CAMPING WITHOUT A TENT

For those of you who feel uncomfortable sleeping in the wilderness with just a cloth tent between yourself and the wild animals, or those of you who do not like the idea of having to cook on portable or make-shift cooking equipment while everyone else in your party is enjoying themself; This vacation spot is for you!

My family and I just spent 3 glorious days at a 'family camp' session at West Coast Wilderness Lodge, located at the water's edge on the northern tip of the Sechelt Peninsula. The view from the newly built lodge is spectacular. This large building with its rustic look is where all meals are served. Breakfast is served at 08:30, lunch at 12:30, and dinner at 5:30. All meals are prepared on site. Visitors sit at large round tables that accommodate 8 to 9 people. Each table designates one person to pick up the food for their table from the kitchen pass-through and return the dirty dishes to the bussing station when the meal is done. A new person is selected for each meal so that the same person is not always doing it. (That is the way the camp owners prefer it be done, but while we were there, several people from each table helped with the cleanup, and although there were more bodies walking around, it took only minutes!) The atmosphere is friendly, and visitors feel like they are at home, only that someone else did all the cooking! The eating arrangement makes it very easy to meet and make new friends.

Between meals, guests can just relax and enjoy the hot tub , fresh air and scenery, go fishing , or participate in badminton, volleyball , horseshoes, billiards, or soapstone carving. Some evenings may include singing around the campfire. The camp also provides guides that will teach you salt water kayaking, fresh water canoeing (there is a gorgeous lake near by), archery, or rock-climbing. Guided hiking is also available, if that is the wish of the guests. The family camp session was very informal, and activities were selected by consensus. They had 3 very experienced and capable camp counselors available, so guests could choose from any of 3 activities at any given time. The counselors make you feel so comfortable that we had no problem letting our 11 and 13 year old children decide for themselves what they wanted to do while my wife and I did our own thing. When we arrived at the camp, the first thing we tried (as a family) was kayaking. The care and experience of our guide was immediately evident. As our group passed one of the numerous small islands, a bald eagle flew passed us with a large fish in its claws and perched on a tree next to the shore. My wife and I paddled to within 40 feet (12 meters) of the eagle before it flew away! I tried repelling for the first time in my life, and enjoyed it so much that I signed up for it again a second time. Even my son, who has a fear of height, went down the cliff two or three times after watching the rest of our family do it. My son and I signed up for archery while the two women went on a guided hike to a nearby mountaintop. After shooting arrows for awhile, the group (there were 6 of us) decided to play some volleyball. I haven't played that game since high school, and it took my out-of-shape body a bit of time to warm up. After the first game it got very intense and I forgot about my age for the remaining games. What a blast that was! For canoeing, there is a short drive (about 5 minutes) to a beautiful lake that does not allow motor boats, since it is the water supply for the nearby town. My wife and I went canoeing after dinner and saw several bald eagles and some loons. We were so enthralled with the experience that we convinced our children to join us the next morning. Although the lake was peaceful and we had a great time, we did not see any bald eagles from close-up on the morning session. We only found one bald eagle, and it was way up in a very tall tree, high up on the hill. I suspect that the birds are more active in the evening as they hunt for their last meal of the day.

Sleeping was something we did not want to do because we were having too much fun. Unfortunately, our bodies needed to be recharged for the next fun-filled day. Clustered around the lodge were cabins that could accommodate 4 families in each. The cozy bedrooms are located at each corner of the cabin, and contain 2 bunk beds; one of which is a double bed, making it suitable for up to 5 people per bedroom. Between the bedrooms are a shared bathroom and a separate shower with hot and cold running water, just like you would find in any motel. A common lounge (much like your average living room, with a large picture-window to frame in the forest outside) is shared by all 4 units and separates the 2 bedrooms and bathroom combination on each side of the building. This arrangement works very well, as each bedroom is insulated from noise coming from another bedroom by the fact that none of them are next to the other. Mattresses are provided, but guests must bring their own bedding and pillows (or sleeping bags), and all toiletries such as shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, etc. There is no room service, as this would dramatically increase the cost.

I first learned about West Coast Wilderness Lodge through the educational programs they offer through elementary schools. Some schools offer the educational camp program to their grade 6 classes and other schools to their grade 7 classes. When my daughter went to camp with her class, the folks at West Coast Wilderness Lodge were still renting sites from other operators. Some sites had no heat, no or unreliable electricity, or a poor water supply. These shortcomings prompted the owners of West Coast Wilderness Lodge to find the perfect site and build their own facilities. My son's grade 6 class went to the new camp and he enjoyed it so much that he suggested we all go as a family. I consequently learned that in addition to the educational camps, West Coast Wilderness Lodge offers family camps, adult camps, and also rents out to organizations for seminars and retreats. The best thing was the price. When you consider the cost of renting a canoe or kayak, or lessons in any of the activities, one could rationalize that the room and board were provided for free!

(NOTE: it has been several years since writing this and the camp has since evolved into a resort.)
For current prices, dates of specific camps, or any other questions you may have, contact the owners at camping@wcwl.com or visit their web site at http://www.wcwl.com.

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