Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 07.18.06
Stanstead, Quebec


How to have fun camping and not drown

Camping is supposed to be relaxing, a chance to get away from society's trappings and embrace the simplicity of nature.

In other words, camping is not for children.

Recently we camped at Brighton State Park outside Island Pond, Vermont. It's a dandy little campground we've been going to for close to ten years. When we started going, there were five of us. This past weekend, there were six plus a friend plus a dog.

Plus there were the self-inflating mattresses (our backs are less forgiving than they used to be), balls, games, glo-sticks, beach toys, horseshoes, collapsible chairs (backsides: also less forgiving), pillows, bags, and food like you wouldn't believe.

You need all this stuff to keep the children entertained. Take the glo-sticks, for example. They're a good diversion for the campfire between servings of S'mores. It also helps you keep track of the kids when they wander off:

("Honey, which child is that bear carrying away?"

"I see a blue glo-stick so it must be Kate.")

We sometimes bring sparklers to light around the campfire too. However, a few weeks ago we were saddened to learn that sparklers are now considered "boring."

They don't "do" anything.

This was a disappointing revelation, even more so because it triggered my inner old man as I sermonized "Why, when I was a kidů"

The trick to camping with MSN-bred children is to find the line between simple nature and giving in to demands to hook up the portable DVD player. You have to find something active for them to do, something hands-on, preferably loud, potentially dangerous.

Even plain old swimming gets boring after a while. Water doesn't "do" anything either.

A few years ago at Brighton, my older girls started pleading to swim across Spectacle Pond. Last year, Deb gave in. Give in once and you have a tradition on your hands.

I didn't join them last year. When people party, you have the designated driver. In risky vacation fun, I'm the designated worrier. Last year, the thought of swimming across the pond filled me with dread. I figured if I'm going to have an anxiety attack, I'd better have it on shore.

"I'll stay and watch Abby," I rationalized. Then I sat on the shore and pretended to read my book as I anxiously watched my loved ones slowly paddle across the pond and not drown.

A year later, I'm clearer of head, less prone to worry. I also realized that we're creating memories here for our children and I didn't want one of them to be "Remember when we use to swim across Spectacle Pond? And remember how Dad was too much of a scaredy-cat? Dad was a bit of a pansy, eh?"

I put my irrational worries aside: I could swim, tread water, float. My children were able-bodied strong swimmers. In case of cramps, one of our party had a flotation device. There were no man-eating leeches.

And so I set out across the pondů

It looked like a short distance but distance across water can be deceiving. It was a long swim. I imagined what it must be like to swim even greater distances. I thought this as I was about halfway across.

This called up the image of Mark Wahlberg at the end of The Perfect Storm, bobbing up and down in the middle of the ocean. He drowns, by the way.

Of course we all made it. Then we swam back. There was no dramatic crawling up on the beach and kissing the sand. No gasping for breath. I didn't feel particularly proud of myself because really it was just a short trek.

We'll do it again next year, of course. But this too will eventually become boring. There's been talk of parachuting.

I'll watch Abby.