I just recently returned from a short camping trip with my family in Algonquin Park. Despite the eminent bear warnings from the Rangers – who actually warned us not to stay at the lake we had planned to stay at because of the frequency and severity of the bears – the Park remains one of my favourite places.
After camping last year, I remember remarking that while camping and visiting Algonquin Park, humans and nature could walk hand in hand. This year, though, I began to question whether it was really an equal partnership.
If Algonquin Park existed, but didn’t allow visitors, no one would be able to appreciate the beauty of seeing the trees reflections in the water, or seeing a mother Loon swim with her baby. On the other hand, its beauty would be preserved forever if humans did not visit.
While camping, every effort is made to leave behind as little as possible – but an impact still must be felt by the environment.
For example: hungry from hours of canoeing, the first thing we did upon arriving at our campsite was open up the supposedly bear-proof barrels, and eat. As soon as we did that, the chipmunks arrived.
I knew that humans have had some impact on the Parks ecosystems, and in general, the Earth’s ecosystems, but I didn’t realize it was to the extent that chipmunks and small squirrels were comfortable enough to come right up to us, steal our peanut butter knife, and run away with it.
If the squirrels were that comfortable, we thought, imagine what the bears would be like.
Personally, I wasn’t scared by the prospect of bears. There had been many sightings, and incidents where the bears tore open the food barrels, but no attacks. I wanted to see a bear, purely for the adventure of it.
To my disappointment (but many of my family member’s delights), we did not see a bear. Nor did we have one attack the food barrels – which, in case you were wondering, were hung on a tree branch overnight so that the bears could not reach them.
Though we didn’t see a bear, many other people who had camped on different lakes had. Bears have become so accustomed to the process of storing food in plastic barrels that they frequently attack the barrels.
So, we didn’t have a bear attack – but we did have an attack of a different kind. We woke up to what we have been referring to as Attack of the Chipmunks. That’s right: chipmunks.
We had two tents, both of which were placed under large trees. In the morning, the chipmunks had climbed the trees (which, in comparison to their tiny, adorable bodies, were like the CN tower to an ant). Not only that, but they had climbed out onto the branches which housed pinecones, and they had begun violently shaking the branches, so that the tents were pelted with pinecones.
“WAKE UP!” We imagined them shouting, “We want your food!”
It was both a wonderful and jarring experience to be so immersed in nature. Wonderful because it made me appreciate it so much more – but jarring because I realized how fragile it is, and how quickly it could be taken away from us.
Over time, things could build up (litter left behind at campsites, or the animals eating human food) and impact the Park’s ecosystem; or things could happen quickly. The introduction – accidental, or not – of even one invasive species, such as one fish, could be detrimental.
Humans may inhabit the Earth, but it is not ours to destroy. We are fortunate to be able to marvel at the beauty of places such as Algonquin Park, and to have such places exist at all. After all, nature was here first. Before any of us were born, the trees blew in the wind, and the waves crashed against the shore, and I think, more than anything, we owe it to nature to preserve it, so it can tell the stories of our lives, long after we ourselves are gone.
(Photos taken by my talented younger sister!)
Have you ever been camping? What was your experience like? Do you think that as humans, we appreciate nature enough, or do we take advantage of it?