Reflections of Ponoka: Summer camping is always the best family time

Now that we are happily involved in those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, we can look forward to all kinds of fun, including longer days

A longstanding Alberta summer tradition has always been a family day trip or campout at the lake. In this classic 1930s photo

A longstanding Alberta summer tradition has always been a family day trip or campout at the lake. In this classic 1930s photo

Now that we are happily involved in those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, we can look forward to all kinds of fun, including longer days and warmer nights, summer holidays, camps and outdoor sports, hopefully well into the fall. No matter what our age might be, some of our fondest memories will likely come from camping out in the great outdoors. Whether it was in a pup tent with buddies in the back yard, our first church or group summer camp, roughing it with the gang as teens at the lake, or the annual family holiday, it is an experience that we will never forget or ever get enough of to this very day.

• Maybe we were about five when our parents finally agreed to let us have our first sleepover or campout, which occurred at a friend’s home in the neighbourhood or outside on the lawn beside the garage under a streetlight so that the adults can keep an eye on us. Remember how we vowed to stay up all night, but usually petered out by 10, snuggled into the same sleeping bag if there were thunderstorms or coyote howls, and if we got to scared we would sneak back into the house?

• We could only imagine how great it was to venture out into the wilderness for the first time as a member of the First Ponoka Cub or Scout Pack, and spend seven nights in a tent or lean-to, with the Ponoka Brownies and Guides group camped just around the corner. Many of us got just a little homesick on that first night out but then spent many happy and busy hours hiking, swimming, climbing trees, carving whistles and woggles, learning about all sorts of bugs and flowers, and practicing a skit to show off to our parents when they visited on Sunday. Sitting around the campfire at night singing and cooking neat goodies was the best, while our meals were cooked by those strict but nice camp mothers, but we always had to be on time and help clean up. Brushing our teeth, changing underwear, not swearing or fighting, and quiet time after 10 p.m. was mandatory. We went to Camp Woods at Sylvan Lake, which will host 5,000 Scouts for the World Jamboree this summer, and where most of us made lots of great lifetime friends over the years.

• Then we graduated to our wild teenage camping adventures that were quite often referred to as “bush parties” and on many occasions featured a long night of rowdy fun and loud music, as well as assorted sleeping arrangements that included 10 in a tent, in a hammock under the stars, or snuggled up in a car or a makeshift half-ton camper truck. Usually there were just a few cases of beer but never enough to eat, and what a sad looking crew it would be heading back into town the next morning for school or work — or to explain to our parents that we had a flat tire and slept over at Joe’s.

• When we were still youngsters it was never hard to convince us to go on a family campout or holiday at the lake and if you begged enough, we might even get to bring along a buddy or the dog. This was a new let-loose adventure because the rules were never the same as they were at home, with meals cooked outside on the fire and not the usual manners or quiet time required, bedtime was way after dark and we could crawl out later in the morning and wash and brush our teeth in a pail of cold water or in the lake. Those same old favourite lakes such as Gull, Sylvan, Buffalo, Pigeon, Chain and others were easy to get to, and where we would douse ourselves with bug spray and suntan lotion, then spend all day running around, swimming, fishing, snacking and girl watching. As you all know later as parents, there did however come that rather testy time when our teenagers did not really want to go camping with us anymore, so we went back to our romantic sneak away twosome vacations but always got someone to keep an eye on the kids, which today likely includes cellphone check-ins.

• When we were a young family many of us started out with a big tent and I will never forget trying to bunk in four kids in a tiny tent trailer, with some help from Grandpa’s old truck camper. Nowadays there are motor homes and trailers that are bigger than our first house in Riverside, and contain all the modern appliances of home, including shower, television, and even dishwashers. I am sure that it is still just as much fun because whether you step out of luxury or a pup tent, you are still getting into the great and refreshing outdoors, where it is always guaranteed to rain or shine.

• Believe it or not, one of the newest attractions in the wonderful world of camping out is “Glamping.” It includes a wild and magical adventure trip into the Dinosaur Provincial Park in southern Alberta, where children and adults can explore the world’s most significant fossil beds, and possibly witness a real life dig into the prehistoric past. After exploring the vast craters, hoodoos, tabletop rocks, and all the rest, a new treat for visitors is a night or two of glamour camping, where a spacious safari-like tent is set up in the middle of this famous Jurassic Park-like setting. These classy accommodations come fully equipped with a queen size bed, electric fireplace, bar, fridge and all sorts of other amenities for a memorable once-in-a-lifetime stay in dino land.

Whatever your camping pleasures may be this summer, try to get out, relax, and enjoy our great outdoors and adventures as much as possible with family and friends. They claim there are some 17,000 campgrounds in and around Alberta, but remember those in our provincial parks should be booked well in advance to insure a spot. Play safe and have fun all summer long.