The summer that I was 11 years old, I went to summer camp with a friend from school. My parents drove me to Algonquin Park in Ontario, Canada and dropped me off on the adventure of a lifetime. 4 weeks at camp where I would end up meeting some of the best friends of my life, and having some of the most valuable learning experiences that come only with roughing it in the woods. There was no running water or electricity. We bathed in the lake, at mediocre meals, slept in canvas tents on wood platforms, and went on canoe trips lasting anywhere from one night to 14 days.
The very first canoe trip I went on from camp was a 4 day trip. We arrived at our start location and got paddling, then portaging, then paddling some more. Halfway into our first day, our counselor realized she’d forgotten the dish pack, the bread, the toilet paper, and…the tent. If you are unfamiliar with the world of canoe tripping, this meant that we couldn’t cook, eat peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, wipe our butts or sleep inside anything at night. It rained the whole 4 days. In that 4 days, we were creative out of necessity, snuggling in under our canoes to keep as dry as possible, sleeping on picnic tables under a pavilion, and wiping our butts with leaves. I am not sure what we ate.
Instead of having this experience and swearing off of canoe tripping, camp and life in the wilderness forever, I was hooked. I wanted to go on trip after trip and begged to go back to camp again the next year and the next. I went for 7 years until after a year of being a counselor. I met my husband there, too!
I have a special place in my heart for camp, the people, the experiences. My daughter is now 8 and nearing the age that she can start going. So, this past spring when I found out that there was a reunion for those of us who had attended during the 90s, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to go, relive some of the best times of my life, and introduce this magical place to my girl.
We flew into Ottawa Thursday night and rode up to camp with friends the next day. 22 years after that first day at camp, one of my best friends in the world is the girl that I shared a tent with that first summer. We rode up to camp, reminiscing, preparing my daughter, getting our nervous jitters out, and laughing as we sort of sang old camp songs.
While there, I caught up with old friends and learned that apparently – thankfully – 15 or so years can go by and people are the same. Wonderful, comforting, familiar same. It was like picking up right where we left off – singing around the campfire, playing silly games, hiking, swimming, laughing, laughing, and more laughing.
While I was experiencing these things with my old friends, my sweet 8 year old girl was making memories and friends of her own. She ran around with new friends like they’ve known each other forever – doing arts & crafts, making up plays, swimming, eating smores, exploring, hiking, singing, laughing, laughing and more laughing. It was amazing to see and showed me that some things in life do come full circle. I was thrilled that she loved it so much she wants to start going to camp next summer. *gulp* Bittersweet.
It was a magical couple of days that went far too fast. I couldn’t believe it was already time to go come Sunday morning. A wild, long trip to make for 3 days, but so worth it. Sometimes in life you have to let go and realize that there are some experiences in life that are worth the tired, hungry, expensive, and crazy. A weekend at one of the most beautiful places on earth to me with my girl was one of those experiences.