A mostly happy camper

We, like every other winter-exhausted family in the region, went camping on the May long weekend. But we almost weren't able to. Being the first weekend the provincial parks in this area were opened, it was busy to say the least. Forgive me for assuming that you could decide last minute to go camping. Nope. You have to plan your summer in January apparently. Courtesy of the government of BC, you can book your camping adventures online at the beginning of the year - for the entire summer. Decide not to go at the last minute, not to worry, your spot will be saved for you even if you don't show up. Who cares that we had to drive to two parks with our cranky children in tow (two parks because the first one was completely full). Also, it was raining as it always does for us while camping.

My parents headed out early on Friday morning in order to get us all a spot. We should have anticipated there would not be a spot available at Bear Lake and I guess we should have driven out on Thursday left a tent like everyone else and then come back out on Friday after work. C'est la vie - as my mother would say. As it was, I received increasingly irritated texts from my mother narrating their quest for a camping site.

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I was instructed to log into the government site to try and reserve a spot but it was too late and all of the spots were already taken. They made their way to McLeod lake and luckily managed to find the last provincial site in all of Northern BC. It was a delightfully shady spot (because who likes sun) that the last time we parked there, I (my husband) had forgotten to pack the tent poles. After we unpacked and a cracked open a frosty beverage, the rain started and we all let out a big sigh of relief because this was camping. Camping in the rain is our jam. We played cards, the kids rode bikes and rode to the playground (by themselves, even!) and we all went to bed, tired, happy, wet and cold. By some miracle of northern weather, it cleared up the following day and we enjoyed a beautiful day, a kilometre from the lake, in the shady bush site, hanging out and relaxing with our family.

Years ago, camping was really, really popular and the provincial sites were huge. If you walk around Bear Lake and McLeod Lake sites, you can see a number of deactivated camping spots that, over the past decade, the parks have closed because they were going empty. I guess the economy was better and people were spending their money away from home. Well, Parks BC, open those spots back up, fix the horseshoe pits and charge less for firewood because gas is outrageously expensive and no one can afford to go anywhere. When I was growing up, there were presentations on local flora and fauna and edible mushrooms and berries and traditional knowledge at amphitheatres around the province. Nightly on weekends, as kids we could go to the presentations, learn something new and meet up with other kids who were camping. There were structured activities, led hikes and bushcraft presentations. It was fun. Can we have that back please? It is unlikely it will happen since the parks are now government-owned but privately-run but I can remain optimistic that, at the very least, the horseshoe pits will be fixed and perhaps the trail cleared by the next time I come back. Dear Parks BC (or whatever you are calling yourself these days), please reactive more sites so we don't all have to compete, Survivor-style, for the last available camping site. And fix the horseshoe pits. Sincerely, a (mostly) happy camper.

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