My idea of camping is hiking to an isolated destination to get away from the city and to see something spectacular such as a lake or waterfall and then to camp in that area for a night before moving on. I’ve never understood city folks appeal to go to a designated “camp ground” where they can wave to their neighbours and park their SUV or motor home on nicely paved plots of land.
Yet when my oldest son told me he wanted to go camping this weekend, who was I to deny him of that pleasure. My first thought was to take him to that isolated lake and show him how to make fire without matches. Then I remembered he was eight and his favourite conversation was which Pokemon was the best. I decided to take baby steps and found the closest Provincial Park that allowed camping.
I reserved the last available spot at Golden Ears Provincial Park camp ground for Saturday night and packed the SUV up with all possible supplies. While my oldest son was very excited I could tell everyone else was wondering what it would be like with some apprehension. I had been to Golden Ears Park many times before but had never even seen the camping area so I have to admit I was imaging the worst.
The drive into the park is an amazing experience in itself. You drive along a long straight road with huge first growth cedars on each side of you. It feels like an air plane runway that is guiding you deeper and deeper into the forest. Deep dark forest on each side with warm inviting blue sky above and ahead.
Past all parts of the park that I am familiar with, we finally saw the camping sign. To my surprise there was a security gate and what appeared to be a ticket booth. I idled up to the booth and they politely confirmed my reservation. Three young girls were manning the booth. All dressed in official park uniforms. They advised me to take a right, then another right and finally a left to get to our spot.
As we followed her directions we passed the park “on duty” manager, a nice looking wash room facility and a large garbage bin. We found our spot quite easily as all the plots were well marked.
The spot was actually much better than I expected. A very solid wood picnic table, a fire grill (although all fires were banned at this time of the year due to the risk of forest fire) and a well maintained plot for our tents. Our spot could have easily accommodated four or five tents our size and a few cars. While I could see our neighbours I would have a hard time hitting them with a thrown rock which was my “too close” test. They passed.
The boys immediately jumped out and begin playing in the woods. As a parent, I immediately wanted to stop them and worry about the branches and other hazards the forest presented. Then I remembered that as a kid I spent years exploring Quadra and never lost an eye. I set up camp with Joanna (my wife) instead and let them go wild.
After setting up camp we went for a walk. I took the opportunity for a quick refresher on how to use the compass but their patience wore thin with the theory while all the interests of this rain forest beckoned them. The giant cedars wrapped in moss are full of sounds and sights that even had my head spinning. There was a perfect little trail (Tiarella) just up the road which took about an hour and was a good intro to the area. Lots of skunk cabbage and old stumps from ancient cedars. I tried to tell the kids about the loggers who must have fallen these giants and even pointed out the slots were the spring boards were inserted but they were off chasing chipmunks before I could finish the first few sentences. A few minutes later we were looking in a stream at small fish and then discovering that slugs come in the colour black as well.
We cooked dinner on a camp stove and enjoyed some hot dogs and corn. Hot dogs and corn always taste so much better when transported away from civilization.
After dinner we went for a walk around the camp site and discovered the camp ground even had a kids playground. This amazed me and just felt wrong but we took advantage of the distraction for the kinds. I got a chapter of reading in. Joanna got bit by a giant mosquito which made her whole ankle swell up. They seem to like eating her much more than me so I stand close.
After that the kids were getting tired and I began to feel guilty about Joanna being human bait so we went back to the camp and roasted marsh mellows.The kids didn’t mind we didn’t have a real fire going as they were excited to get those white fluffy treats any way possible. I learnt the amazing fact that marsh mellows can act as both sweetener and whitener in coffee.
The night went well. Neighbours were pretty decent and not too loud. We could hear some people down the road having a good time but nothing we really thought about.
I let Joanna and the kids have the big tent and I took my bivy sack. The bivy sack is a bit like a coffin as it barely has enough room for one person in it. I have the tripod bivy by Black Diamond which is the deluxe model of all bivy sacks but still not something you want to spend more than part of the night in. We were warm and dry all night.
In the morning we cooked some breakfast. I tried out a Mashed Potatoes with Cheddar and Bacon dehydrated food pack which was surprisingly good. I highly recommend this one for a breakfast. My other recently purchased Backpackers Pantry selection from MEC (Heuvos Ransheros) will have to wait till next time.
It started to rain as we finished our breakfast. The kids played in the forest a bit more and then we packed up and headed home. The park exceeded my expectations. Good bathrooms, good distance from neighbours, fresh water taps at every 100 meters and well maintained plots. Nice work provincial park people!
I recommend Golden Ears Park camp ground for any family. Very safe, clean and enjoyable. Book online to reserve your spot on a nice map of the camp ground. Get email confirmation and then read all about the trails and lake on their site before you go. Oh and don’t forget the marsh mellows!