There are two activities that I love more than most. Camping is certainly my favourite thing to do in the summer months. The other is road trips. And if I can combine them into a camping road trip, I am literally a Happy Camper. Camping road trip!
But it would be so much better if things went a little more to plan… But, Murphy’s Law!
A Returning Camping Road Trip
At this moment, the family and I are enjoying a camping road trip to the beautiful Kettle Valley in the West Kootenays.
Back in the early days of camping with small kids, we used to take the tent trailer for a two week haul over to the mainland, coughing up the price of a ferry ride with a trailer, and heading to the Okanagan.
The first place we ever camped there was Fintry Provincial Park. A beautiful spot on the west side of the Okanagan, Fintry was a fun park to camp and explore. But it was hot! Our campsite sat exposed to the hot Okanagan sun, and we were happy the lake was right there.
But then we ended our Mainland jaunt at Kettle River Recreation Area. This little gem captured our hearts. The shallow Kettle River meanders through the park, heading south down to the States. The park itself sits just above the International boundary, near the little village of Rock Creek.
The Joy Of The Float
What appeals to the family so much about this spot is the river. Kettle River flows around the campsite, so if we walk to the north end of the campsite and drop our floaties in the water, the river will carry us in a slow, relaxed journey to the south end. It takes about an hour and a half of gentle floating to reach the other end. On a hot summer day, this is pure bliss!
It’s been 8 years since we’ve been back. And since Zachary is heading to university in a few months, and he’s created a bit of a bucket list of things to do before he leaves, I decided to add this trip to his bucket list. I knew he wouldn’t object.
And here we are! Despite all the trials and tribulations of getting here, we’ve made it.
Centrifugal Force Is Not My Friend
Monday morning dawned bright and early for me. We needed to be on the 8:45 ferry from Nanaimo to be sure we wouldn’t arrive too late in Kettle River. So that meant getting most of our preparation done the night before.
So Sunday evening was packing the trailer, getting the food ready, and doing all the little things to prepare for an early morning departure.
Monday morning was for packing up all the cooler foodstuffs. And closing up the trailer and connecting up to the vehicle. Finally we were ready, albeit a few minutes behind schedule.
I pulled the trailer out of the laneway and onto the street. As we drove around the corner to head to the highway, I heard a crash. Looking out the side view mirror, I saw our cooler go tumbling across the grass beside the road, food flying in a chaotic jumble. Crap!
Quickly I pulled the vehicle over to the side and Zach and I jumped out. The cooler lay open on its side, with vegetables, meat and eggs scattered across the grass. We hastily shoved everything back into the battered cooler and put it back in the trailer. Except the eggs. Not a single one was spared.
Where’s My Keys?
I took the dripping egg carton across the street, unlocked our house, and put the carton in the fridge. I’d deal with it when we were back. No time now. Then I locked up the house and ran back to the car.
But how the Hell did the door of the trailer came open? I wondered if maybe I never closed the door. But maybe I did and the door came open somehow? Better lock the door to be sure. But where is the key? It’s on the trailer key ring, nowhere to be found.
So I run back to the house, unlock the front door, and there they are on the table. Crap!!
Run back to the car, lock the trailer door and jump in the driver’s seat. And now we’re in mortal danger of missing the ferry. CRAP!!
Luckily we have more than one choice of ferry routes from our part of the Island. So Heather does a quick Google query and finds the Duke Point Ferry leaves a little later. So that’s where we head.
Wrong Way Willie
On our way to the ferry at Duke Point, we pass an electronic billboard showing ferry information. Turns out the 9 AM ferry has a possible sailing wait. So there’s a chance it’s too full for us to get on, without a reservation.
And we arrive at the terminal, where I promptly drive into the wrong lane! Forgetting completely that I’m pulling a tent trailer, I head toward the “Cars Only” lane. But I realize my mistake and stop. And now there are other cars coming behind me, so I slide over to the right side, getting out of the way. Now I have to somehow back up to get over to the RV lane, but there’s no room to do that with a trailer on my butt. (Say it with me) CRAP!!!
I spend a good 5 minutes trying to manoeuvre so I can swing around and get into the RV lane. But other RVs are pulling in, and I have to wait until they’ve gone by. But that takes time, since they have to pay and be directed to an appropriate lane for the ferry.
And time is passing. I’m a little frustrated, stressed, and a tiny bit annoyed. My choice of colourful language reflects my mood. (Hint: I didn’t use the word “crap”)
Our Luck Turns
Finally, a break. I swing around and get in behind the last RV, feeling just a little embarrassed. But at least I’m back in the correct lane.
We eventually pull up to the booth and the nice ferry lady asks if we have a reservation. Sadly I tell her, no, we don’t. She says she needs to call to see where they can put us. But she tells them we have a reservation! And so we’re put into an empty lane, thinking there’s a chance we could get on this ferry.
Loading time comes, and sure enough, we go on with the other reserved traffic! Bonus!
And so we’re on our way, starting our camping road trip. Smooth sailing from here on! Right?
Camping Road Trip On A Road Less Traveled
We’re traveling with our new doggie, Zia, and as I’ve written before, she’s an incredibly nervous puppy. And that means making some extra stops so she can get out of the car and be stressed and nervous in rest areas as well. Poor pup!
We also decided to take a different route to the Kootenays than we’ve taken previously. Google tells us it’s quicker, so we foolishly listen and agree.
The drive is slow, spectacular, and strenuous. Hairpin turns, steep climbs and steeper descents make for a white knuckle experience for the driver. At one point, the smell of my burning brakes makes me question the infallibility of Professor Google.
Bear With Me
A little bonus happened as we drove through Manning Park. A young bear strode across the road just ahead of us before disappearing down the bank toward the river. At first I thought it was a juvenile Grizzly. His fur colour was similar, but I guess young bears have a similar colour. So who knows? Either way, an exciting moment to break up the stress of the mountain drive.
But we make it to the little town of Keremeos and stop for a much needed pee break. The scenery is spectacular, and the white knuckle road is behind us. The rest of the trip is relatively uneventful, interspersed with jaw-dropping scenery.
And by dinner time we roll into the campground, sweaty, smelly, tired and a little stiff. I love road trips, but man! I’m not getting any younger!
A Camping Road Trip Worth The Effort
But now we’re here, and all the trials and tribulations of getting here no longer matter. For the next four days, we’ve nothing more to do but float on the river and relax in a special place. More great memories to make before Zach heads off to university. It’s gonna be fantastic!
I mean, the worst is behind us, right?
Stay tuned for the epic conclusion of Taking a Camping Road Trip…