Having been dragged unwillingly into annual family camping fiascos, the concept was one I have mocked with horror ever since. Then I went on 2 camping safaris in Africa and one up to Macchu Picou and enjoyed myself emmensely. Of course during all 3 we were well taken care of, and, with the exception of the first African one, we didn’t even have to fumble erecting our tents… or cook… or find camp grounds. Thus we were free to simply enjoy the experience of nature unshackled by the drudgery of survival. The thrill of having only a flimsy piece of canvas between me and that curious lion snuffling outside was priceless. The environment was right there and I loved it.
So, of course, eventually I got curious. What would it be like to go camping on my own? The idea germinated for some time. One thing I realized was that I didn’t want to go with anyone. I’m pretty sure this stems from being trapped in a tent with my mother, father ( who suffered horribly from ashma and was a constant source of gross noises… as a result to this day I shudder with disgust when ever someone sucks snot. ugh) and a grubby little brother. I also wanted solitude, having created this fantasy of a meditative spiritually enriching experience with nature that did not include Brady bunches right beside me. I’m sure you think that I may have over romanticized this a tad and laid on a mountain of expectations. Yeah, well, that’s how I roll.
Years ago I went whale watching at Telegraph Cover and it really was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Whales are fickle folk and in the wild refuse to pay attention to human schedules so it really is a crap shoot whether and how many you will see on any given location and time. They just don’t care how long it took you to get there or how much you paid. Their playground is over 460 kil by 80 kil so even a pod of Killer Whales can play hide and go seek! But on this day and that particular time – over 50 whales came to tea. 50!! The captain put a mike into the water so we could listen to them on the speaker. People, it was so moving, words just fail me. Tears flowed down my face and I wasn’t the only one. Even now I am welling up telling you about it.
While everything about that day was memorable, the thing that helped me decide where to go on my first solo camping trip were the people in the kayaks that day. Blue sunny skies, calm water and tons (literally!) of Orcas moving around and under them. I very nearly launched myself over the side to join them!
So the plan was 6 days camping and then 3 days on a guided kayak/camping trip out of Telegraph Cove. Right. That decision made, the only thing left was to outfitting myself. Yah! Retail therapy. I couldn’t believe all the accessories you can get! Sleeping bags, tents that pop out and set themselves up!, little stoves, coolers, those cool blue pots and dishes. I was getting a good buzz on.
Road Trip Up Vancouver Island!
Somehow I managed to get all my stuff into Bella, my Miata. Throughout the week many people would express amazement that I got “all that into that car”! It wasn’t that hard. :} I left Vancouver at 8, 2 hours in line at the ferry, 1.5 hour ferry ride,7 hours up island to Cluxewe Resort & Campground, seconds to flattentire on gravel road to my camp site, 1 hour to wrestle with the insta-tent in gale force winds. Then only 1 hours for my air mattress to flatten out and 6 hours of freezing my tush off because my sleeping bag was for summer temperatures and apparently winter starts mid-Aug. up island. sigh. That was day 1!
While my neighbours were way too close the beach was right across a small gravel road from my tent. I would spend a lot of time on that beach to get away from those neighbours during the following days.
Some neighbours turned out to be a real pleasure; the young couple from Germany in their rented snazzy camper van ( I was soooo envious!) who were shell shocked at the size of Canada. I especially enjoyed the older gentleman, Ken, from Saltspring Isl., an avid fisher and whose wife wasn’t. We drank wine and had excellent conversations, a real pleasure. I only had him for a couple of days and he was replaced by a parade of undesirables: cying babies, whiney children, red-neck fishers etc.
Sights in the Neighbourhood.
Port Hardy is a “hardy” fishers town with some interesting characters and history. On the way back I poked around, exploring back roads and out of the way towns. I went to Port Alice where there was nothing of interest, other than mind numbing stunning scenery! I kept going past the town and got quite a surprise – a huge pulp mill at the end of the road spewing toxic waste into the pristine air. Nice. And across from it was the Port Alice Golf & Country Club. Yup. Of course I had to go in. I spent a very pleasant hour drinking with the bartender and local folk. Apparently the town was actually on the mill site when the company came in and razed it to the ground and moved it several miles down the road. They also informed me that where my campground was located is always colder & foggier than the surrounding area. Nice.
One day I went up to explore the Little Huson Caves, so beautiful! I’ll leave it to the pics to show you cause words won’t do it justice. For the most part I had it to myself and I even went skinny dipping in the river!
Telegraph Cove & the Kayak Trip!
Finally the day came for the kayak trip! Of course that morning it started to rain. The ironic thread that wove through this trip was how cold and mostly wet it was but at no time could I have a fire because the rest of the summer had been so hot. I tore down my camp and piled it into Bella and off I went to Telegraph Cove, humming with excitement.
There was a total of 4 of us, a couple from North Vancouver and Brad, our guide, cook & bottle washer. The company was North Island Kayak and they were just great, very organized and focused making sure we were safe and would have fun. The weather cleared and we had a beautiful sunny day for our paddle to our campground, stopping along the way for lunch. I hadn’t realized that there so many campsites tucked into the forest for boaters to enjoy. Very basic but stunning water views.
Shortly after we arrived and set up camp we were treated to a massive show of Orcas and Dolphins just off shore from us. There were people out on kayaks amongst them so I was a tad envious. Later we went out for a sunset paddle on smooth glassy water, gently drifting between leisurely strokes. Bliss. I could feel the stress just dripping off me into the water.
I have to say, camping would be so much fun if you could just have a camp fire. Especially when it is cold. Once the sun went down it was very cold. We tried to do the social thing but both nights, shortly after we ate, we all dived for our tents and sleeping bags for warmth.
Next day on our way to Robson Bight we were swarmed by about 100 dolphins! They dived under our kayaks and breached and played all around us – it was crazy amazing! We hung around the Bight but reports told us that most of the Orcas were down by Campbell River so we left and on the way back went ashore to explore an inland water fall. We almost made it back before the rain and wind hit… almost.
Morning broke to pouring rain but breakfast was great – toasted bagels and cream cheese drizzled with maple syrup. We gobbled it up and quickly bundled everything into the kayaks. While we were loading 3 Orcas came by so close to shore I could have waded out to them. We just stood there soaking up the rain and the Orcas. Once the show was over we tore back to Telegraph Cove to tons of coffee and lunch.
So it wasn’t quite the adventure I had hoped but I was still exhilarated and more than willing to give it another go… maybe with better weather next time.
So in case you want to see what I had been wishing for check out this YouTube vid of kayakers off Sooke, B.C..
I decided to spend my last 2 days on Malcom Isl , just off Port McNeill. I found a spot at Bere Point Campsite, up a level from the beach. It had a nice woodsy feel to it and the path to the beach went through such an atmospheric-drenched gully that I thought I had stumbled into Narnia. If it hadn’t been raining… and cold… How pitiful is the picture of me huddled under a tarp trying to warm my hands on the 1 flame burner stove while the rain pelted down. The next day was still rainy and cold but when it lift a bit I headed off to hike up to Malcom Point to a cliff that overlooked Johnston Straight. Stunning.
Rain and cold again that night.
Got up early to sit with my coffee on the beach and read. The water was like glass, the mist was just lifting and the sun was peeking through. Then the red neck boys were starting to get up and yell their morning greetings so – time to go. I was done with this adventure and I had a long drive back. It was time for my own warm bed and kitties.
Packing a wet tent is not fun, especially by my self and I just wanted to be home so I just jammed things in and, like Scarlett O’Hara, would deal with it all tomorrow.
So camping alone. Let’s face it – rain and cold creates a special suck-ness whether you’re alone or not. In fact I think if you’re with someone it creates a good reason to take it out on the other person. Being alone, I just hunkered down with my book, wine and head-lamp and saw it through. The only time I got a tad nervous was on Malcolm Isl. when on the way back from having a shower at the Marina some good ‘ole boys came along and asked for a kiss, obviously well liquored up. Somehow I resisted but realized how vulnerable I was if they decided to pursue the idea of a party. This camp site was way more isolated that the other one and I was definitly on my own and there’s no locks on tent doors. So in my McGiver-ness I rigged up a “lock”, putting a carabiner ( I never leave home without them.) through the 2 zipper tabs on the inside of the tent. Of course if someone was serious about getting in that wouldn’t stop them but I figured I wasn’t that good looking. :}.
I enjoyed the experience enough that I would certainly try it again; I think choosing the campground is key and of course the weather. One you do have some power over and the other not so much. If it can be that cold and wet in the middle of August there just is no guarantees ever.
Have you ever camped by yourself? I’d love to hear about it.