Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Camping in B.C., Part I

In the past week, we've tasted the first delicious offerings of summer. I know that summer is yet another month and a bit away, but in Vancouver, the first truly warm day of the year is like an appetizer for what is surely to come: the sumptuous main course that is summer in Vancouver. I finally trudged my box of shorts and capris that had been sitting in a corner in my bedroom for the past number of months into the crawlspace only about six weeks ago, thinking that summer was still a ways off, and I didn't even begrudge crawling in there again to retrieve them last week.

This warm spell has me anticipating our annual camping trip. As great as the Vancouver area is in the summer, there is a whole beautiful province to explore. Our pick this year is Bear Creek Provincial Park just outside of Kelowna. We somehow lucked out getting a spot there. My husband and I were both on our computers at 6:50 a.m. and counting down the seconds until the reservation system opened online. Within five seconds, all the spots were taken. We've never been to this campground before, but it comes highly recommended from friends who have. I like the fact that there doesn't seem to be a day-use parking lot, so I'm hoping that the beach area will be less busy than parks that also accommodate non-campers. Sure, I teach my kids to share, but...I don't like to share my campground.

If you are looking to go camping this year because like us, you can't afford a "real" vacation you love the great outdoors, here are some of the places in B.C. that we have camped in recent years. We camp almost exclusively at the provincial parks because we're exclusive like that. Actually, we tried private campgrounds a couple of times, once in Oliver, and once in Osoyoos, and were astonished at the small footprint of space on a grass field that was supposed to be our camping spot. In my humble opinion, provincial campgrounds provide much more value for your vacation dollar, even though we campers all  reminisce about the days when $6 per night fees and free firewood were the norm. Most campgrounds now range between $15 to $30 a night. Bring your own firewood if you don't have a mini-van packed full of essential kid-equipment, or be prepared to pay for wood.

1. Kettle River Provincial Park
This is definitely one of our top picks. The scent of Ponderosa pine trees, the sound of the river while you are drifting off to sleep, and the occasional deer ambling through the park are some of my favourite highlights. Nestled in the town of Rock Creek, it is about a half-hour drive east of Osoyoos. I just about cried for joy when I discovered the newly built shower building last year, as it was the only thing really lacking here.





The best part about this campground is, of course, the river. Before we had kids, we would spend hours floating down the river together on air mattresses. The river curves around the campground so that there is only about a ten minute walk on either side of float down the river. In past years, the river was very calm and it took about two or three hours to float down. Last year, the river was so high and fast that it took only about twenty minutes! It was too dangerous to let the kids float down, which is part of the reason why we chose a different campground this year without a rushing river!
The trees kind of make me hungry. They always remind me of giant, cinnamon and brown sugar crusted breadsticks.



One of the old train bridges that is now part of the Kettle River bike trail.

These things remind me of the Muppets for some reason.
View from the train bridge.





2. Monck Provincial Park
About 22 km North of Merritt, Monck Provincial Park was the other stop on our camping trip last summer. Some highlights were the Forestry services helicopter landing and visit from Smokey the Bear, and the oodles of Eagles and Osprey in the trees. The campground is set on the shore of Nicola Lake, which was nice enough for swimming and such if you are interested in such things. It had an older, but decent playground for kids.








3. E.C. Manning Provincial Park, Lightning Lakes
My numerous camping stays at Lighting Lakes in Manning Park have been feasts of natural beauty for the senses. It gets very cold here, even in the middle of summer, but the spectacular scenery is worth the sacrifice of summer heat. 








What do you call baby loons? Cute.

Woody Woodpecker

Across the highway from the campground is a winding road up to an amazing alpine hike and breathtaking lookout points.










4. Haynes Point
As the only provincial park campground in the summer playground of Osoyoos, Haynes Point is probably one of the most coveted campgrounds in BC. It takes some serious mouse-clicking skill or good luck to get a reservation here. We have only been lucky enough to stay here once, although, come to think of it, we only tried once. I guess we just have good luck! The thing that I remember most about this place was that we spent over two hours stringing up tarps for shade, and setting up our new tent-gazebo-thing over the picnic table, and about five minutes cutting the tarps down that night in the middle of a wild wind storm. The tarp would fly higher than the tree tops and then come crashing down on top of the tent. I remember waking up a few times having to push the tent up off of our faces because it was bending so hard from the wind. The next day was sweltering hot without the shade of our downed tarps by ten in the morning.

The wild wind can probably be attributed to the fact that the campground is a small peninsula jutting out right into the middle of the lake. The biggest draw for this campground is just the fact that it is in Osoyoos, which has some fun amenities, and...it's Wine country. I actually don't even like wine, but that sounded kind of grown-up, like something they would say on a travel segment on the news, right?

One of the only shots from our stay there. I was afraid the wind would blow the camera away, I suppose.

This lookout over Osoyoos wows me every time. I think Haynes Point is just to the left of hubby's shoulders.

Stay tuned for part two of my camping reviews! You might just give up being this person:


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