Wednesday, August 27, 2014


This is why I love to camp. One of my favourite spots.
I love camping. This seems to surprise people. Co-workers greeted my plans with a mix of skepticism and horror. Should I take that as a judgment of my presumed camping abilities? Perhaps I will take it as a sign that I am always so well put together that no one could ever imagine me without a straightening iron.

Before this trip, we had taken a 15-year hiatus from camping. This break was born out of pure laziness. We would often take a day to canoe from one of the more remote access points on the west side of Algonquin Park or take drives up old logging and camp roads in an attempt to see wildlife. But my in-laws have a cottage in Muskoka. There was no need to sleep in a tent. That's just silly.

This year the cottage needed to be closed early and I had a yen for wilderness. So we packed up our gear and headed to the forest. The prep brought back a lot of great memories. I never camped as a kid. Italians don't do that. We'd get up at the crack of dawn to go tomato picking and for the Pisticci Club picnic, but not camping. My first camping trip came when I was 26 years old.

I don't know why exactly it happened, but Dave and I became obsessed with seeing moose. I craved it. We would get up at 5 AM to hike to a remote spot in hopes of a sighting. Often we were successful. We have lots of really bad moose pictures.

I really was excited to revisit my favourite haunts. In hopes of catching a Thursday night Wolf Howl, we decided to forgo interior camping and camp in the wilderness setting of a really developed campsite on the highway 60 corridor of Algonquin Park. But there was a sign posted at the campground kiosk warning of bears in the area. I was hopeful.

We learned a few things on this trip. Tips and nuances that will so come in handy when planning future camping trips, such as:
  • When a campsite is rated as "average", it means "not good".
  • "Radio free" and "dog free" campgrounds attract families with a million children each. All under the age of 3. All of whom are parented by people who don't care if their spawn are eaten by a bear.
  • The wolves never howl. It is a ruse to get you to the park. It is always canceled on the day of because "no suitable pack was found." Damned wolves. I did experience it once, and it was the most haunting sound I've ever heard.
  • Do they make craftmatic adjustable thermarests? What about pillow top versions? Is it unreasonable to bring a headboard camping?
  • You can't bring your own firewood. They are trying to keep your nasty bugs out of the park. Conveniently, you can buy wood there. Our bag o' wood must have been freshly plucked out of Pog Lake that very morning. If we had run out of water, we could have drawn water from one of the logs. Despite burning every bit of paper and cardboard box we had with us (who needed the actual cereal box anyway), that fire was not going to start that first night. It wasn't cold, so there was no need to try to dip one of the pillow cases in the gas tank to get things going. It was suggested, but we didn't do it.
  • Did you know matches can go bad? Why didn't we bring a BBQ lighter? Was that really my definition of "roughing it"?
  • When you make a helpful list of stuff to bring, and come up with great ideas for things to add, it helps to actually write those things down as you think of them. A few of them are lost forever.
  • I am far more dependent on my morning coffee than I was 15 years ago.
Despite some small bumps and a few mosquito bites along the way to reacquainting ourselves with camping, it was actually a great time. So now we're seasoned again, right? That's what I'm telling myself. The next trip will definitely be canoe camping, far away from the developed sites (and pesky humans).

Oh and, we did see a moose.