I have to admit it: it seems just the teensiest bit as if summer is… okay, I’ll just say it… over.  It’s not the back-to-school stuff in the stores (which has been up since July anyway) or the recent crisp nights, it’s that for me summer is all about the Museum’s Paddling Camps — and we’ve just said goodbye to our last campers for the year.Our five weeks of camp saw over 50 paddlers learning new paddling skills and earning ORCKA certifications, with 23 new paddlers earning Level 1 badges, and our returning campers achieving 12 level 2s, five level 3s and seven Tripping 1A certifications. Plus five intrepid and very dedicated campers took us up on our new camp offering this year — the Level 4 ORCKA option, achieving their solo canoe certifications in just one week — no small achievement (can YOU paddle a canoe on your own in a straight line backwards?).  But badge stats aside, that’s a whole lot of kids with water safety and paddling skills they can use to enjoy the Canadian wilderness, or just a local river, their whole lives through.

It’s more than skills though… there’s something more than the sum of all the parts. To be sure, the parts are pretty good: the sun — and rain — and getting to know other kids by paddling together, being in the water and on the water and away from the screen, moving a canoe silently through the water or singing Staying Alive in a fit of rambunctiousness that’ll scare away all the wildlife for miles, making food over a fire you’ve started, learning to put up a shelter, reading Lord of the Rings aloud in the tent to new friends, losing a shoe in the swamp, perfecting a dock landing, or, at 13 years old, knowing you’ve tied down the canoe just right so it won’t fly off the canoe trailer on highway 28.   All those elements and more add up to the something bigger that was waiting for me on my answering machine when I came into the office on the Monday morning: a message from a parent thanking us for our “amazing” Tripping Camp, because her son “was really changed by it, and in just a few days. He was really proud of himself.”  He’s ready for an even longer one next year, she said.

That’s what it’s all about.

Check out our campers in action below…  and see Stacey Reynolds’ blog post next Thursday for a close-up of the Tripping Camp she led with co-instructor Jeff Beer.

Thanks to everyone who helped make our camps happen — instructors Jeff Beer and Stacey Reynolds for their teaching and paddling prowess and impeccable judgement, educator Jen Burnard for her energy, zeal and endless practical know-how, our wood shop volunteers for prepping fire bows, summer students for schlepping all those paddle-carving tables, the folks at EZ docks, the Peterborough Rowing Club and Wild Rock, all our members for your support, and our indispensable donors for the major gifts that provided tripping gear, canoes, trailer and more.

Please contact me at [email protected] to receive a reminder email when our 2014 camp registration opens in January, and/or for occasional newsletters with updates about family events at the museum (please specify what you’d like to receive).