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Exploring the Bruce – Part 1

Since moving home in 2010, I’ve realized that, for being born and raised in Bruce County, I have seen a woeful amount of it.

Outside of baseball diamonds and arena parking lots, that is.

My parents and sister are/were athletes, so our summer Saturdays were spent going to four different towns for four different ball tournaments, and the winter was really no different, except the sports were hockey, ringette and curling.

We didn’t camp at MacGregor Park, we didn’t hang out at Sauble Beach and we didn’t take a boat ride to Flowerpot Island, in Tobermory. We played sports, and none of us would have had it any other way.

When I moved away from home in 2001, I slowly began to realize Bruce County isn’t just a collection of sporting rivals, it is absolutely beautiful – a place people drive hours to spend time in, and yet is so easily taken for granted by those of us who live here.

And that’s why the Explore the Bruce Adventure Passport is such a wonderful program for tourists, as well as locals who, like me, have taken little opportunity to discover the paradise we call home. So, after talking about it for a couple of years, we decided this is the year we will complete as much of the Adventure Passport, which you’ll find in the Summer issue of Grey-Bruce Kids, as we can.

The launch of the 2013 Adventure Passport took place at Tennyson’s in Underwood on Saturday, June 8. A few hundred people visited sponsors’ booths, enjoyed some wonderful food, face painting, games and much more.

Then the adventure began for our family – Amy, myself, Layne, 5, and Jace, 2 1/2 (who, you’ll soon notice, doesn’t care much for having her picture taken). There were three stops outlined for participants, and we decided to head inland to Folmer’s Garden Centre, on Hwy. 9, near Walkerton – a place I have driven by literally hundreds of times and had never visited.

Layne planting her flower at Folmer’s Garden Centre, near Walkerton.

We were given our Explore the Bruce T-shirts before Layne planted her own flower, and then we walked the breathtaking grounds, although what grabbed the girls’ attention was two frogs sitting proudly on lilypads in a cute little pond. The adult in me wanted grab the girls, spin them around, and make them see the natural beauty that surrounded us, and yet all they cared about was a couple of frogs? But then it dawned on me that this moment of youthful wonderment is exactly the point of the Explore the Bruce Adventure Passport  – being with family and enjoying the little things at a place we know only by name, and yet is so close to home.

The point isn’t just to get punches on your Passport at a dozen different stops – that’s the smallest part of the whole experience. It’s about being with your family, away from electronics, while exploring small corners of your home county, often for the first time.

It’s all about the journey, not the destination.

So we talked to the frogs for a while before loading up and heading into Walkerton to nab our first punch on our 2013 Adventure Passport – at Heritage Garden, near the Bruce County building in Walkerton.

Then it was off to Dr. Milne Park in Paisley, yet another place I’ve never been. As we rolled up, one of about a dozen cars taking part in this stop of the tour, it appeared to just be a jungle gym, which I knew the kids would absolutely love. The event organizers had also set up some games for participants as well, which looked like fun.

As the kids ran to join the other half-pints on the slides, I looked down the hill at the back of the playground and noticed a beautiful shaded area on the river. About half-an-hour later, with the kids somewhat worn out, we made the trek down the hill to get our Passport punched and that’s when I discovered an absolutely perfect spot for a quiet picnic on some warm summer afternoon, whether with the family or even just an afternoon date with my wife, a bottle of wine and a book (we’re, like, totally cool).

Arriving at Dr. Milne Park, in Paisley.

Paisley is a cute little town, which Amy has gained an affinity for in her travels, but I don’t think there’s any way we ever find Dr. Milne Park without Explore the Bruce. And, as I was quickly discovering, that’s precisely the point.

We had one final stop – Pioneer Park, at the marina in Southampton – before we were to return to Underwood for lunch and more launch party festivities.

Unfortunately, the fun at Dr. Milne Park was the final straw for Jace, who was snoring before we passed the Saugeen Bluffs Conservation Area, just west of Paisley. Upon arrival at Pioneer Park, it took just a few seconds to realize we had found another gem, just one or two blocks north of the giant Canadian flag that marks Southampton’s downtown.

Amy and Layne got out to explore the park, while I sat back with the Blue Jays on the radio, the windows down, and my baby snoozing away behind me. It looks like the girls had fun though…

Pioneer Park, at the gateway to Lake Huron, in Southampton.

Shortly thereafter, we arrived back in Underwood for a couple more hours of fun and food at the launch party, before we loaded up our exhausted and exhilarated children and headed for Ripley. With the help of the Explore the Bruce team, our Adventure Passport kick-off was to continue on Sunday, with stops in Kinloss, Wiarton and Lion’s Head, so we knew we’d have to get our rest.

I’ll blog about our amazing Sunday travels later this week, so stay tuned (and start planning your Explore the Bruce Adventure!).

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