Wow, I love camping. Okay, maybe I should qualify that. I have been camping very few times in my life, and my experience this past week would by many not be strictly called "camping." Yes, there was a tent. Also, a lake. Trees, dirt, bugs and wildlife. However, there were also flush toilets, sinks, (cold) showers and other running water. There was a table and bug netting, and other fun things including various kinds of camping stoves and barbeques, coolers, canoe rentals and fresh ice from the store.
Should you choose not to call this true camping, I probably wouldn't argue with you. I did, however, have a wonderful time.
Alright, with one exception. We did have one trail hiking disaster. To make a long story short, it was an 11 km trail, the (few) water bottles that we had were filled with lemonade rather than water, the trail was considerably more demanding than the "moderate" rating it was given in the book, and the heat rose to over 35 degrees Celsius in the shade with swamp-like humidity. Despite my tendency to Eco-Challenge my way through the last few kilometers (going into a walking trance and stopping when I realized I'd left people far, far behind), it took us over six hours to complete. I took care of my two cousins (aged 14 and 9) when we returned to camp, both of whom were suffering from heat exhaustion in varying degrees (and thanking my lifeguard training as I did so); however, the members of the party who chose to guzzle Ginger Ale and Diet Coke upon returning home, despite my objections, have no one to blame but themselves. (Right, Aunt Yvonne? Right, Chris?)
I saw moose, three of them, most notably a mother with her young ... er ... mooseling, standing about twenty feet away from me (and a hoard of other people who stopped their cars, pulled out handycams, etc). It was funny to hear everyone oohing and aahing over the "little baby," seeing as this little baby was about the size of a small pony. But now I can call myself a true Canadian: I've seen real live moose. Whew. Can check that one off the list.
Also: a bear. A very large brown bear, snacking on some garbage at the local dump. Rumour has it that a few nights before there were 14 bears seen there snacking; however, due to the placement and watchful eye of the particular bear that I saw, I was not going to walk any closer to investigate the possible presence of additional bears.
Honestly, I wish I could have stayed longer; despite sibling rivalries, objections with certain neighbours and the person dubbed Flashlight Guy, it was all remarkably relaxing. I even did some writing, curled up in a chair by the fire.
Driving home, with all the windows open, the sunshine beating down and the wind strong in my face, I decided it would be wonderful to live further north. The highways on which we drove were long and winding, wending their way through forests and thick outcroppings of rock (Canadian Shield, my geography lessons remind me) which had been blasted away to let the highway through. Everything was so very rich and green, a deep, vivid green that you don't see further south. And the highway would turn and bend, and the trees would open up, and there would be a lake, looking so clear and still. Some were isolated, with cottages hidden upon their rocky shores, while the ones closer to towns had boats -- canoes and kayaks -- bobbing on their surfaces, people diving from docks.
And suddenly I could see myself living there, in a small house that stood with all its windows open, the trees crowding around and a wind chime hanging from the porch. I'd have stained glass in the windows, and a hammock, and perhaps my own little dock that I could lie on and read a book and dive from to swim every morning while the air was still cool. I'd have a laptop, so I could write at the table if I wanted to, or on my porch sitting in the wide deck chair with a portable phone kept in the cup holder. And I could imagine the long trips in to the city to pick up friends (perhaps from the airport), and having family visit, and how I'd have to be on good terms with the postal delivery people and local UPS delivery folks so I could send out manuscripts and receive boxes of books ...
And of course it occurred to me that this was summer, when the trees were still all vivid and green, the roads passable, the days hot. Because, of course, within the space of a few months fall and then winter will come, and those pretty little houses and cottages will be locked in with snow and ice, those long gravel driveways slick and difficult to shovel. I would have to hibernate for eight months of the year, and no one would see me except for the occasional trip out when I couldn't stand the isolation or had eaten through my stockpile of canned lentils. After all, there is a reason that beside these long, winding highways there are narrow paths with their own stop signs. They're snowmobile roads.