I wish you had been there.
Fourteen bighorn sheep just grazing not forty yards from the trail. They surely saw me, but didn’t take any notice. What a spectacular day I had. A blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds, not too hot, not to cold—the perfect fall afternoon hike. How did I get so lucky? It all started with the summers I spent at camp Kanawana.
I was twelve my first year and I remember leaving the Montreal parking lot in a big yellow bus. My sister had been to camp the year before and described it as though it was some sort of Smurf village deep in the forest. What I discovered has proven to be much more magical.
I must have tripped at least thirty times on the way to opening campfire. It was the first time I had walked a dirt path in the dark and it was nothing like the sidewalk I dragged my feet on in the city. I learned a different way to show my appreciation than just clapping that night. I was invited to be a participant, not just a spectator. My life took a different path that day. When we got back to the tent that night, we were told we were going on a five-day hiking trip in the Adirondacks.
I learned how to pack light: one dry and one wet set of clothes. How to waterproof my sleeping bag. How to suck the air out of a bag and tie a slipknot. How to pack a camping bag, collect wood, set up a tent, cook over an open fire, and hang a pack from a tree. How to be respectful of others and my surroundings. I learned that a physically exhausting hike yielded not only a great view, but also a sense of accomplishment and a common story I shared with my new friends.
Each day on that trip, we cleaned up. A candy wrapper here, a burned out tin can there. We even found an old, partially buried shoe. We collected all the garbage we could find. Not because it was ours, but because we had learned we were powerful and could influence our surroundings in a positive way. We left only footprints and took only memories (and a couple of extra bags of garbage). I had not been a Kanawanian for a full week yet and already I had changed.
When we got back to camp, we screamed ourselves hoarse during cheers after lunchtimes, learned about “Wally” the water droplet and the ten secrets of the forest, raided the kitchen one night, sang about “silver bells on a string” at cabaret and went to my first dance. I learned a lot about myself that summer and the many summers that followed at Kanawana.
And now here I am at a trailhead almost 30 years later with a pocket full of little bits of garbage I collected on the trail this day. Just goes to show that “Wherever you go, whatever you do, you’ll always be a Kanawanian”.
Come be part of Kanawana’s 125th anniversary celebration this summer.
- Festivities kick off with an adults only gala at McKiernan on Thursday, August 22 from 6:30 pm to 11:30 pm.
- A Kanawana reunion weekend at camp will start on Friday, August 23 at 7:00 pm and end on Sunday at 2:00 pm.
When someone yells out “KAMP KANAWANA, ARE YOU READY?”, be there and relive the magic.