Just my luck...I had to poop just before preparation time for the “Survivor” competition at the Explore Outdoor Adventure and Travel Show. I was given the two minute warning by organizer, Sharon Donaldson, prior to the event. Three other winning contestants and myself were then to be escorted up to the media room to meet and greet infamous Boston Rob, previous winner from the television show Survivor - and our main competitor. Thinking I had a whole two minutes to spare I thought I’d take the opportunity to go to the washroom facilities before all the excitement began. To be honest, I usually don’t like to go “number two” in a public washroom - but this time it couldn’t be helped. It may have something to do with how nervous I was to be part of this big event. After all, Boston Rob is the same guy who stared in four seasons of “Survivor” over a ten year period, spent 117 days camped out on remote beaches, went through two final Tribal Councils, appeared on six CBC reality series and won four individual immunity challenges in last year’s season - overall winning the the prize of $1 million. Now, some small-town canoe guide-book author labelled “the Happy Camper” was placed into the event, promoted by the media as Boston Rob’s main competition. Yikes! That would make anyone’s bowels react.

I didn’t realize there was no toilet paper in the stall until after I had completed my business. Panic set in, of course. It was a three roller mechanism but I couldn’t figure out how to lower the two remaining roles. So I improvised by shoving my hand up inside. Back-up roll two had none but back-up role three had a tiny bit left - enough to get me into the position of escaping to the neighboring stall for a proper wipe. Problem was, my hand got stuck on retrieval. Panicked even more I resorted to yanking my hand out with full force. It wasn’t a pretty sight, and my hand hurt like hell, but I was able to run from the public washroom (after washing up of course) and meet the crew seconds before meeting Boston Rob.

It was a real pleasure being introduced to Rob Mariano. Our family are fans of the Survivor show and Rob Marino himself, and it was fantastic to see how genuine he was with his fans. The winners of the contest were amazing as well, especially Melinda Moore from Niagara on the Lake, Ontario. She was the only female in the group, the most knowledgeable about the show Survivor, the most hyper (yes, even more than me), and, according to her, Rob’s biggest fan.

After the meet and greet, an entourage of media reps and show organizers corralled us all and gathered us behind the stage curtain where we could hear the fans going wild to see Boston Rob (and Happy Camper...). The three contestants and I were the first to hit the stage, walking in single file with paddles held as make-shift torches. Then came Boston Rob - and the crowd went wild!

There was a Q&A for the first half of the show, a fifth contestant was chosen for the “Survivor Challenge” and then the obstacle course was presented to us. It consisted of 7 steps. First we had to unscrew the top off a wood duck nesting box with a cordless screwdriver. Inside was a duck caller, which we had to “quack” before moving on. Next came a kiddy fishing rod and reel which we used to cast a rubber fish through an open square made of white birch branches. We then had to proceed to a sleeping bag which had to be unravelled. Inside the bag were five bolas that had to be tossed at a ladder with three rungs (I call this game Hill-Billy Horseshoes). A total of three bolas had to wrap around the ladder rungs before moving on. The final step was to use the sleeping bag like a potato sack, leap to a Muskoka chair, sit down and blow your “quaker.”

Things didn’t start off well for me. My power drill was set at speed 1 and the others were set at 3. I blamed Boston Rob, who was positioned at the station beside me. After all, he was once a construction worker. He denied it of course...and then gave me an silly smirk. My game face was on! Once I unscrewed my screws and blew my quaker, I started casting my fish; and that’s when my special talents rose to the challenge. Years of casting a lure endlessly into lakes, streams and rivers, all in the hope of catching a fish for supper during my countless canoe trips in the north, paid off. I made it though on the fourth toss; Malinda made it through on her third; and the rest of the contestants - including Boston Rob - never got past the fish casting station!

It was Melinda and I from there on in. We were neck to neck with the unravelling of the sleeping bag (Melinda was also a huge fan of camping and canoeing and had dealt with many rolled up sleeping bags). But she ended up being a better bola tosser than I and raced to the finish, sitting in the Muskoka chair and excitingly blowing hard on her duck call.

Melinda deserved to win. She had her entire family taking up the front row seats, holding up banners and signs and cheering her on. Her prize was a t-shirt that read “I beat Boston Rob.” I was so happy for her. So were the other contestants, who were still back near the start still trying to fish - including Boston Rob.

In the end I outwitted the toilet roll dispenser, outplayed Boston Rob at casting a kiddy fishing rod and reel, and outlasted one of the best outdoor shows I’ve ever participated in.

I can’t wait to see what next year offers.

- Kevin Callan


Kevin Callan is the author of thirteen books, including the best selling “The Happy Camper”, the incredibly popular series of paddling guides, and most reviewed “Wilderness Pleasures: A Practical Guide to Camping Bliss”. On a regular basis, he presents across North America and has been a key speaker at all the major canoe events for over 25 years. He is a great friend and supporter of Level Six.

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