The Happy Camper: How We Choose to Get Around Out There

Kevin Callan talks about cliques in the outdoor world—and asks, "aren't we all the same?"

Credit: Kevin Callan

“I’ve learned that everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.” – Anonymous 

I live in Peterborough, Ontario—the birthplace of the modern-day canoe. This town takes canoeing seriously—maybe too seriously. I remember coming to town 30 years ago with a new streamlined Kevlar canoe strapped to my truck. The local canoe club members nicknamed it the “potato chip” and suggested I don’t show up for the next meeting until I have a real canoe.

What they meant, of course, was that I should bring a cedar-canvas variety, preferably made a hundred years ago and refurbished, or one built with my own hands. And they were quite serious about me not bothering to return unless I had one. I’ve heard of cultural differences but that was ridiculous. I came back for the next meeting, still with my potato chip and I was instantly shunned.

Mind you, that was a long time ago, and people change (but not always in Peterborough). Even kayakers have been allowed to join the local canoe club—something that definitely wasn’t allowed a few years back.

I’m not knocking where I live. After all, I prefer to canoe than any other outdoor sport. So, I’m quite happy there. But it seems if you’re not born with a canoe paddle in your hand (or a hockey stick) in Peterborough, then you’re better off moving to another town. I’m sure other towns are not so different. There’s probably a village of mountain bikers who shun backpackers or a community of kayakers who mock at RV owners. There’s also the debate over whether an ATV driver can get the same wilderness kick that a rock climber does. And there’s always new ways to transport yourself, or people who do a total switch-over from one outlet to another due to a change in lifestyle or interests.

What’s more important than what you use to get around while camping is that you actually go camping. We’re all basically the same moral fibre, with a slight difference in characters to make things interesting. So, whether you choose to canoe or kayak open water, or bike or hike a trail, shouldn’t really matter as much as simply getting out there to do it.

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