By Heidi Csernak, Organic Road Map
Introduction to FAB Experiences
Visit Ontario Parks: Gananoque and the Frontenac Provincial Park. There’s no denying it – the number of people taking to the outdoors is rising. The desire to reconnect and feel the forests’ rejuvenating effects is a driving factor in looking for adventures. I know because I practically ran into nature’s wild embrace every chance I had. How could I not, with the Frontenac Arch Biosphere nearby?
The wilderness’ call to #optoutside was hard to ignore. I wrapped up the summer weather season with an increased desire to continue exploring – and reduce my impact. So, I’m taking steps toward understanding and practicing sustainable tourism. Because of this, I seek ways to beneficially affect the communities I visit. I also want to take care of the surrounding natural environment.
Frontenac Arch Biosphere Experiences (FABEx)
I’m very excited to partner with Frontenac Arch Biosphere and help introduce the launch of FABExperiences.ca. A brand-new website promoting the Greater FAB Region (Lanark County, Frontenac County, and Leeds & Grenville). This is a UNESCO recognized Sustainable Tourism Destination.
I know finding locations that align with Eco-Tourism values takes time and effort. The FAB Region is bursting at the seams with hidden gems and incredible places to discover. Some of the best Ontario Parks are in Gananoque and the Frontenac Provincial Park. Keeping track of these destinations is why I started making my custom Google Maps many years ago. Of course, it’s always easier when someone else finds locations, so I can create the trip itineraries. This is exactly what the new FABEx website offers.
The new site uses Story Maps (powered by ArcGIS) to display destination details and points of interest on an interactive map. They have the same depth of research that I would do for my own Google Maps. However, the Story Maps allow for multimedia display. When viewing a location’s information on the FABEx site, it looks much like a blog post.
It’s a beautiful and smooth experience, with all the needed data in one place. Making the site and app a convenient tool for explorers – and a welcome break for trip planners like me. The new website maps out locations, foodie spots, accommodations, outdoor activities and businesses that align with sustainable tourism. When making your own tour with the Story Maps platform, active transportation options are highlighted with connecting trails and routes. This helps travellers make choices that benefit communities and the environment. Isn’t that cool?
Did I mention the web (and app) platform to plan my exploration of the region? Or choose from curated tours? I’m always thinking ahead and planning the next (solo) trip. This involves a fair amount of research time, especially when undertaking new challenges. I love every minute of investigation. However, It’s a joy to pick an excursion from a curated selection or to easily create a custom trip on the platform instead of making the lists myself. Specially when looking for Ontario Parks in Gananoque and the Frontenac Provincial Park. It’s so easy!
I can’t express enough excitement that the mapped locations have layers of information and imagery (Story Maps) that are more storied than my custom maps! The map is loaded with destinations and relevant information, so your trip narrative unfolds as you explore the chosen route.
With the downloadable digital Travel guides, I can slow down and enjoy every part of the journey. When I’m ready for the next part of the trip, I can read whats next all through the app. This is possible even when there is no internet connection available!
As I write this piece, the FABExperiences.ca website is days away from launching. I’ve had a glimpse of the site, and it didn’t take long for an adventure to catch my eye: Donkeys and Chocolate. I knew about the sweet spot in Seeley’s Bay, Ridgway Confections; however, hiking with donkeys at Berry Homestead Farm in Lyndhurst is new to me!
I learned that Berry Homestead Farm offers Donkey Farm Visits, Walking a Donkey on a Historic Tour of Lyndhurst, and Meditating with Donkeys, all of which should be booked at least 24 hours before your planned visit. Plus, they have workshops about becoming a donkey owner and learning about long-term hiking with Donkeys. Without FABEx, I would not have discovered this farm’s fun activities!
Gas up where you go. Knowing I will expend resources during my travels, I plan my fillups to coincide with the communities I visit, spending my gas and snack dollars in small towns along my way.
4 Journeys in Ontario Parks, Gananoque and the Frontenac Provincial Park.
I do not doubt that when I browse FABExperiences.ca after the official launch, I will find more and more adventures to add to my travel wishlist. However, before the app’s advent, I had several favourite destinations I will continue to visit and explore.
ONTARIO PARKS: FRONTENAC PROVINCIAL PARK
Staying at backcountry sites in Frontenac Provincial Park became an instant favourite for my backpacking and paddle-in camping adventures. I’ve hiked and explored this park in all seasons. I’ll never tire of seeing the Canadian Shield’s exposed rocks, protruding boulders and cliffs lining the lakesides – camping brought a new appreciation to my visits.
Early mornings call for a stop at the newly opened breakfast and lunch spot, Lenny’s Deli, in Sydenham, which I can’t wait to try. On my way through town, I stop at Sydenham Foodland for my camp snacks and those small baked in-store chocolate chip cookies, perfectly sized for making the best campfire s’mores. I can’t resist fresh fries from Jim’s Gourmet Fries at the grocery store – a must for loading up on carbs before big adventures in the summertime.
To wrap up my trip, I stop at the Sydenham Cafe for a bite to eat before heading home. When I’m looking for fresh fruit and in-season sweet corn, I’ll visit Silverbrook Garden Centre. Depending on my return route, I can stop at Limestone Creamery, Mrs.Garretts Bakeshop, or Glenburnie Grocery. Can you tell I’m a locavore?
CHARLESTON LAKE PROVINCIAL PARK:
Anytime I head toward Gananoque, I’ll find any excuse to eat at Laverne’s Eatery. I often get baked goods for a picnic from Panache Bakery before continuing to my final destination, exploring spots on the 1000 Islands Parkway on my way to the popular Charleston Lake Provincial Park for hiking and paddling. So far, the timing (and site availability) has not worked out, but I’d love to spend a few nights car camping at Bayside and an easy backpacking hike to Buckhorn in Charleston Lake’s backcountry.
Returning home, I usually stop by Rapid Valley Restaurant in Lansdowne, a little eatery attached to a gas stop that’s always busy – and once you taste the food, you’ll know why! Or if I head 8 km north when I leave Charleston Lake, I can shop at Wendy’s Country Market in Lyndhurst for goods from local growers, makers and bakers.
SHARBOT LAKE PROVINCIAL PARK:
Sharbot Lake is often the halfway point on my travels, but until this year, I had not hiked nor paddled at Sharbot Lake Provincial Park – let alone camping! After two nights at this park, I knew I had to return – to the same campsite, no less! I camped and kayaked but didn’t get out hiking – my hammock won that battle.
There are numerous stops on my way up to the park, so I alternate between shops, Food Less Travelled, a family-owned grocery in Verona, Seed to Sausage for cured meat, and Mike Dean Local Grocer in Sharbot Lake for last-minute camping snacks. For an easy campsite dinner, pizza from Gray’s Grocery & Corner Bakery, paired with some cold brews from Kick & Push Brewing Co., is delicious! Last but not least, the Cardinal Cafe is a must-stop for their fresh and delicious donuts, whether coming or going back home – or both!
1000 ISLANDS & THOUSAND ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK
I’ve kayaked the St.Lawrence River on a full-day tour with 1000 Islands Kayaking, exploring the 1000 Islands, and what can I say? I loved the experience but wouldn’t paddle these waters without a knowledgeable guide.
Now island camping for a few nights with my partner in the Thousand Islands National Park as part of a guided tour is at the top of my wishlist! It would be a wonder to explore the islands under the watchful eye of an experienced paddler. So what are you waiting for? Visit Ontario Parks in Gananoque and the Frontenac Provincial Park.
I say, “Exploration is loving the journey and the DESTINATION equally.”
I hope you’ll join me and this movement of travellers. We aim to become part of a community, even if it’s for a short time, because we don’t want to be tourists just passing through, not anymore.
Slow down and stay a little longer. Go for two nights (or more) instead of one to embrace being part of the DESTINATION and the COMMUNITY instead of just passing through. Make every step in your journey memorable.
Written and Photographed by Heidi Csernak. Heidi is the founder of Organic Road Map. She is an experiential traveller with a keen interest in photographing and exploring South Eastern Ontario. Visit her at organicroadmap.com to get inspiration for your next adventure!