Spirit Quest


Summer time ... and the camping is easy

By The Rev. Dr. Hanns F. Skoutajan
True North Perspective

It's cottage season, for some, but not for us. Many years ago, shortly after we were married, my spouse announced that we are not cottage people, “We are going to buy a tent.”

Of course tents are much cheaper. Some of my friends had bought crown land, water accessible only, with the proviso of erecting a structure of certain dimensions  within a limited period of time. We went camping.

Another reason my spouse gave me for not owning a cottage  was that she was in no mood to spend all summer hosting even friends. She knew whereof she spoke inasmuch as her parents owned a cottage at Cavendish in P.E.I.

She also enforced her negative argument by reminding me that all male and some female cottage owners were always fixing things, “And you can’t tell one end of a screwdriver from another.” And then came the clincher, “When you pick up a tool it invariably draws  blood.” So much for her confidence in my mechanical ability!

Thus one day she marched me into an army surplus store in Toronto.  I emerged lugging  a 9  by 12 wall tent. That summer we set out for a provincial park. Soon we added a kitchen shelter to our entourage.

Camping  then was different from today. You bought a permit at the gate and then looked for a suitable lot, parked your stuff and registered. You were now set for 21 days. No reservation necessary or possible, for that matter. Coming early in the season assured one of obtaining a much coveted water front lot. Soon we added a canoe to our equipment. The stuff to cart was more than a VW could manage. We were forced to buy a larger car.

I frankly yearned for one of those tent trailers and spent a good deal of time salivating over the growing variety of camp vehicles. And then we bought one. a basic model, just two pullout beds. Along with the kitchen shelter we had adequate accomodation

We made lots of friends camping but were exempt from entertaining. Cooking for others was out, everybody brought their own wieners and patties when we shared the campfire. There was of course no bedroom laundry to do, no toilets to clean and no eaves or dock to fix.

Not only had we acquired a lot of camp stuff but also two kids who soon became enthusiastic campers. Bon Echo Provincial Park on spectacular Mazinaw Lake became our favourite. Indeed the children considered it their second home. We developed a community of friends and arriving at the park was like a homecoming.

However, my spouse had not lost her affection for a  tent. Walking about in the campground one saw a great variety of types of wonderful outdoor equipment. And then “eureka” we bought one, a Eureka, a beautiful tent that saw campgrounds from St.John’s to the Pacific Rim. By this time our offspring were children no more and my wife and I were alone again except for their occasional visit.

As we aged  so also increased our need for more creature comforts. Cottages were too expensive. We had discovered that a good many of our cottage owning friends had inherited them from their parents. The price of cottages had come to match city real estate and so we rented.

O yes, visitors came but I was free from the burden of ownership. If anything went wrong I called the landlord while I lounged in the hammock with a book.

I  know lots of cottage owners who spend much of their  holidays working and loving every minute. They would be bored out of their tree if they could not wield a hammer, hatchet, or hacksaw. Things going wrong were no burden but a challenge. And they seemed immune from drawing blood.

Ours is a country of a great variety of natural beauty, of mountains and lakes, forests and ocean shores. Not owning a cottage enabled us to travel and enjoy it all.

There is, however, a lingering envy and regret when I hear friends reminisce about their cottage home, a place where their children grew up, learned to swim, canoe and fish. Each year as the days got longer they could hardly wait to head “up north.”

But then I also recall the high rocky ledge at Killbear Park, near Parry Sound, where each evening campers gathered to watch the setting sun, earlier each night. And then came that  dreaded day  at the end of the season when the clanking of tent poles and the shouts of farewell echoes as tents disappear, van and trailers loaded with stuff and kids edge out from their place from among the trees. Good bye until another year.

Camping or cottageing  is a spiritual experience, a time close to nature. It therefore behooves us to be conscious of this precious environment, to protect and honour its integrity.

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