Sunday, July 11, 2010

Lillooet Lake Camping

Camping is a bit of heaven on earth at it's best, mixed with hell on earth at it's worst. British Columbia is God's country. Sometimes God of the old testament. And sometimes God of the new testament.

Laura and I'd planned this camping and canoeing weekend weeks ahead but typically only finalized the trip in the last week due to work concerns.

The preparation is half the fun. At night we poured over backwoods maps I'd obtained on countless other trips into the Pemberton region. There are just so many great camping sites in the area, some by river, others by lakes, others near hot springs, others near towns. We discussed all the ones I knew and looked at the internet reviews of those I didn't. Some of my favorites I'd had to hike into in the past but this time we were taking truck and canoe so that limited the choice. Also we'd be leaving on Friday and in the summer months lots of sites are taken by tourists, those retired or those with a week or two of holidays.

We settled on Lillooet Lake, mostly because we'd probably be arriving at night and I already knew the road in. While I'd been coming up to Pemberton for 25 years, backpacking, mountain hiking, cycling and 4x4 ing with all the types of camping that entailed, Laura and I together had camped Lillooet lake 4x already, once in my new HHR car, another time on the Harley and a couple of times in the Ford Ranger.

"Are you booking a campsite," my assistant asked. "We can't. We'll be staying in back woods sites maintained by the natives there."

That made getting away early Friday essential. Grab the bags from the apartment, don't forget Gilbert's toys and food. Pick up the rifle from the gun locker, then onto the storage locker where the canoe and camping gear reside. I had the Yamaha 4 hp motor there as well. Throw everything into the truck and try to get the Tonneau cover closed down. Meanwhile Gilbert naturally want's to be a part of everything.

Everyone else was on the road to Whistler. Most of Vancouver, some of Seattle and Portland and at least a burb or two from San Francisco and Lost Angeles.
Buses of Chinese, Japanese and Europeans were enroute to the Blackhomb Whistler year round outdoor entertainment centre.

I was glad to get past there. Too many young people and much too civilized. Running water and cable television in Whistler. People wash.

We stopped in Pemberton on the highway where there's usually water at the information center. At night the pump wasn't working and the gas station guy was dour. Fortunately in town at the really hip gas station the kid sold me 5 gallon jug of Canadian Springs water for 7 dollars. I got ice and worms too.

It would have been light when we arrived at the campsite except clouds of mosquitoes altered by Chernobyl blocked the sun. They swarmed us the minute we got out of the truck.

"Quick, look under the behind the seats, I'm sure I've got insect repellant!" I told Laura before bugs filled my mouth and nostrils so I couldn't be heard.

"Hallelujah! Hallelujah!" A great glow surrounded the truck and God spoke to me saying "I love you." At that moment I found the Watkins Insect Repellant Lotion. This is the one and only insect repellant that is made of such industrial strength DEET, 280 proof, that it's likely to take years off the end of your life while immediately protecting you from alien vat grown insects with huge protuberances for sucking blood.

Meanwhile Laura had found the "MOSQUITO COIL". Wikipedia says the Mosquito coil is a mosquito repelling incense 'typically made from pyrethrum powder". Eiichiro Ueyama from Japan developed the mosquito coil around the 1890's. (I hope he got the Nobel Prize). Lotioned up with the Mosquito Coils positioned about the camp we began to have hope. At least these Mosquitos weren't Manitoba Mosquitos or we'd have had to tied Gilbert to a tree to keep the mosquitoes from flying off with him.

I had thoughtfully bought a couple of instant logs when we'd stopped in Squamish to stock up on groceries. I quickly lit this up then put some green branches over top of it to get a smudge happening. The natives are really into smudging and I'd say it's related to mosquitoes. In the days before Watkins Products and Mosquito Coils the natives here about smeared their bodies with mud to keep the bugs off.

Together Laura and I got the canoe off the roof of the truck, setting it down by the lake. Nothing like a canoe to spice up the outdoor decor. When Laura and I had the tent up it completed the whole ambience of the outdoor camping experience. Add to that the canvas director chairs and Coleman Lantern and we were there. We'd arrived. Camp was set up. Gilbert was digging holes everywhere and no one was shouting at him.

I'd found the Mosquito spray hoping any mosquitos working for the Mosquito Secret Service, the sneakiest mosquitoes of all, would be poisoned before they had a chance to attack us unsuspecting in our sleep. I fell asleep immediately upon climbing into my sleeping bag. Gilbert walked over my face a few times then nestled between Laura and I.

It was 6:30 am when the lights came on for me. Gilbert was licking my neck and outside it was incredibly beautiful. I got up and Gilbert and I peed on different trees. The view of Lillooet Lake was incredible. Snow capped mountains in the distance. Beautiful blue water.

"Human, moving near tent, exposed skin on arms and legs, exposed, no, too late, dive dive dive." A dozen squadrons of mosquitoes were falling out of the sky like I was their Personal London. Mosquitoes have swatikas on the sides of their bodies and are in fact reincarnated Luftwaffe pilots who were especially naughty during the war.

Gilbert and I both dove back into the tent. I don't know what he did. I slept for another couple of hours before getting up. The view was even more beautiful. I covered myself in lotion. Got a smudge fire going. Gilbert was digging holes. Come to think of it, maybe he was tunneling to escape the mosquitoes. There were fewer with the sun out and the coils and fire going.

Laura was soon up and made magnificent bacon and eggs. Gilbert loves her cooking as much as I do. He especially loves cleaning pots. After breakfast he was very keen for an expedition into the forest to bring back deadfall for the fire. Alone this would be a routine activity. Gilbert spiced it up with doing high speed circles with the occasional tumble added for spirit.

The green outhouse was near the campsite. There are a dozen or so campsites further along the road. We saw a friendly lone neighbor once and occasionally caught sight of a romantic young couple who had a portable swing of all things. A whole family down the way got onto inflatables and lived out in Lillooet Lake with a black dog that swam amongst them.

I read Evanovitch's "Fingerlickin Fifteen'. She gets funnier every book she writes. What a plum of a summer read!

Eventually I felt guilty about the canoe not being used. I got Gilbert to stop his digging. He'd begun alternating that with throwing pine cones up the air with his nose and then pouncing on them. He just happened to be digging when I decided to take him canoeing. It was hot.

I had the Yamaha 4 hp on the back and just about went in trying to start the thing. Canoe's are tippy. Very tippy. Yarding on the rope of an outboard can be dicey.

I had my 30 30 too. And the digital camera. So I didn't want to go in the water and was glad I didn't.

I'd actually paddled some before getting the outboard going so we could speed across the Lake. I entered a clear spot of land, drift wood surrounds the lake, and found what was probably a native fish camp. It could have been some serial murderers or ex convicts on the lam but that's less likely. I walked with Gilbert past that and set up cans on a hill.

The good people at Reliable Guns had put a Leupold 4 power scope on the Mossberg 30 30 the brothers at Spud Valley Sporting Good Ltd. had sold me. I was delighted when with the first shot I holed the can. Of course I had to shoot the can a few more times just to convince myself that not only was the scope fine but I was actually shooting okay. I love the Mossberg. Gilbert loves hiking about in the woods and doesn't yet know what it is coca cola cans have done to offend me. Gilbert himself is a coke man through and through. Anytime he can steal a coke he will. On this trip he literally drank half a Macdonalds coke before either Laura and I noticed.

Getting into the canoe Gilbert slipped of a log and I had to fish him out by his harness after he'd pulled himself up once only to have the rolling log turn and him go over the other side. I was in the canoe by then and maneuvered so I could lift him in. He showed his gratitude by jumping on my lap and then shaking himself between my legs.

I came across a river rushing into the lake so got out the fishing rod and tried some casting. Nothing came of it. I drifted and paddled and together with Gilbert got pretty bored with the fish. Tourism BC hadn't been out this way giving them lectures on what they were supposed to be doing. Either that or they'd been playing hookey at the Lilooet Lake Fish school.

Laura was glad to see us. She was out in her bathing suit sitting on a float with her legs in the water. Gilbert jumped on the float and sat beside her. I changed into a bathing suit myself and swam out with the canoe a ways where I shampooed my hair and rinsed off. It was so refreshing.

After that all I had to do was get back to Evanovitch and read before the fire. Grilled steak appeared with potatoes and carrots and sour cream. I don't know how they got to the plate. I suspect Laura may have had a lot to do with it. Gilbert was shadowing her and getting bits of steak for obedience to being spoiled.

The night was so perfect that I took the fly off the tent.Lying in our sleeping bags later, we looked up between the spruce at the stars. A light breeze blew through the tent. Listening we could hear the lake lapping the shore. It was pretty idyllic.

Morning came early with Gilbert licking my ear. He walked with me up to the outhouse and then tried to steal any wood I wanted to put in the fire. Stove top coffee takes great outdoors. Everything tastes great outdoors.

Laura and I moseyed through the breaking down of the camp. There's no rush to these things. We weren't needing to be anywhere fast. Clean up is it's own fun. A little reading, a coffee and a little stuffing sleeping bags and rolling up those Mountain Coop special light weight air mattresses. Another coffee and the tent came down. Gilbert dug holes and played in the water. He is one dirty dog.

When the canoe was finally on the boat we were glad to go.

"I was getting really tired of the mosquitoes." she said.

"I'd been trying to ignore them hoping they'd go away."

"It wasn't working."

"I know."

On the way back we stopped at CAnadian Tire and bought a net gazebo. They're on sale starting at $59 That's a deal. Several other people who'd been camping were buying gazebos alongside us. They're sold out all year round in the rest of Canada but here in BC the mosquito situation isn't usually acute. They cycle. That's how they kept fit to bite us. By next weekend the dragonflies and bats will have taken their share. We'll be prepared with a net gazebo, Mosquito coils, Deep Woods Off, and more Watkin's Mosquito Repellant Lotion.

Even with the mosquitoes it was a great weekend.

"It was three years ago when we were here one time before that you said, it couldn't be better except if we had a dog." Laura said.

Gilbert sure made camping a quantum leap better than the already best experience it is. In that first swarm if he hadn't distracted at least half the mosquitoes I'd not have had time to find the Lotion and Laura wouldn't have found the Mosquito Coil. We'd have gone down without a fight but thanks to Gilbert's blood sacrifice we had time to rally. Gilbert saved the weekend. Gilbert earned his smudge!

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