The Pinery Provincial Park is an interesting and unique spot located on Lake Huron about 50 km north-west of London and 9 km south of Grand Bend. Jennifer -- the family Social Director and Marvelous Matriarch -- organized a three-night camp out for the last weekend in August, and it was fabulous.
The description on The Pinery's website starts with "towering oak trees, sun flecks on a golden carpet of leaves, shrubs & wildflowers and a rich abundance of unique and rare organisms" and it does live up to that. The landscape is undulating sand dunes (up to 30+ m high) with most of the surviving oak savanna in North America. All of this along a 10 km stretch of sand beach with water that is actually warm enough to swim in.
We started our adventure on Thursday, which mostly involved driving, but since it was cross-country it was fun (lots of cows, etc.). The Pinery encourages visitors to park once, then ride bikes. We did a pretty good job of that, although we did use the vehicle to get firewood. And beer. But other than that, it was a bicycling kind of place. (I personally made the 7 km round trip to the park store for ice three times.)
In addition to the very cool oak savanna, The Pinery is noted for the Old Ausable channel that runs the length of the park. Although some of the more interesting parts seemed to have no canoe or kayak access, there was a part we could get into -- along with all sorts of other people who had never sat in either type of watercraft before. Here, we spent a couple hours playing with our two kayaks, and two rented Hydro-Bikes. All I can say is "I love Hydro-Bikes."
With its close proximity to Grand Bend (aka "party central") and the rest of south-western Ontario, The Pinery -- with over 1,000 campsites in its 20+ square kilometers -- has the potential to be one of those "party places". Luckily, the park staff keep a pretty tight lid on things. We did have our sleep disturbed a bit on Friday night by a largish group of twenty-something neighbours, but a surprise visit from a ranger on Saturday night put a firm lid on that.
The trip was wrapped up on Sunday with an unscheduled visit to Exeter. This was so Jakob could visit an after-hours clinic due to what appeared to be a throat infection. While Jakob and mom had fun at the clinic, Kristin and dad visited a large local park. Here we had a nice time on some nature trails and we discovered and tracked down the rare and elusive Spirit Squirrel. Really.