In Canada and the US, the first Monday in September is a holiday (“Labour Day”) and then the kids start school on Tuesday. This year, we spent the long weekend at camp. It was entirely traditional and very good. Herewith nature shots and campfire tales, some musical.
Our son attends L’École Bilingue, a French Immersion school here in Vancouver. For thirty years, L’École has had a family summer camp over the Labour-Day weekend at Evans Lake; there is only room for 80 attendees, parents and children, so not everyone can go. But we signed up early enough and had a fine time.
The Location · Evans Lake isn’t that far from Vancouver and is still pretty far out in the woods, down a few km of really lousy road. The side of the lake across from the camp is in Squamish Nation territory. The mountains and the lake and the vegetation are all quite lovely; here are young maples growing under the evergreen cover.
The lake is nothing special by Canadian standards. It’s pretty deep, thus chilly even at the end of a hot clear summer. The swimming dock stretches out into the middle of the lake, which is a good idea because it gets pretty organic in the shallows.
There’s a nice little trail around the lake that we used for the junior-kids’ hike, which went by an interesting vertical rock outcropping a few hundred feet high. I went off on my own one morning and found a fairly-scary trail up the side of that little mountain; nice scenery all the way.
The trail came out on a wonderful little ledge, an eyrie with a sweeping view down onto the lake and out over the mountains and forest, right out of Tolkien. None of my pictures came close to capturing the scale; it was a little hazy, which didn’t help. But this shot straight down into the lake is kind of interesting, although there’s no sense that you’re looking a long, long way.
Campfire Culture · I never did the camp thing as a kid, but I’ve read about them, and this was very traditional. The kids slept in bunkhouses with their teenage “counsellors”, who also organized swimming and canoeing and volleyball and so on; they had a blast and whooped it up pretty intensely in the bunkhouse long after they should have been asleep.
Of course, with the kids in hand except for some afternoon family time, the parents were left to lounge by the lake except for when they were organizing some activity (everybody had to sign up for one); read books, take pictures, or go swim with the kids. So that part was pretty relaxing.
In the evenings, we had the traditional campfire, with the traditional skits—kids the first night, parents the second. The younger kids’ skits were bad jokes, toilet humor, and slapstick, and I’m quite sure have been performed in exactly the same way at campfires for centuries. A few of the older girls did some really amusing song-and-dance routines.
This being Vancouver, the adults included a few movie-biz people, so a couple of the skits were highly overproduced, but great fun.
The campfire ended nine-ish, and after the kids had been put to bed, we had a grown-ups’ party in the Rec hall in front of its fireplace. This being Vancouver, the adults included a few foodies, so along with the shrimps and cold cuts, the spread included olive tapenade, home-made chipotle salsa, barbecued oysters, and was pretty damn toothsome. Plus there were grown-up drinks.
At both the outdoor and indoor fires, we played music and sang.
Musical Heritage · It turned out that one kid’s parents, first-timers this year, were really gifted singers and guitarists who could play almost anything and sang beautiful harmony. There was one other guitarist, a few more singers, and I brought my djembé along to thump.
I seem to recall members of earlier generations talking about the Good Old Days before everything went electronic, when they gathered around and sang the Good Old Songs. Well, we can do that too, and there are Good New Songs; we covered Leaving on a Jet Plane, Man on the Moon, John Prine’s Angel From Montgomery, The Mary Ellen Carter, Time of Your Life, All My Tears (by Julie Miller, on Emmylou’s Wrecking Ball), Hotel California, I’m a Believer, If I Had $1000000, and Hallelujah. Did I say the kids whooped it long after they should have been asleep? Us too. I had a headache in the morning. We’ll go back.