Were you the kid that dreamed about going off to summer camp, singing camp songs at the top of your lungs, making lifelong friendships over friendship bracelets and writing postcards home about how much fun you were having?
As a kid, I loved lazy summers, swimming in my best friend’s backyard, making up plays for all my brothers to act out and drawing pictures of unicorns until my pencil crayons were too dull to colour.
But around the time that I had to start paying my own bills, working each day at a computer and doing my own grocery shopping, the idea of the camp life became a fantasy. I was enamoured with the idea of a successful summer measured in teva tans and new friends.
So, when I saw that Danielle Goldfinger had come up with the brilliant idea of a grown-up summer camp weekend, I reorganized my priorities (can you believe I actually missed the Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival) and reserved my bunk at Camp Timberlane.
Since you probably weren’t there, I won’t bore you with the three-day play-by-play. Instead I’m going to give you 15 reasons why you want to be there in 2014.
1. Camp Timberlane: Danielle found the most fantastic of all the fantastic camps in Haliburton for the Two Islands Weekend. It is a big, beautiful, rustic retreat that will blow your camp fantasies right out of the water. This place has a race car track! Seriously. In the summer, the 500 Timberlane campers enjoy: the baseball diamond, basketball courts, shuffleboard (beachside), paddleboats, canoes, high ropes, sailboats, hiking trails, and movie marathons.
2. Co-sleeping: Okay, so there were some late night shenanigans but despite that I still feel there is something to be said for the kind of conversations had as people fall asleep in sleeping bags or sit around in bunk beds as the sun comes up. Purely platonic sleepovers are still pretty awesome when you’re 34.
3. Dock picnics: My weekend was extra special because I rode up to Haliburton with Carol Belmonte who brought juice and lunch from her extraordinary, Toronto restaurant. So on Friday, as my colleagues we tracking toward the afternoon deadlines, I was lying on the dock, with my toes in the lake, sharing salad, juice, sunshine and secrets with one of my favourite people. Totally worth the drive.
4. Polar bear dips: Although my usual “cricket” alarm is a pretty easy way to start the day, there is nothing more refreshing or invigorating than greeting the dawn by plunging off the dock into the crystal clear waters of northern Ontario. It might involve some squealing but pretty soon you’re settled into treading water with a great big smile.
5. Chefs: One of the things that made the weekend so incredibly special was the food. Each meal was carefully crafted by a team of chefs. They worked tirelessly in the kitchen to feed the 120 guests some of the most gourmet meals ever served in a mess hall. I won’t soon forget Trish Gill’s potato salad with caramelized onions, Kristina Groeger’s eggplant au poivre, Tom Brodi’s stewed peppers and tomatoes, Joshna Maharaj’s summer vegetable ceviche, Daniel Sander’s ribollita soup, or Rossy Earle’s tofu strata with hot sauce (which I’m still searching for in Toronto). Every single meal was spectacular (thanks to Joel and Carol for all the sous chef support).
6. Campfires: I love campfires and Connor (one of our counsellors) built the best one I have ever seen on Friday night. It was constructed as a teepee inside an igloo (pretty darn Canadian) and it burned hot and long enough to keep us all engrossed in a singalong for hours by the beach on a cool September night.
7.Dance parties and hangover juice: Adult sleep away camp probably attracts a select crowd of enthusiastic fun lovers because Friday and Saturday night everyone danced for hours. Some of the revelry was helped along by the ample availability of McAuslan’s beers, Rosewood’s Wines and Black Fly beverages. In the morning, when Carol served up her hangover cure, coconut water concoction, there were a lot of happy campers.
8. Canadiana: I spend a lot of time in February wondering why my family chose to immigrate to Canada, but being at Camp Timberlane, hiking in the forest and listening to the loons was a great reminder of how incredibly lucky I am to call this place my home.
9. Serenity: Camp Timberlane is big enough that despite sharing the grounds with over a hundred others, I could always find a quiet spot to sit and just be. I enjoyed some long hikes, boat trips out on the water and restful moments on the beach.
10. Silent sunrise: Escaping the city meant I could wake up to sun streaming through my window, stroll down to the beach, past a family of deer, and snap a shot of the sparkles on the water before I saw another human being. But by the time the coffee was brewed there were lots of people up and ready for breakfast.
11. Stories: Most of the people who came out for Two Islands Weekend arrived with just a friend or two, so there were lots of people to meet, life stories to hear and adventures to share. I really enjoyed spending time talking to people with different careers, lifestyles, interests and dreams. It is so good to get out of your own little circle sometimes.
13. New friends: This is what camp is all about and Two Islands Weekend lived up to the expectation. My trivia team got perfect on birdcalls, I danced under the stars with awesome, energetic campers and toasted each meal with a tableful of new friends.
15. New inspiration: I became completely infatuated with Ontario corn. I bought six cobs on Monday and have been adding kernels to everything ever since.
Hope you’ll all join me in Haliburton next summer. xo