A sick summer

Fri Jul 30, 2021

I went with an ambiguous title for this post on purpose. Summer is usually a relaxing, carefree time. Time spent outdoors barbequing, camping, swimming (or forest bathing, if you prefer), and hanging out in boardshorts and flip flops with a cold beer.

This summer is no exception, even at the tail-end of the pandemic. BC is in good shape overall - look at the numbers, especially the “COVID-19 deaths per million residents” chart. We have the second-fewest deaths (Norway has the fewest). There is, of course, talk about a “fourth wave”, and I’m sure there will be fifth, sixth, and seventh waves but that’s just how it is now, so why worry?

So, in a sense, I have been enjoying a “sick” summer. I got my second COVID-19 shot, along with a lot of other people, and with active cases at an all-time low, restrictions have eased up. I was able to take some vacation time for a few camping road trips and play in the incredible outdoor playground we have here in BC.

On the other hand, we are very much experiencing a sick summer, with a brutal heat wave in late June sending temperatures so high that even Death Valley started looking temperate. It got so bad that the town of Lytton recorded the highest temperature in Canada ever for two days before completely burning to the ground on the third day.

The heat wave kicked off an early wildfire season. Throughout July, hundreds of out-of-control fires have evacuated numerous small towns and are choking the air with smoke. We drove through some of the affected areas with the windows down (our car’s air conditioning broke at an inopportune time), so I can confirm - it was terrible.

It’s true that summers aren’t what they used to be - and I’m not just talking just about climate change.

I could go on about how you can’t even book a campsite in the second-largest country in the world because they get reserved in seconds by bots or how they always close lower-mainland lakes on summer weekends due to overcrowding.

I could complain about how you could rent a cabin for $100 a night ten years ago, but now it’s $400 a night. Hence the mass conversion of even high-maintenance individuals into happy Lexus-driving, high-heeled campers or glampers or whatever the hell. Gone are the days where only twitchy-eyed ex Boy Scouts with a rusted Swiss Army Knife in one hand and a bottle of cheap whiskey in the other would pitch a tent.

But that’s just how it is now, so what’s the point in being bitter about it. You can’t hate BC for being so beautiful - tourists come from all over the world to experience what BC has to offer; it’s going to get busy. Especially this summer when the unleashed millions are emerging from their COVID caves hungry for travel and eager to spend money.

So, when it came to camping this year - we’ve had to be creative. With campsite reservations impossible to get, we’ve introduced the kids to backcountry/Crown land camping. And honestly, we’ve either been lucky or our guardian angels are working overtime.

For example, at a bush camp along the Chilliwack river favoured by throngs of drunk teenagers, we were unpacking our car when a truck barrelled down the road at full speed, then smashed into another car pulling out. The truck careened our way as we stood there like frozen deer before it skidded to a stop a few paces away from our car.

The rest of the weekend was fantastic though.

And at Manning Park, we hiked into a backcountry site with backbreaking packs and kids about to curl into a mosquito-swarmed balls of fury in the dirt, only to find all the tent pads taken. However, there was a construction crew on site building a new shelter. The foreman, a chubby guy called Scott, initially told us to get lost, but after some sad eyes, offered to let us stay on the construction site as adhoc security. So in exchange for keeping an eye on the crew’s power tools, we got a sweet private tent pad with our own pit toilets and bear caches on site.

The rest of the weekend was amazing - except for the relentless mosquitoes.

In the Kootenays we lucked out again as my wife has an Uncle with an enormous off-grid woodlot. No need to get campsite reservations there. So, we’ve done lots of unconventional camping this year - you get creative and you make it happen. We’re also exploring the possibility of accessing marine campsites on our paddleboards.

The moral of the story is that you have to throw the Internet away to have a good summer. Forget garbage online reservations - don’t let crappy technology ruin your outdoor time. And you might have to hustle, diving deep into the underbelly of the grey-area camping world.

I’ll keep this post short as July is a month for being outdoors - not sitting in front of a computer. And in the wilderness, there is no computer, no Internet, and no law except the law of the wild. Thanks for reading and stay frosty my friends.

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