Thu. Feb 29th, 2024
True Beginnings in the Wild: Four Generations of Campers

Today’s post comes from Rebecca van Massenhoven, leader of Learn to Camp at Grundy Lake Provincial Park.

In 1951, at the age of forty, my great-grandmother crossed the Atlantic Ocean with her family on the ocean liner Volendam. She wanted a better future for her family and she moved to Canada in pursuit of this dream.

I still remember her burning curiosity about the world around her. From spiders to birds, she loved learning about nature and often spent time sharing this passion with her family. When she was a child, she would sit in her window watching the birds that came to her feeder while she talked to me about them as if they were her old and dear friends.

My story really began with my great-grandmother’s passion for the environment. In each of the four generations that have come to call Canada home, we continue to foster their love of the natural environment as their own.

4 campers sitting in garden chairsMy great-grandmother, my brothers and I enjoying the day at Pinery Provincial Park

My grandmother was six years old when she traveled on the Volendam to Canada. Along with her parents and siblings, she settled in Timmins, Ontario.

As a child, she watched animals, such as moose and bears, wander around her new Canadian property. The wild, wooded edge of the city beckoned to her, always nourished by her mother’s love of nature.

Camping: a family tradition

The tradition of camping was born in the family. The first time my grandmother went camping with her children, they expected a vacation, but they discovered much more. The knowledge and appreciation for the natural world learned through these trips formed the basis of our family identity.

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Family photo showing 8 brothers and their father standing in the river.A family photo of my grandmother and her siblings swimming in a river near Timmins, Ontario.

I asked her, “What was your most memorable camping trip, Grandma?” Many came to mind, including the first trip with my mother. I was convinced that she never wanted to camp. She ended up staying a whole week. I guess camping has a way of drawing people in and bringing them together.

Or, as my grandmother would say, it is a way to “get out, clear your mind, and de-stress.”

A photo of the writer's parents camping.An early photo of my parents camping.

Sharing my passion

This summer I started my job at Ontario Parks not knowing what to expect. As a Learn to Camp leader, I have had the joy of teaching over 300 people how to camp at Grundy Lake Provincial Park.

My enthusiasm for the outdoors and camping has guided my teaching and my interactions with these new campers. I’ve traced my passion through my family’s past to examine how camping has been linked to who I am.

Photo of family sitting at a campsite.Families that camp together, stay together. My brothers and I spent our summer vacation camping in provincial parks in southern Ontario.
Rebecca helps the campers fish.I feel like camping has always been a part of who I am. I love sharing my experience and passion as a Learn to Camp leader.

I taught campers how to set up a tent, start a fire, and cook their first s’mores. Some of them are like my family and have come a long way to call Canada home.

I have seen wonder and delight on their faces as they discover animals and plants for the first time. As their fears dissolve, they gain the power to question and observe the world around them.

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Camping has a way of bringing families together, creating memories, and defining an identity that lasts for generations.

It is a story without end, a story of beginnings.

Will you make camping part of your family traditions? Learn more about the Learn to Camp program here.