Do yourself a favour, get a Clam Quick-Set Screen Tent to escape the bugs

Last spring the bugs feasted on Milo the poor AwesomeDog and me, and it was miserable. I tried all the things: a smoky fire (I suffered respiratory distress before the bugs did), citronella candles (no effect), essential oil repellants for both Milo and me (not strong enough), dousing myself in enough Deet to melt every piece of plastic I touched (gross). The only moderately effective and not disgusting tactic was fire up a powerful fan.

I promised myself that this year would be different. I did some research and bought myself a Clam Quick-Set Screen Tent for my birthday.

Map indicating locations of campsites and trails

OMG! It is fabulous. Thank you, Self, for getting me such a great present!

It is 11 feet across and more than 7 feet tall in the centre. I set it up, by myself, in less than a minute. Seriously, less than a minute. And, it doesn’t take any longer to take it down and stow it away.

Some of the reviews complain that it’s tricky to take down. It isn’t—read the instructions. If reading instructions is not your thing, there’s a bunch of instructional YouTube video’s waiting to be watched.

This tent’s big enough for a picnic table, but I outfitted it with a comfy chair, a dog bed, an inflatable air mattress, and a cooler. I sit in there in the evenings sipping a beer while Milo chews a bone, and occasionally in the afternoons, I bring out a magazine and nap on the air mattress. Heaven.

Don’t be stingy, buy the optional wind panels too. Because this tent pops open, the sides protrude beyond the roof. If it rains, some rain will come in through the mesh. The side panels attach with Velcro—super easy—and will deter the rain.

I don’t usually do product endorsements, but this screen tent is worth every penny.

Happy camping!

Inverhuron Provincial Park: Beach and Hiking Trails

Milo the AwesomeDog and I enjoyed some pleasant hiking at Inverhuron Provincial Park last week.

Chain Trail:

We stayed at the Holmes Bay Campground and it took us about 25 minutes to walk along Chain Trail to the Dog Exercise Area. Once there, Milo enjoyed a swim in Lake Huron, and we turned around and walked home.a map showing campsites on three campgrounds, as well as walking trails

The trail is flat, well-maintained, and dry, all of which makes for an easy stroll. Our walk snaked between the lake shore and the campgrounds, offering both shade and lake views. green forest, blue sky, and a white space age looking towerThose views tempted Milo the AwesomeDog to give a few mighty yanks on his leash. I tried explaining to him that we were in fact on our way to a spot where he could swim, but delaying gratification has never been his strong suit.

Encountering an emergency alert siren for the Bruce Nuclear Power Station, which is less than three miles away, freaked me out. I’m glad there is an alert system, but the juxtaposition of the siren tower with the sound of the waves and the wind in the cedars was disconcerting.

 

River Trail:

River Trail is a sort of bait and switch. The pamphlet describes it as moderate to difficult with large hills and rough surfaces. But, it starts out as a wide gravel path leading over an arched bridge of worn wood that would be right at home in The Shire. German shepherd dog sitting on a wooden bridgeUp until that point, a person could manage in flip flops. But, believe the pamphlet and wear good shoes. Some of the hills were very steep and ran alongside the eroding riverbank—not a great place for kids or strollers. It was useful to have Milo on a harness for part of that hike. He knows that “hup, hup” means lean into the harness, and I appreciated the help on some of those uphill scrambles. Also, this poops him out, which is good for both of us when we get home for our afternoon nap.

Pay attention during your hike because some of the trail markers are faded and difficult to spot.

River Trail skirts along the riverbank and winds through groves of cedar trees. Milo and I finished this pretty loop in about an hour.

Beach

Boardwalks arc across the ecologically delicate sand dunes that separate the sandy beach from the parking lot, protecting the dunes from foot traffic erosion. Milo and I only got as far as those boardwalks because dogs aren’t allowed on people beaches in Ontario – I suspect this has something to do with not wanting kids making castles with urine-soaked sand. Whatever the reason, Milo and I didn’t actually go to the beach. I only mention it here to let you know that even though the water level in Lake Huron is high this year, there is still a good-sized strip of soft-looking sand along the water’s edge.

If you would like to know about Holmes Bay campground at Inverhuron click here.

Inverhuron Provincial Park Site 247

Milo the AwesomeDog and I spent last week at Inverhuron Provincial Park in our 18-foot travel trailer. I give the place two thumbs up.

Campsite 247 is excellent—level, covered in gravel with good drainage, ringed with sweet smelling and privacy providing cedar trees. It is a pull-through site with long driveways at each end, which provided a buffer to the road and other campers. The lakeshore is a two-minute walk away, as is Chain Trail, a well-maintained path that skirts along the Lake Huron shore and provides a scenic a 25-minute walk to the dog exercise area.Map indicating locations of campsites and trails

The park website noted that campers might need an extension cord to reach the electrical outlets. I always bring one and so was a bit smug about what I thought was advice for newbies. But, I had to sign out a third cord from the park office. Be warned, they require a $150 deposit. The deposit makes sense because I could easily imagine driving off with that cord without thinking about it and $150 was enough to remind me to give the darn thing back.The image is filled with a smiling German Shepherd face.

All of this wonderfulness is somewhat tempered by the intermit low-level hum of the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station. A few years ago, the sound would have bugged me. But, the park was so pretty that it put me right in my happy place and I just thought, “Oh well, it’s making electricity. I’m using electricity. Fair enough.”

Be warned, if you camp here, be sure to check out the pictures and the privacy ratings of your site on the Ontario Parks Online Reservation System when you book your trip. A woman staying at an interior, non-reservable site told me that her place was surrounded by unsightly felled trees. Ick.

Red and orange clouds fill the sky and their light is reflected on waterMilo and my trip to Inverhuron benefited from some good luck: the wood was dry, the other campers were quiet and friendly, and the sunsets were stunning. We’ll be back.

Note to self: next time try to get site 261. Even though it is a back-in site, because of the layout backing up will not be complicated and it is gorgeous.

Training Tuesday: Vacations and the Hidden Curriculum​

German Shepherd puppy wearing a graduation cap and looking at cameraAs a philosophy professor (my day job) I spend a lot of time thinking about the hidden curriculum. The hidden curriculum includes things that get taught and learned, without anyone intending to teach or learn them.

For example, if I asked you to name a bunch of philosophers, you might mention Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, or Locke. It just so happens that all of these philosophers are white guys.

Sadly, it is not hard to find philosophy classes that only cover things that white guys wrote. In these classes, the explicit curriculum, which the professor intends to teach, concerns the ideas of great philosophers like Aristotle and the other guys on the list.

But we need to be careful about what the hidden curriculum is saying. It would be a shame if the students ended up learning that philosophers are white guys (which might be happening since white guys comprise the vast majority of philosophy majors).  No one intends to teach this, but most teaching and learning is not intentional.

Why am I talking about the hidden curriculum on a “Training Tuesday” post while Milo and I are on vacation?

Because there is lots of overlap between teaching people and training dogs. I kid you not, working with Milo has made me a much better professor. In this case, though, it is the other way around, thinking about teaching humans and the hidden curriculum is making me a better dog guardian.

Dogs and people are learning all the time. Just because a student doesn’t sit down to learn that philosophers are white guys in the same way that they sit down to learn that Aristotle lived between 384-322 BCE, doesn’t mean that they don’t pick up both messages. They don’t stop encoding memories at the end of each lecture.

Imagine using punitive methods to train a dog to sit. The explicit curriculum is about teaching the dog to sit when it’s told to do so. The hidden curriculum teaches the dog that mistakes are dangerous, that the handler is not a friend, and that the world is scary and capricious.

On the other hand, training the same behavior using positive methods, exemplifies a very different hidden curriculum. Dogs trained in this way learn that it is good to try new things and that working with their handler is not only safe but is more like play than like work.

Just because Milo and I are on vacation (and I forgot a bunch of our training equipment at home), it doesn’t mean that he isn’t going to learn anything on this trip. In other words, there is a hidden curriculum embedded in our relationship and Milo is learning that curriculum even when we are not formally training.

There are some things I do not want him to learn on this trip. For example, I don’t want him to learn to ignore my recall when we are on the shore of a beautiful big lake, and I don’t want him to learn to grab a hotdog when I am toasting it over the fire (you know how this one got on the list…).

There are also lots of things I do want him to learn, even though they are not in any training plan. I want him to learn that he and I can have delightful adventures together, that there are lots of happy, friendly people in the world, and that no matter what we’re doing or where we are, I’ve got his back.

Milo doesn’t stop learning just because I stop training.

black and tan German shepherd standing in clear water and holding a large stick

Milo has already learned that Lake Huron has an abundance of excellent sticks.

Reentry after an extended​ RV trip: Do turtles get homesick?

At 22 I was finishing up my undergraduate degree and itching to see the world. I needed to get off the Canadian Prairies, away from Saskatoon where I was going to school, and escape any and all things related to farming. So, I bought a good pair of shoes, a backpack, and a plane ticket and was off to eat my way across Europe.

chocolate-croissant-illyI devoured curry and toured the Tower of London, nibbled Pain au Chocolat after climbing the Eiffel Tower, picnicked with a grey-eyed man on the Piazza San Marco and then we strolled arm in arm along Venice’s canals. I gorged on goulash and spaetzle before retiring to Budapest’s Roman Baths, snacked on Sachertorte after seeing The Magic Flute at the Vienna Volksoper, and drank beer under Munich’s Glockenspiel. And, I wallowed in homesickness as powerful as it was unexpected. I would never have predicted that the best part of that trip would be returning home.

Johannes Hofer combined the Greek words for homeward journey, ‘nostos,’ and ache, ‘algos,’ to give us ‘nostalgia,’ which originally meant, quite literally, ‘homesickness.’ He coined the term to describe an illness rampant among Swiss mercenary soldiers in France who were incapacitated by a melancholic yearning for their mountain homes.

My travels always ended with nostalgia, until now.

If it weren’t for the brutal facts that winter is coming, and that I need to, eventually, show up at work to get money for gas, beer, groceries, and campground fees, I would have happily kept on trucking. Not for a single second did I ache for home.

Milo and I in our travel trailer—like turtles, our home was always with us. And I realized that, for me, home is where the puppy is.

Black and tan german shepherd laying at an open door

Dump Station Diaries

I understand the urge to squeeze every possible moment out of a weekend camping. Lots of families roll into a campground on Friday night and check out at the last possible minute on Sunday.

That’s a lot of people leaving at the same time. The last stop for most RVers before heading home is the park dump station, which means that around checkout time on Sunday there is always, always, a line. If there are ten RV’s in front of you, you’ll be hanging out, at the sewer, for an hour waiting your turn.

There’s a difference between knowing something and really knowing something. You really know about the campground sewer bottleneck once you’ve been stuck in it. The last time I was in a bathroom line this long was when I went to see The Who.

a curved driveway in a field of green grass and pine trees, with three white travel trailers hooked up to family trucks.

You can’t see the whole line because it is curved, it is longer than it looks here, my truck is the blue one pulling the Sportsmen.


For me it wasn’t actually that bad –I just gave Milo a chew toy, pulled out a book, and put on some music. There weren’t any fires I needed to put out.

But, some of those vehicles were full of tired families. That had to be a long, long wait for those parents of colicky babies and sunburned kids who wouldn’t stay on their side of the bench seat and whose bladders were filling up as the minutes ticked by.

So, here’s a piece of advice. If check out time is 11 AM, don’t show up at the dump station between 10 and noon on a Sunday. While you have to be out of your campsite by 11, you can stay in the park all day. Why not leave the site and have a picnic lunch before hitting the dump station?

I don’t really care about the line, this is just some friendly advice for families. I could see the will to live gradually seep out of parents as they waited to deal with their kids’ sewage, for the second time, and that is no way to end a camping trip.

 

 

MacGregor Point Provincial Park: Yurts and how to say “Hi” to Milo

The two women were striding through the campground, their walking sticks swinging. When Milo caught their eye they wheeled around to say hello. “Here we go,” I thought as I prepared myself to, as politely as I could, keep them at bay. So many, too many, people feel entitled to walk right up and pet Milo, and he is not cool with that sort of direct approach. But to my pleasant surprise, these women knew exactly how to charm my boy: ignore him entirely and chat with me.

The short one said, “I’m Teresa. You can remember that because everyone knows Mother Teresa. Although,” she chuckled, “I am no mother.”

And the tall one swept a hand out to the side, “I’m Helen,” and sweeping it back to her chest continued, “Helen of Troy.”

I guess they’d been tent camping together every summer for forever but being in their 70’s tents were not as comfortable as they once were. So, Teresa and Helen were spending the week in one of MacGregor Point Provincial Park’s yurts.

They invited Milo and me to check out the wonders of yurt living. Their yurt was clean and spacious with comfortable beds, electricity, and a heater. It also had a covered deck and a propane barbeque, a good one. The place was nice enough to keep even a picky neatnik happy.

good lightI had Milo in a sit-stay while we chatted and they told me they would be happy to meet him if they could. So, I invited Milo to say hello. By this time he was feeling left out, and he immediately walked up and sniffed their pant legs while they continued to ignore him. When he started poking at their hands with his gigantic nose they gave him a nice chin rub and thanked him for being such a good dog. Well, that got him prancing around with smiles and doggy wiggles, and after that, they were all good friends. For the rest of the week, whenever Milo caught sight or scent of Teresa or Helen, his ears perked up, and he insisted that we go over and say hello.

Milo gets to choose who he greets. If you want him to choose you, you have to play it cool and let him make the first move. If you play your cards right, you just might end up with a first-rate doggy friend!