Tourers-Camp Free, or Almost
Tourers-Camp Free, or Almost
By: Terry Connellan
714 words plus photographs on request
Camp Free, or Almost?
Experienced self-powered self-sustained tourers -- cyclists, backpackers,
and kayakers -- know well that the best campsites are created alone, out
of sight, and free.
One summer, on my second tour of Canada's Maritime Provinces, I
promised myself every night on the seashore in Prince Edward Island, and
only in churchyards in Nova Scotia.
In Inuvik, Northwest Territories, I pitched my tent in a garage to escape the
heat. That's right! More than 300 kilometres above the Arctic Circle, the
temperature was 33 degrees Celsius with 23 hours of bright sun.
The garage was heavily insulated against the bitter cold of Inuvik's sunless
winters and almost windowless. It proved the perfect refuge. I slept like a
baby through that artificial cool, dark night.
In the province of British Columbia, and especially Vancouver Island, finding
a decent wilderness campsite is hardly a challenge, blessed as it is with a
foreshore that belongs to all, and the free use of more than a thousand
Ministry of Forests Recreation Sites.
Add abandoned railway lines, roadside rest areas, regional and municipal
parks, crown lands (government owned), accommodating property owners,
and there is no reason to subject yourself to provincial parks.
For human-powered tourers, British Columbia provincial campgrounds aren't
much to cheer about. Crowded, noisy, busy, sometimes with few services,
they are best suited to the "camper crowd" they were designed for.
For a motorhome or trailer full of kids needing water, electric and sewer hookups
the $10 and up charge is justified, and perhaps even a bargain. For the solo
travelling HPT it's unwelcome economic overkill. The added negative aspects
are the inevitable latecomers' endless after-dark circling of the campground
in search of a site accompanied, by the wailing of overtired children.
This is changing as parks planners adapt to the needs of the growing number
of human powered holidayers. My personal pick is the delightful riverside
campsite in Kokanee Creek Provincial Park, east of Nelson, B.C. Created
through a gift of $3,500 from a generous Vancouver couple, it was constructed
by the "hoods in the woods" from a nearby correctional camp. There are other
no charge walk-in sites on the Gulf Islands.
In the United States, you'll find hiker/biker sites in state Parks. Costing $2 or $3,
these are usually located in the "future development" areas, away from the
serviced camping, and 80 meters from toilets and showers. The area is provided
with one or two picnic tables and a garbage can for each dozen campers.
The U.S. Park's experience is that, because of the inherent tidiness of human-
powered tourers, cleanup and maintenance is a fraction of their more developed
The first rule for a created campsite is to map out a plan for "pristine presence."
When you leave in the morning, there should be no sign that you passed through.
Site your tent without removing or altering vegetation, and to take advantage of
the view on wake-up.
In bear country, locate a tree at least 40 meters away, run a line up, and hoist the
panniers that contain all food and toiletries, at least four meters above ground.
In the same area, find a flat spot for your stove and a place to dispose of wash-up
water. Police the area, bag any cigarette butts, bottle caps etc. left by previous
visitors, and take them with you when you leave for disposal in the nearest
The cardinal rule for free camping is: Be a good neighbor, always ask permission.
In Nova Scotia, I came upon a rarely attended Anglican Church on a beautiful point
of land on the seashore. The signboard out front advised that services were held
on the third Sunday of the month at 10 a.m.
When I inquired from a neighbor, I was directed to "Old Charlie," who not only
opened the church so that I could use the water and bathrooms, but showed me
to an undeveloped corner of the graveyard, just steps from the sea. As he left,
he wished me a good night's sleep, "don't let the neighbors keep you awake,"
For those and other kindnesses, I remain forever grateful.
Terry Connellan, a seasoned long-distance cycle tourer, freely admits to having
made every nonfatal mistake on the way to acquiring a significant bank of cycling
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