Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Conquering Canadian Camping

river, bridge, shadows, people, nature
Me and Zeds
I consider myself something of a veteran camper. Not a hardcore, out-in-the-woods-with-nothing-but-my-tent, camper but a civilized-campsite-with-toilets-and-showers camper.

Throughout my childhood and up to my teens, I went camping in France on family holidays. I have innumerable happy memories of these trips - hot sticky car memories, Vivaldi's Four Seasons while feeling slightly carsick, early morning zip sounds, discovering unexpected playgrounds, smelling other people's dinners in the evenings, earning a franc for finding a forgotten tent peg, the joy of parents coming into the water to splash, speaking Irish to confuse small Dutch children who spoke good English, walking up to the campsite shop in pyjamas to buy bread in the mornings, terrifying and exciting thunderstorms in a rattly tent...  With all this and the addition of living in Canada where camping and campfires seem almost obligatory, it is no wonder I was keen to bring the Zeds camping.


Preparation really started last year when I bookmarked a tent so that I'd be emailed if it was about to become a bargain. I read the reviews and ignored the bad ones. I am quite good at that. As it was our first family camping trip and, as I only realised after booking the site and buying the tent, Husband's first camping trip ever, we picked somewhere close to home. We did a test run of the tent in the garden and the Zeds slept in their sleeping bags for the week before we were due to go.  I was more proud of getting the tent back into its carry case after putting it up than I was of putting it up all on my own (with a little help from Z1).

I packed up the car , thinking of my dad all the time as I tried to do it as efficiently as possible - squeezing squishy things into tight spots and making maximum use of the space. I had lists stuck up in the kitchen and ticked them off as I got things done. I was the queen of camping organisation. Z2 had just graduated from nappies meaning less bulk to pack but also leaving me wondering a little anxiously how far away the toilets would be from our tent.

camping, children, camp chairs, campfire
The Zeds on site

Our site? Oh, our site was glorious - large, shaded, secluded, backing onto the little river, not too far from the toilet but not so close we could smell it. Glorious and wonderful. Never mind the noisy, radio-playing neighbours across the river. Husband hadn't really expected neighbours, let alone noisy ones.

We put up the tent with careful attention to which way the door should face and started pumping up the mattresses. I was very impressed with the luxury of the air mattresses - a far cry from the canvas and rubber lilos that I was used to. I was, in fact, rather excited to try out our grand queen size air mattress but that fell through when I unfolded it to find that the stopper was not attached. I valiantly attempted to keep the air in by leaving the pump attached and sealing with bubble gum but, in the end, the Zeds top-and-tailed on one single mattress and me and Husband shared the other. Thankfully, we are somewhat of a miniature family and it was reasonably comfortable.

For the Zeds, a lot of the focus of the camping trip was on marshmallows and s'mores. I had bought a fancy extendable toasting fork, Husband set the fire and the Zeds were assured that after the hot dogs and burgers, they could toast marshmallows. Our fire was very smoky indeed. In fact, I think it contributed to my worst-headache-in-the-world-ever ™ (with apologies to those who suffer truly debilitating migraines - that phrase kept echoing in my head all night as I tried to sleep). However, we had deliciously smoky burgers and delectably charred hot dogs. Turns out the Zeds don't really like (smoky) toasted marshmallows.


nature, sunlight, sun, leaves, trees
Not the weather when we woke
after our first night but later on
We woke up in the morning, ready for Nutella on bread for breakfast only to find that we had committed the rookie mistake of leaving our cooler bag in the open. There were no bears to worry about but a pesky raccoon stole all our bread, marshmallows and chocolate biscuits. This was not a great start to a rainy camping morning but, luckily for us, it turned out that some campers in another part of the site were putting on a free-for-all pancake breakfast so all was well.

Despite smoke, headache and no double mattress, despite rain and stolen food, despite noisy camping neighbours and more trips to the toilet with Z2 than were really necessary (not 'cause he has just toilet-trained, though, turns out there was a bridge on the way to the toilets and he kept saying he needed to go so that we could play Poohsticks on the way back), I loved it. I have already been researching other sites which are radio-free and further away. I had memories triggered from unexpected sources  (notably the blast of warmth and smell of toothpaste intermingled with toilets in the wash block) at every turn and I welcomed them all.

You may also be interested to know:
On our return, when packing up the queen mattress to be returned for a refund due to the lack of a stopper, I found the stopper. Perhaps I was not the queen of camping organisation after all.


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