One rental car, two nights, three amazing friends, five bears, and an uncountable number of magical moments – venturing into the wilderness for my first camping trip was quite the adventure.
Birkenhead Lake Provincial Park is off the beaten track, hidden at the end of a fifteen kilometer long gravel road. It is secluded, peaceful and has no cell service. Subsequently, we found ourselves having a bit of a digital detox. This allowed us to be truly present in each moment and appreciate the beauty of the natural world around us. It was a blessing to experience cosy nights, real talks, camp meals, and stunning scenery with amazing people.
We arrived at our campsite when it was already getting dark and after a 208 kilometer journey, we were eager to get our tents set up. The ranger came to check us in and calmly warned us that a bear was spotted in the area and to be extra vigilant. We didn’t think much of it at the time, and decided to get an early night. However, we realized how hard the floor was when we lay down to try to and sleep.
My boyfriend and I figured that it would be a waste of money to purchase a mattress for a two night camping trip and that we would be fine without one. This was a foolish assumption. We were camping on gravel and could feel every single little stone through the tent. This was our first mistake.
As it was August, we wrongly expected that we would be welcomed with warm nights. This was our second mistake. The nights were cold and all I had to keep me warm was a thin jumper. I’m pretty sure that we spent the entire first night shivering in our tent.
I guess that first time campers make all kinds of rookie mistakes. Nevertheless, I will know better for next time.
We woke up the next morning and enjoyed some coffee and breakfast. There’s nothing better than a delicious meal while camping. Our bountiful breakfast consisted of bacon, eggs, sausages and hash browns. Our breakfast and coffee took a while to prepare as we made it all on a propane stove that only had one burner.
This was a cooking method that we were forced to use as there was a campfire ban in effect. The ban was a direct result of the 600+ wildfires that were raging through the province. This also meant that British Columbia was covered in a layer of thick smoke which led to poor air quality and low visibility.
Nevertheless, we didn’t let this ruin our camping trip.
After our hearty camp breakfast, we were ready to set off on our first hike of the day. When embarking on a new trail, you never know what to expect. However, this one was named the Goat Lookout Trail – so we were hoping to see some mountain goats.
The trail was short – only a 1.7 kilometer round trip – but it was extremely rigid and steep. Unfortunately, we didn’t spot any mountain goats. Nevertheless, when we reached the top, we were rewarded with a stunning lookout point which boasted views of the majestic mountains and the serene lake.
The smoke entirely obstructed the view but it was still remarkable. I can only imagine how breathtaking the landscape would be on a clear day.
After we made our descent, we returned to our campsite to devour some well-deserved lunch. However, we had a visit from some unexpected guests – a mama bear and her two cubs stopped by our campsite.
Rumour has it; if you see a bear, you are supposed to hide in your car. So that’s exactly what we did.
After several moments, a ranger showed up to scare the bear away. He sounded a loud horn and the bear retreated into the trees. All four of us were slightly unnerved by the close encounter. To take our minds off it, we decided to go on a second hike.
We made our way to the beginning of the Birkenhead Lake Trail, keeping our eyes peeled for bears. The path was scenic, with undivided lake views for the duration of the hike. The trail was home to lots of golden beaches which were perfect for paddling and relaxing. The smoke began to clear in the early evening, giving the sun a chance to warm us up and the boys decided to go swimming in the lake. It was the perfect end to the perfect day. Feeling satisfied with the number of activities we had completed – we walked back to our campsite.
However, on our return, we were warned by a fellow camper that there was a bear around the corner and to proceed with caution. There was nowhere for us to go so we decided to sit and watch the black bear while we waited for him to move on. He was putting on quite the show and standing up on his hind legs to pick berries from the trees above.
Although it was alarming, it was a truly amazing experience. I had never seen a bear in the wild before, and this was the fifth bear that I had seen within the space of two days. The first being the elusive grizzly bear that we spotted on our way to Birkenhead Lake.
We watched the bear return to the forest and decided it was safe to head back to our campsite.
We cooked up our final camp dinner, drank hot chocolates, roasted marshmallows and discussed the exciting day that we had. I didn’t think I would get much sleep, knowing that there was a bear at our campsite just several hours earlier. However, after two hikes, we were pretty exhausted. In fact, as soon as my head hit the pillow – I was out for the count.
We woke up early the next morning and left Birkenhead Lake as the sun was rising.
Beautiful British Columbia continues to take my breath away. It has hidden gems in every corner of the province – and Birkenhead Lake Provincial Park is just one of them.
“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”