by Beth Armstrong – former Camper & Staff

One summer it became a “thing” among the staff to decide on a favourite time to look at Hart Lake. You could ask a staff member and they would have an exact time, down to the minute, ready as an answer.

That summer if someone asked me for my favourite time I would say, “No question: 4:03PM. It’s during free-time and the waterfront is a bumping place. The afternoon light isn’t too strong, so everything feels crisp and in focus. But the best part is that the sun, at its specific 4:03PM angle, always makes the water sparkle. Trust me: go stand on the dock at 4:03 and experience it.”

While I cherished Hart Lake buzzing with activity, others valued its moments of serenity. Those people might have chosen a time like 7:11AM when the lake is partially hidden in mist and its glassy surface is sleepily anticipating the daily morning disruption of Polar Bear swimmers and Voyageur paddlers. Another favourite is during campfire – maybe 8:26 – just as the sun is setting and the patch of dead trees at the far end of the lake are illuminated by the soft light of dusk. Or at night, from Chapel, with a full moon reflecting off the water. But for me, it was all about three minutes after four.

That same summer, I was swimming at free-time and at 4:03PM I called out, “best time to look at the lake! Enjoy it now!” As a junior camper pulled herself out of the water onto the dock she asked me whether it was actually possible to choose a “best time” for the lake. “Hart Lake is home” she said, “and home is always a good place to be”. She punctuated this wildly thoughtful statement with a cannonball into the water and left me standing on the dock awestruck.

I learned a lot over my years at Big Canoe not least of which was that junior campers are probably, if not definitely, the wisest people at camp – hence this modestly delivered and cannonball-punctuated nugget of wisdom gold. Despite what I and many other staff proclaimed, this camper was right: there is certainly no best time for Hart Lake. Home is where the Hart is, and each summer we come home to Hart Lake for all that home is good for: comfort; strength; fun; and being with the people we love. These virtues of Hart Lake are not time specific and do not last for only a minute. They stretch out across the summer, stay in our thoughts through the winter, and each year, Hart Lake always welcomes us back for more.

Now, if you asked me for a favourite time I would say: now and anytime. Trust me: go stand on the dock and experience it right now. Or, even better, cannonball right into the water; that’s the feeling of coming home.

Camp Big Canoe

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


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