A Family Weekend At Pender Harbour

2017 marked my third year of going up to Pender Harbour with Colin and his family for their annual vacation. Every year, Colin, his parents and a bunch of other relatives spend the July long weekend at cousin Larry and Marnie’s property in Pender Harbour on the Sunshine Coast.

On one of our early dates, Colin told me about Pender and how he has spent every July long weekend of his entire life camping with his family there on the coast. I was blown away. I’ve gone on lots of trips and family vacations but never anything this consistent. We talked with family this weekend who have been coming up to Pender for 20, 30, 40 years! One cousin, Carl, who is probably in his 40’s has been coming up since he was in his mom’s womb!

On my third year up at Pender, I’m starting to feel like part of the tradition. I love the idea of this being an annual trip that Colin and I continue for the rest of our lives, bringing our own big tent (I don’t think we’ll ever be trailer or RV people) and kids one day. One thing I’ve done for the last three years at Pender is keep my phone off (save for a few photos!). They do have WiFi up there but I really love being able to disconnect for a long weekend.

Ellie loves belly rubs no matter where we are!

Firewood for our nightly campfires

This year was amazing! We had great weather: sunny but with a cool breeze. There was tons of delicious food – Marnie makes an incredible seafood chowder and Jackie brought out so many great snacks. And we got to bring Ellie, which was so much fun! There were almost a dozen dogs up there (and between 20-50 people depending on the day) so she had a great time running around and playing. We hiked through Francis Point Peninsula Park, swam in the chilly water, got warm by the campfire and read in the shade. And I didn’t have to participate in the horseshoe tournament, which I think everyone appreciated!

Happy Canada Day from Ellie!

And Happy Canada Day from Margie’s dog, Doodle!

One thing that made this year’s trip incredibly special was a boat ride we took on Saturday. We went out on Larry’s big boat, which I haven’t gotten to do in the years previous. He took almost 30 of us out and we got to see some amazing views of the bay. But the really special part was the tribute that Colin’s mom Margie had planned. Randy, Colin’s dad, loved Pender Harbour. It was definitely his happy place. And he loved nothing more than being out on the water with the guys, catching fish on Larry’s boat.

Living the luxurious boat life!

Colin and his friend, Connor, enjoying the yacht life

So to honour him, Margie brought some of his ashes up to Pender Harbour so we could lay him to rest in his favourite spot. Once we had boated out to a calm area in the open water, the ashes were distributed into little cups so everyone could get one. Dave said a quick toast and we all raised our cups to Randy while his favourite Adele song played in the background. We tossed his ashes into the water and threw some beautiful flower petals in afterwards. It was a really beautiful moment to be with so many of Randy’s favourite people in his favourite spot. You could definitely feel his spirit there.

Flower petals floating on the water

Pender Harbour was amazing! It was a trip both Colin and I have been looking forward to for months. We had a great five days on the coast and I’m already looking forward to going back next year. I usually hate repeating destinations because there is so much more in the world that I want to see and explore. But there’s something different about Pender Harbour. It’s a special place and I would be so happy to visit it every year for as long as I can!

Colin and Ellie at Francis Point Peninsula

View of the house from the dock

We ❤ Pender!

Camping at Weever Lake with Ellie

Last weekend, we went camping with Colin’s friends and our wee pup, Ellie, got to join us!

10 points if you can spot Ellie!

Growing up, I was never much of a camper. It wasn’t a huge part of my childhood growing up in Toronto. I do have one distinct memory of going camping with my dad, Ali and Jade. And we really camped! We had to portage in to the campsite, which meant carrying a canoe overhead with my dad who is 6’4″. And because there were no toilets, I decided to build one out of rocks. Jade also ended up getting spooked by potential bears, forcing us to share a tiny tent with our parents overnight.

And then two summers ago, Colin and I went camping with some of his x-ray friends. Except, it rained the entire time. Like, POURED! Our tent was soaked so we decided to sleep in Colin’s old beat up car where the seats didn’t even recline all the way back. I think it’s still the worst sleep of my life.

So suffice to say, I’m not huge on camping.

But this weekend was actually pretty fun. There were a few snafus, but on the whole it was a really great weekend. For one thing, the sun was shining and we didn’t have to deal with any rain. We were able to drive right up to the campsite and the outhouse was actually fairly clean, so no need for a DIY rock toilet.

Ellie & Colin singing along to our roadtrip playlist on the ride up

We spent our first night playing card games and drinking with Colin’s friends. Unfortunately, that meant I did have to wake up in the middle of the night and walk out to the outhouse, which wasn’t my favourite. It was also so cold at night! I always underestimate how chilly it’s going to be sleeping outdoors in a tent. My teeth were literally chattering.

The next morning was nice and relaxing. Colin played boardgames with his friends while I read my book and Ellie chased butterflies and chipmunks. Ellie loved running around the campsite, hanging out in nature and picking up food scraps that we dropped.

Hi Ellie!

Around noon, we all decided to head to the lake and do some swimming. Colin and I were under the impression that we would be going straight to the water so we brought Ellie, her life jacket and a bag full of towels and sunblock. But instead of walking the two minutes up the road to the rock beach and dock, we were led on a weird and winding 30 minute hike through the forest. And when we finally caught up with the group, we were super disappointed to find a sad little muddy trail into the water. Colour me not impressed.

Hiking through the forest

We headed back to the campsite with a few friends while the others carried on trekking around the lake. Back at the site, we ate some lunch, played some boardgames and then headed to the much better (and much closer) lake access point. The water was freezing! I only got in as far as my waist, and even that took me a good 20 minutes to achieve. Ellie was in and out in about 1 minute. She was not having the cold water. Colin was the bravest. He headed out to the dock and dove headfirst into the icy cold waters.

Ellie modeling her life jacket

She’s testing out the waters….

After swimming we hung out with the rest of the group, played more games, snacked and got firewood. Later in the evening, we headed over to the fire to cook our hotdogs. Colin and I weren’t horribly inventive with our camping menu. We came up with hotdogs, marshmallows (which we never even opened) and store bought muffins. But one of his friends packed the most impressive meals! She made spaghetti, chicken, baked potatoes, chilli and omelets all over a campfire.

We spent the rest of the night sitting by the fire, chatting with friends and giving Ellie belly rubs while she sat on our laps. It was a really nice evening. We headed to bed and this time I was sure to put on a sweater and grab an extra blanket.

The next morning, we got straight to work taking down our tent and packing up all of our stuff. One part of camping I really dislike is how you end up packing an entire carload just for two people and a dog to spend the weekend. But we did manage to pack everything up pretty quick. That’s also when we discovered Colin had a flat tire. The bumpy road on the way in must have popped a hole. We were a bit worried about it but luckily we were able to fill it up with air on the way home and get it repaired (for free!) the next day.

Our first camping trip of the year and our very first camping trip with Ellie was definitely a success! In July, we’ll be “camping” on Colin’s family property in Pender Harbour. We’ll sleep in a tent but will have access to bathrooms and a kitchen, so it’s not totally proper camping. Which, to be honest, is probably what I prefer. So we’re really looking forward to hanging out by the water, reconnecting with family and introducing Ellie to a new area and lots of other pups.

PS: Yes, I swear other people were camping with us but my phone only seems to come out to snap cute pictures of Ellie or goofy pictures of Colin and me!