Long ago in a galaxy far away it was decided that my dad and I would go on a camping trip. Dad had camped many times back in Scotland and I had just been introduced to the pastime at the local cub scout camp. After a weekend campout there I was ready to tackle the wilds of North America. Mum and my sisters wanted nothing to do with this getting out among the bugs and the wild animals so as a birthday present for me dad and I were going to go away for a long weekend near the end of August.
Now we didn’t have any camping gear to do this with so what we required was borrowed from friends and co-workers. A small pup tent and a couple of sleeping bags came from one of the neighbours across the road. We weren’t going to take a stove of any kind but rather cook over a fire and dad commandeered one of the oldest pots and a frying pan from the kitchen. We were also packing swim wear a few clothing changes etc. and planning to go to Algonquin Park, a place none of us had ever seen driving in the family 1954 Dodge.
As any kid worth his salt, I was getting more and more excited as the departure date approached. On the Friday for the start of the trip it was all I could do to wait for dad to get home from work. Soon we “men” I, 8 years old and dad in his mid thirties, would be off before supper so we could get to camp and set up before dark.
Dad got home and went to get a shower while I fidgeted even more. When he got out of the shower mum and he went into their bedroom and I could hear them talking in there. The next thing I knew dad was getting on the phone and I was wondering why we weren’t hitting the road already. Pestering him he told me the horrible truth. Mum had decided she didn’t want to be left home and now wanted to come along with us and of course that meant the 2 sisters were coming along too.
Now any decent pioneer/ outdoorsman can tell you there is no room for womenfolk on a wilderness trek like we had planned. Much worse than that however was the fact that we had no way of accommodating five people and that was why dad was on the phone.
I went to the living room and sulked as he managed somehow to find others with equipment they would lend us. Mum and the girls were working packing up more clothes than anyone could ever need on a month trip let alone 4 days. I sunk deeper and deeper into a funk realizing the whole weekend was going to end in disaster.
Finally we got going about 7 pm. We couldn’t of course just drive off to the park we had to spend the next hour or so around the city getting the stuff for the trip. By the time we actually got out of the city and started down the highway it was starting to turn dark out and it was obvious we weren’t going to get there and get camp set up before sunset.
We drove up north. North of Toronto that is. Up hwy 11 which at that time was a two lane road and into the dark. The trip was ruined no question about it. In the middle of nowhere at about 11 o’clock dad pulled off the road into a little hollow and announced he was too tired to keep driving. Mum had no licence at the time and so we were done for the day. Some guys just can’t keep going. Of course he had as usual been out of the house and off to work before 6 am so I didn’t blame him nearly as much as the women who had destroyed everything.
Then dad got a couple of sleeping bags out of the car and laid them on the ground behind the car. They were for him and I. SOme blankets were spread out inside the car for Mum and the girls and we settled in to sleep. Now sleeping out under the stars sounds pretty romantic but as most people know sleeping out under the stars in late summer Ontario means you can actually get dehydrated from the amount of blood the mosquitos will drain from you. Many of you also know that the sound a mosquito makes can be heard thorough the deepest sleep ensuring that you are not in fact going to get any real rest. Still we men were out so the women could get the benefit of the closed car for their weaker constitutions. Things weren’t entirely catastrophic anymore just miserable.
Somehow I dropped off to sleep eventually and when we woke in the morning it was to discover the pull off we had chosen the night before was actually the entrance to the town dump. We got up packed up and set out again. Got to the Park in mid morning and were told by the Ranger that Lake of Two Rivers was the best spot for family camping.
We arrived there to find a campsite with a couple of hundred spaces for campers. The general store which still exists was there with food and kitchy mementos. We got to a spot and set up the tent. The large family size tent none of us had ever seen before. It took a couple of hours to figure out where all the poles and guy wires went but finally it was up. Then we figured out how to get the coleman stove fired up and mum made our first camping meal. Grilled cheese sandwiches. Many of you I’m sure also realize that grilled cheese is just about the perfect camping food and tastes way better out in the wilds than it does at home. Things were getting better than I had hoped. It’s just possible that there is room for females out in the wilds after all.
Of course the end result was that we spent the weekend swimming and hiking, playing with other kids in the campsite. Camping neighbours helped, showing how some of the gear worked and where firewood could be got. Everything worked out well, and as we left on our way home we stopped in Huntsville for a special treat. A restaurant meal for lunch and then on to the long long trek home. We didn’t go camping the next year. That would be the one when mum was 8 months pregnant with my kid brother. We did however go back over and over to “the Park” till one after another of us got so old we had summer jobs and couldn’t go on the family vacation anymore.
Even after that mum and dad continued going there to Lake of two Rivers pretty much every year till Mum died. Now this year the 4 kids are getting together there again. And Mum and Dad, they’ll be there too. Their ashes are scattered there in the campsite but don’t tell anyone. That sort of thing is illegal.