The weekend was all planned out with busy things in need of doing. Friday after work was ‘do these’ busy things, Saturday was ‘do those’ busy things, Saturday night was a night out with the girls and Sunday was ‘finish up the rest of the busy things’ to get ready for work on Monday. I was ready to give ‘er guns… but that’s not what happened.
What happened was something I’d not really ever planned, nor really ever wanted to do, but when my friends Jord and Erin sent an open invitation to adventure, it was hard to resist. I was invited to go winter camping! For some folks, this is a normal thing that they look forward to every year and although I love to camp the rest of the year, I kind of hate the cold, being cold or having anything to do with cold. (although I do enjoy a cold beer on a hot day). So for me to accept an invitation to winter camp was quite a feat… but somehow, an easy decision! I’d been invited camping with these two a number of times last summer and always had other plans already so could never join them, but this time I just said yes…. Most of the busy things could wait so I messaged the girls to count me out for Saturday night and of course they were excited for my adventure.
The weather has been very unusual this winter, with long spells of extremely cold temperatures and very little snow. There had been a couple of days of snowfall that added up to less than a foot of snow, quite unusual compared to the normal on and off snow/rain/slush that would add up to about 3 feet or more! So when I was preparing to go camping, the ground was relatively snow free, except for leftover frozen patches… but by noon it was snowing!! I continued to pack up and wondered how the drive up to the campground might be. The highway is a remote but busy, curvy road going to the Nass Valley communities north of Terrace and can be treacherous in a heavy snowfall. Today the snow was falling moderately so I didn’t know what to expect. Once the jeep was all packed up, I was on my way! Thankfully, the highway was still clear of snow and was just wet. The drive is a short 15 minute drive from downtown Terrace, much shorter than I had anticipated.
The campground is situated in Kitsumkalum Provincial Park. It’s an unattended recreational site along the banks of Kitsumkalum lake, locally known as Kalum Lake. Goat Creek flows through the park, into the lake so some folks call the area Goat Creek campground, and once, a very long time ago, there was a hotel. Apparently there are remains of the hotel, but that will be another story… there’s a huge rock at the entrance of the campground that has “Ackerman’s Point” painted on it so some folks refer to the area by that name as well! When I first moved to Terrace a number of years ago, I was mystified by all these names and could never find this ‘invisible’ campground. Yet, I had unknowingly driven past it at least a dozen times! The road leading to the campground is an unassuming, dirt road off the highway and if you aren’t watching for it, you might completely miss it! I’d only known about Goat Creek campground and Ackerman’s Point, which I thought were two different places, so when my friends said they were camping at Kitsumkalum Provincial Park, I had to ask where it was!! Once they said where it was and I mapped it out, I knew exactly where I was going.
By the time I arrived at the campground, the snow was falling lightly. I could see Jord’s jeep, another small blue car and a blazing fire and a big tent. Once I’d parked and said my hellos, I decided to set up my bed inside the jeep so I didn’t have to do it later that night, in the dark. I was well prepared with my thin summer air mattress and sleeping bag but beefed them up with 5 wool blankets, and a huge down quilt. I knew it would be cold at night and like I mentioned before, I hate to be cold!
Our other friend Curt was there visiting for the afternoon so we all joked and laughed around the fire until he had to go. Then we went for a drive in our jeeps down to the huge expanse of frozen beach. While we were down there my other friend Danny and his buddy showed up with his jeep and we all bombed around and took a LOT of photos!
Eventually Dan had to leave as well and the rest of us headed back to the campsite to make some dinner. I had brought a slab of locally caught salmon with lemon slices and red onions wrapped in foil to cook over the fire. There was no grating to put the salmon package on so we had to put it directly on coals and I hoped that it wouldn’t overcook or worse, burn. It took a while to cook and I had to check it a few times but it ended up being perfectly cooked and very delicious.
By this time the weather had changed and I was prepared to be enveloped in snow all evening. The wind had picked up and was blowing the fire in every direction, despite the wall of logs built to protect it. My feet started to freeze, even though I was wearing wool socks and I prepared for the worst. I looked up to see how thick the clouds were and what did I see but a twinkle! To our amazement, the sky was clearing! The wind was blowing the clouds away and the stars started to pop out like Christmas lights in December! I didn’t know at that moment that Jord had brought his telescope but I sure was excited when he said that he’d brought it! We waited until it got really dark out to take the telescope down to the beach for some star gazing. I’ve always been fascinated by space so I was in complete awe. When we go about our daily lives, we only see the stars that our weak eyes can focus on, but through this telescope I could see distant galaxies!! It was absolutely spectacular! We stayed stargazing for quite a while and by the time we packed up the telescope and headed back to the campsite, I was literally star struck! It was after midnight by the time we were done and soon after we were ready for some sleep. By this time, the air had chilled considerably so my array of blankets and down quilt were a welcome sight. I got cozy and was out cold in minutes! (pun intended).
My internal clock woke me at 7:15 the next morning. This may seem early, but my normal wake time for work is 4:45 so this was a nice sleep in! But I wasn’t ready to wake up. And I couldn’t go back to sleep. Sigh. Once I eventually sat up though, I noticed the sky becoming pink! I hopped into my boots and made my way down to the beach to take photos, noticing a red truck parked near the entrance of the park. I figured that there must be somebody else out with a camera. I was right, but I didn’t see him while I was out taking my photos. I walked up and down the beach a while taking photos of the pink light reflecting on the mountains and videos of the ice breaking on the lake and crackling as the waves pushed the chunks to shore. Such a serene morning! I was already back at the campsite building the fire when I saw the photographer hop in his truck with his camera and drive off.
Jord and Erin woke a couple of hours after I did and by then the fire was happily crackling . This campsite is shady in the morning so the fire was welcome warmth. We got a plan for breakfast and started to cook. I had my portable MSR cook stove and accessories so boiled water for tea, then cooked scrambled eggs. Erin cooked up a fried rice medley on their Coleman stove and we all shared. Once breakfast was all done, it was time to pack up to head home (to get some ‘busy things’ done). The camping policy is always take out what you bring in and take more if it leaves the area in better shape for the next folks. Once we were ready to go, we drove the jeeps down to the beach for a goodbye rip and to drive out to the highway along a hidden trail that connected to the beach.
This may seem like a fairly typical camping trip but to me it was made special by being winter and challenging myself to do something that was out of my comfort zone. Would I do it again? You bet I would! And, I finally was able to camp with Jord & Erin and we had a blast!
Never a dull moment around here!