Summertime out of the city

Camping with friends beats roughin’ it with the folks

The Wolfe Island ferry—known as the Wolfe Islander III—is one of the sweetest rides in Kingston, and it’s totally free!
The Wolfe Island ferry—known as the Wolfe Islander III—is one of the sweetest rides in Kingston, and it’s totally free!
Credit: 
Photo courtesy of Don MacGregor / wolfeisland.com
Algonquin Park, the largest provincial park in Ontario, is home to many a happy camper.
Algonquin Park, the largest provincial park in Ontario, is home to many a happy camper.
Credit: 
Photo courtesy of sympatico.ca

Remember camping with your family? Father chopping wood like Paul Bunion, mother cursing under her breath because she forgot the matches and little sister crying because after thirty seconds on site she’s already fallen in the lake? Well, no more. The days of mosquito-ridden, charred dinner, cut-the-familial-tension-with-a-knife camping trips are a thing of the past.

A little creativity can turn the things that made roughing it with the fam so rough into a great weekend getaway with friends. Here are a few fogey-turned-fun suggestions:

1. Go canoeing

Grab a paddle, a swimsuit and maybe a few sandwiches, then head out onto the open water. It’s surprising how much fun floating around the lake can be when your good-humoured attempts to tip the boat are met with laughter instead of thinly veiled parental threats. And with the sun beating down on you, why not cool off with some gunnel surfing? It never fails to entertain.

2. Sing a song

Now, I know what you’re thinking: who wants to suffer through a barely recognizable rendition of “Starry Starry Night” all the while trying to prevent your hapless little sister from falling headlong into the flames? But give it a minute. Break out a guitar and do your best Neil Young impression. Or bust a move to your favourite 80s classic. If all else fails, anything Adam Sandler is sure to delight.

3. Eat camp food

Gone are the days of black-on-the-outside-raw-on-the-inside foil wrapped potatoes and questionably prepared aquatic animals. All you need is a sturdy stick, a pocketknife, some over-processed pig flesh and you’ve got yourself a weenie roast. In all my years of cooking hot dogs over an open flame I have not once been able to ruin one. And what better way to finish off the meal than with a hot, gooey s’more. This traditional treat never gets tired. Take a graham cracker, a piece of your preferred chocolate bar (Dairy Milk is my chocolate of choice), add a piping hot, golden brown marshmallow and suddenly, all is right with the world.

4. Play a game

At first it seems corny but nothing takes you back to the footloose and fancy-free days of childhood like a round of Marco Polo or a fierce game of noodle tag. So ditch your inhibitions, pick your favourite coloured weapon and let the games begin.

5. Have a bonfire

The indisputable camping classic is of course the bonfire. At the end of a hot summer day, nothing beats passing a warm summer night in front of a roaring fire. Pull up a chair, crack open a cold one and lose yourself in the crackle and colour of the bright flames.

With some new ideas in hand head up to Westport or Picton for a change of scenery. Or, if you’re willing to venture a little farther afield, Algonquin Park offers a real taste of the Canadian wilds. Whether you’re looking to bond with nature or reconnect with friends, a camping trip done right will do wonders for anyone’s soul.

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