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SLEEPING UNDER THE STARS

FREE CAMPING

Places to stop along the Great Lakes in Ontario

  • Ryan Clark

The Pleasure of the New Canadians Met on My Journeys




I remember the first time I encountered a bunch of them. A group of young men a couple of days into my maiden solo camping trip across Canada. I’d just crossed Algonquin Park coming from Ottawa and came across these Middle Eastern looking gentlemen. They were in their early twenties and all came piling out of a rented Canadream camper on a small stone beach beside a boat launch. The reason they struck me that day was they managed to get about ten of them rammed into that small recreational camper. Add to that, they were holding hands with each other as they explored the beach. I’m from Toronto, a multicultural hub, but it was (*groan* excuse the obvious) a foreign behaviour so it registered with me.


Were they ever animated too…their jubilance made me smile. I stopped to smoke a joint and go for a dip myself. They swam and played like a bunch of kids and I loved observing it. Just so you know that’s not the only time, although it was the first, that I’ve watched that exact same scene unfold. As I travel around up north I also cross paths with buses full of people who barely speak English and its always worth a smile muddling through a conversation.

An extended family visiting from overseas being shown our beautiful places. Periodically I snap a picture of them on their phones but really, we’re merely spirits enjoying the same moment and the same things.

I’ve helped dig their vehicles out of the sand on hidden beaches.

I met a young pair of Arabs in a Masaratti being escorted by two bodyguards in another car in the parking lot at fourth sands beach.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to be invited to eat some delicious foods that I honestly, to this day, have no idea what they were. My taste buds didn’t care what it was anyway. Delicious taste adventures. I’ve had prayers offered for me. I’ve also been blessed by strangers in all kinds of semi ritualistic quasi-religious ways. I’ll take them all…happily.

 But I do digress, as usual when I’m high and writing.

 My point in writing this whole post was how great it is to see people loving this country and getting out and exploring it. I have friends who were born and raised here. They have never even bothered to explore their own country. They don't leave their cities and go look at what is most of this great country. They let themselves miss out on our monstrous wilderness expanses. We have these huge bodies of fresh water. They're surrounded by lush green forests and some of these new comers have never had the experience of just being able to jump into a clear blue lake. I’m not implying we’re the only country that has this but Saudi Arabia has no lakes at all. There are many smaller countries are completely surrounded by the ocean and have no fresh-water lakes.


By contrast Canada is estimated to be over seven percent covered by fresh-water lakes. We have over two million lakes, and because of that we take it for granted. That’s a pity and maybe we can humble ourselves and by seeing it through another’s eyes, learn a new sense of pride in our lands. Imagine immigrating from somewhere like Bangladesh? With over a hundred and fifty million people and the rivers are rife with all kinds of pollution. Imagine seeing what the people here are blind to. A cottage in Muskoka or a provincial camp ground isn’t even scratching the surface of what we ignore…Leave southern Ontario and it’s yours to discover, like our licence plates say. Just watching groups of tourists who’ve never seen a squirrel is a smile. Meeting a Chinese couple who’d never seen wildlife is refreshing in an innocent way.


People camping for the very first time are pretty obvious too and I’ve seen new immigrants trying to figure their tents out as well. 
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not stupid enough to be broad brushing the whole thing with sensationalistic writing. You know, say something like maybe the people born here could learn to love it more. Maybe if they saw it again for the first time, through the eyes of a newcomer.


I could broad brush it like that, but I won’t.