A Formative Experience:
A once reluctant camper, her experiences at camp helped Chloe discover her passion for nature and outdoor adventure.
I remember my mom knocking on my bedroom door and walking in. We sat on my bed and I waited anxiously for her to say something. It was about time I went to the Machia Wilderness Camp this summer, she explained.
Going to a place where I had no friends, no interest in the outdoors (at the time), during the summer before heading into high school?! Umm… Yeah, no thank you, I think I would like to pass… I was 13 at the time, and grew up in the suburb, just outside the city of Toronto. Needless to say, I was what you’d call a ‘City Slicker’.
Although I knew I’d have to attend Machia Wilderness Camp at some point, I was truly hoping I would be able to escape it. Of course, attending the camp my grandfather started was incredibly important to my family but, as a stubborn 13-year-old who spent her whole life in the city, I dreaded it. There wasn’t much of a choice involved, and even so, I knew it was important for me to go. Reluctantly, I accepted I’d be going and started warming up to the idea. Plus, it’d be nice to drive down to Vermont and visit some family.
I was nervous about my complete ignorance to all things hunting or gun safety. Which I later learned, i should be, and everyone else calls them firearms. I read all the workbooks they mailed; hunter education, bowhunter education, and trapping. I took notes to memorize things easier, and I watched a few YouTube videos… I couldn’t be the kid from the city, who’s late grandpa founded the camp, and now grandmother and some of his friends now run. Oh, and let’s not forget the slight added pressure of being a girl… All that to say, I was feeling a bit of pressure, and anxiousness.
The anxiety slowly started to fade as I settled into my room, and I helped my grandma (Camp Executive Director Bonnie) prepare for camp.
The first day came around, and I immediately tried to find the other two girls who were registered to ensure I wasn’t alone. We got along well, and they knew more than me so I felt like I could ask questions without feeling like a funny look was about to follow.
As the days went on, I started to learn a lot about the course content and realized this piqued a genuine interest of mine. The Thursday round robin was my favorite, as I’m sure many other campers would agree. Archery, cooking chili, nature walk and first aid/orienteering, were the stations. I LOVED the nature walk. At the time, Ron, a professor, and good friend of my grandfathers was the trapping instructor and facilitated the nature walk. I was mesmerized by his knowledge, and he reminded me of the little I remembered about Grandpa Larry.
Graduation day came around, I passed, and in my certificate, paperwork was a letter, inviting me to return as an apprentice for the following year.
I returned annually until I graduated high school. I enjoyed travelling to Vermont for a few weeks in July. Summer in Vermont felt like a different pace, a bit of a different life for a while. I liked that feeling. Anything to escape, the reality and complexity that are our teenage years, even if only for a few weeks…
I truly never realized how formative this time was for me, not until it passed.
My curiosity was piqued. As I dove further into the hunter & trapper education, I realized I was genuinely interested. As I continued investigating A feeling I haven’t felt often enough. Leave no trace principles, environmentalism, ethics, trapping, survival skills… Those were truly the topics where I gravitated.
To do this day, my grandfather is still the grandparent I’d say I can relate to and connect with most. I’m confident in saying that, even though he passed away when I was 4 years old. Spending the time in a place and with people where he had such an immense impact, made me feel the most connected to him than I ever have been.
As I grew older and took a deep dive into my learned interests from the Machia Wilderness Camp, I discovered the world of outdoor adventure. This experience empowered me to take the leap into enrolling in the Outdoor Adventure Leadership program at Laurentian University.
In October of 2020, I completed a 2-week canoe trip in Northern Quebec, as a final project for the course. I graduated in June of 2021 and have grown exponentially, as a person, a leader, outdoorswoman, and environmentalist. Following my graduation, I transitioned into a full-time position, as the office manager with the rafting company I’ve worked for, for the past 4 years, OWL Rafting on the Ottawa River. Blending my sentiments for the outdoors with the professional world.
My passions for the outdoors have transitioned into adventure therapy, whitewater and longer backcountry trips. In January of 2023, I will be embarking on a month-long rafting trip down the Grand Canyon.
I don’t see the two worlds as separate, the hunting and outdoor adventure world bind some of the same values within the same space, although the activities are dissimilar. The passion for nature is the fire that drives us and connects us. Truly, I would not be the person I am today without the experiences. A world of concrete is all I would know, truly saddening to know that without the exposure, this is a sad reality for a lot of us.