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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Heigh ho, heigh ho, off to camp we go

Taking a hike in Kejimkujik National Park. Nova Scotia, 2012.

One of my favorite (okay, my number one favorite) thing about Girl Guides is the camping experience.

I guess as many French-Canadians I am 50 % woodsman, 50 % lumberjack and 50 % trapper (unfortunately this has done nothing for my arithmetic!)

Add to it the fact that I lie on the low-maintenance end of the feminine continuum... and you get a woman who just loves to leave her comfortable existence on a regular basis to return to the roots of a more rustic way of life. (One friend has actually renamed me Daniel Boone.)

There is something very refreshing about this extreme simplification of life, being in constant and close contact with nature, doing everything with your own hands, and propelling yourself through the use of your muscles only.

Appearances and the latest gadget don't matter anymore. What matters is staying safe and warm and dry, feeding yourself, and enjoying your natural surroundings in good company. Entertainment has to be low key as well, usually by the means of a bonfire and some good songs. Fortunately this is one of the most pleasant ways to spend an evening.

That might explain why working as a camp counselor in the deep Canadian forest made me so profoundly happy back in the days. The other part of it that I found immensely rewarding was to share my innate love of the outdoors and my acquired resourcefulness with youngsters.

Now that I've become too picky to accept being paid about $3 an hour and that I've moved on to a more "grown up" professional occupation, I still find myself occasionally initiating kids to the camping experience... for free!

This is how, last weekend, we took 22 Girl Guides to camp. It was a hit from A to Z.

We learned the basics of safety and survival in the wilderness.

We hiked, found our way using a compass, built shelters.

We cooked everything from scratch, beginning at the bottom of the technology chain with "fire starters" and "buddy burners" we had made out of, respectively: egg cartons + dryer lint + melted crayons and old cans + recycled corrugated cardboard + paraffin.

It all worked a charm.

The only thing we didn't do so well was sleep: the kids chatted until the wee hours, and most leaders tossed and turned the rest of the night. Being designated first aider I was awarded the best sleeping spot as is always the case... but it also meant that if somebody had to be awakened for any emergency - even if said emergency was just a nightmare - it would be me.

(In the end the only "emergency" we had was a splinter, and it happened during the day. I actually slept pretty well!)

We came back home replenished, mental batteries recharged... and of course physically tired... but a good tiredness!

Do you like returning to the roots and distanciating yourself from civilization once in a while? What do you do, and how does it make you feel?


  1. I have fond memories of girl guide camp - so much fun. Do you still sing 'fire's burning'? I remember all the words to this day.

    1. We do still sing that song A! :-)

      I never knew camp would be as much fun from the leader side as it was from the kid side. It's just a marvelous experience each time.

  2. Hi! Back in the 70's, we lived right on the Minnesota/Canadian border. I actually could see Canada from a certain part of our land. So I have canoed and camped in Canada, believe it or not, on the Rainy River.

    :-) Marion

    1. You must have great memories of that, Marion!

      Rain or shine, we're always prepared! ;-)

  3. Glad to hear you had fun Julie. Camp's just around the corner for us!!

  4. I've never been much of a camper but I'm game to try. With five boys I really should embrace the wilderness more. Maybe next year. . . . :)

    I love that you take time to share your love of nature and knowledge with young people - that is wonderful!

    1. Hi Diane!

      It's an acquired taste, I hear (personally I was bitten by the bug before I could even consciously be aware of it), but when done the right way (with the right equipment and clothes) it's so rewarding!

      Don't forget the girls... they too can benefit immensely from contact with the wilderness. :-)

  5. I still live in a forest :-)

    I was a camp counselor too! What a fun experience!! I also have great memories of being a camper in the wilds of Wisconsin!

    My Boy Scout time was not as positive, as Morse Code was my dot dot downfall :-)

    1. I live in a forest too as you know now. Sometimes I go there, sit on a fallen trunk, and share my worries with some squirrel. Cheaper than therapy!

      Camp counselor is the best job in the world!

      Morse code, hahah! How about tangling your fingers in innumerable kinds of knots!