Camp Big Canoe Love Stories

by Doug Clark – Staff 1977-80

My Mom took our family to Bolton Camp when I was 3 years old. I remember that I was in a skit with some much older kids – not a shy kid – a sign of things to come maybe. I really haven’t stopped going to camp since. I started going to Camp Scugog for the two week camp when I was 6; I switched to Sparrow Lake at age 14 for a Teenager Camp, then was a CIT & counsellor at Sparrow; next I followed my CIT Counsellor to Camp Big Canoe where I was on staff for four summers. I fell in love with Big Canoe the moment I got there – this was what camp was supposed to be like: in the woods; in tents; canoeing and tripping were the centerpieces of the program; almost completely cut-off from the outside world (or so it seemed to someone who grew up in an apartment building in Toronto); and everyone knew everyone else, like a big family. Though my love of Big Canoe may have also had something to do with that girl I met that first night, who has been following me around since then – my wife, Patti.

Camp, especially Big Canoe, is a magical place where campers are transported to a world where everyone has a place, everyone is not just free to be themselves but encouraged to be, and, quite literally, is a place where everybody knows your name. I was a counsellor all four years because I wanted that front row seat with the campers. Some of my Great Camp Moments from back then: Floating down the Muskoka River in the sunshine after waking up in a puddle in a tent in a campsite on a hill at 5AM. We just laid back in the canoes and talked about anything that came up. I look back and smile at my 18 year-old self giving life advice to 13-15 year-olds 😊 ; I usually counselled oldest boys so when a 15 year-old camper came back for a second session he was in my Unit again. He brought a Joke book with him to give me – said something about me thinking I was a funnier guy than I really am? I still have the Joke book; In an eating contest I beat Dave Parr by eating 13 hamburgers and 3 hotdogs – he stopped at 9 burgers but who just wants to win by 1; Canoeing through Algonquin Park down a river – coming around the bend seeing a large bull moose grazing in a swampy area – he just watched us float by quietly – probably the only time that Unit was quiet – it was a Tripping Unit of 14-15 year-old girls & boys.

Author Bio

Camp Big Canoe is a not-for-profit overnight recreational camp for kids ages 6-16 in Muskoka, Ontario, Canada

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