The Son Also Rises: Off-Grid Camping in B.C. Backcountry
For those not familiar, overlanding is a type of self-reliant adventure travel to remote destinations where the journey itself is one’s primary goal.
“I may not have a rod like you but I’ll get out my old bamboo. And I’ll go fishing, too”
You’d expect a man from the province of Newfoundland, a rugged rock of granite jutting out into the cold Atlantic ocean, to be intimately familiar with the art of fishing. After all, a good portion of the island’s half-million hardy souls used to eke a living from the sea. Many still do. Both my grandfathers certainly did – strong men who could navigate choppy waters with their steely eyes closed while manually hauling nets using hands the size of frying pans.
Pop was an exceptionally well-read man. Hearing him recite lines of Robert Service was the closest thing your author will ever get to a religious experience. He often would have some nugget of wisdom pertaining to the situation at hand, including that lead quote when preparing for the next day’s fishing duties. Somehow, he and my grandmother also ran a successful general store. Sleep was scarce.
As families do, Pop passed on his knowledge to my father who then taught me the finer skills of baiting a hook and sharpening a pocketknife. Dad was always handy with a blade, as Dads often are in the eyes of their young sons, and I vividly remember it residing in the metal flip-down ashtray of a blue Chevy K5 Blazer, a vehicle he and my mother bought brand-new from Riverview Chev-Olds mere weeks before heading to the wilds of southern Labrador to teach at a local school. Brave doesn’t even begin to describe that particular decision.
Dad taught me plenty using that worn silver pocketknife. Whittling a stick for roasting food, using tweezers to pluck out a splinter, bending a tent peg back into shape after trying to pound it into the hard Newfoundland ground – he felt these were skills a kid ought to have in their toolbox. As always, the man was right. Now, in a world consumed by iPhones and Xbox, it’s time to do the same for my own son.
We arrived in Vancouver just as the skies cleared from a typical West Coast rainstorm. Max and Cory, founders of Hastings Overland and modifiers of the Jeeps you see on these digital pages, gave us a tour of the Wranglers we’d be taking into B.C’s backcountry for a couple nights of off-grid camping.
For those not familiar, overlanding is a type of self-reliant adventure travel to remote destinations where the journey itself is one’s primary goal. The vehicles are equipped with everything one needs for camping: food, water, and – most obviously – sleeping accommodations. The tent assembly on top of the Hastings Jeep flipped open like a school textbook to reveal a space in which four people could easily slumber. This was of great relief to your author, whose last camping experience involved a tent so small a gynecologist would have thought he was at work.
The Boy was excited for this adventure, which should not be a surprise considering my own appetite for exploration at that age. He immediately gravitated to the paper map, using his sense of direction honed through countless hours of Minecraft to navigate us to our first overnight camping spot, a patch of land shaded by trees next to a river of glacier water. This, said the wide-eyed young lad, beat Xbox hands down.
A contemporary take on Dad’s pocketknife is the modern multi-tool. Leatherman, for example, makes an endless array of the things, ranging from simple blades to thick instruments with more appendages than a porcupine. An example of Leatherman’s save-the-day readiness reared its head on day one when your author parked the Jeep near a wayward branch, foiling attempts to set up the rooftop tent. Calling over The Boy, who was staring agog at a B.C. mountain range, we deployed a sharp-toothed saw blade from the Leatherman and, with a careful hand and an eye on nature, I taught him how to make quick work of the problem.
Do you think The Boy will remember that Leatherman the way I remember Dad’s pocketknife? You bet he will.
Thursday morning’s early rise found us wading into a salmon-filled river near Squamish. While composite rods are the modern angler’s tool, I like to think there was a bit of bamboo in there somewhere. Pop wouldn’t have had it any other way.
The salmon didn’t seem to care, jumping out of the clear water and biting at the bright pink flies at the end of our weighed lines. Catch-and-release fly fishing is an art, quite unlike using a spinner or cod jigger, and your author is not sure he’ll ever learn to cast correctly. As the sun rose on a beautiful B.C. morning, I saw the son was also rising to the challenge of learning skills new to him. He caught a fish before I did.
Part of overlanding is enjoying the journey on one’s way to their overnight stop. On a Squamish Valley forest service road, far out of cellular range, our Wrangler shared the dirt road with everything from fully loaded logging trucks to glacial waterfalls to trees growing directly out of sheer rock at drunken angles. Towering timber is not something commonly found in Newfoundland, making these conifers in the lungs of British Columbia extra special to this set of jaundiced eyes.
On a sandy riverbank in the B.C. interior, illuminated by the light of our flickering campfire, The Boy took it upon himself to unholster a Leatherman and use one of its sharp blades to whittle the tip of a thin branch into a point so he could roast us some marshmallows. Skills like that, passed to me from my father and to him from his, will now live on for another generation thanks to an overlanding trip and a boy willing to learn new things.
Bamboo or not, he’ll go fishing, too.