by David Salt – Camper 1993? (can’t remember…), skills 2000, CIT 2001, staff 2002-03


It is a bit of an odd memory, but I remember getting up in the night, or early morning, before the sun was up, to go up to the elephants. At the beginning of my time at camp I was always a little afraid (of the dark, or the forest, or a new place). Eventually, that fear turned into comfort. The need to lay on my bunk for a while to see if anyone else stirred for the same intention, before embarking on my own, diminished. The quick-trot pace at which I traveled the paths to the top significantly slowed over time.

And it came to a point where I started to enjoy it, and be completely at ease with the quieter, darker walks through camp. I realized that even though it was dark, you could still see, and though I was by myself, I wasn’t alone, in that everyone had to make that trip, and that you might see others on occasion. It taught me to be a little more unafraid, a little more calm and confident; not just in myself, but in my surroundings and my situation, in life and with others.

I remember waking up early on out-trips, standing out by the water, and waiting for the sun to warm me.

I had my first chance at Big Canoe to work in a proper commercial-style kitchen. I am not sure if I knew at that time that I wanted to be a chef, but I know that I am one now!

Bill reminded me recently that I once crawled the entire length of the front decking of the dining hall for a comic book. I don’t even like comic books that much, I think I was just using it as an excuse to crawl under the deck.

I’m not sure if this one is more about camp or more about my brother who, in fairness, was a big part of Big Canoe for me…

I don’t think I could ever say I disliked my brother, we got along well, but the six year age gap certainly accentuated our differences, and I think that being the younger, I never completely understood or recognized all the things he did (or tried to do, or our parents tried to make him do) for me.

Our time at camp gave us a chance to spend time with each other in a different way than we would at home, a break in routine.

At the beginning, I didn’t see him much; he was definitely too cool to hang out with his younger brother, but I do believe it was made up for from the attention I got from his friends recognizing me… “you’re Steve’s younger brother!”

The summer that he was leaving for university, I was honestly quite happy to see him go. His room at home was a big step up (he had a balcony and and his own bathroom), and now it was mine. At the end of session 4 (I was still a camper, he was staff), before I boarded the bus for Richmond Hill, and soon back on to Abu Dhabi, his friends kept asking and saying, “Will you miss him? I know I will.”

Nope! I wanted his room.

On the bus, just one more person asked me, “Will you…” and I broke. I used to spend most of the summer with him at camp (even if we didn’t see each other that often), but this time he wasn’t flying back with me. I cried, lots, and yes, I was going to miss him. His bedroom was cool, but mostly because it was his bedroom.

It wasn’t long after that I was able to enter the Outdoor Skills program, and it was probably one of the best summers I’ve had. Living with and being a part of a group of people for a month, honing the skills we were learning over the years as regular campers (swimming, canoeing etc.) and putting them to use for one long, oversized out-trip.

And one of the best parts about it? Steve was one of my councilors. For me, we went from being brothers to being friends. I am sure it would have happened eventually, but it never would have happened in the same way without Big Canoe. And that’s a big part of going to camp, right? A chance to make friends? It works.

One memory, which I am pretty sure “someone” had a bit of trouble for, was this one time we had brownies for dessert.

There was one extra tray of brownies.

“Someone” stood on a chair and announced this extra tray of brownies, and proceeded to place it on the floor in the middle of the dining hall before jumping out of the way from the scrum of campers descending onto it from every corner in the room.

I’m sure there are a few lessons to be learned here… the main one being: don’t put a tray of brownies down in the middle of a dining hall filled with kids.

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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