Tents are tolerable, but can’t beat cabin comfort

Given that summer vacation plans are up in the moist air at this time, it got me thinking about possible vacations for the fall. Anything out of the house would be a grand escape, but I keep reminiscing about my Thanksgiving last year, spent up at Pancake Bay Provincial Park, in its new, cute wood cabin.

Instead of dealing with setting up tents, we just had to pick up the key at the main gate. Instead of bending over to open the tent, and changing our clothing slightly hunched over, we walked into a roomy little one-room cabin.

While I did use a sleeping bag (you bring your own linens), I didn’t worry about rolling up against the side of the tent in the rain, making it leak. I slept in a comfortable, queen-size bed, beside the double bunks, under a leak-free roof. Given that there was a freak hail storm, I couldn’t have been happier to have been in a cozy cabin with four walls and a roof.

I didn’t have to pack a camp stove, as the cabin had a microwave as well as an outdoor barbecue for us. There is also a gas fireplace, mini-fridge, coffeemaker, and kettle. The fact that there was no running water was no big deal, as I’ve yet to see a tent with running water. Next time I’d bring a water jug.

The outhouse was across the way, so flashlights were required at night, but instead of tripping over tent ropes on the way back, I was guided back to the cabin with solar lights on the porch. The cabin is barrier-free with ramps. I don’t know how someone in a wheelchair would manage the outhouse across from the cabin, however.

The beach is just past the outhouse, mere steps from the cabin, and once the hail abated, we were kissed warmly by the sun on a cool fall day as we set out for a walk in the fall foliage. There are more than three kilometres of fine sandy beach, which would rival a Caribbean destination if it weren’t for the chilly water and air temperature at Thanksgiving. After the hike, there was no worry of the inevitable sand being tracked into the tent, because the cabin has a screened-in-porch where shoes can be left.

Had the weather been less variable, we could have hiked the 14-kilometre Edmund Fitzgerald Lookout trail, located across Highway 17 from the campground, for a panoramic view of Lake Superior. Closer to “home,” there is the 3.5-kilometre Pancake Bay Nature Trail, including the boardwalk section that crosses a wetland.

After our walk, we ate our dinner at the dining room table, then cleared our plates (you bring your own dishes), to make way for board games and card games. There, beside the heater, which warmed the whole cabin, we enjoyed the evening laughing and not feeling at all cramped (something that would have been very difficult in a tent).

We were well equipped with our pillows, base sheets, sleeping bags, dishes, and food (including microwave popcorn), but hadn’t thought to bring garbage bags, paper towels, nor a dish-drying cloth.

While we wait for an all clear on holiday plans for this year, which will likely be delayed, it might be best to book ahead for the late summer or fall. Reservations for the cabin and Pancake Bay’s five yurts are opened up five months in advance by calling 1-888-ONT-PARK.

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