Ahead of my CIT summer in 2017, I didn’t envision myself as a tripper. I always loved canoe tripping, but I was a short, skinny and weak 15-year-old who hated mosquitos and didn’t like swimming in the lake. Even by the time I decided I wanted to be a tripper, the concept of leading canoe trips for campers didn’t make sense to me. But then again, nothing seems rational about my feelings towards canoe trips over the past 12 years.
Before my first canoe trip in younger comics, my counsellors projected excitement. They made it seem as if canoe tripping was the best thing in the world. And from that moment on, I was convinced. No matter what was to come, I knew I would still love tripping.
I often found myself uncomfortable on canoe trip. I didn’t like getting my feet muddy and wet every time our boat got stuck on a beaver dam in a creek. I swung my arms tirelessly on portages to try and swat away any bug that dared to try and bite me. I cried on my first night ever on trip, and cried some more as an older zodiac when my cabin got caught in what seemed like a never ending downpour. I fell countless times walking portages while carrying gear heavier than myself. I would have to wait for someone to come back and help me get back onto my feet. There were long paddles where I didn’t want to be in a canoe anymore, and my arms felt like they were about to fall off.
But yet, through it all, my passion for canoe tripping never wavered. With every experience, no matter how uncomfortable or unpleasant, I only grew more fond for canoe tripping. I was convinced from the beginning that canoe trips were the best, so I sought ways to make them memorable. And that is why my love for canoe trips seems so irrational.
Yet, somehow, some way, it all makes perfect sense to me. While I don’t think I could ever fully explain it, I think Ben Fagan summed it up best:
A normal day at camp is awesome and fun. But every day of scheduled periods is the same. On a canoe trip, every day is memorable for better or for worse. Many of my fondest camper memories come from uncomfortable times on canoe trip.
Looking back at the moments that felt uncomfortable at the time, I see the effort my staff put in to challenge me in ways that were difficult, but not past my limits. These experiences taught me to grow, adapt, and to appreciate everything tripping has to offer. This sentiment, I carry with me into my daily life.
Canoe tripping is a unique experience. While not everyone will, and is not expected to, love canoe trips like I do, I encourage everyone to make the most of the time spent on trip. Make every beautiful Algonquin sunset count, spend as much time as you can around the campfire at night, sing your heart out while on a long paddle, skip rocks to your heart’s content, roast as many marshmallows as you can and make the most of every waterfall you see.
Many camp memories can be replicated. When the busses leave at the end of the summer, cabins will stay in touch. Some will be able to swim in a pool, go for a waterski, or play basketball with their friends. Few people will be able to look up at the stars on a clear night in such a calm, peaceful environment surrounded by a group of their closest friends.
So while my love for trip seems irrational, it is anything but for me. When I take campers out on trip. I don’t try to downplay their concerns about portaging and bugs. I never try to convince campers that canoe trips are the best, because that is for them to decide. Instead, encourage campers to make the most of the short time they will spend on trip. Because, one day, every former camper will look back fondly on the many memories made as a camper on trip.
-Barry Bytensky (2022 Head of Trip)