A warm K’we from Kejimkujik

We couldn’t call ourselves East Coast Glampers without visiting Kejimkujik National Park before the end of the 2013 camping season.

It’s a crisp September weekend and our first time in the park.  Given the cold nights, it is likely to be our final camping excursion of the year.

Keji is only two hours from Halifax but when you punch the directions into your sat nav system, be sure to add an extra 30 minutes for a realistic ETA. Getting into the park takes that long – it’s THAT deep in the woods.

As our fellow Keji campers and good pals Amanda and Corey warned us: Be Prepared. The nearest food-stop that we saw (Swiss Chalet and Tim Horton’s), was a good hour away.

Arriving at Keji, I was taken aback by the proximity of the campsites.

For being deep in the Acadian forest, the neighbouring campsites are…cosy.

Site #235 was literally a stone throw from three other sites and if you like privacy, you’re not going to feel it here, on Slapfoot Loop in Jeremy’s Bay Campground.

The lean spiny trees tower high above the campsites, which make for a beautiful canopy.

Raccoon's eye view of our campsite.
Raccoon’s eye view of our campsite.

But it’s because the trees are so mature and tall that the sites lack low brush coverage, sound carries and you can feel exposed.

That wouldn’t deter a visit. They’re beautiful and the park is rich in heritage of the Mi’kmaw and home to petroglyphs  that are one of North America’s largest aboriginal rock art. We could sense the history enveloping us as we sat around our campfire.

I admit, I find comfort in having a neighbour close. In Keji you’re intensely aware of sharing the space with wildlife: raccoons the size of small bears; squirrels, coyotes and lest we forget the illustrious black bears. The ears on our two whippets were tweaked the entire weekend. There is comfort in numbers.

Whippets were 'on guard' entire weekend, squirrel-hunting and coyote-sniffing.
Whippets were ‘on guard’ entire weekend, squirrel-hunting and coyote-sniffing.

This was also our first weekend camping with another family and the kids loved having some buddies along for the adventure.

Off to get our canoes.
Off to get our canoes.

Corey suggested canoeing Keji’s unique and ancient Mi’kmaq canal system and also paddle out to an island for a picnic.

Transformation into the light

The campground’s thick canopy made the sites darker and colder by day.

We felt as though we had left a cave when we travelled from the campsite down to Jake’s Landing where we rented canoes.

We arrived wearing hoodies and sweatshirts only to find it was a beautiful, hot and sunny day. Who knew?

We stripped down to T’s and layered up with sunscreen and felt like we had gone through a doorway in time to another climate altogether.

There are three species of turtles to look for, including the endangered Blanding’s turtles.  You may see them all if you’re luckier than us.

And along the beautiful red maple floodplains we almost felt lost in a deep southern state, like Louisiana with the reedy, lush river system, over-hanging hemlocks and chirping crickets. Pure magic.

The canoe rental was $8 per hour and after signing our lives away, we loaded our five plus two dogs into a very low-lying canoe.

Corey and Amanda and their two girls loaded into the other canoe and we headed out into a surprisingly choppy lake.

Talbot annoyingly sang “Ride the dragon” as we bobbed over white caps and I played the role of nervous, slightly agitated Mom, not-so-happy to be ‘riding the dragon’.

We looked a little like a dragon boat. The dogs are hiding here - but they're aboard too.
We looked a little like a dragon boat. The dogs are hiding here – but they’re aboard too.

Of course we didn’t tip, but I admit I had gone over every possible scenario of tipping in my mind:

  • Will the dogs make it to shore?
  • Will my ziplock-sealed iPhone float?
  • How cold is the water?
  • What WILL we eat if our lunch sinks?

The kids?… I knew they were covered – life jackets in tact.

We didn’t have to enact any of my imaginary emergency measures and rather than crossing the open lake to an island, our two canoes paddled against the choppy waves into the calm cove of Kedge Beach where we picnicked, swam and…slept.

Canoeing and picnicking with friends. It really doesn’t get better.
The Dad’s fell asleep on the picnic table after lunch.
How do guys just do that? As Amanda said, “what kind of conversation did they have to lead up to them moving the table into the sun to sleep?”
Autumn, Amelia and Charlotte had a great time covering them with ‘nature’.

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Meanwhile, Dahlia and Lauren built a sand fort with the emergency canoe bailers.

Sharing the evening campfire with friends was a great end to a fabulous day.

Spider-Dogs were roasted and marshmallows toasted, before exhausted children begged to be taken back to our site to crash.

Spider dogs
Spider dogs

The only downside of the weekend was another soggy teardown. Sunday morning we awoke to rain and a dark campsite. There’s nothing worse than packing-up knowing you’re going to have to re-open and unpack wet, mucky gear at the other end.

But it’s all part of the process and we’ll suck it up and get it done — but not before stopping at that Swiss Chalet an hour away, for hot chicken sandwiches and a big bowl of chicken soup!

Keji offers a wondrous amount of activity and sadly a weekend (arriving Friday night and leaving early Sunday) leaves many adventures unexplored, turtles left to see and biking and hiking on our future ‘To Do at Keji” list.

It’s always good leaving when you still want more.