My full time, temporary job ended which is depressing because I really, really liked that job and now I am a little at loose ends, but at least, finally! we could go camping. Step and I usually go camping in spring, before school is out, and after Labour Day, when school is back in, and other than taking everything we need including water and fuel, we don’t do a lot of planning, which was also our method this time, which turns out to be not the best method for when school is out. We wanted to go somewhere around the river of Campbell River, so first we tried a provincial park near the city of Campbell River called Elk Falls, and while it was beautiful in the same way all the provincial parks are, it was super crowded and the attendant was a little cranky (I guess she was overwhelmed?). All the really good sites were taken so we decided to soldier on. There are a lot of recreational sites along the river so we tried some. You have to go down long, dirt logging roads to get to them. The first one we tried was Miller Creek, which has, I think, 14 sites, 13 of which were occupied and they were all really close together with no trees or anything in between. That is my least favourite campsite!
We left there instead of snagging the remaining spot and debated on whether to drive all the way to where the turnoff to Gold River and the next provincial park is, and decided to at least go in that direction. The highway, while in very good condition, is really windy (windy, not windy) and people tend to speed down it, and we saw the aftermath of a horrible accident, with a turned over car, and police everywhere and numbered markers showing the skids. That was very disturbing and a cautionary tale. I have traveled down that road many times for my ex-temporary, full time job and I often sped, but I won’t again.
We noticed BC Hydro had a recreational site at the Strathcona dam and checked that out. The dam is between upper Campbell Lake and Lower Campbell lake. It was down a dirt road not well marked and after crossing the dam halfway we could see the camp sites below on Lower Campbell Lake but couldn’t figure out how to get to them. We had seen a Mo-Ho going down a certain road so we turned around and tried that. The road was super bumpy at it went on and on, but we could see the Mo-Ho ahead of us so we plugged along. I started to complain to Step that we had gone way further than the campsite we had seen from the dam, and eventually we found a spot to turn around and back track. Another car approached. I said “Let’s ask this guy. He must know about this place”, but Step was driving and instead of asking the guy questions he just waved and went past him. Then I was quite upset! We had missed out chance for information and the bumpy road was giving me a headache and we wouldn’t find a camping spot before dark! We headed back to the highway, but the mystery of the Strathcona Dam Recreational site vexed us. How the hell did those campers get down there? I brilliantly (if belatedly) consulted a book we keep in the back of the van called “Camp Free in BC“. It instructed we were to go down the Strathcona Dam Road and, tada!, there is the camp site. Step noted that the campsite had river on both sides, so maybe you have to cross the dam and approach it from the other side? And that was the solution and we came to the sites.
Maybe half of them were occupied and some were in full view of the massive industrial complex that is the dam, but right at the end we found a magical one, easily the best site of them all, and miraculously unoccupied. Step suddenly realized he had forgotten to bring the hammock! I reminded him we used to enjoy camping even before we got the hammock. From then on, nothing bad happened on our camping trip. The sky cleared of clouds and we could see the milky way. We woke up on a shady waterfront site next to a beautiful, clear turquoise lake, with a fire pit and picnic table, and it was free! You couldn’t even see the dam from there and you had to really turn your neck to see any power lines. It was very relaxing and the water was not too cold. We had a little private beach with a sharp underwater drop off and that was perfect for swimming. Yes, some geese came into our campsite while we were out for a walk and they poohed everywhere, but we flicked that shit away with a stick, so that doesn’t count as bad, it only counts as “not perfect”.
After a couple of nights we had to leave and we visited the Elk Falls suspension bridge on the way home. This is a new bridge that the Campbell River Rotary Club envisioned and helped build, with a bunch of other people, to promote tourism and show off the falls. When you walk there you have to go through some hydro construction and there is a little bridge spanning some penstocks, which some people might find confusing as the bridge. Expectation vs. reality! Keep walking, people! The falls themselves are quite majestic, and the suspension bridge is sturdy, but those suspension bridges are always nerve wracking.
For lunch, Step got to go to the Ideal Cafe for the first time, and we ran into our friend Dave there. How ideal!