MITCHELL’S MUSINGS: Carry on camping

Still time to set up camp in the great outdoors...if you can find a spot

As the clock winds down on yet another spectacular summer in the North Okanagan, the ‘serious’ season begins in earnest as kids go back to school and college and we go back, well, to work again, only more seriously.

It always makes me a bit wistful saying goodbye to summer and I usually kick myself a little for not getting to the beach more, golfing more, boating more, camping more, just generally taking advantage of that small window of opportunity we like to call summer in these parts. Heavy sigh.

You know what though, September is actually very underrated as it’s usually nice weather, a little cooler which is sometimes nice for us older folks, no campfire bans or concerns about tinder-dry forests (although do be careful) and the traffic and crowds have died down somewhat.

I know my wife and I are going to try and camp this month (yes, it’s September already) which tells you we’re one step away from the senior set as our kids no longer accompany us and we’re not as tied down with hockey tryouts and….we like to call it a time of transition (which sounds so much better than getting older and trying to repurpose our lives).

B.C. Parks is also pushing the shoulder season and a recent release points out that sites are now more available, long-stay camping is now permitted (up to six weeks at reduced rates, not quite ready for that opportunity quite yet) and seniors, over 65, get camping discounts from Sept. 3 until June 14 next year (don’t quite qualify yet, and doesn’t it get a little cold during that stretch?).

B.C. Parks also announced last week that, largely thanks to great summer weather, they established a new record number of reservations at provincial campgrounds. Apparently more than 115,000 reservations were made, up 12 per cent from last year.

Part of the increase might also be due to the fact that more campsites and campgrounds were added to the system this year, including good old Mabel Lake where my family has spent considerable time in the past.

They always told me before that Mabel Lake couldn’t be added to the system due to the sketchy cell service in the area, which was always OK by me because I don’t really believe in the reservation system anyway.

Well, perhaps I should explain that a bit.

I barely know what I’m having for supper tonight, let alone able to plan my camping activities six months ahead, which is when the online service is launched each year (OK, maybe not six months ahead but you get the idea…)

Not to mention I’m cheap so I don’t like paying extra money to get a campsite (especially when you already pay more now for an extra vehicle, firewood etc.). I suppose I shouldn’t begrudge those who actually have their act together to plan ahead and are willing to pay a little more to guarantee a site, after all I’m one of those who appreciates knowing ahead if I’m actually going to get a site and not end up in overflow.

However, what does bother me is the one time I got out to Mabel this year, there were prime sites that would never be empty on a weekend (you know, lower loops next to the grass), that went unused because they were reserved and paid for but nobody showed up. And it wasn’t just a few sites on that particular weekend.

Now I understand they can’t give them away if they’re paid for and you don’t know if the party will show up eventually (although the gates do close at a certain time) or the next day, but I felt sorry for the camp attendant who has to explain this over and over all summer to the people in less desirable sites, or, worse, in overflow.

 

Certainly there’s bugs to be worked out, especially at Mabel where it’s new and more sites than usual are still on a first-come basis, but maybe B.C. Parks can check into stats on how many of those 115,000 reservations were no shows and how best to address that situation for everyone’s benefit.

 

 

Vernon Morning Star

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