August 31, 2010

How Much Do I Love Camping?


I believe I am now completely thawed after camping for five days on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island with a complete campfire ban in effect.  We are experienced coastal campers but nothing could have prepared me for camping in damp windy conditions without the benefit of a fire in the evenings.  I wore all the wool I brought and went for many walks on the beaches dressed like it was January.

My husband and children didn't seem to feel the cold nearly as much as I did.  They dressed warmly, but were not desperate about it.  One day found me walking around our campsite with a wool blanket tied around my waist like a sarong.  My husband took to calling me 'Nanuk', but by the end of the week, even he said next time we camp at French Beach we should come earlier in the summer, when the possibility of a campfire ban has not yet taken effect.   The forest floor of the campground was littered in gold and brown leaves from the overnight fall-like temperatures, but we were mercifully cozy in our tents and sleeping bags at night, and slept well, looking forward to hot chocolate and coffee made on the Coleman stove in the morning.  We had glorious days on the beaches, hunting for tidal life, scanning the horizon for dolphins (we saw a group of three) and whales (we were blessed with a visit by a grey whale feeding in the kelp beds just off shore at Botanical Beach near Port Renfrew), and warming up on the sunbaked stones littering French Beach and China Beach.  At one point I sat on French Beach, picking up warm stone after warm stone to hold in my frigid hands.

We played round after round of badminton and tossed the football, and no one complained about taking their turn to do the dishes after every meal in a pan of hot water.  We were gratefully distracted from the wind on our second afternoon with a visit from my brother, his family and a couple of nephews, and enjoyed showing them around China Beach - a long stretch of fine sandy beach accessible only by a short hike through a forest of huge arrow-straight Sitka Spruce trees once used for masts on tallships  - which they thought was truly beautiful.  We had brought a gas lamp with us and after we found it emitted a generous amount of heat we joked about it being our impromptu campfire, placed it on the fire grate and gathered around it every evening just to stay warm while we sat and talked about the day and shared stories and favourite scenes from well-loved comedy programs.

The last day we hiked into Mystic Beach and enjoyed the sheltered bay there.  We lingered in the warmth, exploring the caves created in the cliffs by the tide, and visited the waterfalls.  I was clicking away with my camera when a fellow hiker offered to take a family photo, and I think it will make a great Christmas card this year.  Soon after, our daughter Emma stood on a rock near the shore.  The tide was coming in then and my boys thoroughly enjoyed watching their sister get soaked by a large rogue wave that hit her at chest height.  Good thing I had packed an extra jacket.

The last evening after supper was cleared away we walked on French Beach and remarked on the darkness of the clouds heading toward us.  We decided to string up a tarp over the picnic table in case of rain, so at least we would have somewhere dry to cook and eat in the morning.  We were so glad we thought of it, because it rained fairly hard all night long.  We packed up the wet tents cheerfully, anticipating the dry warmth we would return to here at home. 

Do I love camping?  Not necessarily in the aforesaid conditions.  But what I do appreciate about camping is the unobstructed family time, the simplicity of choosing meals suitable for cooking over a two burner camp stove,  the 24/7 outdoor living by the briny fresh sea, the inaccessibility of technological gadgets, my husband being well out of cell phone range so he can't be bothered with work, and the appreciation it gives me for the simple things of everyday life - like a hot bath and a solid roof.

The painting above of the large piece of driftwood on French Beach is called 'West Coast Wanderer' by Victoria, B.C. artist Jeffrey J. Boron.  More of his work can be found here.  

16 comments:

  1. Another lovely post Rebecca,

    We haven't camped for years but thought about it this year when our brother in law and girlfriend invited us to a music festival with them. We couldn't go as it turned out but had already decided that we have become too soft and would go for a small hotel in preference to camping for a week in summer mud.

    Your description of the weather and reaction to it brought back memories of past days. At least you don't have to put up with the midges like we have in certain parts here which are an added 'joy' and effectively keep you imprisoned in the tent in the evening time and make jobs like meal prep and washing up a complete misery.

    I strongly agree with your paragraph on the benefit of camping V modern 'necessities', and the bonding that naturally takes place in tose circumstances.

    You almost make me want to go buy a tent.

    Almost!

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  2. For me it's the elephant sized mosquitoes, not the wind or cold. Or flying Ants, nasty nasty things.

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  3. Alistair and Vince: Even we looked at staying at a lodge or cabin in the vicinity. A cabin for four was somewhat affordable, a cabin for six was way out of our league, so camping it was. Yes, I have heard of your midges, Alistair and the mysery they inflict. We had a similar insect called 'noseeums' at the lodge where we used to live. Horrible things!
    Fortunately, Vince there are few insects of any kind at this particular location which is one of the reasons we return every year.
    Cheers, and thank you! I will get to your blogs very soon. We are now in the throes of 'back-to-school'. Rebecca

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  4. What a wonderful week of memories you have stored up. And your children have them too. What a blessing.

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  5. It would have been a good time to test those handwarmers they sell at Academy. I love to camp, too, but it's usually heat that causes me misery.

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  6. I can very much identify with the camping experience both good and challenging. It's worth the effort and the setting you describe sounds so rejuvenating. I also find the painting captures the windswept beauty of the sea coast. What power!

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  7. Mussorgsky, Rameau and Matalon.

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  8. A lovely description of what exactly is lovely about camping - even rainy, cold camping. It does focus your mind on the basics of life and distract one from other concerns. And time together with the family is great - although as I recently posted, rain, camping and toddlers don't always mix!

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  9. This was a lovely account of your camping trip, and captured so many reasons I love camping, too, though it seems I am never trying to stay warm, but just the opposite! There is a wonderful returning to the basics that feeds the soul.
    I love the painting. It reminds me of the many West Coast beaches I have seen in Northern CA and Oregon. I hope to visit BC someday.

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  10. Hi Rebecca, I just linked to this wonderful article for Saturday Serendipities. All the best.

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  11. Sounds like there will be many times sitting around campfires in the future that the tales of that camping adventure will be told by all those 'Beach Wanderers' Rebecca.

    Jeffrey

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  12. Thanks for all the comments, everyone. And maybe I'll try those handwarmers next time, Jen.

    Jeffrey: I'm glad you came on over to visit. Your painting has been admired by many, and if you go to Paul's blog, which today, provides a link to mine, you will see your painting again. Next time we are on the Island we will have to look for your gallery in Oak Bay.

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  13. No fire! That sounds tough. I love a campfire, or a bonfire or a log fire. Our cottage in Wales would have been pretty intolerable without one in the evenings. We're soft! But I'm glad you found some warm stones.

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  14. I love camping! I agree with you, the best parts are getting away from it all and spending time with your loved ones. Coming home to a hot shower and a warm bed are never something to complain about though! Where do you guys pick up your equipment? I always go to the camping section of The Sportsman's Guide

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  15. Hello Anon: We have lots of equipment already, but we tend to buy our supplies at Mountain Equipment Co-op in Vancouver. Thanks for stopping by!

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I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!