Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Magic of Family Camp

Why do people love Canoe Island French Camp Family Camp?

A recent interview with Susan West, a Bellingham mother, and multi-year family camp attendee reveals the answer.

Q. Why did you decide to attend a Canoe Island French Camp Family Camp?

A. I've been a Francophile my entire life. As my daughter grew old enough, I looked for summer camps for her with French language. We first attended Family Camp because my child was too young to register for camp, but we just couldn't stand waiting. It also seemed like a good way for me to know where she would be going, for her to be less likely to experience apprehension or home sickness, and for us to spend a weekend on a private island in the beautiful San Juan Islands.

Q. What did you find as a result of attending a Canoe Island French Camp Family Camp?

A. I made many friends, and my daughter did as well. The food was incredible, the island magical and the staff generous and attentive. Although I was worried about not speaking sufficient French, and facing sure humiliation, the whole range of French levels was represented in the other families attending, so I was able to learn some French without ever feeling pressured or inadequate.

Q. What was the best thing about it?

A. The location is unique. The size of the island is small enough to really get to know in a weekend, and ecologically rich enough that there is always something amazing to see. I doubt I will ever be less than delighted and amazed seeing a mink darting along shore as I kayak, or jellyfish blobbing about under my boat, or bioluminescence glittering off the body of some parent fool enough to jump in the cold water in the dark.

Q. What other benefits do you see in attending a Canoe Island French Camp Family Camp?

A. It's a chance to go back to childhood just a bit. Taking the ferry to Orcas Island, then the camp's boat to Canoe Island, is a transforming experience, removing us from our daily life and opening our hearts and minds to a new way of being in the world. It's great for my FitBit count.

Q. What would you say to anyone considering registering for a family camp?

A. I've recommended family camp to many families, particularly those with children a year shy of being old enough to go to camp on their own. Going to camp is, for most children, a first big step out of the family and school nest and into the big world of semi-independence, new friends, and unique experiences. Spending a weekend, with parents is a comfortable way to see what it will be like without actually taking a blind leap. And for parents, it's incredibly comforting to be able to picture where the little one will be, and to know that they'll be in reliable and caring hands having an amazing time.

Families who aren't sending their first child to camp also have a wonderful experience. Where else do we get to hurl Tomahawks at stumps and sleep in tipis? The pool is warm, and the new bathrooms are beautiful. Privately guided boating trips slip away from the dock at dawn, and the fire pit comes alive with songs as the sun sets. And forget the slop you may remember from your childhood camp: the magicians in the kitchen serve meals with organic locally sourced ingredients; meats smoked and cured on the island; breads and pastries baked from scratch; and crab and salmon grilled on the deck overlooking the strait where Orca whales have been seen hunting just feet offshore.

The only downside to Canoe Island Family Camp is hearing the staff's singing fade as the boat pulls away from dock, seeing the island dwindle in the distance, and knowing it will be a year before we can come back.

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