campsite with picnic table coloured with fall foliage

Taking my mom camping for the first time in 20 years

In today’s post, Assistant Program Coordinator Megan Birrell takes us through her latest camping caper.

This fall, I took my mom to Arrowhead Provincial Park for our first fall camping experience. Not only was this our first time camping after Labour Day, but it was also my mom’s first time tent camping in over 20 years, so this was a big change.

I grew up camping around the province in massive trailers that, while comfortable, are not the easiest to tow around. So in the past few years I’ve switched back to tent camping, and this time my mom was joining me.

Our main worries ahead of our trip were:

  • what if it’s too cold?
  • what is there to do?
  • do we have the right gear?

With a little planning we soothed those worries, although some other issues popped up in the process.

Prepping for the weather

It turns out, our worries about being too cold were unfounded.

With a little planning, heated blankets, and copious amounts of tea around the fire, we stayed toasty warm.

For those looking to camp in the late fall, I recommend layers. Layers are your friend.

interior of tent

When it comes to sleeping on an air mattress in the cold, bring the layers too! We put a foam topper on the ground, then the air mattress, two flannel sheets, thick sleeping bags, and a heated blanket to warm it all up.

This setup was also very comfortable for my mom who had sworn off sleeping on the ground for years.

Mom tip: after not having embraced the sleeping bag lifestyle for a few years, my mom forgot to zip hers up. Don’t do that.

Lots to do

While the beach wasn’t available to us for swimming, there was still plenty of fun to be had!

trail sign on tree surrounded by fall colours

Arrowhead has a great rental program and we saw many visitors paddling canoes on the lakes and rivers in the park.

Hiking was our favourite pastime; cooler weather makes for more pleasant hiking in our opinion.

We visited the must-see Arrowhead destinations like the Big Bend Lookout, Stubbs Falls, and my mom’s favourite: the Mayflower Lake Trail.

The most fun I had on the trip was sitting by the fire talking and playing cards with my mom.

There’s nothing like staring into the embers of a fire for a little mother-daughter bonding. (It’s also the best way to warm up.)

Check your gear (before you go)

If you’re a summer camper, you probably already have all of the gear you’ll need for the fall.

Make sure you check the rating on your sleeping bags and bring a sleeping bag liner in case you need more insulation. Most tents are considered three season and a fly will help keep the heat in.

hands holding OP mug in front of campfire

The fall is a great time to cook on the fire to stay warm. I recommend cooking hot filling food. Our makeshift sausage, pepper, and rice dish was a hit!

Daughter tip: if you’re bringing your mom on her first tent camping trip in 20 years, I suggest checking the tent before you go to make sure it’s in tip-top shape.

My tent was not in tip-top shape.

After a great hike, we headed to our site to set up, only to realize that my tent was musty and growing mold, what fun! The fly was in the worst shape, so we made do with the tent and tarped over top.

Like a true camper, I was able to MacGyver a fly on the fly.

This is a reminder to take care of your camping gear and air it out properly when you get home. I’m usually pretty on top of things but even the most prepared camper can get caught out.

Take your mom on a trip!

After all the worry and problems, we still had a great time!

We loved experiencing the park with fewer visitors and no mosquitoes.

Maple leaf during fall colours at Arrowhead on Stubbs Fall Trail.

If you’re willing to be a little cooler at night, fall camping is a great way to extend the summer fun, and you might even be able to experience some of the beautiful colours of the season!