The Unbearable Lightness of a Canadian Camper

We have now entered the deep freeze in Canada that is officially known as January. It gets so cold in January that anything with a moving part accidentally left outside becomes frozen solid. But we Canadians are a hardy bunch and the severe cold, which sometimes approaches absolute zero, does not prevent us from:

a) Strapping on thin strips of wood to our feet and hurling ourselves down steep icy mountains.

b) Strapping on a wide strip of wood to both feet and hurling ourselves down steep icy mountains.

c) Sitting on a wide strip of wood and hurling…well, you get the point.

And the point is this; our frozen brains get a little addled. So it is during this time that our thoughts naturally turn to camping.

Yes, we look forward to the heat of summer where we replace our insane winter outdoor activities with the insane summer outdoor activities of sleeping on dirt, eating cold canned ravioli, and communing with nature in the form of wild animals.

Personally, I like putting my family in the position of communing with wild animals. It makes us appreciate the order of creation. Animals get by on instinct whereas man gets by on reason. Except for politicians and lawyers who get by on powerful anti-reason stimulants that make them think up ideas like providing addicted drug addicts with safe injection houses and free drugs. Even animals have enough instinct to know that this is probably a bad idea.

Anyway, this reminds me of a camping trip that took place shortly after my wife and I got married. I was still doing my graduate studies and my wife and I went on a camping trip to Algonquin Park with some fellow graduate students. We set up camp on the shores of Lake Opeongo, which in the tongue of the Algonquin Indians means, “let’s watch campers make fools of themselves.”

The weather was pretty bleak, it was rainy, damp, misty, foggy, gloomy, dank and cold; the seven dwarfs of an impending not so great campout.

Nonetheless, we successfully pitched our tents, got a fire going, and filled our bellies with campfire hot dogs. Before it got too dark, being the experienced campers that we were, we suspended all our foodstuffs about 30 feet off the ground between two trees with a mechanism so ingenious and elaborate, you just had to know that there were at least five graduate engineering students involved as was first proven by Greek and Roman philosophers in the following dialogue:

Aristophenaxemenes: How many graduate engineering students does it take to suspend food between two trees?

Diogeplatonimus: At least five.

Quad erat demonstrandum.

Feeling secure that our food was safe from wild animals; we commenced to relax about the campfire having the occasional nip of fermented beverages to build up our courage in the event that a wild animal appeared on our campsite in search of something to eat. This possibility consumed a great deal of our conversation to the point that we began making up silly puns about a particular wild animal:

“It would be unbearable if something showed up on our campsite.”

“We would just have to grin and bear it.”

“It’s so dark, I can bearly see.”

And so on. Thus, our senses were highly attuned to the possibility of a visit by this particular wild animal, when my wife, who had been sitting nervously on the other side of the fire, made her eyes grow to the size of dinner plates, pointed behind us, and yelled, “what’s that?”

Theophotelexominus: How long does it take at least five graduate engineering students to displace themselves from one side of a campfire to the other?

Helix: Less than three nanoseconds.

So there we all were crowded on the safe side of the campfire staring into the wild brutish feral eyes of…a baby raccoon. He looked at us like he thought we were a bunch of oafs, turned tail, and waddled off in search of some more sensible campers.

After our heartbeats settled down to something less active than a NASCAR engine, we retired into our bedrolls.

My wife and I woke up later on in the middle of the night to listen to what must have been at least 30 bears wandering around our camp site, all of them practically right outside our own tent, licking the bugs off of leaves.

Where was that baby raccoon when you needed him?

Nick Burn is a freelance writer, husband, father of three, engineer, teacher, and webmaster for the Canadian Catholic Information Network. In his spare time (hah!), he enjoys camping, skiing and reading.

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