LTC leaders

Ode to you, my Learn to Camp campers and crew

Today’s post comes from our 2015 Learn to Camp coordinator Katie Roberts.

I come from a family of campers.

family camping in the 1990sBeing outdoors was part of my every day routine. I found comfort in the sound of the wind rustling through the trees, building mud pies with my sisters, stacking rocks to create never-before-seen structures (I was sure mine was the next masterpiece, ready for the art world!), watching garter snakes bask in the sun, and washing sand off my toes after a day at the beach.

Fast-forward to the present. I coordinate the Learn to Camp program, where I help people build their own camping memories.

Working with the campers and leaders in the Learn to Camp program, I’ve had the chance to see nature and camping through fresh eyes. It has allowed me to revert back to the wonder of when I first discovered a bug hanging out on my tent, the smokey taste of campfire cooking, and the night sounds that surround you as you snuggle into your sleeping bag at night.

LTC family in tent

We often get enthusiastic feedback at Learn to Camp. Most people are quick to thank their leaders for the great experience. However, what the campers (and LTC leaders) don’t know is now it’s my turn to say thank you.

To our Learn to Camp leaders

When I first met the 2015 Learn to Camp leaders, their personalities shimmered and have only continued to shine throughout the summer. These leaders give their time and energy without reservation to all groups that come through the program. They stay positive in light of any challenges they may face. They look for new and creative ways to engage our campers.

LTC leaders being silly

They pour all that they know and have into taking groups who are reluctant, hesitant, even scared at times, and knocking down those walls to open up a new world of possibilities – that of the camping world—to campers. They smile through it all just because they want each and every person who comes through the program to see the joys of camping.

Thank you to this wonderful crew, the starting point for so many families and their camping memories. You add character and life to the program, which would otherwise just be limp words and actions.

To our partners

LTC equipment with leadersI don’t want to sound like “that” person regaling the good ol’ days…but I definitely need to take a moment to say that when I started camping with my family ages ago, camping equipment was not what it is today! I existed on tents with ground sheets (cue flooding in a rainstorm) and hefty flashlights (that could do serious damage should a sibling, say, throw it across the tent at you).

In this program, I feel childlike glee towards our equipment. I realize that lanterns that have four units that individually detach (and turn on and off!), dining shelters with UV protection, and tents with tub floors and colour-coded sleeves probably shouldn’t excite a person my age to this extent (I’m talking goofy smiles and resisting the urge to clap each time I use it here folks)…but they do.

Thank you to all our partners who provide the support to make this program a reality. Our equipment and products give our campers the confidence to succeed.

And, especially, to our campers

campers setting up siteA joy I always take in visiting a provincial park is making my way through the different campgrounds to see how campers embrace the camping way. Often I find campers have created their own home-away-from-home on their campsites.

They take pride in how they set up their tents and shelters, carefully placing their equipment and adding their own personal touches to their site (fun patio lights for evenings, signs or site decor—I even saw a camper with an inflatable palm tree!).

Learn to camp celebrating tentOur Learn to Camp campers are no exception. While they may be new to camping, they have just as much, if not more, invested in their camping experience. Campers come to the program so open and willing to learn. They bring an enthusiasm for camping that is special to those just entering into this adventure for the first time.

It has been a moving experience to watch each new group. They start the weekend filled with fear of the unknown, but soon develop into confident campers and find out just how capable they are. They embrace everything we give them and the biggest reward they give us is their excitement for camping.

I’ve only scratched the surface on what I could say, but my conclusion to this season is this: new to camping or an old hat at camping, get out there and embrace each moment.

LTC leaders and campersFace each sound, sight, scent and texture (unless it’s poison ivy — I’d stay away from that if I were you) with the excitement and eagerness of a person who has never experienced it before.

Explore what nature and Ontario Parks has to offer you with fascination and never fear.

And from me to you…

…thank you for a wonderful season and for being part of our Learn to Camp and Ontario Parks family. You are in our memories, as we hope we are fondly in yours.