One of the perks of living in Vancouver is being able to enjoy the wilderness that surrounds us. With the warmer weather, my partner planned a two day road trip for us within BC. A weekday trip that would include my first taste of camping in a tent.
Camping isn’t something I would automatically associate with fun, or would it be something I would be clamouring to do. I have my routines and like to keep them. And when it comes to cleaning up before bed and grooming first thing when I wake up, it is hard to do without running water and a vanity.
When I consider camping for leisure, I find it humourous that success and wealth can be defined by having enough to be able to live without a home when you choose to. Camping is trading four walls and a roof for a parachute on rods with a zipper for a door. It is forgoing running water and flushable toilet for squatting in a bush. But none the less, here I was and I was going to make the best of it.
My partner did plan ahead, and made things as comfortable for us as possible. He brought along the memory foam mattress that, then and currently, tops the bed we sleep on every night. It gave it our taste of home, away. This mattress was in place of sleeping bags and the hard ground. We don’t camp enough, or plan to camp enough, to need to invest in the necessary outdoor gear, like sleeping bags. So we picked up provisions, rations, and the cheapest tent that would fit a queen size mattress pad, and off we went.
Our intended campsite had yet to open for the season, so we found ourselves in the little town of Lillooet, choosing between the two campsite that they had available there.
Lillooet was a once bustling town on the gold rush route, with a now current population of about 2,400. It was one of those places where everyone knew your name, and neighbours had no problem greeting strangers. Where every business closed up shop well before darkness broke, and “A&W” and “Subway” were the only two familiar restaurants. We had the former for dinner and breakfast the next day. It is not the city life that I prefer and am use to, but a nice destination to get away to.
What I enjoyed most about this sleepy town was it’s old timey looking buildings. This restaurant, hotel, liquor store, and bar was what I imagined a traditional saloon to be. It was just missing a water trough and horses waiting out front.
We choose a camp site closest to the water, the one that had a view of the Fraser river’s valley and not just the desolate town’s lots: “Fraser Cove”.
After regular operating hours, checking-in is a self serve affair. At their visitor board you fill out their disclaimer and place it, and the asking fee, in an envelope provided. It is then sealed and inserted it into their locked payment mailbox. A spot to pitch our tent was a mere $19, trailers paid more for more amenities.
We walked the camp site, selecting the lot that would best meet our needs. Most had already been claimed by trailers, and had them hitched up for the night. We took one of the remaining tent sites, away from the gravel and closest to the water’s edge. It included a sandy area to pitch our tent on, a wooden picnic table, and a stone lined fire pit.
After reading instructions to pull and stretch plastic over poles, and to hammer pegs into place, our first tent was up. We moved in with our mattress and two layers of blankets. But first, we planned to keep ourselves warm by building a fire.
A few paces away from our designated area, we built our fire. It was a few feet from the running stream, facing the river and the banks on the opposite side. The sun set behind the mountain range leaving a gradient of soft oranges and neon pinks. As the night grew dark we could only make out dots of light in the distance. We began gathering kindling, snapped twigs and branches fallen. But not having enough through foraging, we paid to burn some of the chopped logs, that the site’s caretaker made available to guests at a price.
We were lucky to have been able to build and burn our camp fire, a hallmark of all camping trips. Only a mere week later all campfires were band with steep penalties and possible jail time. The night was cold, but the warmth of the fire kept things toasty. It was a hard balance of being close enough to be have your cheeks flushed, but far away enough to not have the heat from flames cook your calves.
Around us the river’s water was rushing, the crickets were chirping, and the fire was crackling. And without all the lights, it all seemed much louder. The stars and the planets in the sky seemed closer and brighter. We hoped to be able to see some of the colour from the northern lights, thinking it was dark and clear enough; however it was not meant to be.
Over our crackling fire we cooked hot dogs and toasted buns. Then finished the night off with gooey marshmallow between chocolate and graham cracker.
The camp site had outhouses and a key for a shower with running water and a working toilet. But the trek to it wasn’t an easy one in the dark. We had picked up a head lamp and that helped to navigate our way in pitch black eerieness. But not enough to beat fear of the dark and the unknown within it. So my only option to relieve myself, like most men do. Out in the open with a point and shoot technic. Here I quickly mastered the squat and tilt to avoid urinating on my own foot. We thankfully brought a roll of toilet paper for at least some comfort. All that I used went in a bag to be later discarded. Kind of gross, but I guess this is what it means to be roughing it. And luckily I got over this reservation quick as a night of heavy drinking led to a higher volume of liquid needing to be released.
All our drinking and the absorbed warmth of the fire led to a heavy sleep. It was helped along by the mattress in our tent and the regular blankets we used. (We ended up washing everything when we got home, as it was covered in unavoidable sand.) But the morning after was less pleasant. We were groggy and disoriented. We spent our time packing up, then following it with a quick wipe down in their secured washroom. Then it was back on the road again.
At this point I will review some of the sights we saw to and from Lillooet.
Views like these make you feel small. It makes you realize how insignificant you are when compared to the mountains, rivers, forests, and world around you. It helped me put my life into perspective. How my woes and problems are so trivial in the grand scheme of things, because who are we but a speck in this vast planet of ours? Sadness and anger now, doesn’t last; and moments later no one will remember them. Why not focus on the happiness and the beauty around us instead. And luckily, we living in British Columbia are able to have this reminder right in our backyard. I personally came out of this trip more positive and renewed in my belief of self.
But my photos do not do the scenery justice. How can you capture such beauty with an iPhone? It so much more awe inspiring in person and I highly encourage seeing it all for yourself.
This was a scenic drive, every direction was breath taking. The winding road followed the Fraser River and its path snaked along the mountains. We stopped at the side of the road to take in the scene. We breathed in the air, felt the sun on our skin, and appreciated our ability to have all this before us today.
Our drives also consist of us searching out wildlife in their natural habitat. Seeing animals in a zoo or an aquarium isn’t the same. So we were thrilled to have seen two baby black bear clubs out in the wild. But we did not stay long enough to see their mother.
In total we saw eight separate deers grazing in the city’s outskirts.
And a stray llama and a sun bathing marmot. Both were hard to capture in photo.
We stopped at the beautiful Seton Lake, which had waters that sparkle a turquoise blue. It was most blue on a cloudless and sunny day. This one would be a great one to return to when the weather got warmer and the water more inviting.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Warmer weather and my partners birthday brought us out to nature, to camp. After a certain age you run away from celebration and look instead to recharge, and this was the perfect place to do so. I may not be built for camping, but I can see why people take pleasure in the activity. To be able to disconnect and reconnect with nature and self. To enjoy the beauty in our province and get lost in how small we are compared to it all. I absolutely recommend the Duffy Loop drive, it makes for a budget friendly retreat needing only a full tank and some sunglasses.