes from Highway 401 along Lake Ontario midway between Kingston and Toronto. Presqu’ile, a boomerang-shaped spit of limestone and sand, is French for an ‘almost island, and it’s a stop for migratory birds and butterflies Spring and Fall.
Presqu’ile Provincial Park is also an ideal day use park for people and pups, particularly for those not interested in hiking the backcountry. In fact, you can drive the entire park. Yes, drive. A circular road takes you around the park, literally – just like my experience with Victor, my first heart dog, in Erie several winters ago (see here).
Of course, there’s spots to stop and park the car: trail entrances, lakeside (beach) access, a boardwalk over marshes, and a historic lighthouse – Ontario’s second oldest.
Today, because I’m warming up Victoria to the world, we’ll skip the trails though they are busy, being one of the few activities people can do in late 2020. Other dogs are here too, including a vocal lab for whom the Great Lake is not too cold to leap through like a playful dolphin.
Presqu’ile, 982 hectares in total, is one of the few provincial parks open all year (camping April to October). So, the six walking trails ranging in length from 1 to 5 kilometres are well travelled. The most popular is Jobes Woods circular trail, the shortest and level though classified as a ‘moderate’ hike. All other trails, despite being longer, are classified as ‘easy,’ including the Owen Point Trail that follows Lake Ontario’s shore.
The 1.1 kilometre of Marsh Boardwalk Trails we didn’t get to experience because flood waters rendered it unusable (which happens randomly throughout the year). But the winding boardwalk and observation tour is an ideal place to exercise a four-legged travel buddy (unless he makes a dive over the edge, as my Victor did at Pelee Provincial Park years prior).
We did visit the historic lighthouse, Ontario’s second oldest, built in 1839 and home to stories of shipwrecks and lost locals. What’s fun about lighthouses is first, they are water ajecent so there’s usually a photo-worthy view, and second, they are round. Dogs can run around and around them to burn off some steam.
Victoria didn’t actual burn too much energy – being little and new she was cautious – but loved the kids she met and took a healthy interest in following me. That’s a good start.
Parts of the park were once farmland, so the picnic grounds reflect that history: Calf Pasture Point area is a warm weather spot on the other side from the lake and a good place to drop a canoe into the water.
Speaking of warm weather, I’ll be coming back here. Or we’ll be coming back here when Victoria full-sized and ready to roam the longest of trails. Definitely a romp along the Marshland boardwalk is on the agenda, maybe even a night in a tent. We’ll see.
Highlights of Presqu’ile Provincial Park:
- Address: 328 Presqu’ile Parkway, Brighton, Ontario, Canada
- Three soft-side tent accommodations for rent April to October
- One fully furnished 1930s renovated Clarke-Denson Cottage with three bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen.
- Five campgrounds with hundreds of tent and car spaces, most with electrical service
- RV camping spots
- Ten group camping spots accommodating groups between 35 and 75 people
- Birding is a popular activity (though many birders don’t appreciate dogs). March for waterfowl, May for songbirds and September for shorebirds are highlight months and about 130 species nest at the park
- Land-based fishing at the Calf Pasture Picnic Ground or by boat in Lake Ontario and Presqu’ile Bay
- Canoeing at Presqu’ile Bay
- Nature Centre and Lighthouse Interpretive Centre
- No dogs allowed at the Sandy Beach, the only spot safe for swimming
Rules for Taking Pets to Presqu’ile Park (according to the Park’s website):
- For the protection of wildlife and other park visitors, your pet must be under control and on a leash, not exceeding 2 metres, always.
- You must ensure your pet does not damage or interfere with vegetation or wildlife.
- You must also ensure your pet does not interfere with others’ enjoyment of the park.
- Pets are not permitted in the swimming area, on the beach or in a posted prohibited area at any time.