Blog by former Ranch youth and employee Justin Waldrop
Back in the day, when I lived at the Ranch as a youth, I spent every summer camping all around Canada. We would fundraise all winter in order to go on exciting camping trips. Then when summer came, we would load up the van and trailer and embark upon three to four camping trips per summer.
During my time at the Ranch, we travelled to and camped at numerous places. Memorable trips include a journey to Vancouver Island camping all the way to Tofino as well as travelling to Toronto, camping along the way, sightseeing and stopping in Niagara Falls. Notable pit stop in Toronto: Canada’s Wonderland! Some of the best roller coasters you will ever ride folks! We also spent three weeks every summer up at the Ranch’s fly-in camps of Dryer or Norbert Lake. There were many trips to Alberta, which included visits to amusement parks, museums, and a one-time white-water rafted experience.
Let me tell you folks – you have not experienced life until you have experienced the joys of multiple toe jams and foot fungi at work in a 12-passenger van full of 11 people! The word “rank” comes to mind! Needless to say, there were a lot of testy people at the end of each travel day.
Nor have you experienced life until you get lost way up north at the fly-in camp of Dryer Lake. This lovely life-experience occurred one fateful summer whilst our fearless leader and unit manager, Rob K. led us through the northern tundra of Saskatchewan. We were off on the hour hike to ‘Red Sand Beach’ to meet up with another group home from the neighbouring fly-in camp of Norbert Lake.
Now, Rob was certain that the path looped around and that we could just “cut across” through the trees and voila – we would be on the path again. Well folks… let me tell you – that didn’t happen. Not even close. What did happen was we forged our way through the cold, dark northern tundra, through swamps and trees lost for well over a day. We slept on a giant slab of rock and lived off one package of hot dogs and some ketchup we had brought along for the intended bbq at Red Sand Beach.
We finally managed to walk ourselves in a circle which brought us back near the camp and we saw it through the trees. Once back at camp, we ate – well more like pigged out – and then hit the hay for hours. Trust me – this is a memory burned in my mind forever. Scary as it was, it was also exhilarating and the adventure of a lifetime. Though, not one I would recommend you duplicate.
Missing the old days
I have to be honest folks and say that back then, as a teenager rather concerned about his appearance and hygiene, camping was not as easy thing for me. The three weeks we spent up north at the fly-in camps, isolated from civilization, were three weeks I usually loathed. I dreamt of slurpee machines and hot showers.
Now… I would sell my soul to have three weeks away from civilization! I sometimes fantasize about possible ways to smuggle myself aboard the camping supplies of one of the group homes headed up north. My goodness! Has anyone seen how crazy the world is today? Trust me, a fly-in camp in the middle of nowhere sounds mighty good right now! No deadlines. No meetings. No worries. Just the sun, saunas, nature, and swimming.
I will forever miss the summers full of camping adventures. I did not realize at the time – just how lucky we were to be able to go on all those camping trips. I saw them as work and messy more than anything. Now, I see how fortunate we were.
Appreciation for what I had
I also now realize what a challenge it would have been for staff to go off on these 2-3 week camping trips with us. Not only were they having to watch us and keep everyone safe and in order, but they left behind families, partners, and lives. So, for staff too I have a new appreciation. Though, I am sure they appreciated getting to travel all around Canada as well!
Cheers everyone and remember: avoid short cuts! Heh. Check out the upcoming events for the Ranch.