Thursday, July 21, 2011

Oh how I needed a beach day.

Huntington Beach, California, 2000
This past week has been quite easily the hottest of the year. Yesterday it was 36 'C and with the humidity reached up into the mid 40's. In that heat I had to drive down to Toronto wearing a suit. Let me tell you, it was stinkin' hot there.
Venice Beach, California, 2001

I have experienced real heat, too. I have driven through the Mojave desert in July where the big thermostat in Baker read 120'F, and have felt the nighttime heat of Vegas at 102'F. I am no stranger to heat, and yet I found myself with the beginnings of crowded vision and faintness.

The Mojave Desert. 120'F
The difference between what I experienced in Nevada and California, and Toronto is that of humidity. Toronto rarely tops Nevada for temperature, it just *feels* hotter. When the humidity is higher, the sweat can't evaporate from your body, and when that happens, your body's main cooling system is less efficient, leaving you feeling hotter.

Anyway, miserable, and walking down on University Avenue in Toronto yesterday, there was noplace to hide from the sun. Even in the air conditioned restaurant in the afternoon I could feel the heat coming off the windows.

On the way home I listened to a CBC special on Toronto area beaches, and my reaction, being that I have spent the better part of my life in the city, was of scorn. No way would I swim in Lake Ontario. We all have memories of people getting sick, and the water quality being so bad that fecal choliform counts were through the roof. I learned though, that there has been a considerable effort not just to clean up the beaches, but also the lake itself. 

The reality today is that the beaches in Toronto are clean. There are 11 beaches in Toronto, and 8 of them qualify for the blue flag program. In case you don't know about blue flag, you can find information about the criteria here.

The basics are that Blue Flag is a water/beach/environmental quality certification that allows swimmers to see or not see the blue flag that guarantees the beach is internationally recognized as safe and clean.

Point is, there is no reason not to spend time at the beach this summer in the big smoke!

Sandbanks, last week.
Out here in balmy Belleville, where the temperature peaked at 38'C today, we have several beaches within an easy drive that are well worth the visit. So when the heat started up, we packed up a cooling vest for Owie, an umbrella, a cooler, and all the other stuff we'd need, and took off to two different beaches in a ten day span.

Sandbanks Provincial Park

Sandbanks, which is as good or far better than many of the beaches I have visited in California or Florida, is a couple of Kilometres of white sand, and a very gradual drop out into the water. You can go out a good fifty metres into the water and still not be over your head, so it's great for kids.

Jenn at Sandbanks.
As with all Provincial parks, there is no alcohol allowed, nor glass bottles, and the sand is regularly groomed. Our kids love it there. That said, it has its share of young 'thangs' with their tanning oil and barely a trace of clothing, so if that's not your idea of a good time, there are also several smaller beaches in the area.

North Beach, near Consecon, is one of our favourites, partly because it is less crowded, and partly because it is a more family atmosphere. Sandbanks can sometimes seem a little packed.

Presqu'ile, spring 2010

Presqu'ile, which is on Lake Ontario near Brighton, is also a Provincial park, and its beaches are a little rougher around the edges. There are stones in the sand that can hurt little feet, and the beach is much smaller than the others in the area. Still very worth the visit.

Owen at Presqu'ile 2010

The benefits of Presqu'ile, too, are that it has camping very close by, also part of the Provincial Park, but it is not too far from the beaten track. We found last year, with a very sick Owen, that we could have our camping time in the quiet and seclusion, and then when it got too much, we were in the town of Brighton for the conveniences of home within ten minutes.

Sandcastles at Presqu'ile
Now, I'm used to camping by myself in the middle of nowhere, so the trailer is easy street for me, but for the kids it's a great, and safe, introduction to the camping experience, and they never get overheated with the beach nearby. 

Daisy at Presqu'ile, spring 2010
Anyway, that's it. If you notice my blogging output falling dramatically as the mercury climbs, you'll know where to find me.

 My wife, Jennifer's, blog can be found here:
Cleverly Disguised as Cake

And my first novel, squeakyclean, here:
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Huntington Beach in California

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