When It Snows In May

“It’s snowing,” Asa whispered from a top bunk yesterday morning. Several of the VII leaders and spring staff, including myself, had opted to spend the night in Maki House with the woodstove going. The forecast had been calling for below freezing temperatures overnight and no one was really interested in sleeping in the unheated cabins. We’re outdoors people, but we’ll take an insulated building where we can get it.

It’s our opening weekend here at camp. Each year at this time a small group of staff join our Site Manager – this year we welcome back Gisele Roy to fill the role – to begin the task of readying our site for the upcoming season. At the same time, the Voyageur II leaders spend several days packing all the food and gear for their 52-day trips.   On Friday, about a dozen volunteers that are coming to pitch in for our spring Work Weekend will join us.

Even without the snow, things look quite a bit different here at the moment than they do in the summer months. The trees remain mostly bare with a few down across paths – victims of several harsh windstorms this winter. We’re hoping for running water in the next day or so, in the mean time we do things like we do on trip – wash water comes from the river, drinking water is treated and stored in buckets. Our canoe fleet has been housed inside the dining hall all winter (see photo above) and we now get to play a game of giant Kevlar/ABS Jenga as we relocate them back to their racks by the river. With no tables and benches set up, our group piles into the kitchen at meal times and eat around the counter. Heck, the flag isn’t even up yet.

My non-camp friends think I’m crazy for wanting to be up here without heat, without running water, and wearing 3-4 layers of clothing at any given point during the day. Yet every May for the last six years I have packed up my car, driven the six and half hours north and pulled onto the Red Squirrel Road with a smile on my face. It feels like coming home. Spring at Wanapitei means being greeted in the morning by chirping birds and hares munching on grass on my walk to breakfast. It means nights huddled around the campfire with staff talking about our favorite subject (spoiler alert – it’s camp). Saunas to end the work day, watching the sunset from the Bridge with the river swollen below, seeing the trees and plants come alive as the weather warms, and those magical moments walking across camp where it feels like you’re the only person in the whole world.

It’s snowing.” I crawl out of my sleeping bag in Maki and peak out the window. Fat snowflakes fall from the sky, looking like something you’d expect on a Christmas card rather than a summer camp. I smile. It’s May in Nothern Ontario, and it’s beautiful.

Erin Sunstrum is our Administrative Director.  She is thrilled to be at camp for the next few weeks, even if it means wearing her sleeping bag at her desk.