Canadians enjoy the summer with many different outdoor activities. Here in Victoria that includes gardening, walking in Beacon Hill Park, running or cycling along Dallas Road, picnicking at Willows Beach, hiking Mount Douglas, or attending festivals in the Inner Harbour. Summertime in Victoria is filled with active energy!
When I first moved to Victoria from South Korea, a friend of mine, Jay, recommended a book titled ‘Walk Victoria’. My husband, Bongcher, and I were able to explore more interesting walks in Victoria through this book. One of our favourite spots was Mount Douglas. We went there to walk and run twice or three times a week after work, as we explored and learned more about the hiking trails. We loved being in nature and being in such quiet surroundings among the trees, flowers, birds, and…. slugs (watch your step!). For nature lovers, Canada is paradise. Last September, we decided to celebrate Bongcher‘s birthday in nature. We went camping!
To prepare, we visited several stores to look at camping gear and equipment. We started with a tent, sleeping bags, an air bed, a portable BBQ grill, a cooler, outdoor chairs, and lanterns. However, there were more things we needed that I hadn‘t thought of, like tarps, poles, rope and snap hooks. It took about a month to get the camping gear ready for our first camping trip.
Preparing for camping was a learning process. We watched YouTube videos to learn about how to set up and tear down the tent; how to use a portable charcoal BBQ grill; how to roast marshmallows; how to camp in the rain; how to drape a tarp over tent; and how to tie knots. Camping was also a great conversation starter with other people. Neighbours in our apartment, clerks in the stores we visited, staff and volunteers at the James Bay Community Project (where I volunteer) gave me useful tips about campgrounds on Vancouver Island and where to buy firewood, as well as sharing their own camping experiences.
Once we had prepared as much as we could, we started looking for well-established campgrounds near Victoria for our first two-night camping trip. We chose Goldstream Provincial Park. It was a great opportunity to appreciate nature. The Park boasts massive trees—including 600-year-old Douglas fir trees—and majestic waterfalls, like Niagara Falls and Goldstream Falls. You can also climb to the top of one of the highest points in Greater Victoria—Mt. Finlayson—or walk the flatter nature trails. There is nothing like the cool fresh air and feeling part of nature in the pitch-dark of night, sitting around a campfire feeling warm and relaxed.
If you enjoy autumn camping, Goldstream Park is also a great spot for you. Some campgrounds stay open year-round and offer winter camping but may not offer full services such as water, flush toilets, hot shower facilities, firewood, security, or sani-stations from November to March as Goldstream does. The Goldstream Salmon Run is very popular in the fall. The salmon run is the incredible upstream journey during which salmon swim back up the Goldstream rivers where they were born to spawn in October and November. In some ways, it reminds me how far away I have been from my hometown for the last four years.
Bongcher and I really enjoyed our first camping trip in Canada at Goldstream Park. Every minute we worked together—packing up, setting up camp, cooking meals, breaking camp, and putting things away at home after the trip. We loved the quality time together without TV, phones, or computers.
A month later, we headed to French Beach Provincial Park, located 21 kilometres west of Sooke on Highway 14, and just 5 kilometres east of Jordan River. This 59-hectare park offers year-round vehicle-accessible camping in a beautiful natural setting close to the ocean. It was our first camping experience braving rainstorms in the wild outdoors. What I remember of French Beach is the sounds: light rain falling gently on the tarp; ocean waves roaring from the beach; crisp, falling leaves; the crackling fire; and the sizzling sound of meat on the BBQ grill.
Camping keeps me humble. During the night, I felt really small in our tent in the heavy rain. Camping also teaches resilience, courage and trust, while building lifelong memories. I can still picture us laughing even through the bad weather!