Happy Trails

When Uniter staff photographer Keeley Braunstein-Black pitched a cover story about winter camping, I was thrilled. I knew it would make for some great photographs (Keeley has done fantastic outdoor photography for us in the past), and I knew it would include some great pointers for those interested in trying their hand at tenting in the Manitoba winter.

But, I have to admit, I also cringed a little at the thought of winter camping.

I’ve always been what my teachers diplomatically referred to as one of the “indoor kids.” As a boy, I always found more pleasure in a movie night, a good book or an afternoon playing Sega Genesis than anything in the great outdoors.

As an adult, that hasn’t changed much. Camping was a childhood summer tradition I greatly enjoyed, but I’d never had any desire to return to it. I thought, “My parents took me camping every summer from ages three to eight. If I ever become a parent, I’ll do the same for my kids, and that will end my intermittent career as a camper.”

But this weekend, something changed that. I was having a conversation with a friend who is spending her first winter in Winnipeg, having grown up in major cities in the Middle East and spent her first Canadian winters in decidedly milder cities. She was telling me about things she wanted to experience while in Manitoba. Number one on the list was seeing the northern lights for the first time. Number two was camping.

“I’ve never been camping before!” she told me, expressing pure excitement at the idea of trying it. And, unexpectedly, her enthusiasm changed my mind. It forced me to immediately check my own snobbishness about camping. I realized that I was taking the experience for granted. I tossed away my childhood affection for camping, because it was something that came easily to me. I imagined what my childhood would have been like without those memories and realized that I, too, would have the same enthusiasm to try it.

So, maybe I’ll give camping another shot. Not winter camping, not yet. No, no, no, not yet. Until that snow melts, I’ll stick to my Sega.

Published in Volume 75, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 28, 2021)

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