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Places to stop along the Great Lakes in Ontario

  • Writer's pictureRyan Clark

Centre Island, Guerrilla Camping in the City I Love

COVID and Camping.

2020 and I’ve decided to wait until after Labor Day to take my camping show on the road. With COVID I was inspired to launch my Sleeping under the stars web page a year early because it seemed like the universe had lined up. More people would be looking to vacation in Ontario instead of travelling abroad. This gives me a chance to share my veneration of this province’s beautiful places to see and camp over at. A direct consequence of this prediction, for me personally, I travel to spend my time in quiet solitude, and those same travellers will be an imposition. My solution, I’m going to wait until Labor Day to put the insurance on my car and hit the road camping this year. On the plus side, fewer people, prettier colours and a lot of the places are more fun with fewer rules and free parking when they pull the gates down and bag the meters. Sauble beach you can bring your dog on the beach. Gatineau you can swim out past your nipples cause the buoys are gone framing the swimming area. Fewer rules, less cost makes Ryan a very happy boy. The same can be said for fewer bugs at night as the temperatures drop. On the downward slide I will find myself sleeping in two sleeping bags, three sweat suits and a tarp some nights. Sounds crazy, but there’s still a chance I’ll wake up in the night freezing. I’m also hoping to pick up a drone, so I can get some great footage of our province’s beautiful Fall colours so that will be an added expense and a learning curve. Yeah, I know your 8 year old makes it look easy but they do the same with all the new technologies, I’m ancient enough to remember basic. I’ve watched kids do shit with MY phone I didn’t know I could do.

In the meantime, I’ve rediscovered my bicycle with so many less cars on the road, I pop in my earbuds crank the tunes and ride out to one of Toronto’s beaches. This addresses my needs to be by the water and get exercise, but what about camping out. Mulling it over I decided why not do my guerilla camping right here. Sleeping under the Stars on Centre Island styles. Nothing fancy, I grabbed my bicycle and squeezed my sleeping bag and some snacks into a back pack. Throw in my bottle of water, my battery chargers and I’m off. I grab the ferry across early and go exploring. I’ve never ridden a bicycle over there, and the islands seem so much smaller with so many places I never even knew were there. I pop my pills smoke my weed and drag myself out into the sparkling waters. It’s fucking beautiful. The water is clear and the bottom sandy. Which beach you ask…All of them. The Toronto beaches had high E. coli counts, but not the ones on the island. I’m physically exhausted by eleven and grab a piece of sand on the ward island beach. I pick my camping spot just west of a bush for shadow from the sun and beside a small tree in case it rains. With all the ambient light from the city polluting the air, you barely see any stars, even on the far side of the island where I was, which in itself is a disappointment. I pass right out on the sand with my bag on top of me since the night is so warm…the sand keeps me cooled from underneath. About six thirty am I wake up to the sound of rain drops hitting my sleeping bag. In construction I learned that weather forecasters are wrong more than they’re right and casually rolled over-under the tree. The sounds of the rain drops on the trees and the gentle waves were just like living in a meditation soundtrack.

I could hear the occasional one hitting my sleeping bag, but I stayed dry. I talked briefly to a parks guy cleaning the beach and a few kayakers, but I slept until ten in the morning I was so beat up from all the exercise the day before. I smoked a joint, cleaned up where I'd camped and headed out to find a coffee and some munchies. A thirteen-dollar subway sub and a crap coffee from Pizza Pizza and I learned next time bring my own coffee for the barbecue pit and obviously more food. I was a consuming machine the night before and devoured everything. Tourist traps are the worst for expensive.

I spent all day skipping from beach to beach exploring even more of the island.

I don’t really drink, but a group sitting at a table invited me to join them. I have a rule when I’m on the road where I try to accept any hospitality as an opportunity. I know it seems contradictory to me isolating, but I am human and somehow justify it to myself. Well, I decided to apply this rule in this particular instance even if I was still in Toronto and only on a mini trip. Met a Russian dude and his Ukrainian wife who lived on the island and a couple of their friends. We shot the shit like strangers would until I was drunk from my one king can and the flies started biting. I save a bundle when I do drink, a one beer drunk now... They fled for home and I realised that on top of food and coffee I’d neglected to bring any repellant at all. On the bright side, while I was pedalling, they weren’t gnawing at me because they couldn’t catch me. I milked the evening for a few more hours and caught the last ferry out. It was a good enough time I should probably call this post Guerilla camping on Center Island: The First edition.

Link to French version


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