What do you get when you take 100 young professionals, a few stocked coolers and an unlimited supply of house music and put them all on a secluded, picturesque island in Muskoka for a weekend? The makings for a really great blog post, that’s what. Also maybe a reality show. Or the sequel to Shark Night 3D.
I just took that to a really dark place, didn’t I? Moving on.
Since moving to Toronto, I’ve been introduced to a group of friends who I would describe as “active fun-seekers”. Unlike my prudish, brooding self who likes to stay home and look at old movie stubs on the weekends, these guys are all about planning their next incredibly fun, outrageous adventures. If they’re not jetting off for ski weekends in Mont Tremblant or Vail, Colorado, they’re planning all-day beach parties on Toronto Island, or themed fundraising galas. The majority are lawyers, accountants, MBA’s and other professionals who like to work hard and play hard, and firmly believe that if you’re not wearing a costume, then you’re not having a good time.
For their latest project (enticingly dubbed “Summer Camp for Adults”) they rented out an entire children’s summer camp about 2 hours north of Toronto and invited over 100 friends to attend. Each of us paid a fee that covered the cost of transportation (by schoolbus of course), meals, and lodging for the weekend. Sounds sort of epic, right?
I’ll admit that I was a little wary of how I would fare with the whole “camping” thing. I never went camping as a kid, mostly because my mother despised it. Her war-veteran father had been convinced that spending time close to nature helped “put hair on your chest”, and forced my mother and her 5 siblings to spend a portion of each summer in the woods of Nova Scotia, “roughing it”. Because of this, she vowed never to put her own children through that same hell.
Perhaps because it had taken on a bit of a forbidden fruit element, I longed for the camping experience as a child. I remember having romanticized notions of what a family camping trip might be like. My siblings and I would roast hot dogs and make each other daisy-chain headbands while my dad regaled us all with local ghost stories. Then we’d all sing Kumbaya and go to sleep in our giant, 7-person tent. It would be just like in The Parent Trap.
One summer, I finally convinced my mother to let me go to sleep-away camp. I was 13, painfully awkward, and still firmly within the grasp of that unforgiving b*tch they call “puberty”. But nevertheless, I believed that this was going to be the best summer of my life. I could hardly contain my excitement about all the friendship bracelets I was going to make. And the boys! So many boys to have “crushes” on! Or at least that’s what my YM magazines told me. Needless to say, it was not exactly the summer I had imagined. 13 year olds can be a vicious bunch, and I struggled to fit in amongst a group who had been attending camp together for years. Also, somehow, the fact that this camp had a strong, Presbyterian mandate eluded both my devoutly Roman Catholic mother and I… and when I came home singing “Ezekiel saw a wheel a rolling” and talking non-stop about some dude named “Calvin”, well, let’s just say that was the end of that.
But after a 13 year hiatus, I figured it was time to give camping another shot. A few friends and I opted to make the drive to Muskoka, rather than take the commissioned school bus, but unfortunately didn’t leave the city until 4pm. AKA: Traffic Armageddon O’Clock. The drive, which should have taken approximately 2.5 hours, took us almost 6. We arrived at 10pm, in pitch darkness, and began unloading our stuff onto the dock, where we were to be transported to camp by a short boat ride.
The fact that I was a camping novice became immediately apparent when I looked around at what everyone else had packed. Instead of a practical, and travel friendly sleeping bag, I had chosen to bring a duvet and 400 thread count sheets. Rather than Bud Light Lime and local Ontario craft beer, I brought Rose. Although the darkness prohibited me from seeing the contents of the other campers rucksacks, I was quite certain they didn’t include a curling iron, half the contents of the Holt Renfrew beauty counter, and enough clothing to last the entire summer. My foray into camping was beginning to look about as promising as Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s “cut the waist” challenge.
I quietly shoved my two blackberry devices out of view and under the copies of US Weekly in my designer handbag and focused instead on the faint noise of motor approaching in the distance. What appeared to be a glorified canoe pulled up to the dock, and we were met by an enthusiastic young man named Daniel wearing nothing but a smile and a camouflage Morphsuit. “Welcome to Camp Tamawkwa!” he said.
So this was to be our captain. Our good-times Sherpa, if you will. Meh. I thought. He’ll do.
I struggled to load each of my bags onto the boat, while saying a silent prayer to the Saint of $17 Eyeshadows that all of my MAC would make it across alive.
Now let me just say that being on a boat in the middle of the night in total darkness is not my idea of a good time. Although I’m sure the scenery was beautiful, I did my best to block it out, along with the scary noises and shadows, and focused instead on Daniel’s Morphsuit. How did he get into that thing? And why did he need to be in camouflage? Was he planning to hijack a pirate ship after this? Unfortunately, Morphsuit Daniel’s role of serenity began to unravel when he started regaling us with tales of “Axe-Man Jack”, the Axe Wielding, infamous ghost of the island. Great. Not only did I have foam mattresses and outdoor showers to contend with, now I had to deal with an axe-murderer too? What was I going to do if he approached me, smother him with my duvet??
Luckily we soon heard the sound of house music and the glow of mini lights from a distance. The night’s planned festivities, a “grade 8 dance”, was already in full swing. “The party’s been going on for a while,” said Daniel. “I’ll take you to your cabins so you can get your costumes on and join the others.”
We looked at each other blankly.
“Wait…” he said, “You did bring costumes, right?”
Things, it seemed, were about to get interesting.
Stay tuned for part two…………….