[slideshow]Word is that to call yourself a real canoe tripper, you have to have had one of those trips when the rain is waterfalling non-stop off the peak of your hood, and the tents are a soggy, pine-needled mess to roll up, and even your GORP is wet (and you eat it anyway).

If so, Mother Nature provided extra credentials this past week for the participants of the Museum’s “Introduction to Canoe Tripping” camp, giving our intrepid young campers the experience of two out of three trip days of rain while they earned their the ORCKA Tripping Level 1A badges.

Yes, the CanoeMuseum’s first Tripping Camp (for ages 10-14) was a phenomenal success.  The campers got an immersion in trip-packing and gear-setup at the Museum on Tuesday, August 7, and also worked as a group to build a wanigan to tump their kitchen gear.  On Wednesday, we met up early at the Anstruther Lake access point to load out into the mist. Out for 3 days and 2 nights, our trippers completed the Serpentine Lake Loop – including that 1.4k portage – getting soaked, telling jokes, improvising S’mores (thanks Avril!), and showing great group spirit in spite of – maybe because of – all the rain.

We’ve also just wrapped up four wonderful weeks of CanoeKids Day Camps.  Each of our week-long camps started out with a day at the museum, with games and museum-based activities for the kids to get to know each other, plus time to complete a hands-on artisanal project – paddle-carving, or wanigan-building, depending on the week.  Tuesdays through Fridays, we were based up at the Peterborough Rowing Club for four intensive days of canoe skills and on-the-water (and in-the-water!) fun leading up the accomplishment of ORCKA Basic Canoeing certification levels 1, 2, and/or 3. All our campers came to camp with different canoeing backgrounds, but thanks to our fantastic instructors Stacey Reynolds and Jeff Beer, and the campers’ perseverance, each and every participant achieved at least one ORCKA level at camp — and 12 campers earned multiple levels! Keep in mind that these are real, technical skills the kids are learning: canoe-over-canoe rescue was particularly tough (not easy for adults, let alone 10 – 14 year-olds), but even those who didn’t think they could do it rose to the challenge. (Way to go, Isabelle and Tessa!) In all, 67 ORCKA badges were awarded to our 55 campers – that’s 55 more kids out there with the paddling and safety skills to support a lifetime love of canoeing.  How great is that!?

But it wasn’t ALL about j-strokes, pivots and checkmarks, because, after all, it’s summer camp!  Our day camp weather was scorching, so there was plenty of swimming off our new floating docks, plus a particularly memorable water fight with the bailers to end week 3.  Countless frogs were caught, and hopefully not too traumatized… and at the end of Week 4, the advanced camp did a gorgeous day trip up the river, spotting herons and turtles along the way, and lunching by the golf course. Each week our campers finished off Friday afternoon with a chance to paddle all together in our North Canoe, which, each and every week, spontaneously and independently turned out to be THE prime time for joke-telling.

Special thanks must go out to our supremely experienced, sublimely unflappable, and wonderfully fun instructors, Stacey Reynolds and Jeff Beer, as well as to our campers and their families, for making this a camp year with so many highlights. And for all of you who are already asking about next year: Yes! With almost every week this year full-to-the-gunwale, we’ll be back with more Regular and Advanced Day Camps and at least one Tripping Camp in 2013.