I’ve never been what you call outdoorsy. In fact, the word outdoorsy is used around me about as frequently as I am in the actual outdoors. So just in that zone above never.
As a boy growing up in Canada, I read a lot of books about the wilderness. I tore through Farley Mowat’s young adult novels, and wrote a book report on Never Cry Wolf in seventh grade, Jean Craighead George’s My Side of the Mountain had a powerful impact on me, and I used to pore over a collection of bushcraft manuals we had for some reason. Thus I learned how to trap rabbits, build a fire using nothing but sticks, and create lean-tos. Knowledge I’ve never come remotely close to using nor remembering.
This deep-rooted fascination with the wilderness never once prompted me to actually enter anything more remote than a city park. For I was a reader, not a woodsman.
The nature of Canada
Having lived outside of Canada for most of the past dozen years, my identification of myself as Canadian has faded from my forefront. Like a travel backpack whose maple leaf patch has fallen off. However, I do sometimes still feel a responsibility to represent myself as more handy with a canoe paddle and hatchet than I actually am. This is partially to burnish the idea of Canadians that people I encounter hold in their mind, and partially as a way for me to pay homage to my youthful fascination with the wilderness. And, it allows me to try on the identity of fearsome woodsman, even if it’s only briefly, incidentally, tangentially, at a dinner party, 8,000 kilometres from the craggy forested heights of the Rocky Mountains.
This is not to say that I outright lie about my nature-savviness; but if someone alludes to Canada’s
renown as a place of natural splendour, I tend to smile smugly, knowing full well that to do so implies that I’ve partaken in the joys of that expansive natural bounty at least once.
But the fact is: I have never been camping. Sure I’ve been “camping” a couple of times in my youth, but something in scare quotes is never the same as the real thing. I’ve slept outdoors, in an RV, and even sat around more than a few campfires, but I’ve never done a damn bit of real camping. All of that is about to change: very soon I’ll actually be in the Rocky Mountains, with tent and sleeping bag, cooking food over a fire. And hiking and stuff.
There will still be training wheels on – it’s car camping not backcountry, after all. And Banff and Jasper in August are apparently full of tour buses. But still: there will be wild animals, there will be tens, food will be prepared on a campstove. All the key elements will be in place; we will be camping.
I am delighted in the anticipation, and bursting with pride at the thought of actually living this commonly held misconception of Canadians, which I have carefully maintained the image of – not to mention connecting, in a small but significant way, to the ancestry of humanities, with outdoor nomadic sleeping, charred food cooked over mankind’s finest discovery, and the exploration of wilderness.
But the question remains: does this rush of positivity and excitement relate exclusively to the idea of camping, or will the reality of it be fun as well?
That’s to be determined.
But regardless of whether we enjoy the experience or not, I will tell you that I did.