Canadian Camping Newbie @32 Years

My first time camping in a tent on the ground was when I was 32 years old.  I just started to know my partner who had been on numerous camping trips himself.

That seminal, first camping time was during a bike trip outside of Toronto.  It meant cycling with our gear, sleeping bag for  over 70 km. on my first bike touring camping trip. He had an orange nylon tent which regrettably had a hole.  It rained that evening.

Camp site for overnight stay during 800 km. bike-camping trip from Toronto to Cornwall, along Thousand Island bicycle parkway. Ontario 1995.
Camp site for overnight stay during 800 km. bike-camping trip from Toronto to Cornwall, along Thousand Island bicycle parkway. Ontario 1996.

Camping  –a Cultural Experience
Camping is a cultural experience, because not all cultures celebrate the great outdoors in this way.  Not at all.  For Chinese immigrants, especially those from rural villages like my parents, camping was just odd to them. They appreciate tame Nature…flowers and trees but no large wildlife wandering around and wonderful Nature from a safe distance.  Sleeping on the ground and outside in unheated surroundings, to them, was equivalent to family memories of poverty, lack of electricity and hardship –something they’d rather not remember.  Sure homo sapiens, were “camping”.  But let’s get real: long ago it was survival and daily living until you died.  Camping is a choice  –unless you are homeless or live in nomadic society.

Anyway, for first few camping trips, I watched my partner do most of the tent pitching or later, I unpacked bags.

Cycling from Jack's farm to Toronto --a 105 km. bike trip. Bethany, Ontario 1993. Photo by J.Chong
Cycling from Jack’s farm to Toronto –a 105 km. bike trip. Bethany, Ontario 1993. Photo by J.Chong

We camped during some bike trips ranging from 100 km. to 1,000 km. For long bike touring trips, approximately 50% of  our accommodation would be camping in parks while remaining evenings were whatever hotels and bed ‘n breakfasts, I snagged in advance.  I was happy to take upon accommodation booking for pillows and real bed mattresses.  As a couple, we camped for first 8 years of cycling.

Iron-Endurance:  Other Long Distance Cycling-Campers
Then later, I gradually didn’t press for camping experiences.  I needed more efficient use of limited vacation time: less time on tent set-up and de-camping.  Vacation was  time for exhilaration of adventure, discovery on bike and for pampering myself with a clean hotel or inn.  Jack got his camping-cycling fix by embarking on several solo trips  –across Canada twice.   For his early retirement self-gift, he spent 6 months in New Zealand cycling and camping solo.

Now, I haven’t camped  over the past 15 years.  However, biking and camping as two interrelated activities on a trip, has ramped up my appreciation of other cyclists with more iron endurance to do it on cross-continent, even worldwide trips for several months.

Campsite near Niagara-on-the-Lake and Ontario wine region. 100 km. from Toronto to site. 1996. Photo by J.Chong.
Campsite near Niagara-on-the-Lake and Ontario wine region. 100 km. from Toronto to site. 1997. Photo by J.Chong.

Making and Having Memorable Camping-Cycling Trips
Here are some hard-won camping-bike touring combo niblets:

·         Camping in woods has not reduced mosquito attraction to me. Nor my doubled-size  swelling bites after multiple mosquito attacks. I have resigned to may be the fact that mosquitoes  are attracted to my natural scent or who knows what.

·         Wearing even thin hiking pants for mosquito protection, is super hot.  A super drag in 30 degrees C summer humidity.

·         Always slather on sunblock on exposed skin.  Even wearing a light long sleeved shirt is protection.  I nearly ruined the start of 4 wk., 1,000 km. cycling trip when I had 3-degree sunburn on my arms after only 2 days of summer cycling in Nova Scotia.  A clean white man’s shirt I bought from Salvation Army saved me.

With our bikes loaded with camping gear on Loyalist Parkway route, near Thousand Islands. St. Lawrence River. Ontario. Photo by J.Chong
With our bikes loaded with camping gear on Loyalist Parkway route, near Thousand Islands. St. Lawrence River. Ontario 1996. Photo by J.Chong

·         Make sure there’s energy food for snacking. Even before breakfast.  After decamping on hot early morning in Nova Scotia, we cycled for 45 km.  in hot humid morning for breakfast since we forgot to buy food beyond last night’s supper. I was ready to collapse after this baby ride.

·         Just have enough energy after a  80 km. ride, to pitch a tent in 80 km/hr. winds by the Atlantic Ocean on Prince Edward Island beach.

·         Nothing more delicious than fresh lobster by a Nova Scotia ocean beach campsite, just boiled by the fisherman a few kms. away from our campsite.  We saved our precious fuel for other food. It’s one of my evening camping post-cycling evening memories glowing in the dark.

On cycling trip which our bike bags were transported by van. 350 km. round trip between Toronto and Orillia.
Rare photo of us cycling together. On cycling trip involving several cycling family members which our bike bags were transported by van. 320 km. round trip between Toronto and Orillia, Ontario. 1996.

Yes, I wished I had camped in my teens.  I probably would have thought less about the hard ground, despite my sleeping bag mattress. I wasn’t the only one deficient in camping experience until adulthood:  it applied to all my 5 siblings until we each left home and formed our own adventures.  Several siblings have embarked on camping with their respective families with car or van for less arduous tripping –at least from a cycling perspective.

For a very enormous country like Canada with millions of hectares of wilderness, camping most definitely is your cultural baptism by Nature.

Featured large photo from inside yellow camping tent at the start of this post:  View out to Marahau, New Zealand 2001.  During Jack’s solo bike touring-camping trip for 6 months in New Zealand.

Kaikoura district, New Zealand 2001. Photo by J. Becker.
Kaikoura district, New Zealand 2001. Part of 6-month solo bike-camping trip. An early retirement gift to himself. Photo by J. Becker.

 

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19 Comments Add yours

  1. Pit says:

    I like that picture through the mirror: great shot.
    Safe bicycling,
    Pit

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Thx for good wishes, Pit!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I would love to do such camping tour at some point as well. Thus far I have only slept in tents during a couple of music festivals and too often during my military service in Finland (a tent is certainly not the warmest place during winter time!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Gosh, you’re ahead of us already! Camping in winter will not be something for us to entertain in future.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha, I wouldnt recommend it either!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Mabel Kwong says:

    I so agree with you on what you said about Chinese culture and camping. My parents think the same way, and they see camping as something uncomfortable and why not sleep in a soft bed when you can. But at school, I went on a few camping trips which included pitching a tent and building a bonfire, and that was nothing short of amazing.

    Good to hear that white man’s shirt saved you from any further sunburn. It must have been a painful few days recovering from it. If I have to spend time walking in the sun in the summer for hours, I too will go long sleeve, even wear a hoodie if that is the only option. That lobster sounded amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Wow, a hoodie. It makes me sweat just thinking about it in bright, hot sun. Are you a tank top person? After all these years of cycling, I’m not. I get enough, sometimes too much sun. I did go to mandatory day camp as a kid but we weren’t in tents. We did go canoeing in a lake.

      Like

      1. Mabel Kwong says:

        I only wear tank tops at home, never outside. Outside I usually prefer a T-shirt and if I need to cover up from the sun, then I’d wear a hoodie or a light jacket. Sounds like a rather active childhood you have, and you are still living that.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          I’ve been waaaaay more active in past 25 years compared to when I was child. Though mind you, I’m from a generation where kids were allowed to play outside with a lot less supervision. There were exceptions….big families have option to ensure multiple siblings to look after one another which was required in our situation.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Of course it had to rain your first night camping. LOL. What a handsome dude. =)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      He used to look quite gaunt in the face.. Yup, rain is such joy when camping!

      Like

  5. My first time was at 40. I think we should both pat ourselves on the back.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      🙂 🙂 We’re open to new experiences. What has been the camping frequency since then? By sheer coincidence a fun poll question was asked of employees where I work (intranet general inf.). Looks like 6% have never camped so far. Approx. several hundred people responded. Some born-in Canada folks don’t like camping…as I’ve been told..

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  6. Sue Slaght says:

    Jean these are excellent tips! So sorry to hear about that third degree sunburn. It can happen so easily with cycling. I far prefer sleeping in comfortable accommodations when we do cycling trips.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      For multi-wk. long cycling trips where we are cycling with our clothing and in past, camping gear, I found it tiring to take time to help de-camp after waking up. After cycling 80-100 km., cycling in a day for certain days..

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I realize that you have wonderful experiences camping that you can’t have doing anything else. We have friends in Australia who have amazing stories of trekking/camping through India and Nepal in the early 80’s. My favorite is when the yaks chased them! But I just don’t have a campers heart… And I believe you have to have the heart for it or it’s not going to work out. Glad you have it Jean even if you didn’t start until you were 32! AGMA’s motto is better late than never!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      I haven’t camped in the last 15 years, AGMA…so a hint that there’s only so much camping I’m happy to do. Guess getting older makes me want some comforts of a real bed, etc. We’ve doing the hotel things for awhile. Wow yak-chasing is a real story to tell for your friends. No exotic animals (nor bears) after us.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Based on their story, I think no animals chasing you is a good thing! I camped out in Baja, Mexico for like 4 weeks way back in 1974 for a field class for my BS degree and pretty much hated every minute of it – and I was only 20! Tried again when our kids were young with a pop-up camper – thought maybe they would like it and it could be a family bonding thing. We went exactly twice and nobody liked it. I’m pretty sure the third time would NOT be the charm… 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          😀 It never hurts to try at least on home turf country territory. The people who I know camp often enough, don’t seem to complain in that way to me. For me, the mosquitoes in the woods are inordinately attracted to me. Not to my partner.

          Like

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