Car Camping Canoe Camping Dream Camping

Car Camping:

Maybe 14 years ago I first went camping by myself, but it was drive-in camping in Algonquin, and I had my car and people uncomfortably near to my lot. It was okay, but boring - with people around and everything I needed at hand or in a cooler, and no-one to share it with - I got restless and left a day or two early. I think I got drunk and slept quite well. I did this a few times but found it a lonely occupation. Solo winter drive-in camping wasn't much different, even though there were very few people around. I had a few nice moments, like the time I walked out on the frozen lake, leaving a footprint trail across the snow-covered skating rink - no one was there and I found a small glassy patch of ice through which I saw a fish, and through which a fish saw me.

The next summer I went to the same camp spot, and after an evening keeping a raccoon at bay, and deciding to put my food all in the cooler and then in the tent, I sat at the picnic table and had a few lonely beers. Hours later as the glow in my propane lantern waned and as I had grown suitably drunk, I retired to my tent and passed out. An hour or two later I was awoken by the baritone yet staccato ruffing sound of a beer snuffling at my tent. I ran out of the tent, jumped on the picnic table and watched a black bear race off in to the woods. I had violated the golden rule - do not bring food into your tent in bear territory. Easily the dumbest thing I've ever done while camping (while not camping, I have done exceedingly dumber things, but that's another story or two).

Canoe Camping:

But all that was awkward and felt somehow inauthentic. The first solo canoe camping trip I took into the backcountry was anxiety-ridden. I canoed into Algonquin Park a few hours and found an island site soon after stopping at a first site and spotting bear scratches in the soil and moss by the water's edge - I'd literally jumped back in my canoe and paddled away. Soon I had arrived on an island, which I figured would be devoid of bears and other such carnivores. And it proved to be. The lake was mine, as no-one had made camp during the week I was up there. But as I fell asleep the incessant clicking of a bark beetle (or so I figure now) kept me wondering if there was a bear out there tapping against a tree with his bear-claws, plotting ways to attack and eat me. I don't know - all I know was that I stayed awake and terrified until first light came. But after a few trips on my own into the backcountry I guess I worked out my mental kinks and came to find each trip singularly refreshing and helped me grow. The quiet that the woods afforded me, the gentle lapping of the lake water, the smell of smoke and the sight of a camp fire was therapeutic and soon I found each camping trip left me more and more calm. Work was easier on my return, relationships were easier, life was easier on my return. I found myself day-dreaming about camping and when life got tough I went to my happy-place as it were. My happy-place was a camping trip.

Dream Camping:

I dream of taking a month or two off and camping in the Rocky Mountains, or in the Temagami region of Ontario. A canoe, a backpack, an axe and a saw - now that would be heaven on earth. We'll see.

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