Canadian Lifestyles: Joy of Camping in Ontario
By Sioban Costelloe
Sioban Costelloe was born on the island of Dominica and raised in Trinidad and Tobago before migrating to Canada in 1997. Students are often asked what they did on their summer vacation. If you've never been camping, now is the time to start planning for next year.
The best way to see and experience the beauty of your new home in Canada is to go where Canadians go as soon as the days warm up enough. Go camping.
It's not that expensive to get started. The first step is to log on to www.ontarioparks.com and you are half way to a memorable adventure.
My very first time camping was on the Canadian civic holiday, Victoria Day weekend, May 24. The days were extremely warm and I had thought that summer was finally here. Holiday weekend…here I come!
I had recently discovered that garage sales are a great way to find good items for camping or your home at a low cost. Garage sales usually begin throughout the GTA as soon as the weather warms up in spring, and it is a time when families clean out their attics and garages, and place the items they want to sell out on their lawn or driveway.
It didn't take long before I had everything I needed for a great camping trip.
I drove to Rondeau Point on Lake Erie, a shallow lake with water that warms up faster than most lakes. I had phoned a month earlier to reserve a campsite and was pleased to see it was a sunny space with trees to string a clothesline.
After setting up my new tent and placing my cooler and portable barbecue on the picnic table, I arranged my camping items collected from various garage sales. Never mind the unmatched plates and cups, pots and pans, I was pleased with my findings and especially willing to try out my prize find, an old box guitar that I had restrung. I had visions of sitting on the beach and strumming a new tune for the next three days.
When I finally got to the beach, the sun was shining and the breeze a little cool but it felt good after I worked so hard putting my campsite together. I chose a spot to place my beach chair and paused to watch a flock of seagulls dancing from the waves as they hit the shore. It's almost like Trinidad, I thought to myself.
As I walked out onto the dock to dive into the water. I picked up my pace, springing into mid-air, bringing my arms above my head to form a dive. On my way towards the water, I remember thinking, "This is the life!"
In slow motion; I watched my fingertips touch the water and just as I was about to close my eyes to enjoy a good swim, my nerves reached my brain cells "Alert, alert cold!"
I was helpless as I felt the rest of my body fall into the biting cold water. I must of looked like Jell-O, as I shivered and jiggled out of the water, shaking and cold. I grabbed my towel, where I was surprised to find the bag of potato chips that I had opened on my drive to Rondeau. Well, those seagulls were all over my little bag of chips almost before it hit the sand and spilled. I shooed them away but my actions just alerted birds further away that here was a tasty meal.
The line at the public washroom was long by the time I got there. The showers were fairly clean and well-lit and Mr. Spider, hanging up in the corner, did not seem to mind me sharing his space. Mind you, I kept an eye on him.
I felt a little awkward using the public sinks amongst people I did not know but the teenagers seemed to have no problem bringing in their hairdryers and makeup. I laughed to myself and wondered where the party was.
I lit my fire and placed some sausages on to cook. Slap! My hand hit my leg. What was that sting? Looking down at the spot, I saw a mosquito, almost the size of a bird! (I am exaggerating of course).
I started spraying myself with repellent and then thought that I better had change into long sweats. But I had left them folded on my bed at home.
It was getting a bit chilly, but I thought, how much colder can it get? This is summer, right?
The fire had died down and I zipped myself into my tent, snuggling into my sleeping bag where those pesky mosquitoes couldn't get me.
It must have been some hours later when I woke up on the cold, lumpy ground. I realized that all the air from my blow-up mattress was out. I must have forgotten to plug it. Or perhaps my garage sale bargain had a slow leak after all.
I ventured out to make some coffee and light a fire. I wanted the sun to stretch her arms over my little campsite and warm my terrible night away.
As I gazed upon my picnic table, I could not believe what I saw. Butter all over the place, pots and pans over-turned, eggs broken, bacon strips floating in my cooler of melted ice - and there, sleeping in the box on what remained of my goodies, lay Mr. Raccoon himself, snoring away! Now, the Parks and Recreation pamphlets all warn that these animals are wild and dangerous. Under no circumstance should you ever try to befriend them.
So I said, "Ahem!" and like a true Trinidadian who speaks to anyone and anything, I pointed out the mess he made first and I then proceeded to ask him what he was doing in there. My ranting woke him up and he backed out of the box, giving me a proper raccoon growl and a snarl showing all his teeth with my breakfast stuck in between them.
Since then I have spent many more weekends during the summer at different Parks and Recreation camping grounds, continuously amazed at this beautiful country. But I am now wise enough to know that even at the shallowest lakes, a Victoria Day swim can be a chilly one. I have learned to bring extra bedding. And I have told the raccoon that lives in my friend's back yard that his cousin has a bad attitude.