Due to the changing times, technology, and lack of being able to rough it, camping I believe has evolved. However, sometimes you just have to rough it to prove how tough you are to yourself.
I mean don’t get me wrong, camping in style has its perks. I have glamped and I have camped. But which do I prefer?
Camping can be considered a rougher kind of activity because you are foregoing city pleasures like air conditioning and comfortable beds; unfortunately, some people just don’t enjoy that idea. But not this Newfie. Although I have glamped I always prefer the traditional camping methods. Especially when a canoe is involved.
Thinking about camping brings back wonderful memories, three years ago I set off on an adventure with the Mayor of Bruderheim in Jasper to the backcountry via canoe.
Karl Hauch is the Mayor of Bruderheim and at the time had been planning a bucket list canoe trip to the backcountry of Alberta. For those of you who don’t know, backcountry camping means that you are not near the road or in a developed area. Hence no glamping is involved.
Hauch planned to canoe 21.3 kilometres up Maligne Lake to Coronet Creek, a dream that almost never happened after the person slotted for the other seat in the canoe backed out at the last moment because of work obligations. Hauch was devastated and would spend the next few days down in the dumps while pleading to his wife that he could complete the trip with the company of his dog as his carefully calculated plan for adventure was quickly unraveling.
After days of searching for a first mate, he contacted me and asked me if I would like to come along. An opportunity of a lifetime for backcountry adventure which this goofy Newfie accepted.
First of all, I only knew Mayor Hauch on a handshake and from a few events which I have covered during my time at The Record in Fort Saskatchewan. However, I would not let this minor detail keep me from experiencing breathtaking mountains, glacier-fed streams, and a chance to see the world-famous Spirit Island.
Spirit Island is known as one of the most photographed places in the Canadian Rockies, but for this photographer, I wasn’t particularly interested in capturing the scene which everyone sees. I needed more, things people have never seen. Mayor Hauch’s plan would provide just this as he planned on venturing past Spirit Island to the end of the lake. Thank God because the tour boats on the lake can be very dangerous to the inexperienced boater. Especially in a canoe. But once you get past Spirit Island you don’t have to contend with the tour boats.
I must admit, growing up in Newfoundland I spent countless hours in the woods, hiking, and on the water. Perfecting my skills on every journey during those days which really helped me in my backcountry adventure. This journey is not for everyone- actual camping is a lot of work, unlike glamping.
On August 13, 2019, we headed to Jasper from Bruderheim with a canoe and a truck full of essential camping gear. I admit we did pack a little too much food but I mean we were about to embark on a remote shore in a cold lake surrounded by high peaks and glaciers with no cell service. Even though we both bought fishing licenses with thoughts of living off the land.
The next day at five a.m. we carefully stowed all of our gear into the canoe like a game of Tetris being careful to evenly distribute the weight of the gear. At six a.m. our adventure officially began as we set off on a crystal clear Maligne Lake with the sun just starting to peek over the mountain tops.
The first leg of our trip would lead us to Fisherman’s Bay which is a remote campground near Spirit Island. A 13 kilometre paddle to warm up my arms and get the blood pumping. For the last couple of years, I had this nagging pain in my shoulder from my journalism life. Well, pain is for the weak and after about 5,000 strokes of the paddle the kink in my back worked itself out.
Paddling a canoe full to the gunnels with gear is a lot of hard work. I soon learned this. But nothing comes easy and once I have committed to something I’m in for the long haul. During our many hours of paddling, I kept Mayor Hauch entertained with an array of Newfoundland jokes. I told Hauch pretty much every Newfie joke I knew or have ever heard and I think after a few hours his face started to hurt from the immense laughter. We sang songs, talked about movie quotes, shared history, told opinions and both sat in awe at moments of the beauty around us.
— Arthur Craig Green (@artcgreen) August 18, 2019
Our lives were in each other’s hands for the duration of the trip, every decision we would make would be carefully planned together as a team and I have to admit we were always busy. No sitting around on this trip.
Upon arrival at Fisherman’s Bay, our first task at hand was to unload our things bringing campsite prohibited items to our bear locker which is located in a common cooking area on site. The campground is nestled in a cove across from Mount Unwin which has a glacier that feeds the turquoise lake.
After setting up camp and making a fire we would regain our energy by cooking sausages. The Mayor is actually a great cook, although our diets are a bit different because he has a wheat allergy. No Vienna Sausage for him as the Newfoundland delicacy contains Wheat as a bi-product. That’s ok, just one more positive thing to add to our newfound friendship-more for me.
— Arthur Craig Green (@artcgreen) August 21, 2019
After a day of fishing and battling the waves from the constant tour boats heading to Spirit Island we were off to Coronet Creek which was another 8.3 kilometres south. I would encourage everyone to visit this end of the lake because it is where the best view is. The park warden informed me that only the experienced camper should really head to this end of the lake. The wildlife is more prevalent and basically, you could die in an instant if you’re not careful.
For example, there was a grizzly bear that wandered into camp to take a bite out of the comments book because a woman had been writing in it while eating food. If you want to glamp, chances are you won’t see an abundance of wildlife.
This deer was chilling with us in the back country. She has been officially named buttons! pic.twitter.com/DpBIGXuSXD
— Arthur Craig Green (@artcgreen) August 17, 2019
For the next few days, the Mayor and I focused on staying fed, warm, and dry. We spent time hiking in the woods following Coronet Creek which would eventually lead us to an abandoned campground that still has a bear pole. However, during our hike, we were quickly turned around by Mr. grizzly bear. I never mess with wildlife. Especially when they’re higher on the food chain than I am.
My adventure taught me to travel far enough till I met myself, lucky for me the person I was with was just as compassionate and caring as I am. Bruderheim citizens are lucky to have a person such as Mayor Hauch in their lives. The Mayor and I have a lot in common except I took a dip in the lake. I can only go three days without a bath before I need to wash I found out. I also found out that I like to camp and not glamp.
My advice, drop the glamping and go camping to see what you’re made of.