Category Archives: Recreation

Camping for Beginners: Close to Home

Written by: Erin Worgan

Camping in Halton Parks

You may be in the comfort of your home surfing the web, when you read this, and think, why would I possibly want to go camping? If you and your family are new to camping, camp at Kelso or Rattlesnake Point for a trial run before you try camping on a grander scale. Camping at one of the Conservation Halton parks can allow you and your family to experience camping without the total commitment, and without losing certain comfortable amenities that are lost when truly “roughing it” (like toilets).  

Camping at one of Conservation Halton’s parks allows for a fun experience without the congested four-hour drive up north to Muskoka. Kelso and Rattlesnake have clean facilities that include running water, flushable toilets, a fire pit and picnic tables.  Best of all, these parks are close enough to stay for as short or as long as you and your outdoor heart desires. For that reason many people are now “solo camping” as it is said to be an eye opening trip of silence and reflection. Realizing who you are when you are alone and in the quiet of nature can be very rewarding for some.

Kelso and Rattlesnake Point parks have an endless list of activities for you to enjoy. On any given day at the parks you can go for a hike, take a picnic, go rock climbing, mountain biking, take a swim, paddle the lake, go fishin’, or learn a thing or two about nature from some outdoor or wildlife experts. At every site there is also a fire pit, and nothing says fun like sitting by a campfire and having a cookout under the stars.

Like any campsite, there are a few things to remember when camping at Kelso and Rattlesnake, specifically regarding the policies on park etiquette. Please note that only the firewood purchased at Kelso or Rattlesnake can be used at the fire pits on site. A full detailing of all of Conservation Halton’s camping guidelines can be reviewed here: Conservation Halton Rules & Requirements.

Whether you are the “solo camper”, an avid adventurer, or are a family of campers young and old: Conservation Halton Parks are for you! Would you rather stay in a five-star location or a billion-star location? You will never know until you try and the campgrounds at Conservation Halton Parks are waiting for you. You can even book your campsite online or to get more information visit our camping page at http://www.conservationhalton.ca/camping

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DIY Homemade/All-Natural Bug Spray!

Written by: Erin Worgan

Our hiking trails are beautiful to us, and the mosquitos!

Our hiking trails are beautiful to us, and the mosquitos!

We at Conservation Halton know that venturing into our beautiful parks can often mean leaving with a few bug bites. During certain seasons, especially by the water, the skeeters can really be pests and distract from your enjoyment of the day. So we can understand the desire to douse yourself in the strongest repellent you can get your hands on. But you should consider the host of harsh chemicals and toxins that are being sprayed onto your skin and into the atmosphere with each application. The chemical DEET, which is present in most bug repellents, is a strong eye irritant that the U.S. EPA regards as “slightly toxic” to fish, birds, and aquatic invertebrates. So before you grab the store bought stuff of the shelf why not try to make your own natural and organic bug spray for you and your family?

This DIY recipe will produce a spray that is chemical free and much better for the environment as well as for your health. You will need natural witch hazel, distilled water, your choice of essential oils, as well as a glass spray bottle to eliminate the potential for leeching. There are several essential oils that are able to repel insects naturally, such as tea tree oil, eucalyptus, cedar, and mint and you can choose the oils that you would prefer. If you have your own home grown herb garden, plants such as mint and basil can work to repel bugs simply by rubbing them directly onto your skin! For more information on how to get started with growing your own herb garden check out our previous post.

For our DIY Bug Spray we chose to use Citronella, Lemongrass and Tea Tree. First take your glass spray bottle and fill it half full of distilled water. You then fill the bottle to the ¾ marker with the Witch Hazel. You then add your desired amount and combination of essential oils. In our batch of repellent we used various amounts of each oil totaling 50 drops, (20 drops of tea tree, 20 drops of citronella, and 10 drops of lemongrass). After dropping the oils into the mix you simply seal the bottle, shake and spray! It’s so simple and fairly inexpensive in comparison to the store brand bug spray and far better for you! Now you’re ready to #getoutside and visit our parks without fear of being bitten. Let us know in the comments how effective your DIY spray has been and what oils you chose, we’d love to hear from you.

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What’s S.U.P?

Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Written by: Erin Worgan

So what’s S.U.P? Well, S.U.P stands for Stand-Up-Paddle-Boarding, which is a fun water sport activity that’s really making waves these days. It’s an easy to learn pastime that lets you get outdoors and it has been enjoyed on the waters at Kelso for the past few years.

Stand Up Paddle Boarding began in Hawaii as an activity for surfers to keep physically fit and athletically strong during the winter season when the water and the waves weren’t choice. They realized that it was a good method of conditioning and kept them balanced. Not to mention it’s fun!

people stand up paddle boarding

One of the biggest aspects of SUPPING is the first moments where you stand yourself on the board and attempt to stay dry. Though it may not seem like it in the beginning, these boards are actually quite steady and allow you to balance. The ones available for rent at Kelso are beginner level boards meaning they are especially stabilized for easy balancing when getting on and off the board. One of the things I learned pretty quick when taking out the paddle board this week was to know your current! You should always try to travel against the current during the first half of your journey, and when you reach what you feel is your halfway point it makes things a lot easier to turn around and travel with the current on your way back to your starting point letting the water help take you there.

Now, I don’t know about you, but my favourite kind of workout is the kind where I don’t even realize I’m doing one! The scenic views of Kelso Lake definitely distracted me from any physical exertion I may have been doing, and it wasn’t until much later that I even noticed what a good exercise I had gotten (along with two tired arms). This activity has a very low impact on joints including the knees, hips, shoulders and other ligaments. You will get a workout without putting stress on your body making this an ideal experience for explorers of all ages!

stand up paddle boarding

Nearly every muscle of the body is used when SUPPING. This activity allows for a constant core workout as your back, abdominals and leg muscles will be working to stabilize the board, while your shoulders, arms, and back muscles will be hard at work paddling and propelling you through the water. It’s surprising how tiring it can be! Stand up paddle boarding is a moderate aerobic exercise, which therefore improves cardiovascular health over time. Although paddle boarding has a certain level of physical exertion it is still a very calming experience. Much like the laid-back Hawaiian lifestyle this activity was born out of, SUPPING is very relaxed and allows for some much needed serenity. It has been said that paddle boarding is a great stress reliever and on the peaceful waters of Kelso Lake it’s sure to relieve all the stresses of the day.

A recent trend in the paddle boarding world is to practice yoga on the water. Yogis have been taking their flows to the paddle board and are now practicing while balancing, which adds an additional challenge to their workout, while taking in the beautiful views of the lake.

If you’d like to give SUPPING a try you can rent one of Conservation Halton’s Stand-Up-Paddle-Boards at Kelso Lake for an hour or two and see if it’s for you! Rental costs just $20 for one hour or $35 for two. For more information you can visit http://www.conservationhalton.ca/boating. Boats are on a first come, first serve basis.
If you have any photos of you or your loved ones paddle boarding at Kelso just tag us on Instagram, or Facebook, or tweet at us using the handle @CH_Comm, because we’d love to see you on the water this summer!

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A Tribute to Bean the American Kestrel

Written by: Sandra Davey, Mountsberg Raptor Centre Lead

On January 29, 2010, a 10 month old male American Kestrel joined the education team at the Mountsberg Raptor Centre. At the time, nobody had any idea just how truly special this bird would turn out to be. This special bird left our team unexpectedly on July 31, 2015 after contracting an infection that he could not recover from. Bean the American Kestrel was a well-known and much loved Mountsberg educator during his five and a half years with us.

Despite being captive-bred, Bean had never been handled or trained prior to his arrival at the Raptor Centre. During his early days of training, the Raptor Centre staff started to get an inkling of what an amazing bird Bean was. On only his second day with us he was eating food off of our gloves, by day 3 he stepped up for food, and after only one week he appeared briefly in his very first public presentation. Other birds can take months of training to be ready to make their first public appearance!

While Raptor Centre staff strive to ensure the comfort of all of our education birds during their daily lives and public appearances, Bean seemed to thrive on interacting with staff, volunteers and the public. We would often joke that Bean never read the manual that says that raptors aren’t social! Anyone who ever had the pleasure of meeting Bean during a behind-the-scenes tour had the experience of watching him hop excitedly to the front of his enclosure to greet them. It truly seemed like he wanted to come say hello! In fact, we had to devise a special perch for the front window of Bean’s enclosure so that he could sit in the window and watch us come and go. Without this special perch, he would hang onto the front window when we walked by, causing him to mess up his tail feathers.

Bean was always happy to engage with people and took part in all of our various programs. He helped teach school programs, travelled offsite, was a genuine model during our photography sessions, and was willing to hop onto the glove of anyone he met, including hundreds of children who took part in our Raptor Camp program. He was often the bird that helped us train our Raptor Centre volunteers how to handle a bird. Bean helped to inspire a love of and respect for raptors in literally thousands of people. As one park visitor expressed on our Facebook page after Bean’s passing, “I didn’t even know what an American Kestrel was until I met and fell in love with Bean.” Talk about a tremendous impact from a tiny little bird!

On behalf of the Raptor Centre staff and the thousands of people who met Bean over the years, I want to say a very big heart-felt thank you to Bean for sharing his life with us. While we love all of our feathered educators, Bean held a special place in our hearts and his loss will be felt for a long time to come. My thanks go out as well to everyone who took the time to comment on our Facebook page about their interactions with Bean over the years. The Raptor Centre team loved hearing how special Bean was to all of you as well.

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Star Gazing on the Escarpment

Host a stargazing party tonight!

Host a stargazing party tonight!

Written by: Erin Worgan

Stargazing is a natural activity that has been slowly lost from our daily lives, especially in large cities where the stars are slowly being lost from view. It seems we as a society are beginning to look down at our screens rather than up at the wild blue yonder overhead. A reconnection with the beauty of our night sky is a wonderful and humbling experience as you take in the vast beauty that is always above us but rarely observed. Stargazing is ideal at the Conservation Halton parks. Being located along the Escarpment in conservation areas the amount of light pollution from the bustling cities is muted and the elevation offered in areas, such as Rattlesnake Point, can really allow for a better view of the stars.

The Niagara Escarpment remains one of the few places in Southern Ontario where the night sky can still be viewed in all its glory. There are countless references available to you to enrich your experience, and guide you in your galactic gazing! There are various sources of constellation maps that are dependent on your location, season, time zone, etc. There are tons of free apps you can download for more informed star viewing. The most popular ones are Starwalk, Aurora Forecast, and Sputnik. These applications can help point out to you the exact location of constellations, locate the core of the Milky Way and you can even find your star-sign in the stars!

Have you ever wanted to photograph the night sky? Photographing the stars in the night sky is called Astrophotography and it involves a little more skill and knowledge than average point and shoot picture taking. With a little bit of understanding photographing the stars can be a fairly simple process once you get to know your camera. There are a few tricks photographers use. Generally the key is to have your aperture (the hole in the lens that lets in light) open wider and the shutter speed at longer increments to gain a longer exposure. However this extended time frame for taking the picture makes the image susceptible to blurriness and movement so a tripod is often required for this kind of shot. You will need a wide aperture or fish eye lens (optional), tripod, a DSLR Camera is preferred but any camera that has manual settings so you can change your ISO and shutter speed will work. The right combination of settings across your ISO, Shutter speed, and aperture will require some practice shots and playing around. However, an aperture setting of f/2.8 seems to be ideal for astrophotography most often. You can try to create star trails with longer exposure/shutter speed settings, where the longer the picture is open for (greater than 45 seconds) you will begin to see the movement of the stars across the sky as the earth rotates. For more helpful photography tips check out this link.

So why not have a star party? Read our blog post on how to spot constellations in the sky. Get together with friends to camp out and attempt some astrophotography! Camping is available at Rattlesnake and Kelso Park, or for day pass holders all the Conservation Halton parks are open until 9pm during summer hours. Each year in the fall, the Mountsberg Conservation Area hosts an annual “Explore the Night Sky” event, which includes a fun and educational presentation from a planetary expert as well as hands on experience with telescopes! So keep an eye out for information on how to get involved in this cosmic occasion.

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Traditional Healthy Eating at Crawford Lake: The Three Sisters Soup

Three Sisters Garden
Pre-contact Healthy Living

In pre-contact times, many First Nations enjoyed active lifestyles, along with traditional healthy diets. They consumed a variety of nutritious foods that they cultivated themselves. The Iroquoian people, who would’ve resided in the Crawford Lake area, would have eaten crops, and also collected food in the wild, and also hunted game, including: deer, fish, nuts, and fruits. The Iroquoian people sweetened their food with natural sugars like maple sugar. Surprisingly, maple sugar is full of nutrients like manganese, riboflavin, and zinc.

For Iroquoian people, the main food crops included beans, squash, and corn. In fact, ancient corn pollen at the bottom of Crawford Lake led scientists and researchers to the discovery that pre-contact First Nations groups did once live in this area.

The Three Sisters

Beans, squash, and corn are known as the Three Sisters, or the three sustainers of life. They thrive when grown together. Bean plants fix nitrogen in the soil and stabilize the roots of the corn stalks. The corn stalks support the bean vines, lifting the vines to the sun. The large leaves of the squash plants provide shade for the roots, and control the spread of weeds. Squash also discourage pests from eating away at the roots of all three plants. The pre-contact groups used companion, eco-friendly, planting techniques long before companion planting even had a name to the concept!

Lastly, the Three Sisters are nutritional complements. Beans are high in protein; corn provides carbohydrates; and, squash contains vitamins and minerals like vitamins A and C, magnesium, and potassium. You can visit the Three Sisters Garden, part of the Games of Kanata program, at Crawford Lake.

Here is a healthy living recipe for Three Sisters Soup you can cook at home:

Three Sisters Soup

Ingredients:

5 cups of water

2 cups of corn

2 cups of beans

2 cups of cubed squash

2 tablespoons of flours (traditionnaly cattail root flour but others can be used)

Directions:

Combine corn, beans, squash, and water in a pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the squash is soft. Add flour and any other seasonings you might like. Increase the heat to medium, and simmer for five minutes until the soup has thickened. Serve. Feel free to add your favourite vegetables and seasonings!

Crawford lake gratefully acknowledges the Government of Canada and the Community Celebration Fund for their support of this project.

Crawford lake gratefully acknowledges the Government of Canada and the Community Celebration Fund for their support of this project.

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5 Great Benefits of Camping

Written by: Craig Machan, Area Manager for Hilton Falls, Rattlesnake Point, Mount Nemo

Ontario is a great place to enjoy nature and there is no better way of truly soaking it in, than camping.  Ontario’s Conservation Areas offer amazing opportunities to take your family out to enjoy a night in nature with over 8400 camp sites.  At Conservation Halton, Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area has camp sites to take your family or group of friends to get a taste of the outdoors while staying close to home. Enjoy camping at Rattlesnake Point with your family and friends. Get a taste of the outdoors while staying close to home!

I loved camping when I was a kid, and now I share this passion with my wife and daughters.

Why do we camp?

  1. Just to get away.  It doesn’t matter if you travel 3 hours or 15 minutes, you’ll feel a world away from home.  When my family and I are set up, and settled in, I feel peacefulness and relaxation come over me. You’ll find you sleep better, and even your thinking clears.
  2. Electronics? What electronics?  Like a lot of people, we use tablets and smartphones for personal use and professional use.  The kids enjoy playing their favourite video games. When we are camping, those devices are soon forgotten.   Instead of crafting buildings with pixelated blocks, my daughters are out and building real structures with sticks and stones for their dolls and trucks. For me, the cell phone is put away and the only buzzing and chirping are the insects and birds.
  3. The memories.  I will never forget the excitement my daughters had catching their first fish!  The look on each of their faces was truly memorable.  Or the time we sat beside Lake Huron and watched the most amazing sunset we had ever seen!  Sometimes it is only the memories of camping that get us through the long, harsh winters we experience living in our area.
  4. It’s cheap.  Like many young families, there is always something that needs the attention of our hard earned money.  Whether it is clothes for my ever growing girls, or money for the next field trip at school, money always seems to fly out the door.  Camping is a great cost effective way to head out on the vacation we so deserve.  For around $50 per night, you can spend a night away.  Good luck trying to do anything with your family for that price!
  5. It brings us together.  Yeah sure, we eat all our meals at the dinner table, we play board games, and we spend time together at home.  But nothing beats the conversations around the camp fire with a S’more (or in my case, a roasted hot dog) in our hands. Or the teamwork of trying to find a geocache. The laughs and smiles seem endless.

As you can see, camping is a wonderful experience to share with your friends and family. I think it should be our national past time.  If you haven’t been in a while, go! It will be a trip you never forget! Find out more information about camping at Conservation Halton here!

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