by Carolyn Cook – former staff

My memories of Camp Big Canoe are so numerous and impactful, that it is hard to know where to begin. I was there for several years as kitchen staff in the early 80’s. My perspective is different because at the time I was in my early 30’s and a single mom. The best part of Big Canoe was that not only did it give me summer employment, but also gave my daughter a full summer at camp. Priceless. The days were long but there is no better way to spend a summer.

My memories include:

– Wildlife – there were deer mice which one night my daughter and another kitchen staff member rescued from the live trap in trippers and tossed in bed with me.

– A young bear who loved our slop pit and they used my leftover stroganoff to bait the live trap used to relocate him

– Watching campers go frog hunting at the bridge

– the snapping turtle which had CBC painted on it’s belly and even though caught and relocated several times it always returned home to Hart Lake

– Tom’s dog Toby who needed his tea every evening

– Seeing moose tracks on the camp road while going to Mr. Allen’s store

– Carolling on the last night of each session

– Popping corn and putting oranges in Stockings for the Christmas in July celebrations

– Practical jokes which included moving belongs and sending the owner on scavenger hunt ending with said items doubled bagged at Turtle Rock

– Very early in the morning having a very homesick camper sent to me in the kitchen

– Stargazing watching for falling stars

– Trips to town in the camp van to do laundry

– Mrs. T’s tent camper outside the lodge and her teaching campfire cooking

– The privilege of having the cottage with the only bathtub in camp

– Surprise at how many campers chose porridge (or gruel as Bill Wheeler called it) over Rice Krispies or Cheerios

– The staff member who was teary and homesick for the whole summer till the last week when she was teary because we were leaving and going home

– Watching my daughter do the lake swim while I can’t swim a stroke and the sealed baby food jar with a red sparkled lid filled with Hart lake water which still stands on a book shelf, an award for her swim

– Last but not by any means least Tom’s advice to “Keep a Balanced Canoe”

The memories are numerous but the impact remains. I can’t smell a camp fire without feeling a sense of longing for Camp Big Canoe.

Last summer during some health concerns, I would regularly have my blood pressure checked with instructions to close my eyes and think of myself on the beach. When I closed my eyes, I visualized Hart Lake from the chapel. It worked every time.

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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