By Stephen Johnson
Sometimes, we overlook the treasures in our own backyards. For me, the Ottawa Valley used to be a place to get gas or order a double-double on the way to my friend’s cottage. I did not realize the beauty I was missing.
When Sandra, David and I wanted to have an outdoor getaway close to home but with more comfort than a camping trip, we decided to check out the Red Wolf Retreat in the heart of the Ottawa Valley. I knew we had picked the perfect spot when the deluge of traffic on the highway became just a trickle on the gravel roads leading to the retreat.
Once we settled into our cottage, David was keen to go fishing. Since I hadn’t been fishing in 20 years, I knew there was a better chance of us snagging ourselves than reeling in the big one. Thankfully, Red Wolf proprietor Nancy Matschke offered us some tips on how to use the fishing rods for the stocked trout pond. We could see the fish swimming by and jumping out of the water, but somehow we managed to avoid landing any. It might have had something to do with my technique and David’s loud singing.
Since a fish fry was not in the cards for supper, we went to Plan B and cooked hotdogs over the fire. Of course, we had to follow up with a marshmallow roast and a s’mores eating contest, so everyone was happy (including the fish). The highlight of the evening was the night sky and star watching. Living in the city, David had never seen the stars and constellations so vividly. The croaking of frogs and toads provided background music to a perfect evening.
The next morning, we had a special treat. Nancy invited David to feed the trout in the pond. When he flung a handful of fish food across the water, all at once dozens of fish rushed to the pond’s surface and the feeding frenzy began. Clearly we were better at feeding the fish than catching them.
Soon it was time for lunch. The nearby Opeongo Resort had a restaurant with a curious name, Moose on the Beach, and since I’m from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, it was an easy choice. And a good one. We enjoyed an excellent home cooked meal and friendly service, then David was treated to a free ice cream cone.
Next we were off to see the Bonnechere Caves just outside Eganville. Although I was nervous that David would not enjoy the confined, dark spaces of the famous underground caves, I was wrong. He was a natural spelunker (cave explorer). When the guide asked if anyone would like to put their hand in a hole where bats slept, guess who was the first to volunteer? David! When there was a chance to explore a secondary tunnel in the caves, he was the first one to scurry through and tell us all the cool things he had seen.
I was impressed by the knowledge of the guide who told us about the caves’ history. The setting was another bonus. Since the property is bordered by the Bonnechere River, there’s a great opportunity to hike after the underground exploring is finished.
From Bonnechere, we stumbled upon a St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the small community of Douglas. This was not surprising since many people in the Ottawa Valley have Irish heritage. The astonishing thing was that it was in July. People wore green flip-flops and shorts instead of long coats and woolen socks. We had a great time celebrating all things Irish. It may become a July family tradition.
We ended our trip with a stay at Logos Land Resort, a popular Valley destination that offers accommodations including campsites, RV rentals and furnished hotel-style suites. We decided to go upscale and stayed in a very comfortable suite with a kitchen. Onsite family-friendly attractions included water slides, ziplining, a beach and mini-putt. We decided to play mini-putt since it was slightly cool to be in the water. While none of us will be joining the professional circuit in the near future, we had a great time playing.
After a wonderful family trip, we may never again reach my friend’s cottage. We’ll be too busy having fun in the Valley! For more information about places to stay and thing to see in the Ottawa Valley, visit www.ottawavalley.org.