The Happy Camper: My 2023 Year in Review

Our regular Monday columnist reflects on his achievements and highlights in 2023.

The British soldier Simon Weston once said, “If you constantly dwell on the past that’s where you end up living.”

I am a firm believer in not dwelling on the past. Reflect upon it and learn from it, absolutely. But I think reliving past moments repeatedly will adversely impact your present life and ultimately lead you to sadness and misery.

With that said, I always indulge in reminiscing to help bring in the new year and remind myself how important it is to spend more time in the wilderness, share my joy of it with others and do my part in helping to preserve it. So, here’s a breakdown of my outdoorsy trips in 2023.

Nights spent in a tent totalled 36. Nowhere near my average of 60. But with wildfires raging across Canada, smoke filling the sky, campfire bans, heat waves, a plague of mosquitoes throughout the season and a wee bit of face surgery for skin cancer (wear your sunscreen out there everyone!), I got out as much as I could—and loved every minute of it.Unsplash

Some Highlights:

  • Took two canoe trips to Algonquin, one with my regular canoe buddies in the spring around North Tea Lake, and the other in the fall around Opeongo.
  • My partner Kristine, the two dogs Oliver and Angel and I pitched our tent at two of Ontario’s Provincial Parks—Bon Echo and Sharbot Lake.
  • My canoe buddy Andy Baxter and I paddled the entire length (200 kilometres and more) of Ontario’s Mississippi River.
  • UK paddling legend Ray Goodwin and family joined me on a canoe trip along Georgian Bay’s Philip Edward Island.
  • My good friend Ashley McBride (a.k.a. Speedo Man) and I joined forces—twice—on a fishing and camp cooking competition with the well-known YouTube celebs Ben and Adam, called the Paddleheads.

I also hit the stage again. I was a keynote speaker at 20 events across North America, with over 30,000 people in the audience in total. It was great catching up with my canoe cronies at the Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show, Michigan’s Quite Adventure Symposium, Madison’s Canoecopia, the final hurrah at David Bain’s Ontario Backcountry (which will definitely be missed) and countless other small-town libraries and local naturalist clubs.Kevin Callan

It’s important to give back to the canoe community, so I donated the profits I made from The Happy Camper Canoe Pack through Recreational Barrel Works (it sold out in less than 48 hours!) and The Happy Camper Canoe Paddle through Badger Paddles. Donations went to camps that take youth out on canoe trips who wouldn’t otherwise get a chance—Camp Outlook and Project Canoe.

It was an honour to receive a nomination by Sault College for the prestigious Ontario College’s Premier’s Award, given to alumni who enriched others and gave outstanding contributions within Ontario and throughout the world. Cool!

Writing was still an obsession throughout 2023. I continued to scribe a weekly article for Explore Magazine, and I kept writing my columns in print for Explore and Paddling Magazine. My best Explore articles are:

Podcasts seem to be taking over traditional TV morning shows, but I was still on Global and CTV a few times. I continued my syndicated The Happy Camper show on CBC radio across Canada and a few other regular radio morning shows, totalling 76 interviews. I literally lost count of how many podcasts I was on. However, I preferred being the interviewer rather than the interviewee, and continued my Whisky Fireside Chats on my KCHappyCamper YouTube channel, conversing with very inspirational outdoorsy types including Canadian authors Roy McGregor and Adam Shoalts as well as legendary filmmaker Robert Perkins and Explore Magazine’s own editor David Webb.

My YouTube channel KCHappyCamper continued to grow, gaining more subscribers—totalling close to 30,000 now. In 2023, I uploaded 47 videos, received 477,000 total views, and generated 13,200 likes, 1,487 comments and 1,947 shares. The most watched video was Algonquin’s North Tea Lake & Beyond, with 3,289 hours watched, 15,000 views, and 446 likes. The longest viewed video, meaning the longest the audience continued to view, was Late Fall Canoe Trip—Stout Stew vs Walleye Waffles. Over 86 per cent were still watching the video past the 20-minute mark. That’s huge in the YouTube world.Kevin Callan

Social media also grew. My KCHappyCamper Facebook page’s monthly average post reach was just over 10,000 accounts and the monthly post engagement (comments and likes) was averaging 2,000. The audience was 59.60 per cent men and 40.40 per cent women. The average age was 35 to 65 years old. Canadians were the top viewers and the lowest was accounts from Poland. Come on, Poland, you can do it. The highest post reach was on the news of the outdoor company Eureka ending its business (but still selling products into 2024). That post’s reach was over 20,000 and the engagement was over 1,000. The most viewed Reels on my Instagram contained an interesting mix: the one where I put out some unethical canoe camper’s campsite in the backcountry of Algonquin (6,392 views), Evan Lefebvre breaking Tim Foley’s axe handle (5,486 views), my new whirligig garden ornament (4,944 views), and a reel on the release of The Happy Camper/Recreational Barrel Works Tripper Canoe Pack (4,172 views). The overall winner, however, was my partner Kristine trying on her leather jacket from her days at Queen’s University (7,206 views). The jacket still fits—way to go, Kristine!

Teaching others is still what fills in most of my day—and pays most of my bills. I finished my 34th year at a part-time teaching job as a college instructor, showing youth how to identify birds, mammals, fish, trees and more. The class is made up of high school students who don’t necessarily fit into the regular school system. I teach a college course titled Ecosystem Skills, and if they pass, they finish high school and go into post-secondary. No student failed my class in 2023, and the average mark was 97 per cent. That’s incredible.

Check out my 2023 overview video posted on my KCHappyCamper YouTube channel. I hope it motivates you to get out even more, throughout all the seasons in 2024.

Happy New Year everyone.

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