It’s Not Summer Till You Camp
Canada is the second largest country in the world, but there’s a relatively small population. What does this mean? A whole lot of empty space to go camping! Many of us do not consider it summer until we have been surrounded by trees, we smell like smoke, and we have eaten a s’more -or two.
The vast space, wilderness, and endless forests are definitely taken for granted here in Western Canada. I would recommend trying a night camping on a different continent, so one can come home and truly know what it means to be Canadian.
Comparing Cross Continents
In Australia, we rolled up to a campground outside of Byron Bay. I accepted the flush toilets and hot showers as I was not yet comfortable with the Australian versions of the spiders that might live in an outhouse. I sighed at the small, open campsite. But, when I saw the cooking area, it was a shock. There were large hot surfaces for cooking, a fridge, a microwave, a toaster, and wireless internet. This was just a kitchen with no walls.
In the UK, we drove up to a large field. It seemed no different to the sheep-filled field next door. This field, though, was filled with tents. There were no designated spots, one simply drove to an empty area, parked their car and set up their tent beside it. By the high point of the weekend, I could see more tents than grass. We brought our own disposable BBQ that lasted approximately an hour. I fell asleep that night to a combination of sheep and an intoxicated group of Scottish campers not five feet from my tent.
I’ve also been to a couple campgrounds in Italy that had cabins, a full restaurant, and a pool. They were like outdoor hostels.
Now, in Canada, a family might do what my UK friend called “wild camping”. We have government run parks with campgrounds. One will pick the most secluded campsite, surrounded by the most trees, and with the best looking fire pit. Kids are immediately sent out to collect firewood and roasting sticks from the forest floor and parents will set up tents and tarps.
The fire is the most important. Its construction is an art. It is bragging rights to be the one to start the fire, with the most natural supplies and the fewest matches. A skilled camper will use bark, moss, and fine, dry sticks to get the fire started. Many of us, though, do resort to using some old newspaper as our tinder and kindling.
The fire becomes the main source of heat, bug repellent smoke, and cooking. I’m not just talking about hot dogs and marshmallows; the fire cooks anything. Potatoes are wrapped in tin foil and placed directly on the hot coals, grills are balanced on rocks to cook steaks or burgers, and anything that can be skewered by a stick is held over the open flames. One of my favourites is a perogi. And then there’s dessert. A marshmallow roasted on a stick meets chocolate melted onto a graham cracker and creates a warm, melted, messy s’more.
What we would call wild camping does not involve regulated campsites. Maybe one drives down a dirt logging road until spotting a good area near water. This usually involves a short hike back and forth between the car and the campsite. Fire pits are created with large rocks, chairs and tables are fallen logs, and the beer is placed directly into the river or lake to keep cold.
I have also been on a few backpacking trips throughout British Columbia. One carries everything on their back. Overnight campsites are set up in clearings or by water sources along the trail. These camping trips often peak at atop a mountain with a breathtaking view and end with a real feeling of accomplishment.
Solitude and Relaxation
The purpose of camping is to sit back, breathe in the forest smell, escape the noise, escape other people, and to simply be in nature.
Nights camping are spent eating marshmallows, listening to a guitar strum, and watching the fire dance and spark. Someone always has a long, thick stick for poking the fire and adjusting the logs for optimal burning potential.