by John Dinner – Staff 1998-2001, Volunteer, Member of the Board of Directors

My first summer at camp was also Mulchy’s first summer at camp.

If you’re not aware of who or what Mulchy is, let me explain. First off, Mulchy is a tree. A wonderful tree. A tree that I instantly felt a connection with, and has surely been a witness to the love and joy that makes the Spirit of Camp Big Canoe what it is.

Camp Big Canoe has a long history of being a steward for the environment and has spent countless summers…well 50 actually (at the Hart Lake site)….teaching children, adolescents and adults alike the importance of staying connected to our Earth.

As such, in 1998, Camp Big Canoe was awarded a green award (for lack of better term) from some organization (the name of which, escapes me). As part of the ceremony to honour the work of the Camp Big Canoe staff and Board of Directors, a number of dignitaries and even some local media descended upon camp prior to the start of the 1998 season to present a plaque and a tree to plant for a photo op. A wonderful recognition of the stewardship that is so important to camp. Problem was, whomever was responsible for bringing along our tree forgot, and decided to pull off somewhere along Fraserburg Road or the camp road, stuck a shovel in the ground at the base of some small seedling, dug it out of the ground, and brought it along for the ceremony and said photo op.

Now I’m not sure exactly how I came to find out about Mulchy, but the story of being told not to worry about this little tree as it would likely die and that they would bring another tree by another day, kind of pissed me off and I became determined to nurse this little dude back to health. With a proper hole, a little mulch (the mystery of its name unveiled), some water, and a lot of love, I knew it would prosper. Well I hoped. Now whether anyone believed it could be done, for me, it became a symbol of my time at camp, and sign of things to come as I learned that at camp, if you’ve got an idea, you’ve got people willing to help you. Here was this out of place little tree and here I was, an out of place 22 year old trying to figure out my place in my first summer of camp. I was determined to make my summer a success, and I was equally determined to ensure Mulchy’s survival. We both got a lot of help.

That first summer was a tough one on Mulchy. Sitting at the corner of the playing field, close to the gravel (see: dusty) parking lot, exposed to the sun for those long summer hours, often being abused by balls, frisbees, campers, and staff whipping around with abandon and joy. Sometimes oblivious to Mulchy, sometimes not. Mulchy had its moments when it looked as though it wouldn’t make it. My summer? I also spent long hours in the sun, abused by frisbees and campers and staff who whipped around camp with abandon and joy! So it was a no doubter. I was hooked. It was a summer I can easily identify as being life changing. I hoped the same for Mulchy.

By the end of the summer Mulchy had made it, and while maybe not thriving, there was hope that the little tree was going to survive the harsh winter. We parted that summer, both with uncertain futures, but I believe both filled with the belief the best was yet to come.

By the spring of 1999, I had gone from nervous first year counsellor to nervous first year Assistant Director. Upon my first trip up to camp as part of the Directing team I of course headed straight to Mulchy and there it was. Still stunted in growth, but there, hanging on. It was there that it was decided that looking after Mulchy would become a Community Duty (everyone’s favourite part of the day), giving a little conscious love and attention, and water to our ever strengthening tree. With some new mulch (of course) and a renewed sense of possibility, I’d love to say Mulchy thrived, but still it seemed to be barely hanging on. Much like how I felt in my first summer as Head Counsellor.

By the summer of 2000 it now stood maybe four feet (from it’s original two, maybe three feet), and by the end of 2001 it might have been four and half feet. But it was there, as my time as an Assistant Director wound down after three summers, I knew Mulchy had become a fixture. Mulchy, like me, had found a home.

Hopefully on July 2nd, you too can come visit Mulchy to see, and even feel, what 20 summers of bearing witness to all that happens at the top of the hill can do for any living thing!

Mulchy, me, Bill, and my first born – 2013


Camp Big Canoe

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

1 Comment

Mike Smith · June 15, 2017 at 8:00 am

I remember that year with such fondness! Much love to you “Snack! xo

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