Roadtripping: The Elora Quarry

After last year's cold, thunderstorm-y and small baby-filled summer, I've decided to stuff two summer's worth of fun into one. I don't think I've slept since mid-June, but I kind of don't care. It's all fun all the time full steam ahead until the pools close, (and even then, I'm not sure it'll stop!)

And so, in the spirit of ALL SUMMER ALL THE TIME, on Friday we packed a picnic, and a pile of towels and drove up through Guelph to the Elora Quarry. (I realized on the drive up that the last quarry I swam at was 8 (!) years ago in Nebraska!)

The 1.5h drive is so southern Ontario – the sprawling lanes of the 401, then moving on to small highways and fields of what might be wheat, and small towns and smaller towns, and roadside signs for eggs and strawberries. You have to drive through the adorable little town of Elora, but we didn't stop – there was a quarry to get to!

We pulled in with a screaming baby (not ideal), but I got to nurse her in the parking lot with a view of the quarry (totally ideal!). The lot is perched at the top of the quarry, with 40 foot rock faces plunging down to the almost-Lake Louise green water below.

The walk down to the water is beautiful – all trees and more trees, shading the walk (Apparently there is a hiking loop around the water).

And then just like that, the trees end and give way to a beach. It's not a huge beach, and there is very little shade, but it's a beach! And there is water! And we met up with our pal and her kiddos and it was so perfectly summer, I still have to pinch myself.

We got there at 11:30am and the beach was already starting to fill up. We spread out our towels and picnic blankets, and changed right there (though there are changerooms, bathrooms, too, but I was too lazy to walk back, and put my patented went-to-dance-school-quick-change skills to work).

There's a little roped off shallow end off the beach that is perfect for little kiddos. It's pretty rocky though (it is a quarry after all!) and I know my 3.5-year-old would've wanted water shoes if he had been with us.

On the far side of the rope, it's still pretty shallow for a few more feet and then it just drops off.

We played with the kids in the shallows for a while (marvelling at our baby's deep insatiable love of water!), and then I took off for a swim around the quarry, dodging a flotilla of blow-up unicorns and swans and hippos and flamingos. It's not big – it maaaaaybe took 10 minutes to swim the circumference, but it's so lovely. The water is thick and green in the sun, and there are weeds along the very edges, but not in the middle. Doing a back float right in the centre, with the rock faces towering above is magical.

I could've floated in the centre of that quarry all day.

After we swam and splashed and splashed and floated, we picnicked, (because OF COURSE WE DID!) and I'm not sure there's anything more delicious than post-swim farmer's market cherries and handfuls on handfuls of popcorn, even with handfuls of sand mixed in!

I didn't ever want to leave, but baby naps and daycare pickups, etc etc, and so we hit the road...

Stops we couldn't make because the overtired baby was finally asleep, but I wish we had:
- there's a side of the road flower stand on the 86 near Ariss – bring change/small bills!
- there's a chip truck right across from the parking lot at the Quarry. I will dream of those too salty chips until I can actually try them
- ice cream in Elora. Dang sleeping baby...

Practical details:

*The maximum capacity is 1,300 which seems IMPOSSIBLE, but there you have it. It sounds from the website like that happens sometimes, so go early if you can. It's open from M-F from 11am-8pm and on the weekends from 10am-8pm.

*It's open till Labour Day (though I've been warned it gets a little funky come mid-August).

*The park fees are here.

*We took our own PFDs, but apparently they have a lifeguard loaner program with a "small refundable deposit" - ask at the gatehouse when you park!

*No booze or dogs!

*Here's the official site

*Also, there's tubing down the Elora Gorge which everyone raves about, so if that's your jam, here's how to get there!
  • Lindsay
  • Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Swimiracle

Last year, every time I figured out childcare and the delicate timing between breastfeeding and napping a 4-month-old, I'd arrive at the pool to locked doors. I swear there were thunderstorms every other day last summer. But somehow, last week, I managed a veritable swimming miracle—a swimiracle, if you will.

The sun shone all day, like it has been every day for days and days, but clouds started rolling in around 5, and I started realizing the swim I had been looking forward to all week (okay, ALL YEAR) was probably not going to happen. I got grumpier and grumpier. I may have even thrown a mini-tantrum. But then, after dinner, the skies starting clearing up, and the sun started shining. I decided to chance it, my terrible thunder stormed track record be damned.

The drive to Smythe Park Pool is a strange one – you take a barely marked winding road off Scarlett Road and then there are trees and more trees, and even more trees, and then a Canada Goose settling down in the centre of the road. And then all of a sudden, a pool. A 50m pool – a rare unicorn in west-end City-run pools.

The changerooms were grimier then most making flip flops essential, BUT the pool was huge – 50 metres seems extra big when you're used to 25m – and it was mostly empty, with trees overhanging and planes flying overhead.

It had just opened after being closed for the earlier bout of thunder. How did I manage to catch this open window? I didn't have time to hesitate, there was 50 metres of turquoise perfection to swim through. Not even the belligerent intoxicated man could ruin my bliss (and thanks to the guard who could see what was happening and intervened quickly!).

My fast lane pal, who tipped me onto this pool, wasn't there, but another fast lane pal was, and I even heard one swimmer say that the three of us in the centre lanes were professional swimmers. Not even close (it might've been our bathing caps more than our swimming that tipped him off), but I'll take it!

The radio was blasting Wish You Were Here, the music was tinny and a bit staticky, like every on-deck radio should be. It is not a fancy pool, but it is a wonderful pool (with the most expansive interlock brick deck!)

I haven't been swimming in a 50m pool since university days (when I fell in love in the fast lane) and it is such a different pace. It's long when you're used to turning around every 25m, getting the push off the wall. My thoughts felt bigger somehow. Not that I was able to hang onto any great insights, but it felt good, having the time to let my thoughts meander.

I even saw some sort of bird of prey being attacked by a red winged black bird as I swam. The week-long heat wave broke mid-swim and the clouds started collecting in a dark grey mass over the northwest edge of the pool.

The minute the 45-minute length swim was up, the rain started. It was pouring by the time I got home – lightning, thunder, the sky the colour of Orange Crush, the works. I still can't believe my luck – that the rain and thunder held off until I had gotten my swim in, but it did and it felt like confirmation that last year's rained out stretch is firmly in the past.

  • Lindsay
  • Thursday, July 12, 2018

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