Family Who Travels :: Killarney Provincial Park, Ontario

Kosker family canoeing through Killarney Provincial Park

Hello world wide web :)  If you happened to stumble upon this dusty ole blog, welcome!  If you received a surprise email about a new blog post and you wondered if it was 2010 for a moment, HELLO AND WE'VE MISSED YOU :)

We returned a week ago from an incredible family vacation and I absolutely MUST tell you about it!   Sometime this Spring, Jake started dreaming and researching family vacations that would be easy on the pocketbook, high on the adventure.  Last year we stretched the girls with 2 nights backpacking in the Adirondacks.  It was such a positive experience, we knew they were ready for something a little more physically demanding.  Enter....northern Ontario and a 3 night backcountry canoe trip!
We followed the White Line route.

One of our all-time favorite adventures (pre children) was kayaking for 3 nights in the San Juan Islands.  That trip really affirmed my love of backcountry camping PLUS.... I didn't have to carry things on my back!  A match made in heaven :)  I knew that a family canoe trip would be a hit, I was just a little nervous about portaging, which I had never done before!  "Pour taj" as they say in Canada, is when you lake hop and carry your canoe and belongings through the woods to the next lake in the region.  The Killarney region is a swiss cheese landscape of lakes.  We started at George Lake, portaged to Freeland Lake, then portaged to Killarney Lake.
This was our FINAL portage!  By our last portage, we had it down to a science.  It took Jake and me two trips and each girl walked the portage once with a small, but mighty load in their arms.

We rented an 18.5' canoe from Killarney Outfitters.    That size canoe comes with a 3rd seat that was plenty wide for both of our girls (age 7 and almost 9).  By the end, we even figured out how to attach our Crazy Creek chairs to the seat, and they fit side-by-side!  We realize that we will not be able to do a trip like this again until the girls are big enough to paddle their own canoe (well, they might be small enough to comfortably fit for another year or so).

Killarney Outfitters were really helpful in the planning stages of this trip.  Jake called them countless times to ask questions and bounce ideas off of them.  When we arrived, we purchased the map and a waterproof phone case.  Jake's phone has an amazing battery life, so all of these pictures were taken through the waterproof case.
Pushing off from George Lake...ready to start our adventure!

The first portage, between George Lake and Freeland Lake is a mere 50 meters and very easy.  HOWEVER, our 2nd portage, between Freeland and Killarney, was 430 meters.  Not far....but we started our trip in the mid afternoon and so it was pushing dinner time when we were heading in.  About 1/2 way through the hike, THE MOSQUITOS DESCENDED!  It's slightly uphill and we were all heavily laden (this was before I figured out how to use my canoe paddle to carry more items).  The girls were crying/ whimpering/ miserable as they must have been mighty delicious.  It didn't occur to us that this might happen, so we hadn't applied bug repellent before starting the hike.  We passed a day tripping family portaging their 2 canoes and picnic supplies when we were in the crux of misery and when Jake and I went back through mosquito valley for our 2nd trip, we about fainted when we quickly came upon ALL OF OUR BELONGINGS already more than 1/2 way down the trail!  Clearly, that wonderful family each grabbed a few of our items and ran them 2/3 of the way down the trail for us!  Thank you so much kind strangers!  We will pay it forward, someday :)   It's little things like that which make me feel so much love for the human race.  The first 24-hours of our trip were quite unpleasant (car problems, trailer problems, late starts, high heat, yada yada yada) and that was just what I needed to pull through and make the final leg of our entry positive.

You must prepurchase a backcountry permit to sleep on the lake.  The passes open up 5 months before your anticipated date and you want to snag them immediately!  The lake we stayed on has 11 campsites, with a 4 night maximum stay.  We LUCKED out by choosing site #21.  We were tired and hungry by the time we arrived to Killarney Lake and we wondered if we were crazy for passing up the first 2 campsites.  However, I wanted a VIEW of the amazing granite rocks, so we passed the first two and then hit the JACKPOT!  I'm not positive what the campsites look like at the far end of the lake, but our site was PERFECTION!  We named it Kosker Cove and there was a lot of shallow area with little rock islands for the girls to play on.  They played for hours and hours on our private beach.
Killarney Lake, Campsite #21.  This is the "cove" where you dock the canoe.

While they swam and rock hopped, I read and napped in my hammock.  For at least 2 hours each afternoon, I enjoyed my hammock (a Christmas gift from this past year).  It was JUST what the Doctor ordered after a busy school year.
While I had a few hours to read and rest in solitude, I also had a lot of snuggles in the hammock :)

One afternoon, Jake enjoyed a long nap and the girls, tired from their swimming, both climbed in.  I had preloaded my Kindle with Harry Potter 1...so the girls and I read aloud to each other and I don't think I will ever live a more perfect afternoon!
Jake wanted to be in charge of the food for this trip, so while it stresses me out a bit to give up control, it was nice being totally off the hook for cooking!  Our new favorite camp meal was cinnamon bun biscuits!  Jake used a premade bisquick mix and made a buttery, brown sugar syrup to bake them in.  As you can see, the mornings had just enough chill to wear our long pants and rain jackets.  Heidi was really into helping him bake these treats!

Further proof of just how much time I spent in my hammock.  Here was my view one afternoon while Jake and the girls attempted to start a fire with a magnifying glass (They achieved a lot of smoke, but no flames).

hiking to "The Crack"
One day, we decided to hike "The Crack".  We hadn't done much research on the hike, but it was marked on our map and most people we had talked to on the lake mentioned enjoying the hike.  One of the trailheads was just a short canoe ride from Kosker Cove, so after an oatmeal breakfast, we packed some trail mix and headed out.  If you are familiar with this hike, you are currently thinking "You attempted this hike after eating only oatmeal and only brought some trail mix!?!?!".  Well, as I said, we didn't research the hike.  Dear readers, if you are planning to head to "The Crack", please eat protein for breakfast and assume you'll eat lunch before heading back to your campsite ;)

It was a lovely hike (after another short walk through a mosquito zone, this time we had applied bug repellent!).  As we climbed up, the trail turns to boulders.  The girls and I only had packed one pair of shoes that are suitable for water.  Our treads weren't great and we would have preferred tennis shoes, but we were fine.  Hazel, in particular, proved to us that she is part MOUNTAIN GOAT!  On the way up, she just TOOK OFF!  Jake was in the back with Heidi, her sandals were particularly slippery.  So, I tried my hardest to catch up to Hazel, but I simply could NOT!  She was basically running over the rocks and it is treacherous terrain.  Every few minutes I would stop and yell for her.  At one point, a man hiking down had a good chuckle and reassured me that Hazel had run by him not long ago.  Finally Hazel heard me yelling "STOP" and she waited for me.  I was getting more an more worried that she would slip and become injured.  So, she got a stern lecture on hiking safety :)

Kosker family at the top of The Crack in Killarney Provincial Park.
 We just had SO much fun AND relaxation on this trip!  Each evening, the energizer bunnies (aka Hazel and Jake) took off on the canoe or hiking on our island while Heidi and I enjoyed relaxing on the boulders and reading in bed.  Due to the time of year and latitude, we weren't able to stay up late enough to enjoy the night sky, but the nights were just cool enough to be comfortable snuggled in our sleeping bags.
Heidi and Julie relaxing at site #21 (Kosker Cove) as Jake and Hazel paddle through the crystal clear water for their evening adventure. 

Hazel on Killarney Lake

The girls did SO well on the canoe!  They paddled and enjoyed gazing while letting their fingers and toes dip into the water.  The water is so clear that you can see the rocks, lily pads, and fish (though there are not many fish) DEEP DEEP down below.

It's a rough life ;)

Our girls are so delightful and talented...they can WALK ON WATER!
And a tradition that stems from my first backpacking adventure with Mount Union College Wilderness Trip/ University of Mount Union Wilderness Trip.  I taught the girls THE BEAVER SONG!
Any Wilderness Trip friends reading this?  If so, I guarantee you're smiling right now!  Boy did we have fun together!!!!
After 3 nights, we were relaxed and ready to head home.  We had a few more adventures on the way home, but that's fodder for another FAMILY WHO TRAVELS blog post (spoiler alert...we fell in LOVE with KOAs on this trip!).

If you're on the fence about what would be a good introductory backcountry adventure, head on up to Ontario.  The landscape of the drive is breathtaking...but the lake region is truly wonderous.  One thing is certain....WE WILL RETURN!


We will follow this man to the ends of the ...trail :: Fathers Day 2017

I'm dusting off this blog because my husband really misses my posts and it's Father's Day and I love him :)  When we first married, I promised to follow him anywhere...and now the girls have made the same commitment...come hell or high water (quite literally it seems).

This year, I believe that the girls and I gave him the best gift imaginable... our first family backpacking trip!  (Correction:  The girls have joined us on two winter backpacking trips at Oil Creek State Park the past 2 years, but we only hike about a mile, so it only sorta counts!) We headed to the Adirondacks (ADK) in upper New York.  It's a place near and dear to my heart since backpacking there in college and Jake fell in love with the area last year on his "guys trip".

We weren't sure if 6-year-old Heidi was really strong enough, but she was determined to prove her merit.  PROVE IT SHE DID!  Afterwards, I confessed that if I had known the difficulty and length of our hikes, I never would have agreed to bring the kids, but I'm so glad that we conquered it together!

Backpacking gave us so much time for deep (and not so deep) conversations, overcoming fears, celebrating each other's gifts, laughter, and memories.  I look forward to a lifetime of this with this crew.

Heidi and Hazel hiking in...they carried their own sleeping gear and clothes!  Tough kids :)
Our home away from home for 2 nights!  We erected the tent in the lean-to so that we could sleep bug free!

Jake is in his element deep in the forest.  He is tireless, confident, and a walking guide book.  Hazel is also particularly interested in picking up every creepy crawly, finding egg sacks under leaves, and dipping into every mountain stream.

Now, taking your 6 & almost 8-year-old on their first backpacking trip, you want to make it a positive experience, right?  With thousands of acres to explore, pristine trails, and gorgeous landscapes, I knew that the ADK was going to deliver.

What I didn't expect, despite being married to this man for almost 12 years...was that on our long hike day, we would take AN ABANDONED TRAIL.  Sigh, this should not have surprised me.

Guess which trail the Kosker's chose?

We hiked up Benny's Brook to Lower Wolf Jaw Mountain.  The first half of the rock slide hike led past streams that the girls enjoyed playing in.  As we went up, it got steeper and steeper.  We needed breaks about every 20 feet!

I always appreciated it when Jake grabs the camera so we have photo proof that I'm there too :)

Natural water slide!

I couldn't get over how fearless the girls were.  Even when they were nervous, they charged ahead without complaint!

What a view!  We started deep in that valley.

Sisters who summit.
THE SUMMIT (and giving Mama a heart attack.)

After our hike, we were TIRED!  We ate a delicious dinner at the lean-to and then headed across the creek to Johns Brook Lodge...where they sell homemade ice cream!  We enjoyed that each evening along with some friendly, competitive Jenga!

Guess who lost this round?

2 nights backpacking and we were still all smiles!

After 2 nights, I was ready for the Lake Placid part of our trip!  My mom had been near-by, enjoying a lovely BnB (The Snow Goose Inn) and she picked the girls and I up for a day of swimming in a pool, hot tub, delicious meals, and cute shops.

What did Jake do?  What Jake often does... head into the mountains for a trail run.  He ran the Great Range Traverse, 22+ miles and conquered 12 high peaks.  To each their own ;)

We capped our trip off with a day at Niagara Falls.  We enjoyed revisiting some of the places from my childhood when my dad worked in Buffalo and spent 1/2 his time there and 1/2 in PA.  We also treated the girls to a ride on the Maid of the Mists...we were the first ones on the boat and got a prime location in the bow of the ship.  So much fun!

Happy Father's Day Jacob Kosker!  We are so blessed to have you as our adventure guide!


Walking through the valley of the shadow of death

Today I find myself dwelling once more on that precipice, watching a loved one slowly die.  My maternal grandmother, Marian Krumich, has been anxiously awaiting this day!  Her breaths are ragged and she no longer awakes and though the tears are many, the joy is profound!

We have filled these days of waiting singing hymns and family lullabies, playing flute music, and lots of talking of love and peace.

I have lived a blessed life.  I grew up with my Krumich grandparents just a short walk through the woods.  Idyllic really. In elementary school, I would walk to their house, enjoy a peppermint and perhaps a little morning news or Swiss language lesson before walking down their driveway to catch the bus...knowing my grandparents were keeping a close eye on me through their binoculars until the bus arrived.

I will honor and sustain her memory through sharing the stories of her life, continuing telling the dirty jokes so enjoyed by this upstanding church lady, and the music of the family with my kids who have so enjoyed having a close relationship with their Gigi.


Holiday review

Ah, it's January 1st.  That glorious day when we day dream of all the ways we are going to improve our selves and our lives throughout the entire next year.  I'm loving that it's 2016 because it's our "Sweet '16".  My actual sweet 16 was suuuuper awkward with lots of adults making that horrid joke about being "16 but never been kissed".  It was true and I didn't know how to take that joke.  I hope I can stop myself from ever using that "canned phrase" when the kids in my life hit that milestone :)

However, now that the year is '16, I plan on getting LOTS of kisses and focusing my year on joy.  I'm going to clamp my lips on sharing negative observations and intentionally share heartfelt compliments.

It's easy to feel positive and joyful as we wind down our holiday celebrations. 

As I'm uploading pics, I'm realizing that between my actual camera, phone and iPad...things have gotten quite scattered!  I'll do my best to give a fair representation, but my patience can only handle so much uploading (alas, showing more patience is not a New Years resolution for me :)

We started with a little music video when Hazel lost her 2 front teeth!  For the rest of the Christmas season, she was leery about singing this song out loud because she didn't want Santa to think that's what she actually wanted :)

 Thanks to Llama (Grandma Orris) for playing the accompaniment.  Can you find Santa AND baby Jesus?

Next it was time for Thanksgiving, which is the Orris family FAVORITE holiday because for the past 28 years or so, it has been celebrated with the Lehman family.  Feasting, talking, LAUGHING, napping, snacking... TRADITIONS :) 

Dick joined us a few days early and got to join me as Hazel's "plus 2" for her classroom Thanksgiving feast.  Hazel was super excited for her Grandpa Dick to see what a big girl she has become.  As a formal elementary school principal and most importantly, my dad's best friend, I'm pretty sure it was a really special moment for him too.
 This year was extra special for me because Whitney flew home from London to be with us.  I heart her.

Then it was time to celebrate my mom's (Llama) birthday and Christmas before she headed to Germany to spend the holiday with my sister and niece.
spoiler alert:  it's an Easy Bake Oven

This year the girls decorated wooden spoons for their teachers and grandparents.  It's our best "kid made" gift yet!  They drew their designs with pencil and I traced it with my Grandpa Krumich's old wood burner.
 Next we headed to my Grandma Krumich's assisted living home for their family Christmas party.  It's our 2nd year going and a wonderful event!  The girls talked with Santa, made cookies, rode in a horse drawn carriage, did crafts, listened to a bell choir, and spent time with their Great Grandma (Gigi).
Both girls asked for "real fairy wings and real fairy dust".

We filled the rest of December with other non-snow related traditions like making ginerbread cookies, decorating the house, reading Christmas books, our Advent calendar, and new-this-year...our very own ELF ON THE SHELF!  We held off the past few years because WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT?!?  This year however, Hazel was begging and pleading for me to stop "turning away the house elf and just having the window elves that watched us from the windows sporatically".  So, we invited one to stay with us.  The girls named him Elfie.  Jake had the most fun with Elfie, but sometimes Uncle Josh and I took turns.  The photo below is what Elfie left us on his last night...a self portrait.  It immediately inspired Hazel.

On Christmas Eve, we headed to Gibsonia to celebrate the traditional Kosker way...with "Valea" a Polish feast.  It is such a lovely evening.  Jake's cousin, Suzanne and her husband, Steve, host.  The kids love seeing each other, running around thoroughly ignored by the chatting adults.  The adults love catching up and digging in to the feast prepared by Suzanne's brother, Joseph.

It appears that we coordinated the kids outfits...we didn't.  However oldest girls dressed in black w/sparkles & youngest girls dressed in red w/sparkles.  Good sport William, complimented the ensembles perfectly too :)

Moving on to our Kosker quartet's Christmas morning.  I'm pretty sure that we say this every year, but we really tried to have a SMALL Christmas!  Here's our grrraaannnd (sigh...JACOB) tree all ready for the kids to wake up.
 Fortunately, when a bouncing, shrieking Hazel careened down the stairs, she yelled back to us, "There are THOUSANDS of presents!!!!" and a slightly sleepy Heidi declared, "I must've been soooo good this year!".

So, that mommy guilt was for naught and I'm glad that my children felt the blessings we were able to share with them to the fullest intent!
 Hazel got a hand sewing kit from us!  She's been eager to learn.  After her first lesson, her interest waned, but we'll get back to it eventually and she'll be creating stuff animals in no time :)  (Heidi's main gift from us was a doll that comes with her own zipline)

 Here's Heidi trying on her "real fairy wings".  The "real fairy dust" is a necklace that is a tiny glass bottle with a miniature look-a-like fairy in it for each girl along with some of that magic dust.  One slight problem is that the girls think they can now fly and I've had to sternly lecture them about testing that theory. 

When the presents were all unwrapped, Hazel was looking dejected.  She really wanted some Star Lilly talking unicorn that cost about $100.  While she valiently tried to overcome this disappointment (she did tell Santa about it...I found out), Jake and I snuck away and returned with two bundles containing... GUINEA PIGS!  Hazel said "this is WAY better!" when asked about her Star Lilly disappointment later that morning :)

Jake and I had been discussing getting the girls a small pet and were hemming and hawing about it a few weeks before Christmas when my friend Erin randomly asked if we wanted her 2-year-old guinea pigs.  It's a bit of a big responsibility for all of us (especially this non-animal-lovin' mama who seems to be the main care taker), but the girls are IN LOVE and so far they are perfect, quiet, gentle pets!

I refused to let Jake wrap the guineas in their ball or a large box after growing up on the Orris family legend of the time that my Grandpa Orris wrapped his daughter's hamster on Christmas Eve and it was dead by Christmas morning.  Rumor has it, my Aunt Val said "oh cute, it's sleeping!".  hahaha...did NOT want to repeat that one!

Christmas afternoon, Jake left for work and the girls and I headed to visit Gigi.  She had saved her presents to open with us, so it was a very nice visit.  My Grandma's dementia is getting worse and her body is tired, but the girls bring her lots of joy and I like to soak up these memories!

On Sunday, Grandma and Grandpa Baird came to visit!  
 Of all the wonderful gifts they brought (every art supply known to man!), the girls favorite are the super soft fleece blankets!  Heidi got Spiderman and Hazel got Inside Out (which I am planning to steal ASAP).

Grandpa Baird has the patience of a saint and let the girls make it "snow" with some foam packaging!  Then he cleaned it up with the vacuum, what a guy :)

 Christmas dinner, just a few days late!

ON TO NEW YEAR's (has anybody made it this far?  Are your eyes going crossed?)

For about 5 years now, we have a wonderful tradition with Vince and Michelle (Jake's dad and smom).  They join us for New Year's Eve!  We swap Christmas gifts, celebrate kid New Year's (whatever time we feel like it), then the girls GO TO BED and the guys go out.  It's perfection.

This year, Heidi was SUPER proud of herself.  The day after Christmas, Josh joined the quartet for a Christmas hike.  We hiked past some shale and Heidi collected some (in her "hiking purse"/fanny pack from daddy) to give to Pap Pap!  HA!
Such a great photo!  POOR PAP PAP!  Heidi looks quite pleased with herself.  She's wearing the shirt Aunt Marianne made for her...as I am while writing this (honestly, I haven't taken it off since unwrapping it 2 days ago!). 

Heidi digging into her gifts from her Kosker grandparents.  They always stuff army socks as "stockings", cracks me up!  She and Hazel each got a handmade baby doll made to look like their baby photos.  I haven't taken pics of them yet, but they are very special and Heidi is especially into mothering her "baby Heidi".
 They could celebrate New Years for hours...or as many times as daddy is willing to refill & dump garbage bags of balloons :)

One last shot of each girl with their guinea pig.  Heidi named hers Gingerbread.  Hazel initially named hers Fluttershy (a character from My Little Pony), but just decided that Gumdrop fits her guinea better :)  

We wish you all a blessed New Year!