Is Camping For You?
Learn to Camp by Ontario Parks
Recently I was watching one of the local television news channels in my area when I observed a clip about a "Learn to Camp" program presented by Ontario Parks. I was immediately interested in participating and I went right away to my computer to register. While camping is not my thing, I wanted to expose my children to the activity rather than biased their opinion to my preference. You see, my early memories of camping as a Girl Guide was not necessarily fun ones; I mostly remember the challenges of setting up the tent and making those dreaded knots. I remember setting up camp as rather tedious and not fun at all; I did not enjoy sleeping on the ground and not able to have a shower. This aside, I decided that my family should have their own experience and decide for themselves if they wanted to camp. I did not consider that I might change my mind in the process.
What is the Learn to Camp Program? It is a pilot program offered by Ontario Parks in partnership with Foodland, Coleman and Pepsi. It teaches people who are novices to camping how to successfully and safely camp in Ontario Parks. The program is offered at three locations in Ontario; Bronte Creek in Oakville, Darlington Park in Bowmanville and Sibbald Point Park in Sutton. Participants can choose to learn how to camp in two ways:
1. Overnight Sessions- where you can try camping for the first time without the 'hassles and worries' of preparing items that you will need for camping. All the equipment needed for camping are provided. During two days and one night, participants learn all they need to know to become confident campers.
2. Communities Sessions These are free afternoon or evening sessions that provide participants with a taste of Ontario Parks. Ontario Parks staff will share their knowledge and love of camping while visiting community groups. See http://www.ontarioparks.com/learntocamp/community_dates.html for listing of community sessions.
My family and I decided that we would incorporate the "Learn to Camp" program offering as a part of our summer vacation plans. We choose to participate in the Overnight Session during a midweek in July. Prior to attending the program, we were provided with many details about what to consider about camping. We were also provided with a list of items that will be provided as well as what to bring with us. We also got a gift card to shop for essential food items that we will need for our camping trip; a package of freezer bags and coupon for fifty percent off a sleeping bag. I was pleasantly surprised about the amount of thought and details that the program planners considered and shared with participants. We felt that even before we had left home to participate in the experience of camping, we had received more value than the minimal fee that we paid.
At the day of the "Learn to Camp" event, we arrived at our site in the Bronte Creek Park, which is located in Oakville, less that forty five minutes drive away from home. We were all excited as we met our park guides/leaders and other participants. We were immediatley struck with how organized the leaders were; they had everything on site and there were no delays with the agenda for the day. Here is a sample of the activities of the two day events: (taken from http://www.ontarioparks.com/learntocamp/overnight_sample.html
Overnight Sessions - Sample Schedule of Activities
Tuesday (Day 1)
9:00-10:00 AM - Registration
10:00-10:15 AM - Welcome and Introduction
10:15-10:45 AM - Setting Up Your Tent
11:30-12:00 PM - Setting Up Your Kitchen and Packing your Cooler
12:00- 1:00 PM - LUNCH
1:00 PM - Campsite Safety
2:00 PM - Protecting You and Your Park: Meet a Park Warden
2:30 PM - FREE TIME
4:00 PM - Preparing Meals: How to Cook on a Camp-stove & Campfire
5:30- 7:00 PM - DINNER followed by FREE TIME
7:00PM - Your First Night Camping: What to Expect
7:30 PM - How to Build a Campfire
8:00 PM Hiking and Howling at Coyote
Wednesday (Day 2)
9:00 AM - BREAKFAST
10:00 AM - How to Tear Down your Campsite, 'Leave No Trace'/ Green Camping
11:30 AM - Program Wrap-up and Conclusion
Participants can use their campsites until 2:00 PM and enjoy the park and its facilities until 10:00 PM.
We were provided with all the equipment that we needed to camp. We were provided with a tent that sleeps seven people; a dining tent which provided shelter during our meals and used for storing other camping equipments; camping stove, propane, folding chairs, coffee maker, lantern, flashlight, air mattresses, park bench, water container, cooler, basin to wash dishes, dishes cloth, dishes, cups, disposable plates, cups and utensils, as well as snack for making smores, paper towels, dish soap, fire wood and more. All we had to bring were sleeping bags, pillows, sheets and our favourite foods. We were even provided with information on how to prepare our food prior to camping as well as what foods to consider for each meal.
At the end of the program, my family and I were extremely satisfied that we had a great outdoor experience. We felt that we were given a livelong opportunity to learn so much about the essentials of camping safely while having fun. We also felt that the value obtained from the experience far outweigh the fee by at least five times. My family and I are looking forward to our next camping experience. Yes, I have changed my perception about camping. I am looking forward to our next camping experience. We have already started looking into renting a camper/RV for next summer. Thank you Ontario Parks.