|Ways to Camp||
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|Sharing the wilderness with children from an early age not only develops the childrens' appreciation, wonder and understanding of nature, but can also help them learn a great deal about themselves and their place in the world. Camping is one way to get closer and connect, both to each other and also to our natural heritage.
To ensure your trip meets the needs of your family, I've put together some tried and true suggestions and resources to help you plan your camping vacation.
Hiking generally refers to long nature walks taken from a base camp. You usually don't carry all of your gear with you, but it is a good idea to bring along water, snacks (extras for the kids!), a small first aid kit, a map or trail guide, and any clothing that might make a sudden change of weather more bearable. Be sure to keep to established marked trails when hiking with young children--this is not the time to go trail blazing or bush whacking!
Canoe tripping is a way to travel as you camp. Canoeists camp at a different site each evening, packing up all their gear each day and paddle to a new destination to set up camp. Although canoe trippers may occasionally stay at one site for two consecutive nights, they usually move on each day following a loop, out-and-back or shuttled route travelling along rivers, lakes and ponds, and portaging in between bodies of water, over dams, and where there are rapids or waterfalls. Portaging means "carrying". When you portage on a canoe trip, you carry all your gear until you can re-pack your canoe and continue on. Canoes are usually carried by a single person by inverting the boat and wearing it "hat" style, balancing the centre thwart or carrying yoke across their shoulders. Two people can carry a canoe, but this is actually more difficult, and those people don't tend to remain friendly for very long. When paddling, the stern paddler (person at the back) steers as they paddle, and the person at the front stays on the lookout for shallow spots, rocks and logs to be avoided as they paddle. Be sure that the stern paddler learns how to properly execute a "J" stroke before you set out, or you will find yourself tiring easily and unable to maintain a straight course. It isn't a difficult stroke and can be learned from this video; when paddling with more than one person, only the stern person (paddler at the back of the boat) will use this stroke.
Canoe tripping is a great way to get away from "the things of man", at least to a certain degree. It provides lots of opportunity for wildlife viewing as well. The scenery changes as you explore new areas each day. Kids enjoy helping paddle, watching ripples as they drop rocks in the water, searching for fish and water bugs in the water, spotting loons and other wildlife, dragging small toy boats or sticks from the back of the boat, singing camp songs and practicing map and compass skills. It's a good idea to keep a pack of snack foods handy in the boat. When canoe tripping, you can afford to take more gear than you could when backpacking, because you spend most of your travel time in a boat. Still, you will need to prioritize what you bring more than you would when car camping (see equipment for suggestions, and also food).
If you feel a little hesitant about canoe tripping, try just doing an overnight by paddling across a small lake to a campground for the night. In Algonquin Park, there are two "paddle-in" campsites designed especially with this purpose in mind.
When planning a route with children, consider paddling for 1-3 hours a day, then spend the rest of the time exploring the campsite, swimming, hiking, and otherwise playing around. Plan on an extra day in case you become wind-bound. If you are on a large lake and the wind gets strong, pull off the lake and wait it out. Often winds die down around sunset and again around dawn. Always err on the side of caution when making weather decisions on a canoe trip.One excellent resource for canoe tripping, which includes advice for families is the book The Happy Camper by Kevin Callan.
When you walk through the forest, you become a part of it. We often spend so much time moving quickly driving, boating, flying, etc. that we miss a great deal of detail. Walking changes all of that. You see things you would have otherwise missed.
By car camping, I mean any camping that is done where you drive to a campground and you use a motorized means to do your travelling. While it may not be a true wilderness experience, you may still have a chance to connect with nature by day hiking, exploring the local waterfront or joining guided interpretive programs.