Where a door closes, a whole other possibility will open up. 

Isn’t that true with most things in life. 

Through a series of events, I have learned to see that this also holds true for camping and I am quite sure my whole family will actually be forever be grateful for the “inconvenience” we experienced with over-booked provincial campgrounds we encountered about 4 years ago. We had planned on camping in B.C. at a popular provincial campground, and went there without a reservation: hopeful that we would still be able to find a spot for our tent. But the whole campground was jam-packed! It looked more like a parking lot than a nature-experience.

There were only “no reservations/one night only” spots available, and anyone who has set up a large tent with all necessary sleeping arrangements for a whole family for one night, only to tear it down the next morning to go and find a new spot for yet another one night only/ knows that this is not very much fun and the constant setting up and tearing down will really start to take the fun out of “camping” very, very soon. 

So it was after one of these experiences four years ago; myself with three kids and two dogs in tow that I said to my kids “that’s enough…we are out of here! surely we must be able to find someplace where we can stay a while. this is just not enjoyable.” and we packed up; went and gassed up the van and wondered where to go next. It was in that gas station that I casually struck up a conversation with a friendly gentleman stating that we were on the look out for great places to camp; might he know of anyplace to recommend? Did he ever! He pulled out a map of BC / one of those free maps you find in every gas station and pointed to the small brown tent symbols strewn out all about the map…those brown symbols indicating a whole “underground” of camping / free camp sites all over the place! Surely we had noted these small symbols on the maps, but without any information about what they were or any road signs pointing us in their way – they had remained symbols on a map – nothing more.

The free camping spots are all off paved roads, and you really have to know about them to find them as you venture in on gravel roads, sometimes more like washboards than roads – but most are still accessible by our mini van without too much trouble, and once you find your destination you are in a place of peace and solitude/ very unlike the busy provincial campgrounds that is the only thing we had known of until our first and “forced” experience of Free Camping.

Now that we have seen and experienced what that can be like: there is no turning back and doing things the commercial way anymore. I will forever be grateful for that one turn in events, which  forced us to look outside the beaten path and find an alternate way of enjoying what we all call Camping.

At many of these free campsites; there are no services. No running water, no showers, no water slides, no mini putt, no entertainment, no check in counter, no power, no guest services, no laundry facilities, no toilet paper in the outhouse and that; *the outhouse* IS the only luxury you will find. in short; there are none of the things you find at all the big “fancy” camp grounds. And that’s probably what keeps the majority of folks away; and that’s fine, of course. But if you are Iike me, and think you might enjoy trying these lovely free sites and simply don’t know about them (like we didn’t know about them) / then, that’s a different story, and that’s why I decided to write about our experience.

What you get instead of all of the “luxuries” outweigh all of those things in our minds; first of all true privacy: at our favourite lake,  there are only a few campsites to begin with and they are spread out far and wide with lots of privacy between each. There are a few picnic tables, and if you are lucky, you might get a site with a table. On our first visit, we didn’t have a table but on subsequent visits we have always managed to get access to a table.  In total there are only about 10-12 sites and this time we counted only 4 other sites being used! Peace, tranquility, quiet and close to nature are the only appropriate words coming to mind describing it there. You wake up in the morning to the song contest of loons, listen to the squeaking of ground squirrels during the day and if you are lucky; as we were; you will get to see deer and other wildlife use the lake as a water hole at night, as well as fish jump high above the water, turtles swim around and share the waters with you as you go for a dip.

This was our third time back to the same place and we all saw the excitement of the dogs as we approached on the washboard, gravel road.They, too remembered and got SO excited arriving there! For the dogs; it means freedom, amazing access to swimming, lots of hiking, exploring, retrieving in water as well as on land, more swimming, snoozing in the shade with the wind blow-drying their wet fur…and surely one of their favourite “duties”: prewashing all the dirty dishes and making sure we have no left overs to worry about storing 😉

I can’t help but think this type of camping r
epresents the kind of togetherness every dog dreams of. 

Miss Pinot, moments before she decided she WILL actually take up dock diving. Here, she hadn’t made that decision (yet) and was looking rather stressed about how to make this call..or whether it’s even worth a try. “I AM a sheltie, after all”. LOL. What a character, this one.

Pinot, has always been an amazing traveler and has a beautiful appropriateness about her when it comes to being “on” and “off” (ie ; being able to settle and relax after activity periods end). With one very short exception she was off leash and completely free the whole time. Maggio has a tendency to loop and stress a bit more, gets rather obsessive about toys and can’t really turn his retrieving desire OFF and needed a bit more management to begin with but was actually better on this camping trip than ever before. Likely; his ability to relax a bit more this time was a combination of now being in a place that’s starting to feel familiar, together with a natural anti stress formula we all swore REALLY made a difference.

Not quite sure what to do…as you can see. She wants to go in, but dock diving is a new concept to this girl. She learned to swim in this very lake when a little 8-10 month old youngster..but diving off a dock??? not so sure it’s a good idea.
BUT THEN something happened (maybe our encouragement that she CAN DO IT…and look at this – all brakes still on she decides to give it a try…but then, look at the next image!!

WAHOO – Dock diving sheltie! This is jump number 2 and look at the different body language here! Holy moly. Now a diver extra-ordinaire! 

Of course, its hard to compete with Maggio’s confidence and flying ability. He’d do this all day long and never start to think it’s boring.

After five amazing days away, we’re back home now and unpacking and remembering through photos and stories. What a great camping trip! It’s moments like the fun dock diving event and swimming across the lake multiple times per day that bring us back year after year. The water is warm, you can actually swim and bob around on pool noodles (unlike in the glacial waters we have here at home in Banff). I’m sure we’ll go back – if not a couple more times this summer – then next summer for sure…

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