sunrise at Grundy Lake

True beginnings in nature: four generations of campers

Today’s post comes from Rebecca van Massenhoven, a Learn to Camp leader 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 The Volendam. She wanted a better future for her family, and moved to Canada in search of this dream.

I can still recall 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 the family. As a child, I sat in her bay window watching the birds that came to her feeder as she told me about them as if they were her dear old friends.

My story truly 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 her love of the natural environment as our own.

4 campers sitting in lawn chairs
My great-grandmother, my siblings and I enjoying day at Pinery Provincial Park

My grandmother was six years old when traveling on The Volendam to Canada. Alongside her parents and siblings, she settled in Timmins, Ontario.

As a young child, she watched animals, such as moose and bears, walk through her new Canadian property. The wild, forest edge of the city beckoned to her— ever nurtured by her mother’s love of nature.

Camping: a family tradition

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

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

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

Or — as my grandmother would say — it is a way to “get out, clear your head and take the stress off.”

A photo of the writers parents camping.
An early photo of my parents camping

Sharing my passion

This summer, I began my work at Ontario Parks, unsure what to expect. As a Learn to Camp leader, I’ve 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 interactions with these new campers. I have traced my passion through my family’s past to examine how camping has become tied to who I am.

Family photo sitting on a campsite.
Families that camp together, stay together. My siblings and I spent our summer vacations camping at provincial parks in southern Ontario
Rebecca helping campers fish.
Camping feels as though it 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, build 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 amazement and delight on their faces as they discover animals and plants for the first time. As their fears dissolve, they are empowered to question and observe the world around them.

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

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

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