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Escape to British Colombia


There is a kind of magical mystery when sat motionless staring into the flames of camp fire in the middle of a forest, hypnotic multicoloured dancing flames somehow manage to relieve one’s mind of the roller coaster of modern day living along with the stresses and strains which accompany it. Throw in a meal cooked in mother natures kitchen, a cold beer from an ice packed cooler, and hey presto, paradise found.

In previous years my three camping buddies and i had confined ourselves to British camping trips with the odd European excursion thrown in, normally with the aid of a clapped out V.W and a couple of tents well past their sell by date, it had long been our ambition to sample the pioneering spirit of North American outdoor life, however the logistical nightmare of cramming a weeks worth of gear into a twenty kilo baggage allowance, along with other essentials such as clothes had dampened any real enthusiasm for the idea, the solution to our predicament was found in the form of a company located in Vancouver who specialise in renting out the equipment we needed. 

This particular episode of Brits abroad took the format of a three week trip consisting of a week under canvas sandwiched in between sightseeing and the more traditional tourist activities, there is so much to see and do in the region that a lesser period of time just would not cut it, and with flying time of around nine and a half hours from the U.K it was unanimously decided that the trip should last for as long as possible.

From May through to September are traditionally the months when thousands of north American families pack up their vehicles with camping gear and head for the great outdoors, a large majority choose one of British Columbia’s numerous freshwater lakes or rivers as the ideal rest and recreation getaway, our destination was the provincial campsite of Sunset View, situated on the shore of Green Lake in the Cariboo region of B.C and after loading up our vehicle we headed out for an early start. 

From Vancouver, Canada’s largest port on its Pacific coastline,  we followed the Fraser River East along the old gold rush route through the coastal mountain range, their enormous snow capped peaks provided a magnificent contrast against a deep blue cloudless sky, even though the temperature on the ground was already well into the 30s, the Fraser has carved an enormous canyon along it’s route to the ocean over thousand of years, and every summer millions of salmon return to navigate the river in an attempt to reach their spawning grounds deep in the heart of the province, many of which will provide a meal for hungry bears building up fat reserves in readiness for winter hibernation, indeed, its not uncommon to catch a glimpse of a black or a grizzly bear as urban areas give way to the more sparsely populated regions of British Columbia’s interior.

The small neighbourhood of 70 Mile House consisting of a store, gas station, bar and a few wooden houses represented the last pocket of civilisation towards the end of our journey, and it was mildly disappointing not to see a clump of tumbleweed blowing along the road, six hours behind the wheel of a car in England will get from one end of the country to the other barring traffic hold ups, in Canada however, it barely scratches the surface, this became increasingly more apparent with every glance of the map, yet two hundred years ago gold prospectors and fur trappers would have traversed the same terrain without the aid of vehicles and modern highways, somehow hauling a ton or more of supplies with a mule or horse and cart at best. 

Canada’s provincial campsites offer an attractive alternative to the more traditional European style campsites, and throughout the summer will host a variety of visitors, from huge ‘lorry like’ recreational vehicles packed with all the comforts of home, to the lone backpacker equipped with a small tent and the bare camping essentials, and though it is advisable to pre book a pitch, they are often available on a pot luck basis, there is no formal booking in procedure, simply pick your spot and the camp ranger will show up at some point to collect payment of about ten pounds a day for a pitch, it’s all very casual and totally in keeping with the relaxed atmosphere afforded by the surroundings, 

Our campsite was typical of most in the region and provided the perfect opportunity to test our outdoor skills, set in a large spruce forest with well shaded clearings able to accommodate three to four tents or a large vehicle and trailer, with a fire pit and grill for cooking and a wooden picnic bench completing the set up.

During prolonged dry periods the risk of forest fires breaking out increase, as a precaution fire bans are occasionally in effect,  fortunately during our trip no such ban was in place and we were able to purchase a plentiful supply of sweet smelling cedar logs, perfect for cooking over the red embers and for stoking up after sunset, it can get chilly at night in the Cariboo, and whilst a sweater and jeans are often necessary it is also a good idea to keep one set of clothes purely for wearing around the fire, as they will absorb the smell of woodsmoke leaving you relatively odourless for daytime pursuits.  

When the nearest city is 350 miles away the night sky is free from the glare of streetlights and the haze of traffic fumes, we were mesmerised by the amazing clarity of the milky way to the point of which our necks started to ache through staring up for prolonged periods, every few minutes a shooting star would crash into the darkness leaving a blazing trail behind it, and even man made satellites are visible to the naked eye, appearing as tiny white dots moving slowly across  the dark skyline.                           

Camping in western Canada requires a responsible approach, a code of conduct exists not least of which concerns bears, one had been spotted near the camp earlier that day, and whilst generally these magnificent animals are very wary of humans, they posses a sense of smell akin to that of a bloodhound and the scent of food will draw them to the source from many miles away, bear proof garbage disposal units were situated around the site and emptied daily by the ranger, signs which read ‘a fed bear is a dead bear’ are commonplace along the trails, a bear can quickly learn to associate man as a potential food supply and will ultimately become a dangerous nuisance, when this happens there is only one outcome, the unfortunate creature will be shot, therefore it is very important to observe the etiquettes regarding waste disposal when in the bush.
One seventh of the Earth’s freshwater supply is contained in Canada in the form of lakes and rivers, each with its own distinctive character, Green lake is suitably named, the chemical composition of the minerals in it’s waters combined with low oxygen levels give the lake a deep emerald green colour, and at fourteen kilometers long by one and a half wide it is an ideal venue for any type of watersport, small boats are available to rent, so in keeping with our nations seafaring traditions we spent a day exploring the lake and some of it’s fifty seven kilometers of shoreline.

At night the forest comes alive, even the smallest rustlings of a chipmunk or squirrel foraging in the undergrowth seems magnified tenfold, and one of the eeriest sounds that we have ever heard was later discovered to be the call of the Lune emanating from the still water of the lake, Lunes are a duck like wildfowl, and are featured on the reverse side of the queens head on a Canadian dollar, hence the coin is often referred to as  a ‘looney’.

For the benefit of anyone who may be planning a similar experience, this part of the world possesses some of the most spectacular landscape we have ever seen, Vancouver is often referred to as the gateway to the Pacific and is set against the awesome backdrop of the rocky mountains, indeed the entire province of British Columbia is home to some of the most breathtaking scenary the northern hemisphere has to offer, no wonder the locals call it ‘Gods country’ furthermore the list of outdoor pursuits for the adventure orientated traveller are almost limitless, from a relaxing hike to full blown white water rafting and more.

Our four person equipment rental package consisted of two good sized tents, four sleeping bags, four folding chairs, a coleman stove for cooking, pots, pans, and everything else necessary for a successful trip into the bush, even the numerous easy to forget items such as a torch and matches were included, the quality of the gear was impressive as was the manner in which it was delivered to our hotel, the guy was friendly very knowledgeable and imparted some useful tips and advice, as well as directions out of town. 

Overall, the friendliness of the people, excellent value for money, and indeed the entire trip culminated with four very happy campers returning home to the U.k, this type of  holiday should definitely be high on the ‘to do list’ for the outdoors enthusiast, next year, we intend heading for Alaska, till then!                                                 

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