It’s not a secret that I don’t like camping. I’m a bit of a diva, okay, maybe more that a bit of a diva. When kids my age were learning how to fish and hunt, I was learning how to order my favourite Starbucks drink. I bypassed playing on the monkey bars for reading a novel in the shade. Just last year I was teased for wearing mascara while swimming in the Nymph Falls bowls. In my defence, it was waterproof mascara.
To say I’m not overly outdoorsy by nature is accurate. I can spend a whole day on Gartley Beach or walking Cumberland trails, but the thought of spending a weekend sleeping on the ground and eating hot dogs makes me feel anxious and a little sick to my stomach.
In an effort to get myself out of my own head, try new things and adapt to my new life here on Vancouver Island, I decided to say yes. Say yes to sleeping on the ground. Say yes to eating food cooked on a fire. Say yes to being okay with smelling like a campfire. I said yes to two days of tent camping at China Creek Campground in Port Alberni with my adorable daughters (6 and 9).
The biggest issue is that I have nothing for camping. Literally nothing. We don’t even own sleeping bags. After trip after trip to pick up everything from a cooler to fire safe pots and pans to bug spray and water proof matches, I managed to put it all together. First thing I learned is that camping equipment is hella expensive, but like most things, it’s an investment. I thought about borrowing, but I figured that if I bought it, I would have to use it. Second hand would have made sense, but in typical Jen fashion, I said yes and picked a close date so I didn’t have the time to overthink and back out.
I live in Courtney and the trip to China Creek is about 90 minutes, so I picked up the girls from school on Friday and we came home to grab the cooler and the dog and away we went.
We drove past Coombs and waved at the turn off to our favourite spots – Coombstock, Coombs Old Country Market – Goats on the Roof, and The Other Side Artisan Collective including Moon’s Records to name a few and of course the place that makes me tear up from beauty – Cathedral Grove.
We were very lucky to have barely any traffic headed into Port Alberni and dropped by Harbour Quay before finding our way to our campground. I loved seeing the big ocean. it always looks so endless and breathtaking. Even when it’s getting ready to start raining again…
Yep, rain. Big rain.
Okay, so word of warning. China Creek Campground is on a long, gravel road that’s mostly used for logging trucks. I didn’t know when the gravel road would end and I did start worrying that I had missed a turn or that the campground wasn’t as nice as I thought it was because of the road in, but I was completely in awe once we saw the huge campground sign and turned in.
We found the main office and we’re kindly welcomed and given our permit for the weekend. From there, we found our camp spot with our tent all set up. Yep, they have a Camping Kit service where you can rent a tent and air mattress so you don’t have to buy our lug in your own. Cool, right? One less thing to buy.
The girls ran right out of the car and started dancing around our home for the weekend. I joined in on the excitement but was also pretty worried about the rain coming down, but at least it was only sprinkling. I started a fire to get us all warm and to cook hot dogs for supper because that’s what you do.
I want to say it was a gorgeous night and we all sat and laughed around our little fire and snuggled in for the night, but that would be a lie. It poured raining. Like, POURED. Thankfully there as a cookhouse common area where we could stay dry, make the rest of our food, and hung out with two other couples and their kids. All of us had moved here from Alberta to make our lives better and wouldn’t change a thing.
After a few glasses of wine, I may have had to defend myself a little about 1) being a solo mom 2) being a solo mom on a camping trip 3) being a solo mom on a camping trip without knowing what I’m doing and not having a man around. Based on how that conversation went, I’m pretty sure he’s going to stop himself from saying that kind of garbage to another woman in my situation or at least hold it back as much as he can.
We had a soaked night of rest in damp sleeping bags, but we were happy, content and together. Even with the rain and judgements it was a good night.
The next day I woke up and boiled water on the fire to make coffee in my french press. After realizing that I had no responsibilities other than watch my kids and keep the fire going, I added some Bailey’s into my coffee and threw in a marshmallow for good measure. It was so good!
And then I had a blissful day of nothing. Not a thing. I added wood to the fire, made scrambled eggs and toast, read a book, made lunch for the kids, walked around the campground, met some awesome puppers, took photos, and just hung out. It was…weird but awesome. I can’t remember another time that I felt so at ease and relaxed. I was able to move most things out of my mind and focus in on the kids playing, the birds chirping, the water moving, and the feeling of the sun on my face after a night of rain.
We had a beautiful day!
It really is a gorgeous place. The marina made me want to get into a boat and take an adventure!
At the end of the day, we were all full of joy, happiness, potato salad, and s’mores. Our entire bodies, hair and clothes all smelled like campfire and dirt but, for some reason, this diva didn’t mind. In fact, I didn’t even put on makeup. I know right, that’s huge.
The next morning we packed up and had to say our goodbyes. Both of my girls started crying as we were leaving because they wanted to live at China Creek. We agreed that we would come back sometime soon and do it all over again. Especially since we all have the equipment and know what’s in store. Contrary to that one guy’s beliefs, camping as a solo parent is really fun and great bonding time with kids. Even if I don’t know how to use an axe…yet.
Thank you for your hospitality China Creek and to Vancouver Island for being so damn beautiful all of the time. Here’s to becoming more outdoorsy(ish).
Bravely Camping Forward