Exploring the vast outdoors of Canada has long been one of the great pastimes of this country. But you need to know what you’re doing before going off into the wild.
This is why our Summer Settlement Program provides an opportunity for newcomer youth to learn the ropes of camping. Last month, our settlement workers Yuhong Wang and Barbora Gomezova organized a trip to Rouge Urban National Park.
It was early in the morning and we had a group of 45 young adventurers and their guardians. We boarded a bus that was graciously provided by our partner organization Parkbus. There was an atmosphere of anticipation on the bus as we headed toward the park. On our arrival, the good people at Parks Canada Visitor Center showed us a warm welcome. After a quick overview of tips on hiking, they invited us to play a game. We were divided into two teams. Each team was challenged to dress up two mannequins for two different hiking trips: one for a summer hike and the other for a winter trek. Despite some initial confusion over whether mosquito spray would be needed in the winter or a warmer jacket for the summer, both teams did well in the end.
We then embarked on a 3-km hike through the park. There were lots of questions about the flora and fauna of the park, and our guides regaled us with a host of memorable names. “There’s a Staghorn Sumac; that’s an Emerald Ash, and here we have a Dog-strangling Vine…”. No question seemed to stump our guides, who seemingly know every inch of the park and every living creature that inhabits it.
When at last we got back to the Parks Canada Visitor Centre, our hosts invited us to take on a new challenge – pitching a tent. This proved to be a major task. Everyone wanted to help and the ensuing confusion slowed the process down. People bumped into each other and stumbled over the gear. However, the group maintained a good attitude throughout the process and we finally got two tents standing on the grass. It felt almost as if we were truly on a camping trip. Some of the young ones crawled into the tents and took selfies with their friends. Wishful thinking perhaps, but at least now we know that we will be ready once we really get a chance to go out into the great Canadian wilderness.
On behalf of our newcomer camping group, I’d like to say thanks again to Parkbus and Parks Canada for a wonderful and educational experience. See you out on the trails!