Goodbye to camping

Castlegar News bi-weekly columnist Karen Haviland reflects of the origins of a lifelong passion

With October now here, my thoughts are turning towards the change of seasons and I’m already missing summer and all it had to offer.

My husband and I estimate that we have spent about 30 days at home since early May. The rest were spent camping at a friend’s property on the Slocan River in Winlaw. Yes, we even camped during the miserably cold and wet June and I suspect we will continue camping well after Thanksgiving.

Don’t ask me why, but camping is one of my most favourite past times (even before reading). Actually, reading and camping go hand in hand. But that’s another story.

My love of camping began early in life. My father was a salesman and was frequently out of town for extended lengths of time. Mom was left to raise and entertain five children, all of whom were born within a span of seven or so years.

Sometimes, during those long days, many of which were spent in cold climates such as Winnipeg, mom would be hard pressed to keep five unruly and bored children amused. Mom and dad never were big on letting the television set, or “boob tube” as it was known in our home, be our babysitter. Instead, she encouraged us to use our imagination.

That’s when we discovered the joys of camping in our living room. Mom, ever the good sport, would haul out all her old blankets and sheets and help us build our “tents,” which were strung from the couch to the chairs and anything else which would hold them. There, under our tents we would let our imaginations run wild and would while away the days pretending we were on great camping adventures.

Some of those adventures included picnic lunches, courtesy of mom. She supplied the food and we supplied the imaginary ants. It’s amazing how delectable a peanut butter and jam sandwich tastes under the shelter of old army blankets.

Those early days of “camping” were interspersed with real, honest-to-goodness days of camping. Those peanut butter and jam sandwiches, complete with the odd grains of sand were every bit as good as those shared under the living room tents.

My love for camping grew the more mom and dad, complete with their five ruffians, would brave the elements during those “real” camping trips. Even though any mother will tell you that camping isn’t always as much fun for mothers, due to the planning, packing, unpacking and endless cooking, I do believe that mom had the camping fever in her.

Although mom was never a Girl Guide, she could build a fire out of almost nothing. Her knot tying was amazing, as was her ability cook meals over a campfire. You have to remember that back then, camping was a lot different than it is today. There were no trailers or camp stoves for us. We were truly roughing it.

I remember one time in particular, we were camping at Pelican Beach, on Lake Winnipeg and mom was making mashed potatoes. The day was miserable – the wind was blowing and campfire ashes were flying everywhere, even into the mashed potatoes.

When we asked mom what the black specks were in the potatoes, she simply told us it was pepper. Those mashed potatoes were delicious, even though I now know that those specks were ash. I suspect it wasn’t the mashed potatoes that were so scrumptious, but rather the comforting feeling of having a full stomach, my family around me and having not one care in the world. Despite the wind and rain, that day sticks clearly in my memory.

We were together. We were a family and we were camping.